Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 9, Social Welfare Bill 2009 — with financial resolutions Nos. 1 and 2 to be moved together and decided without debate by one question which shall be put from the Chair; No. 10, Social Welfare Bill 2009 — motion to instruct the committee, the proceedings on which, if not previously concluded, to be brought to a conclusion after 65 minutes and the following arrangements to apply: the speeches of a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for Fine Gael and the Labour Party, in that order, not to exceed 15 minutes and those of other Members not to exceed five minutes, Members may share time and the Minister or Minister's speech in reply not to exceed five minutes; No. 20, Social Welfare Bill 2009 — Committee and Remaining Stages, the proceedings on which, if not previously concluded, to be brought to a conclusion at midnight by one question from the Chair and which shall include only those amendments set down or accepted by the Minister for Social and Family Affairs; and No. 11, motion re by-election for Dublin South, to be taken with No. 12, motion re by-election for Dublin Central, at 7 p.m. with the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, to be brought to a conclusion after 30 minutes by one question from the Chair, with the following arrangements to apply: speeches to be confined to the main spokespersons for Fine Gael and the Labour Party and to a Minister or Minister of State and Members may share time, with speeches not exceeding ten minutes.

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 midnight. Private Members' business shall be No. 68, motion re infrastructural stimulus package, which shall be taken for 90 minutes at 7 p.m. or on the conclusion of No. 11 and No. 12, whichever is the later.

There are six proposals before the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. agreed to?

It is not agreed. The Labour Party is opposed to the proposal to sit late tonight. The purpose of the late sitting is to extend the scope of the Social Welfare Bill to enable the Government to ram through very significant changes to pension law. The Labour Party is not prepared to go along with this proposal. Yesterday, we were circulated with 11 pages of amendments in relation to pension legislation. This legislation was cobbled together in a rush at the weekend and it has very far-reaching implications for the 250,000 people in defined benefit pension schemes. We are not prepared to deal with it in this rushed manner.

Essentially, the Government is expecting us to consider this legislation, debate it and possibly amend it in the space of four hours. That is simply not possible because it is very important legislation. Some of the most complex legislation that comes before the House is pension related. Certainly, these amendments are extremely complex and Members on this side have a right to reasonable time to consider significant amendments. We also need an opportunity to consult on those proposals. It is a very specialised area and we need to consult and obtain expert advice if we are to do our job properly.

As late as 20 minutes ago, we got more pages from the Department. These included amendments to the Minister's amendments of yesterday, which would indicate that this is all happening on the hoof. We are not prepared to go along with this rushed job——

——in the very important area of pensions, particularly when they include provisions that impact on so many people.

We have contacted the Chief Whip's office and we recognise the urgency of dealing with the Social Welfare Bill. We are more than happy to facilitate the passage of that this evening. However, the important provisions in relation to pensions should not be rushed through or form part of the Social Welfare Bill. Given that the legislation has been drafted, why not make it a separate Bill? We will facilitate the Government in taking it in a week or two when we have had time to consider it. It is not, however, unreasonable for us to expect the Taoiseach would allow us time to have an input into this legislation and to give it the kind of consideration and oversight it requires.

We propose the Government hold off on the provisions in regard to pensions and produce those provisions as a separate pensions Bill which could be taken in the next couple of weeks. This is no way to conduct parliamentary business. It shows utter disrespect for the House, members of the Opposition and the spokespersons and it is bad law-making. As we have seen with previous efforts by this Government to rush through legislation in a short period of time, we must revisit it because, inevitably, it is bad legislation when it is rushed.

I put it to the Taoiseach to be reasonable and responsible about this and to allow reasonable time for us to consider the proposals and to deal with them in a separate Bill in the near future.

The Sinn Féin Members are opposed to facilitating the Social Welfare Bill and the pensions insolvency payments scheme included therein which most certainly should be taken as separate legislation and not incorporated in the Social Welfare Bill. We are not prepared to support the measures included in the Social Welfare Bill or to facilitate its passage. I would be surprised if other voices on the Opposition benches did not take that view.

