Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 18, Broadcasting Bill 2008[Seanad] — Second Stage (resumed); and No. 19, Tribunals of Inquiry Bill 2005 — Second Stage (resumed).

There are no proposals to put to the House.

That was an easy announcement for the Minister for Finance on his advancement. A further reduction in interest rates by the European Central Bank is expected today. The Minister rightly stated that——

This does not sound promising.

It relates to legislation.

That is fine, but it does not sound promising.

It is only 10.30 a.m. The Ceann Comhairle is out of the traps quickly today.

As is the Deputy.

I will give him full marks for his response, but I will ask my question in any event. The House passed legislation giving the banking system a guarantee on deposits, which we supported. The Minister for Finance rightly stated we are deep into the banking sector. How is it proposed to use the legislation to ensure the reduction in interest rates is passed on quickly to the thousands of mortgage holders and small businesses who need it and that it will not be used by the banks to expand their profit base?

Some 18 sitting days remain until the proposed Christmas recess. From a budget that was clearly botched emerged the proposal to withdraw the universal right of persons over 70 years of age to medical cards. When will the legislation be introduced in the House and will there be adequate time to analyse the Government's response to the effect that only 5% of persons over 70 years of age will lose their medical cards?

Regarding the question asked by Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, the Minister for Health and Children announced the withdrawal of the proposed cervical cancer vaccination scheme for girls of 12 and 13 years of age. Given that the amount of money involved is so small, the Government is being short-sighted. Will it consider trying to find €10 million somewhere else——

That is not in order.

——so the programme can continue? In the long term, it will be important——

Deputy Kenny must find another way to raise the matter.

——for the health and survival of a great number of women. When it was announced last August, it was accepted as a priority, but the proposal has been reneged on. The amount of money is relatively small.

Deputy Kenny cannot raise this matter now. We cannot discuss it.

Will the Government not examine the other Departments to find money for this important health initiative? Will the Minister answer my three questions?

It was cold and callous.

On the legislative proposal, the first matter raised by Deputy Kenny is not in order. In deference to his position as the Leader of the Opposition, however, the Minister should help if he can.

The House passed the legislation.

I know, but it is not promised legislation.

I will assist the Leader of the Opposition on the question of the interest rate cuts. Last Monday and Tuesday, I attended a meeting of ECOFIN and meetings yesterday and today have been attended by the governor of the Central Bank, Mr. John Hurley. I welcome the European Central Bank's announcement of a cut in interest rates, which I expect our banks to pass on. In the case of tracker mortgages, they are obliged to do so. It would also be essential in terms of their competitiveness to pass on cuts, not only to those purchasing properties on variable mortgages, but to small and medium-sized enterprises in need of credit.

It is important to bear in mind that the legislation, in respect of which I thank the Deputies for their co-operation, provides a framework for the giving by the State of a guarantee to the banks. It does not provide for State assistance or participation in the banks. For this reason, the State does not have a right of commercial interference. However, I anticipate that the cuts will be passed on to those most in need of them, namely, the banks' customers.

Regarding legislation on medical cards, the HSE will shortly write to all persons of 70 years of age and over asking those whose income is more than €700 per week gross for a single person——

How much will that cost?

It had better be a good letter.

——or €1,400 per week gross for a married couple to notify their circumstances to the HSE.

The Government should ensure they get their letters before Christmas.

Legislation to give effect to the above changes will be enacted before the end of 2008 and will come into effect on 1 January 2009. The heads of a Bill have been drafted to give effect to the budget arrangements and will be tabled before the Government shortly. The other matter does not arise on the Order of Business.

That is another year.

It is a reversal of the 2002 general election promise. It took the Government a long time to come up with that.

The Minister is cold and callous like the Minister for Health and Children. He should answer the question. Women are being treated badly.

Deputy Kehoe can address this matter in a different way. Deputy Gilmore is in order.

I wish to raise a number of issues. First, I would like the Minister for Finance to clarify his response in respect of the legislation for the withdrawal of medical cards from the over-70s. What he has just said represents a change from that previously announced. I would like the Minister to clarify the matter.

Second, with regard to the Minister's response to Deputy Kenny on the issue of the expected reduction in interest rates by the European Central Bank, ECB, I share his hope that the Irish banks and lending institutions will pass on that reduction to their borrowers and mortgage holders. I am astonished by what the Minister said in this regard. In effect, what he is saying is that if the banks and building societies do not pass on the reduction in interest rates, there is nothing he can do about it.

