It is proposed to take No. 11, Broadcasting Bill 2008[Seanad] — Financial Resolution; No. 2, Gas (Amendment) Bill 2008 — Second Stage (resumed); No. 3, Arbitration Bill 2008 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 28, Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill 2008 — Second Stage (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders that No. 11 shall be decided without debate. Private Members’ business shall be No. 53, motion re gangland crime (resumed), to conclude at 8.30 p.m. if not previously concluded.
Order of Business.
There is only one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 11 without debate agreed to? Agreed.
In respect of the Finance Bill, when the Minister for Finance announced the budget he stated that the tax rate at which charges for nursing homes and expenses could be reclaimed would be reduced from the marginal rate of 41% to 20%. Will the Finance Bill contain a provision reversing this measure when it is published tomorrow?
No, it was not the intention to reduce the rate in respect of nursing homes.
That was not the intention.
No, the Minister is simply doing what he said he would do.
In the Finance Bill tomorrow the marginal rate of 41% will apply.
The issue can be discussed when the Finance Bill is published tomorrow.
Strictly speaking, it is not in order to discuss the contents of the Finance Bill on the Order of Business.
That is fair enough.
In the budget the Minister for Finance announced the amalgamation or abolition of a number of State agencies, which I understand will involve the amendment of approximately 17 Acts. Having asked previously if it was intended to make these amendments in one Bill or separately, I am still unclear as to what are the Government's intentions in that regard. What are the Government's plans for amending the legislation to allow for the amalgamation and abolition of the different bodies, as announced in the Budget Statement?
When the implementation plans of Departments regarding these matters are completed and received by the Department of Finance, it may be possible, taking all factors into consideration, to bring together some of the rationalisation proposals within one Bill, especially where similar issues or timeframes are involved. Alternatively, it may also be possible to bring forward a number of Bills together where timeframes are suitable. We are anxious to make progress on rationalisation as soon as possible and we will adopt the most efficient course of action to achieve early implementation of the improved efficiencies and savings anticipated.
When does the Taoiseach expect the implementation plans to be completed and available to Government? Arising from that, when will we have some indication as to what legislation will be introduced? Are the implementation plans to which the Taoiseach referred confined to the amalgamations announced in the budget or is it intended to go further than the budget announcement?
The Minister for Finance indicated in his budget the bodies which may be merged or dissolved depending on the various proposals he announced. These will be the priority for Government in the immediate future. As to what other proposals may arise, that is a matter for the Government to consider at any time. I cannot give the Deputy a date on which the implementation plans will be available. Obviously, work on the issue is ongoing as a result of the budget announcements.
Will the Taoiseach make provision for a debate on the current position in the banks given that the PricewaterhouseCoopers——
The Deputy may not raise the issue on the Order of Business.
I am asking about providing time for a debate.
As the Deputy is aware, that is a matter for the Whips and one we cannot debate on the Order of Business.
We cannot debate it for the straightforward reason that it is not in order.
In the previous term, the House had nothing but debates. Now that one of the most important issues in Irish history has arisen, the House does not have time to debate it.
I am not debating the issue. The Deputy must ask questions which are in order.
The Tánaiste and Taoiseach gave an indication that they have reached decisions on the introduction of legislation on property management companies. Tens of thousands of property owners are experiencing severe difficulties with property management services and their costs. Has the Government clarified which Department will sponsor what is, I understand, a single Bill? What is the timeframe for dealing with the legislation? In terms of the property market, the confused circumstances surrounding property management companies in new areas is causing severe problems for property owners who want to sell their property and move on, those who want to buy a property and those paying mortgages on negative equity homes and high management fees.
The Deputy may not make a Second Stage speech on the Order of Business.
On the legislation, I understand the Tánaiste indicated yesterday that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform would sponsor the Bill as soon as the Attorney General's work has been completed in the matter.
On the same issue, three Ministries are involved in this issue. By far the busiest Ministry as far as legislation is concerned is the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Given that it would be extremely difficult for the Department to give priority to the Bill in question, I ask the Taoiseach to review which Department is sponsoring the legislation.
On the same issue, there appears to be an element of confusion with regard to responsibility and the nature of the legislation. I ask that the Government Whip produce a memorandum because it appears that of the three Departments involved, one is taking responsibility for dealing with the issues raised by Deputy Burton. The Taoiseach has stated consistently that the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has responsibility for the Property Services Regulatory Authority Bill which deals specifically and, I believe, exclusively, with the regulation of the auctioneers and estate agents profession, an entirely different matter from that raised by Deputy Burton. The Taoiseach now appears to indicate that composite legislation will be introduced by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to deal with management companies, which is more of an environment-consumer-enterprise issue and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
We were aware that there are various aspects to this issue and it was the view of many Members of the Opposition that we should ascertain whether it was possible to introduce a composite Bill. The issue was examined by Government and we decided to try to take that route. As I indicated, the Attorney General continues to work on the matter. A legislation committee meeting will take place tomorrow and perhaps the Whip will be able to update the Opposition parties thereafter.