The whole proposition contained in No. 1, in terms of the time up to midnight, is only an accommodation in regard to what is proposed in No. 4 which is to guillotine the Final Stages of the Social Welfare Bill. The Sinn Féin Members are absolutely and vehemently opposed to what is incorporated in these propositions.

In adding our voice to the appeal to separate the pensions insolvency payment scheme out into separate legislation and to address the Social Welfare Bill and all its elements as stand alone, we strongly oppose the notion of a guillotine and ask for full opportunity and participation, given the enormity of what is involved in this legislation.

Workers are being affected by the winding down of pensions and pensions rights in insolvent companies. It is to try to assist workers in that circumstance, which could be happening as we speak, that this legislation has been brought forward. It has not been cobbled together over a weekend — in fact, it has been worked on for some time. We hoped to have it at the time of the publication of the Social Welfare Bill but because of its complexity and involvement, that was not possible. This legislation needs to be enacted on the basis that it will be of assistance to workers in those circumstances——

There was no Second Stage.

——rather than to their disadvantage.

What is the reason for the urgency?

Question put: "That the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 80; Níl, 66.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Áine.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Browne, John.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Flynn, Beverley.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Hanlon, Rory.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Christy.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Behan, Joe.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Coonan, Noel J.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Mahony, John.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheehan, P. J.
  • Sherlock, Seán.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.
Question declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 9, Financial Resolutions re Social Welfare Bill 2009, without debate, agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 10, motion to instruct the committee re Social Welfare Bill 2009, agreed?

It is not agreed. We learned this afternoon that there will be a brief Second Stage-type debate, lasting 65 minutes, on the motion to instruct the committee. During that time, we will be expected to discuss all the pension provisions contained in the Social Welfare Bill 2009. We have had 12 years of Fianna Fáil Government——

We have had almost 25 years of it.

——but no progress has been made with State pensions policy over that period.

The most we got was the Green Paper on Pensions. The Government is proposing to make significant changes tonight. I take the Taoiseach's point that there is a need for urgency because some companies are in difficulty at the moment. However, I remind him that the need for urgency did not develop over the last 48 hours. We need more time if we are to have a proper opportunity to discuss this issue.

I am sure Deputies on all sides of the House would like to contribute to the debate on these significant changes, some of which do not go far enough. The short amount of time that is being provided will not give Members an opportunity to outline their concerns about these proposals. It is unacceptable that the Government intends to have all of this rushed through by midnight tonight. We have been given more amendments in recent hours, after the briefing we were given by the Department this morning. It is no way to do business. It will lead to bad pensions policy. The proposed White Paper has not yet been published. We do not know what the Government's overall policy is. The manner in which the Government is proceeding is wrong and will probably cause more difficulty. Fine Gael objects to the taking of this legislation in this way.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

This legislation was cobbled together over the weekend. It is clear, given that a further amendment has been published within the last hour, that it is a work in progress. The Minister has not completed her thinking on this. It is clear she has not had an opportunity to get adequate advice on it. The same applies to members of the Opposition. We got the Bill yesterday and we are expected to deal with it today. It is not acceptable. We need consultation and expert advice on this. I would like the Taoiseach to explain the reason for the hurry with this legislation. I have indicated that the Labour Party will be more than happy to facilitate the Government in two weeks' time. We could deal with this Bill properly, as we are supposed to do, at that stage. Why is the Government ramming it through today? Can the Taoiseach give us an adequate explanation? It is a most unusual way of taking legislation. It is a bad way to deal with legislation. There is a responsibility on the Taoiseach to explain to us the urgency of these provisions. The limited time of four hours available to us this evening will be dominated by the pensions issue but there is a range of other issues of concern in respect of the social welfare provisions that need to be adequately debated and voted on. By dealing with this first in the debate means that we will not consider the social welfare provisions. That is completely unacceptable. Will the Taoiseach explain the urgency in this matter?