He does not do a lot.

To me, this is at variance with the terms of the much lauded guarantee scheme. Are we now in the situation where taxpayers are effectively underwriting and guaranteeing the entire banking system, but——

Deputy Gilmore cannot discuss that matter now.

——if there is a reduction in interest rates and the banks do not pass it on——

We cannot have a discussion on the matter now.

——the Minister for Finance cannot do anything about it?

We cannot have a discussion on the matter now.

Third, 80 girls, currently aged 12 years, will die from cervical cancer if they are not given the vaccination the Minister for Health and Children announced for them——

I realise the matter raised is important but the problem I have is that there is no Question Time on Thursday mornings. The issue raised is not in order in accordance with the Standing Orders of the House.

If we had a humane Minister for Health and Children, we would get an answer to the question.

We do not have a——

If Members of the House wish to change Standing Orders, I am, as I have previously stated, amenable to that. I cannot deal with matters that are extraneous to Standing Orders and Deputy Gilmore knows that.

The Chief Whip, Deputy Carey, has been looking at proposals for the past year.

We do not have a particularly heavy schedule today, a Cheann Comhairle.

That is not the point.

The Minister for Finance and Minister for Health and Children are in the House.

That is not the point. Members must obey the rules.

One of them made the decision to withdraw that vaccination. It is a short-sighted decision that is putting the lives of young girls at risk.

We cannot deal with the matter now.

The decision is short-sighted financially because it will end up costing more to provide care for people who do not get this vaccination than it will to provide them with the vaccination in the first place.

I appreciate the Deputy's interest in the matter but I cannot allow a discussion on the matter now. I call on the Minister to reply to the first questions raised by Deputy Gilmore.

A Cheann Comhairle, somebody has turned off my microphone. On a point of order, has what I said been recorded? This happens occasionally with microphones. There must be something wrong with the electronics. I am glad to note my microphone is back on.

Will the Minister for Health and Children make a statement in the House today in regard to the withdrawal of this vaccination? She says it was coincidental that the announcement was made on the day of the American presidential election.

There are several other ways this matter can be raised and the Deputy should avail of them.

I am not going to second-guess that. If that is the case, the Minister for Health and Children should come into the House, give her explanation and answer questions about it.

There are several ways the Deputy can raise that matter. I call the Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan.

Deputy Gilmore has raised the same questions as Deputy Kenny. In relation to the medical cards, legislation to give effect to the changes in this regard will be enacted before the end of 2008 and will come into effect on 1 January 2009. Heads of a Bill, to give effect to the budget arrangements, have been drafted and will come before Government soon. I anticipate the legislation will be published this month.

As regards the passing on of interest rate reductions by the European Central Bank, I have already explained that I anticipate these interest rate changes will be passed on. I wish to put on the record and to explain that under the guarantee scheme the Government has entered into an arrangement with each of the institutions whereby substantial influence can be exerted on these institutions through the appointment of directors and participation by the regulator in the credit and risk assessment procedures of these banks. It is in the banks' own commercial interests to pass on these interest rate reductions.

I call Deputy Crawford.

What about the other issue raised?

The other issue does not arise on the Order of Business.

What about the third issue?

It does not arise on the Order of Business. I allow leeway to the leaders of Fine Gael and the Labour Party in the House. In allowing this leeway, I must also be given a certain amount of latitude. It must be understood that I have no choice but to implement Standing Orders where a clear breach occurs, as is the case in this instance. Members are engaging in Question Time and are not asking about legislation as provided for under Standing Orders. This is the problem that has arisen.

All I ask for——

Does Deputy Gilmore understand my position?

We understand and we sympathise with the Ceann Comhairle.

Yes, and I want the Ceann Comhairle to understand my position. I am asking that the Minister for Health and Children take the opportunity today, when we do not have a particularly heavy legislative burden before us, to explain to the House what she has done. My reason for asking is that the Minister misled the country this morning with some of the things she said on "Morning Ireland".

That is a matter for the Whips.

The figures that she used were completely wrong.

The Deputy cannot go into that matter now and he cannot utilise the Order of Business in this fashion.

The Minister for Health and Children should take the opportunity of coming into the House to set out the facts.