On No. 75 on the legislative programme, should the wording of the social welfare lone parent and other low income families reform Bill be changed in light of comments made by the Minister for Social and Family Affairs last week regarding a discussion paper with proposals for supporting lone parents?
I raise No. 35, the foreshore (amendment) Bill, and the Housing (Miscellaneous) Provisions Bill, which we hope will give powers to local authorities and the Garda Síochána regarding criminality and anti-social behaviour in housing estates. On the Bill to implement amendments to SOLAS, the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, has new equipment been purchased for the Malin Head, Valentia and Dublin marine rescue centres?
I understand the Bills referred to by the Deputy, including legislation on lone parents, will be taken next year. The Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is before the Seanad.
Has equipment been purchased for the marine rescue centres?
I call Deputy Shortall.
As a result of the budget, it has emerged that 48,000 people who currently receive jobseeker's benefit stand to lose €2,500 each over the coming months.
Is the Deputy referring to a legislative provision? As she is well aware, Deputies may not discuss the budget on the Order of Business.
I am referring to the Social Welfare Bill.
We cannot discuss that now.
Apart from the fact that this will cause considerable hardship, what arrangements are in place to notify people that they will suffer such a large fall in income?
There are other ways of raising the issue. I strongly suggest the Deputy avail of the opportunity to raise it on the Adjournment or in a parliamentary question.
On promised legislation, the Government planned to establish an electoral commission to establish an independent organisation to compile the register of electors. What is the position regarding this legislation? Will the Government extend the deadline for the submission of applications to have one's name placed on the register of electors beyond 25 November given that application forms are not available in many post offices and libraries?
The Deputy must confine questions to legislation.
Everyone should have an opportunity next June to vote and give an opinion on the Government.
If the Deputy is referring to the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, Report Stage of the legislation is before the House.
What about extending the deadline?
The Deputy should ask the Minister.
On a point of order, the Ceann Comhairle constantly states on the Order of Business, particularly recently, that he is bound by Standing Orders.
That is correct.
The Ceann Comhairle is also bound by precedence as regards his own and previous decisions. Very many decisions have been made by the Ceann Comhairle and previous Chairs in the matter of allowing a Deputy, at this point of the day, to raise the matter of a debate on an issue, requesting that Government time be made available. There is long-standing precedent by which the Ceann Comhairle is bound as well as a Standing Order, so he may allow that question. He is not ruled out from allowing it.
I thank the Deputy for his help.
Further to the issue raised by our leader, Deputy Kenny, where many vulnerable people will be paying up to 75% of their disability allowance towards long-stay care, when can we expect the publication of the eligibility for health and personal services Bill to come before the House? It is an important Bill and I do not want to hear that it will be next year.
We cannot anticipate a reply.
It is not possible to indicate at this stage.
I want to ask the Taoiseach a question in relation to the Finance Bill, in terms of the travel tax that was introduced in the budget. Given the concerns expressed by airlines using Shannon Airport, Ryanair in particular——-
This is something the Deputy might raise during the debate on the Finance Bill or he might put down a question on the Adjournment.
——--and given the various media reports in recent days——
Do not mind that.
——--to the effect that the Government will review the travel tax, could the Taoiseach confirm to the House——
The Deputy must ask a question that is in order, or I shall move on.
There is the parking tax, too.
Yesterday, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Minister of State with responsibility for housing announced a package of measures that will improve standards of rental accommodation. To what legislative framework will these measures be attached and will the Taoiseach say whether it is one item of legislation or a series? Given the Minister's comments yesterday, where he talked about a four-year phasing in period with some of these works such as outside toilets and central heating being put in place, I believe clarity is needed. One could interpret it as a rogue charter for landlords the fact that a three and a half year moratorium——--
It is not possible to raise that matter.
If the Minister is making announcements outside the House he should be coming in here giving details of the Bills he is to introduce.
That is not in order.
I want to ask the Taoiseach what legislation covers this because the Minister——
The Deputy cannot fish for legislation on the Order of Business. He must ask questions that are in order.
I shall conclude on this. The Minister is saying the commencement date for this is 1 February 2009.
It is 1 April, I believe.
What is the question? What legislation is it?
The miscellaneous housing Bill will not be through the House within that timeframe.
What legislation is it? All right, I call Deputy Durkan
I shall ask the question again. The Minister made an announcement yesterday with regard to rental accommodation——
What legislation covers it?
Deputies cannot fish for legislation on the Order of Business.