I too object to taking this Bill in a rushed fashion this evening. It has far-reaching implications for people depending on welfare payments and it is completely unacceptable that it should be rushed through late in the evening. There is no reason not to make time to deal adequately with this business tomorrow. It is all right for some people in this House who will retire on three pensions from the public sector but unfortunately the people outside the House applying for social welfare do not have such luxury and we should have an opportunity to debate the matter fully.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, had something to say about that last week.

This issue brings some improvement to the position of workers who find themselves in an ongoing difficulty for which we need to enact legislation as quickly as possible. It was intended to have it ready on publication of the Social Welfare Bill but that was not possible. It has been brought forward for a Committee Stage amendment now. I accept that this is a complex area. It does not encompass the fully comprehensive framework for the future of pensions to which Deputy Enright referred. That is an ongoing process that is under discussion and poses a significant challenge for the future. This brings in some improvements, in limited circumstances, for workers whose pension rights have run into difficulty.

But not the pensioners?

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 10 be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 81; Níl, 66.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Áine.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Browne, John.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Flynn, Beverley.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Hanlon, Rory.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Christy.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Behan, Joe.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Coonan, Noel J.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Mahony, John.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheehan, P. J.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.
Question declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 20, Committee and Remaining Stages of the Social Welfare Bill 2009, agreed to?

It is not agreed. I must ask the Taoiseach yet again to please tell the House what is the reason for the urgency in ramming through this legislation?

A Deputy

Deputy McGuinness is here today but he may not be here tomorrow.

We are more than happy to facilitate the Government in dealing with this legislation in a reasonable manner. Can he tell us if there is a reason for rushing it through by midnight tonight, either here publically or in a private briefing? He has provided no reason for dealing with this legislation in this manner. It is not acceptable to us. Unless he can provide a reason for dealing with it like this we cannot accept the proposal. We have made a reasonable proposal to the Taoiseach for dealing with this situation within the next week or two. Why will he not accept that proposal? Will he please tell us if there is a reason for rushing it through? There is no question but that we will regret this move this evening to rush through complex legislation and we will rue the day that we do that.

I want to make a point in objection to this proposal. The Taoiseach has referred to the urgency of this matter, but the Minister for Finance still has to make regulations under some amendments, particularly the one dealing with the new issues that are being proposed today. Therefore, it is not as if this is something that will be enacted into law once it is completed in the Seanad. Regulations have to be made anyway, and logically we should have more time in this House to discuss it because the Minister still does not have all the work done to put it into action.

This legislation has been already guillotined on Second Stage, which severely restricted the opportunity for Members to participate properly in that debate.

(Interruptions).

There is a kind of hum and it does not sound like a song.

There is a kind of hush.

I ask Deputy Ó Caoláin to carry on.

We are faced with a guillotine applying at midnight tonight on Committee, Report and Final Stages. The content of this legislation is not reasonable by any yardstick. The consequences of the passage of this legislation will not be reasonable in terms of the reality it will spell out for ordinary people who are currently struggling to make ends meet. The passage of this legislation will significantly deepen the difficulties such people have to face. If the Taoiseach agrees, we will have an opportunity to extend the period of time for debating this legislation so that more Members can participate and the spotlight can be placed on what is entailed in the Bill. It should not become subsumed in terms of the new elements that have now been introduced, thereby creating a distraction from the real intent of the Bill from the outset and all the consequences that means for people. The guillotine is absolutely unacceptable and we are making a last appeal to have it lifted to let the debate continue.

An Taoiseach arís.

The reality is that were we in a situation where pension funds were not in the difficulties they are in now, and we know the real issues of the crisis that has hit the pension industry generally——

Two weeks does not make a difference.

It would make a difference if anything happened in the interim. If anything were to happen, although I am not on notice of any specific issue, these are matters of importance which affect pension rights and the conditions upon which——

Is there a reason?