The Minister, Deputy Lenihan, has stated it is a matter for the Whips to discuss. I call Deputy Crawford.

I would like clarification on three issues. In light of the Government's U-turn on the cancer vaccine issue and the complete mismanagement of the health service, particularly in the north east, when will the health information Bill come before the House?

In light of the fact that the cancer vaccination programme has been cancelled owing to the unavailability of funding, when will the legal costs Bill come before this House to enable us to find a way to cut the excessive costs of tribunals?

The fair deal legislation has been promised for the past two years. It has now been replaced by the nursing home support Bill which is extremely different from that originally promised. I understand the nursing home support Bill will come before the House next Thursday. Will the Minister assure me that ample time will be given to the debate on this Bill which is extremely different to the original legislation?

The health information Bill provides a legislative framework for the governance and information of the health sector. A wide ranging public consultation process has been completed and submissions are being examined. It is not possible to indicate at this stage when the Bill will be published.

On the legal costs Bill, this legislation provides for the regulation and assessment of legal costs. Legislative proposals are being developed while taking into account the report of the legal costs working group. It is expected the Bill will be published 2009. However, on the specific matter of excessive costs of tribunals of inquiry, the Tribunals of Inquiry Bill 2005 is before the House today.

On the legislation to provide for the fair deal in regard to nursing home provision for the elderly, this legislation will be brought before the House next Thursday.

I call Deputy McManus.

On a point of order, I would like clarification on a particular matter. The Minister stated that the Whips will meet to discuss the possibility of the Minister for Health and Children coming into the House to make a statement on the cancellation of the cancer vaccination for young children. This is my understanding of what the Minister said.

As I understand it, that is a matter for the Whips.

It is a matter for the Whips. Let us be clear, I gave no undertaking in relation to what the Whips might or might not do.

The Minister did.

I simply said if that matter is to be pursued, it is a matter for the Whips. I am not giving any undertaking in that regard.

We, on this side of the House, want to pursue that matter. It is important we pursue the matter on the floor of the House this morning.

We cannot do that.

I know that if I meet the Whips following the Order of Business I will be told — I have no doubt the Labour Party will get the same answer — that no statement will be forthcoming from the Minister today. Both Opposition Leaders have asked that the Minister make a statement on the matter in the House today.

We cannot deal with that matter now.

I am not accepting this.

Deputy Kehoe is well aware that there are many avenues open to Members to pursue this issue.

I do not accept this. We will go the Whips meeting and will be told that the Minister for Health and Children is not available today to make a statement in the House. The Minister is here now and should take the opportunity to come into the House later today to make a statement on the matter.

I cannot anticipate what will happen at the Whips' meeting.

I do not accept——

The Minister, Deputy Lenihan, has stated that the Whips will meet to discuss this matter. I can do no more about this.

The Minister will say she is not available but the Minister for Finance should be able to say that.

I may be of assistance to the Deputy if he resumes his seat. Deputy Kehoe should have raised this matter before we agreed the Order of Business but he neglected to do so.

The Government is most anxious——

Is that helping?

——that any information the House may wish to have in this regard will be provided. The Minister for Health and Children and Government Whip are more than willing to facilitate a statement on the matter.

We are willing to give time if the Whips wish to discuss it.

That is more like it.

As Whip of the Fine Gael Party——

The Deputy should have asked the question this morning.

I am not aware that Deputy Kelleher is the Government Chief Whip.

The Deputy is not the Government Chief Whip either.

I have no doubt the Labour Chief Whip and other Whips will be agreeable to the Minister coming to the House today to make a statement, with a question and answer session afterwards.

That is a matter for the Whips.

May we have a schedule for it?

Not here or at this time.

That is a matter for discussion.

The Deputy will talk himself out of it.

A Cheann Comhairle——

I call Deputy McManus. The Deputy must resume his seat; the Chair is on its feet.

The Whips would be very happy to accommodate the Minister. The Minister is the authority in the matter and if he tells the Government Chief Whip to go to a Whips' meeting to give space in this House, it will be done and we will agree to it.

That is the position. I call Deputy McManus.

Well done to the Minister for Finance. His generosity is great.

Well done to the Government.

Ireland is facing very——

It is showing promise.

I am delighted to hear the Labour Whip tell the Fine Gael Whip how to run business.

Deputy McManus, without interruption.

It is experience.

Bobby can stick to the hurling.