The Minister made an announcement yesterday outside the House, regarding housing matters that have to be associated with some legislation. Can we not obtain an answer in respect of that matter this morning?
Is legislation promised in this area, Taoiseach? The Taoiseach is not aware of it.
The Minister promised it yesterday.
I notice in the proposed legislation that a number of Bills are scheduled for 2009. Since they are very important, can the Taoiseach indicate to the House whether it is intended to bring them in before the next general election? The electricity transfer of transmission assets Bill, which was promised for 2009, will deal with the transfer ownership of electricity transmission assets from ESB to EirGrid. It is important legislation and I know the Taoiseach would like to see it brought to a conclusion.
In view of the concerns expressed by teachers, parents and educationalists there are three Bills in the area of education. Since we do not have the opportunity of discussing education cuts other than in the context of the Finance Bill and the budget, will the Taoiseach say whether it is intended to bring one of those three Bills — the education patronage Bill, the education Ireland Bill or the——
I have to interrupt Deputy Durkan. I told Deputy Ciarán Lynch that fishing for legislation is not allowed on the Order of Business, and neither is trawling for legislation.
This is not fishing for legislation.
Questions should be specific and not omnibus.
These questions are specific, and imperative at present, because——
Be specific, please.
——the House is entitled to know, since the Government has published this promised legislation when it will be brought before the House — and in particular, whether it is intended to bring it before the House before the next general election, so that we all know where we are going.
The first item of legislation to which the Deputy referred, regarding EirGrid and the transfer of assets, is due next year. Expected publication date of the education (Ireland) Bill is next year, as is the education patronage Bill and the George Mitchell Scholarship Fund Act 1998 (Amendment) Bill.
On a point of order, will the Taoiseach please clarify that? My understanding is that the education (Ireland) Bill was shelved by the Minister for Education and Science.
That is not a point of order. I call Deputy Crawford.
Yes, that is correct — my apologies.
It is not now proceeding.
That is correct.
I am glad to be of help to the Taoiseach.
In light of the fact that the Minister for Health and Children and the HSE have agreed that €1 million is to be spent on restructuring the executive, when will the health corporate bodies Bill be introduced, so that we may discuss that issue? In light of the fact that even with Monaghan General Hospital still on call, some 50 people were on trolleys in Cavan the night before last, when will the nurses and midwives Bill be introduced so that we may discuss how people are expected to deal with that impossible situation?
We cannot discuss what we are going to discuss.
I understand the publication date for those Bills is next year.
I understand the Government has agreed proposals with regard to the cost of health insurance for older people, following the court decision on risk equalisation. Will the Taoiseach say whether that is by way of separate legislation or it will be in the Finance Bill? In the event, will it need the approval of the European Commission?
It will not be by way of the Finance Bill, but rather through separate legislation. The European Commission will have to be notified.
The Dáil passed the Second Stage of the Student Support Bill in May or June this year. The taking of Committee Stage has been delayed somewhere between here and Marlborough Street and we cannot seem to find out when it is likely to be taken. Given that the Government is considering the reintroduction of fees for third level students, is it not going to proceed with this Bill, but is to introduce a new Bill to provide for the legislative basis for the reintroduction of fees?
My understanding is that the Bill is awaiting Committee Stage. It is a matter for the Whips to decide where it will go from here.
In light of the fact that 48,000 people who are now claiming job seeker's benefit still do not realise that the amount of time in which they can claim has been reduced in the Social Welfare Bill, a statutory instrument must be sent to the various Departments to ensure that the wishes for the Minister for Social and Family Affairs are carried out. Her wishes are contained within the Social Welfare Bill. When can the various offices expect to receive that statutory instrument and how are the people affected to be informed that they are about to lose, I believe, about one third of their job seeker's benefit?
I am not aware of the specifics, except to say that whatever requirements are needed to enact the Social Welfare Bill will be implemented.
I have raised perhaps 12 or 15 times with the Taoiseach the construction industry and the homes that were built over the last eight or ten years which are fundamentally defective, and where the State may be facing a liability that may possibly be greater than those associated with the banks. Has the Taoiseach had any discussions with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, whose behaviour in this matter has been appalling?
We cannot deal with that now.
I want to ask him about legislation. Has he discussed any changes to building regulations or planning law with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley and the Attorney General on foot of this or on possible liability? This is a serious elephant in the room which the Taoiseach is ignoring. Deputy Gormley is ignoring it and is busy with minor changes to lightbulbs while a massive liability faces the State——
Is legislation promised in this area?
I am not aware that it is promised.
When will the Taoiseach move the writ for the Dublin South by-election?
No decision has been made.
Will the Taoiseach move the writ at all?
The Deputy will be notified in good time.
When will he move it? Will it be this side of Christmas?