I have explained the policy reason, which is that it improves the lot of those workers who could find themselves in such a situation.

We do not know that.

The Deputy cannot interfere.

I am sorry but we do know it. That is the reason we have introduced it. I have sought to introduce these changes to assist workers who find themselves in such a precarious position. That is why we are putting it forward.

Is that all the Taoiseach is worried about?

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 20 be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 81; Níl, 66.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Áine.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Browne, John.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Flynn, Beverley.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Hanlon, Rory.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Christy.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Behan, Joe.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Coonan, Noel J.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Mahony, John.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheehan, P. J.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.
Question declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 11, motion re by-election for Dublin South, and No. 12, motion re bye-election for Dublin Central, agreed? Agreed.

Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' Business agreed? Agreed.

I call Deputy Kenny on the Order of Business.

In view of the announcement by the World Health Organisation that it has raised the level of awareness in respect of current swine fever difficulties, will the Taoiseach indicate whether the Minister for Health and Children will keep the House and country informed of developments? I am sure she will do so. This matter must be considered and whatever actions the Government has to take will have the full support of the House.

In respect of No. 47 on the legislative programme, the public transport regulation Bill, which is to provide regulations for the provision of public transport, the legislation is to be published some time later this year. When will we have sight of it? Perhaps the Taoiseach has a clearer fix on the matter.

No. 31, the restructuring of the inland fisheries sector Bill, is due for publication in late 2009. A number of difficulties arise from the legislation. No. 55, the fisheries consolidation Bill, is not due until 2010. Is it intended to take these two Bills together? It would appear to make more sense to do so given that they both deal with inland fisheries and the consolidation of that sector?

The consolidation Bill is on a different timeline from the original Bill, No. 31. Consolidation, by definition, simply involves bringing together the existing legislative base, whereas the other Bill breaks some new ground. The latter legislation is due in late 2009 and presumably the consolidation Bill, which will be introduced in 2010, can take account of the new legislation and everything can be brought in under one omnibus Bill. Perhaps that is the thinking behind it. I will have the matter checked out.

The other two Bills about which the Deputy asked are due to be taken in late 2009. When considered at this remove I do not believe it is possible there will be an improvement in the timeline given the level of demands placed on the Office of the Attorney General at the moment.

On the Deputy's question regarding the World Health Organisation's view of the swine flu, which has the potential to become a pandemic, the WHO has raised its alert level to four. I understand there are six levels. The Minister for Health and Children has indicated that her Department will keep a watching brief. Its officials are interacting with international agencies on this matter at all times and keeping themselves informed of developments. They are also, in a considered manner, providing public information as required and as relevant.

It is important that the House and members of the public are kept informed by the Minister for Health and Children of up-to-date information on the spread of the swine flu, as it is known. There is considerable public worry about this issue. People get information about developments on matters of this nature through the media and on international websites, blogs and so on. It is very important, therefore, that the fullest information is made available to members of the public. Will the Taoiseach indicate whether the Minister for Health and Children will take an opportunity to make a statement in the House and take questions on the issue?

I note that No. 12 on the legislative programme, the twenty-eighth amendment of the Constitution Bill, which is to enable the State to ratify the Lisbon treaty, is to be published in this session. As I understand the position, it was the Government's intention to bring to finality at the June summit discussions with our European partners on the various declarations and issues which have arisen from the previous referendum, with a view to having a referendum some time in the autumn. Is it intended that this Bill, the purpose of which is to enable a referendum to take place, will be published before the House rises for the summer? Is that the reason it is on the list?

I thank the Taoiseach for writing to me arising from a question I raised last Wednesday concerning the transfer of questions relating to referenda and agreeing in that correspondence to take questions on referenda in future, as has been the practice in the past.