Is the Deputy finished?

The point is made.

Ireland is facing very challenging targets with regard to climate change and we must adopt renewable sources of energy. There is potential in geothermal energy and for some time those in the sector have sought legislation. In today's newspapers, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources is quoted as saying he will do everything required to ensure this source of energy can be developed and exploited. I take that to mean he will deliver on legislation. Will the Minister for Finance indicate if the legislation is being prepared and when it is likely to come before us?

I will contact the Minister and he will convey the information to the Deputy. I am not aware of such legislation.

I hope the Minister for Finance's comments on the banks passing on the expected ECB interest rate cut later today is correct. Will he ensure local authority mortgage holders receive the same benefit because as of now, local authority mortgage holders have still not received the benefit of last month's cut?

The problem is——

Whatever about the grey area of the Minister's authority——

——the Deputy will have to find another way of raising the matter.

——there is no grey area with regard to local authority mortgage holders. I ask the Minister to assure the House the interest rate cut will be passed on.

The Deputy will need to find another way of raising that matter. I call Deputy Durkan.

Will the Minister give that assurance?

I thought the Minister wished to answer as he was making shapes to do so. Some time ago the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance indicated that arising from the general banking and financial crisis, there was a need to get back to traditional banking practices. In addition to promised legislation, is it intended to introduce further legislation? Legislation is proposed to consolidate and modernise financial services legislation in accordance with the Government's better regulation agenda. I did not know the Government had a better regulation agenda.

The Deputy had better not ask a question on it then.

It has been announced and published. When will the legislation be brought before the House and is it deemed necessary to bring it in as a matter of urgency in the current unstable climate that exists in the financial sector? Will the Minister give some indication to the House as to the importance he is likely to accord to that legislation, given the manner in which it is likely to affect his Department and his Department will affect it?

We do not rate legislation at this time, we look for answers on when it will come.

Three legislative measures relate to Deputy Durkan's question. The financial services regulation Bill, as Deputy Durkan mentioned, consolidates and modernises financial services legislation in accordance with the Government's better regulation agenda and an advisory forum has been established to assist and advise my Department on completing this project. Initial work indicates the consolidation aspect of the project involves 50 Acts, 250 statutory instruments and 70 commencement orders. The advisory forum will report on the draft heads to the Minister early next year so it is not possible at this stage to give a publication date.

There is a financial services deposit guarantee scheme Bill, which contains 11 heads, and this gives effect to the Government decision to enhance the protection arrangements applying to deposits with banks, building societies and credit unions from 20 September 2008. That is a new Bill which is expected to be published as soon as possible. To some extent, for the next two years, the Bill has been superseded by the terms of the guarantee given by the Government. It remains important legislation for the credit unions and institutions not within the scope of the guarantee.

There is also the financial services miscellaneous provisions Bill, which contains 21 heads, and this transfers ministerial responsibility for building societies from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to the Minister for Finance and provides for various miscellaneous amendments. The scope of required legal changes is being examined and the Bill is expected to be published in 2009.

On the general banking position, I am content with the powers given by the Houses of the Oireachtas in dealing with ongoing developments.

I would say the Minister is.

That statement should keep Deputy Durkan going on the Order of Business for at least a year.

It was a very comprehensive reply. It sounded very complicated and tedious though.

I found it difficult even listening to it.

Arising from the Order of Business and documents laid before the House today and yesterday relating to special advisers to Ministers and Ministers of State, I ask the Tánaiste if it is appropriate——

He is the Minister for Finance.

I apologise. I ask the Minister for Finance if it is appropriate for a Minister of State to appoint, from five special advisers, four family members as detailed in documents laid before the Oireachtas.

That is not in order at all.

They are his wife, his brother, his son and daughter.

That is not in order. I am moving on.

They are his special advisers as Minister of State.

I call Deputy Burton.

This Government has allowed that to happen.

There are other ways of raising that. I am sure the Deputy is creative enough to find other ways.

On a point of order, it is a document laid before the House and this is the appropriate venue to raise this issue. It is before us today. Is it right and proper that should happen when we will have unemployment of over 325,000 next year and when one person loses their job in this country every three minutes?

These are hard times.

That is not a matter——

For a Minister of State to appoint family members as special advisers is unacceptable.

It is not a matter for the Minister for Finance and may not be raised unless the Minister wishes to comment on it.