On the question of the evolution of relevant information for the public regarding the swine flu scare, a meeting of the interdepartmental committee on public health and emergency planning, which is chaired by the Department of Health and Children, has been taking place today with the office of emergency planning in attendance. The intention is to ensure that those qualified in this area provide the public information. The director of public health in the Department, Dr. Holohan, has proven himself to be adept and able in this area. It is important that people see medical experts being able to articulate whatever developments arise.

It is a matter for the House at any time to have the Minister come before it when a significant development takes place. Having listened this morning to the Deputy, I point out that issues will arise which do not raise serious public concern but are a reaction that takes place when people show some symptom or whatever. In that case, tests would take place. It is intended that relevant information is available and is updated and the media and House are kept informed in a way that does not defeat the purpose, namely, to ensure people do not take a disproportionate view of the matter. Clearly there is no room for complacency in matters such as this. One has to take it day by day and week by week to see how it develops. As I stated, national responses are in place and people will be kept updated accordingly.

On the Deputy's question on legislation, we have made a contingency, on the basis of a successful referendum outcome, to seek to ensure that the Bill to which the Deputy refers will be prepared thereafter in a way that is consistent with whatever conclusions arise. It would be a matter of priority for the Government to try to provide for the Bill's preparation in the aftermath of the June Council meeting.

On the correspondence to which the Deputy referred, on the basis that the Government has not made a formal decision to hold a referendum, I have indicated my willingness to answer questions on these matters. It was pointed out in the correspondence that once decisions are taken, they are often passed on to the line Ministers concerned. If, for example, we made a decision to have a constitutional amendment on children's rights, the matter would move on to the Minister concerned in respect of updating what is the exact situation at that point. As I say, I am prepared to answer in whatever capacity I can and to provide whatever information I can.

I ask the Ceann Comhairle to be patient with me. Under the public sector recruitment ban, county councils across the country are unable to recruit lifeguards. This will have major consequences for the tourism industry.

We cannot discuss lifeguards on the Order of Business.

While I understand the Ceann Comhairle's position, the matter is of such importance that it must be raised.

The Deputy may not do so on the Order of Business.

I understand officials from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will meet officials from the Department of Finance.

We cannot get into that now. We must move on.

I ask him to urge the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, to lift the ban so that county councils are able to recoup losses and if at all possible——

It is completely out of order. It is not fair on the Chair.

A Deputy

He would want to recruit a few lifeguards for himself.

Whatever about that, we cannot discuss it now.

It is too important an issue not to raise it in the House.

We cannot discuss lifeguards on the Order of Business.

Can I table it as an Adjournment Debate matter? Will the Ceann Comhairle consider it for the Adjournment?

The Deputy can do so. That is what should have happened in the first instance.

The Deputy should apply again.

Will the Taoiseach tell me the status of the draft Bill on offshore renewable energy development, which was produced months ago by an all-party committee comprising Members of the Seanad and Dáil? It seems to have been lost although we sent it to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Eamon Ryan. Having looked at the list, I note he is not over-burdened with proposed legislation.

Is the Taoiseach really serious about encouraging committees to do sound, sensible work and to work in co-operation with the Government where possible on issues such as this, which are of tremendous importance in terms of future investment in this country? We should take all-party committees, which are not acting in a party political manner but are trying to do something positive and constructive, seriously. The least we can do is show some sort of respect. The minimum would be for a Minister to write back and tell us he or she is not interested in the committee, but leaving us hanging makes a joke of the committee system. I ask the Taoiseach to take this matter very seriously.

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Eamon Ryan, is not over-burdened with legislation at present. Unfortunately, he is not here to listen to me.

He is never here.

He is the invisible man.

It is a terrible shame that committees, which genuinely try to do positive things, are not encouraged by the Government. I thought the Green Party, which emphasised the fact that it had an input into the establishment of the committee in question, would see to it that when a committee did positive work, it would make it its business to encourage us even further.

I understand that when the Chairman, on behalf of the committee, forwarded the legislative proposal in question in December, it was acknowledged and an indication was given by the Minister at the time that, in line with the committee's thinking, there was a need for a consultative process to be undertaken. I understand Sustainable Energy Ireland and other stakeholders are being consulted by the Minister.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is also involved with foreshore licensing. The Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, indicated, in correspondence with the committee, his preparedness to engage with it over the coming period on its proposals as well as on how best to progress necessary legislative change, with its own proposals being part of that consideration. An invitation to the Minister to return to the committee and see what the current situation is would be helpful to the committee.

We did that. We have not heard anything since.

I am sure as soon as that is conducted we can talk to the Minister about it.

The public expects a high quality of service delivered everywhere, particularly in the health services, but people are, unfortunately, being disappointed on a regular basis. I refer particularly to a recent disclosure to the effect that a particular centre of excellence was no longer a centre of excellence. I cannot understand how one can have a centre of excellence which is not a centre of excellence.

The Deputy will have to revert to a thesaurus because he cannot raise the matter here.

Regarding promised legislation, will the Taoiseach bring before the House the eligibility for health and personal social services Bill? It would enable a debate to take place where Members of the House could have an input into what the public are entitled to in terms of their rights and services in the health area.

Now that the electronic voting machines have been consigned to the deep, would it be possible to introduce the necessary legislation to give them a decent burial? Perhaps the environment (miscellaneous provisions) Bill would be the appropriate legislation to use to consign them to whatever place they will go. Hopefully they will not be buried at sea.

I understand the environment (miscellaneous provisions) Bill is due before the House this session. There is no date for the previous Bill mentioned by the Deputy. His opening remarks on it concerned a baseline study to establish what work was required to create a centre of excellence in that location and in seven others. Previously, there were no centres of excellence in 41 different locations. I am glad to say that those who are directing operations have indicated that this should be the case by the end of the year. It is not a question of it being a centre of excellence or not, but of identifying in a baseline study what would be required to reach the standard and now being in the process of creating it. It is called reform in the health service. We cannot have it every way.

All centres should be centres of excellence, as should all health facilities.

We cannot have it every way.

I wish to ask the Taoiseach about two pieces of legislation, one a primary piece and the other secondary. The secondary legislation refers to an issue I have raised on a number of occasions and concerns the ban on below cost selling of alcohol, which facilitates promotions such as "buy one, get one free" regarding the sale of alcopops to young people. I understand the European Commission has given its approval to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Dermot Ahern, to proceed with that secondary legislation. When will it come before the House? It was promised some 12 months ago.

Regarding primary legislation, when will the national monuments (amendment) Bill come before the House? Will the Taoiseach intervene directly regarding the freeze on the recruitment of seasonal guides in the Office of Public Works for facilities such as Clonmacnoise and many other fine facilities around the country? It is important to promote these facilities and that they are available to tourists. I am sure the Taoiseach wants to comment on that issue.

I understand the second Bill is due to come before the House at the end of the year.

What about the seasonal guides?

I do not know if they are mentioned in the national monuments (amendment) Bill but I never regard a seasonal guide as a national monument.

Will we have them?

They are national treasures.

By definition.

Will we have them in Clonmacnoise?

We will not create them.

It is a very important issue in the Taoiseach's constituency.

I will have to revert to the Deputy on the question of below cost selling.

I draw the Taoiseach's attention to three legislative matters in the Department of Education and Science. His colleague beside him is a former Minister for Education and Science and should be familiar with some of them. This Department does not produce much legislation but it probably takes longer than any other to move from "A" to "Z" in delivering it.

The education (patronage) Bill provides the legal basis for VECs to be patrons at primary school level. It is a two section Bill. We have already sent a full draft to the Taoiseach and the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, and publication is still expected in 2009. A school is acting illegally, or is at risk of a legal charge, in north county Dublin.