It might be a matter for the Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

I did not sanction four special advisers for any Minister of State.

They have their own special advisers.

This is a matter——-

I wish to make a point I hope is in order.

The Deputy's microphone is not working.

It is appropriate the documents are laid before the House and Ministers would have special advisers.

It is inappropriate that four from five special advisers, in the case of one Minister of State——

May I interpret the proceedings for the Deputy?

——would be family members.

For future reference, the document laid before the Dáil is laid in accordance with the appropriate ethics Act and does not come before the House in any other form.

Why are we given notice of it?

I have explained the position.

I ask the Minister for Finance — the previous Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform — what the timeframe is for legislation relating to property management companies. This issue is very difficult for tens of thousands of people who are in properties subject to property management companies. They cannot even address matters where there are serious defects in a property, as there are in many such properties. These people have no legal remedy to take control of the management company and get work done. They are also being charged exorbitant fees.

Deputy Burton, we have had this conversation a good few times.

The Minister is concerned about the property market. Many people sitting in property managed by companies——

I know, but we have had this conversation every second week for a good while now——

——cannot sell their properties because of defects in the structures.

——and I always have told the Deputy she must find another way of raising it.

Can the Minister for Finance tell Deputy Burton when the legislation is expected?

He should do so because he was in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, so it would be appropriate to hear his reply. Can the Minister tell Members what he intends to do?

The Deputy should let him answer.

Options are being considered in consultation with the relevant Departments and the Attorney General as to whether it would be more expeditious to introduce a single Bill or to adopt a sectoral approach to amending existing legislation.

That is the end of it.

A Government decision on the matter will be made on the basis of how quickly the required legislation can be enacted. The main features of the legislation were outlined——

That answer is a year old.

The main features of the legislation were outlined in a strategy——

Mushrooms and blue mould are growing on that reply.

——on foot of a Government decision taken on 23 September this year.

I asked the Minister specifically for a timeline for the legislation.

He might not be able to give that.

Members know what they want to see in the legislation. They know it is complicated. They know the Government finds it difficult to do two things at once. It now is being asked to bring forward either three items of legislation or a single item of legislation.

The Deputy is doing two things. Laurel and Hardy.

Let the Minister answer. Can the Minister assist the Deputy?

Members were told, in respect of a recent election, that it should be possible for politicians to think about two things at once. The Minister should tell Members when the Government intends to address this issue.

Can the Minister assist Deputy Burton? If he does so, he will be of great assistance to me.

I can. I will assist the Ceann Comhairle by stating this legislation will be prepared by the Government as soon as possible and that the Government and I are quite capable of multitasking.

The Minister should go on a FÁS course to learn how to do a couple of things at once because he is not addressing them.

Please, do not mind the FÁS courses. I call Deputy Upton.

If they would have him on a FÁS course. He probably would not pass.

What is wrong with FÁS?

I call Deputy Upton.

That was uncalled for.

Do not mind that stuff now. I call Deputy Upton.

I refer to two items of legislation. What is the position in respect of the Irish Sports Council (amendment) Bill? Second, are there plans to introduce legislation to prevent developers from getting planning permission for a development while they are in breach of planing legislation?

Not at all. Would Fianna Fáil do that?

We cannot have hypothetical situations on the Order of Business.

A question was tabled to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the answer was less than helpful or clear.

Surprise, surprise.

That is the reason I ask the question again today.

Is legislation promised in the latter area and what is the position with regard to the former?

Deputy Upton asked two questions. First, the heads of the Irish Sports Council (amendment) Bill, were approved by the Government on 4 July 2006. A decision has yet to be made on whether to proceed with the establishment of the subsidiary companies and the expected publication date is in the middle of 2009.

As for the planning question, existing legislation enacted by a previous Government in 2001——

And not enforced.

——already governs this matter. However, further measures to strengthen the law in this regard are contained in the planning and development (amendment) Bill, for which the heads are expected at the end of this year. Its expected publication date is next year.

It will not be enforced either.

I call Deputy Kathleen Lynch.

It is not up to the Government to enforce it.

Has the Minister any idea how many rabbits have died since the heads of the Sports Council (amendment) Bill were produced?

It is a good question but the Deputy cannot raise it now.

The Deputy is raising hares.

The Labour Party got rid of the last Rabbitte.

The Deputy will be lynched.

That is one rabbit we can account for. It is the rest of them about which I am worried.

When will Members have sight of the mental capacity Bill? From his experience as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Minister for Finance will be aware this legislation is desperately needed.

The heads of the mental capacity Bill were approved by the Government on 3 September this year. It will be published in the middle of next year.

I understand that officials in the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government have offered to monitor and be part of a working group on the Aarhus Convention to help other European countries have their citizens acquire information on planning. When does Ireland propose to ratify the Aarhus Convention? Second, in a Government White Paper some years ago, a commitment was given to ratify the United Nations Convention against Corruption. Is the Minister in a position to indicate when Ireland proposes to ratify either of these two conventions? He also might indicate the number of ratifications that await the attention of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to enable Ireland to honour obligations for which it has signed.

Is the Government in ratification mode?

Ireland signed the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters on 25 June 1998.

That was some time ago.

Progress towards ratification is closely aligned with work at EU level. In that context, the European Union has adopted two directives as part of the ratification process for the convention.

What is ten years?

Regulations transposing the European Communities access to information on the environment directive were signed and came into effect on 1 May 2007. The process to transpose the other directive is well advanced, with legislation completed to amend the majority of the relevant consent systems pertaining to that directive within an Irish legislative framework. Work is continuing on the outstanding issues, namely, four consent systems, of which three currently are the responsibility of the Department and one of the Office of Public Works. It will be finalised at the earliest possible date. On completion of the full transposition of Directive 2003/35/EC, the Ministers for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Foreign Affairs will ensure the instrument of ratification of the Aarhus Convention will be submitted to the Government and laid before the Dáil.

As for the other matter raised by Deputy Higgins, the United Nations Convention against Corruption, I regret I must ask the relevant Minister to communicate with the Deputy about that.

I would appreciate that, as I have a large file on that convention. People write to me every six months or so. It is in the Government White Paper on aid and in the Government programme for legislation twice. I appreciate the Minister now is approaching it with urgency, so it may happen within my lifetime.

As for the other convention, we are heading into the 11th year since Ireland signed the Aarhus Convention. We have offered to help other European countries implement it in respect of information systems for their citizens.

We have plenty of experience.

Would ten years not constitute sufficient consideration in the relevant Department? Would it not be great for the partners in government to at least have this small achievement in the lifetime of the present Government or the one that will follow it?

As Deputy Higgins will be aware, it can be highly complicated when ethical objectives must be realised within an EU framework. However, in respect of the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, I can assist the Deputy further. The criminal justice (United Nations Convention Against Corruption) Bill, which allows for the ratification of that convention, now has been amalgamated with the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, which I understand is before the House.

A success. I call Deputy Gilmore.

I would not describe it as a success after five years. It has another five years to go before it reaches the same level as the Aarhus Convention.

In ten years time.

It has been brought to my attention that Senator Corrigan has been out on the plinth having her photograph taken. Does it follow therefore that the Government soon will move the writ for the Dublin South by-election?

No legislation is promised and I am not aware of any plans at present.

There could be many reasons for it. I call Deputy Ciarán Lynch.

The Minister is learning the ropes quickly.

I am aware the Ceann Comhairle already has ruled Deputy O'Dowd out of order on the issue of the appointment of family members. I suggest Members could facilitate that discussion in the debate on the social welfare Bill in respect of the family income supplement.

Right. I call Deputy McEntee.

On local LMFM radio this morning, some of the families of the nine people who were misdiagnosed in the north east stated they would greatly appreciate, if possible, were the Minister for Health and Children to make personal contact or issue a personal apology to them in respect of what happened.

We cannot go into that now. I call Deputy Reilly.

I already did.

As I am given to understand there are 280,000 people over the age of 60 who subscribe to the VHI and that risk equalisation fell in the courts, will the Minister outline what plans the Government has to address this issue legally to ensure community rating remains and that these people will not face hikes in their premiums?

Is legislation promised in that area?

The Government is determined to preserve the principle of community rating and will bring forward proposals in due course.

When will that be?

In due course.

What is meant by due course?

My question is related to Deputy Higgins's question about ratifying the Aarhus Convention. Do we have to pass legislation in this House in order to ratify that convention? We have to transpose a public participation directive from the European Union. We may need to amend other legislation, such as that relating to foreshores and planning. When will that happen?

I understand the implementation is taking place by way of secondary legislation.