The George Mitchell Scholarship Fund Act must be amended. It is not a controversial measure. However, there is a reception in the US ambassador's residence this Friday at which the reluctance in the Department of Education and Science and the question of why we are using the name of Senator George Mitchell in such a cavalier manner and not putting our money where our mouth is will be raised.

I draw the Taoiseach's attention to the fact that the Student Support Bill, the purpose of which has nothing to do with the reintroduction of fees but rather to modernise the existing grant applications scheme, was passed by this House 11 months ago. The amendments which are due still have not been brought before the committee, despite requests from it. Will the Taoiseach, in his capacity, throw his eye over the management and political stewardship of the Department of Education and Science regarding legislation? It is a D minus at present.

I would not agree.

The heads of the first Bill are being prepared but are not ready yet. The George J. Mitchell scholarship will be dealt with later this year. The Student Support Bill is awaiting Committee Stage. I will check up on the current position and ask to be contacted in this regard.

It would not have happened under the previous regime.

It would not have happened under Deputy Hanafin.

I thank the Department of Health and Children officials for their briefing earlier today on the swine flu threat. A briefing such as this is always useful. However, there are grave and justifiable concerns, particularly given that primary care services will be the front line of address and we currently have a very low GP to population ratio and a poor and uneven roll-out of primary care services. Would the Taoiseach consider, given the importance of the issue and the alarm that exists——

We cannot discuss that now.

——requesting the Minister to come to the House to deal with this?

We cannot have questions on that. I allowed statements during Leaders' Questions earlier.

I ask the Government to provide time to address this issue here——

We are not going on with that. Leaders made short statements on this issue earlier and I will not go into it again.

——in open forum in the Dáil so that we can properly inform not only ourselves but the wider public of the dangers of——

Does the Deputy understand that we cannot go into this now?

I am asking about the ordering of business.

The Deputy cannot ask a question about that now because it is not in order. Standing Orders are quite specific about it.

My understanding is that it has been addressed in myriad ways.

A brief statement was made by the party leaders and the Taoiseach responded——

I was not aware that I was named under Standing Orders so that I cannot raise it but other people can.

——but the Deputy is not allowed to ask questions about this. I was going to allow the Deputy to make a brief statement like everybody else, but that was it. I cannot allow questions on it. It is just not on.

The Deputy must understand my position.

I will conclude on that point and go on to my second point.

I ask the Taoiseach to give attention to my request on this serious issue.

On the list of legislation promised by the Department of Health and Children is the nurses and midwives Bill. There is currently concern with regard to the embargo on recruitment and the potential for the further loss of some 700 nurses——

I cannot allow a speech on this now. I must move on to the next business.

——currently within the service who may not be replaced.

The Taoiseach on the legislation.

Will the Taoiseach note that the nurses and midwives Bill has been on the list of promised legislation, as best I can establish, from as far back as 2002? That is a full seven years.

That is it. The Taoiseach on the nurses and midwives Bill.

Does the Taoiseach not accept that there is something seriously amiss within the Department when legislation of this importance can be——

The Deputy has made his point.

——set aside year after year?

I understand it is due next year. I agree it has had a gestation period longer than that with which midwives would normally be acquainted.

What about the issue of swine flu?

My colleague Deputy Naughten, who is from my neighbouring constituency, raised a few moments ago the issue of the national monuments Bill, which seems destined to remain a hidden treasure. Last autumn we were told we could expect publication in the spring of this year. In the spring of this year we were told to expect publication in the autumn. The Taoiseach told us today that it will probably come in the latter half of this year, but I see in the summer schedule that it is now promised some time in 2010. This raises the question being asked by many of my constituents and others around the country — would this country have been better off over the last 12 months if we had not had a Taoiseachin situ?

There is now the opportunity to excavate that Bill.

Do not mind that. On the national monuments Bill, tá sé ag teacht, I think.

I am well aware that in the towns of County Longford they speak of nothing else.

The national monuments Bill has become——

The Taoiseach tried to bully before and he did not get away with it.

It is like the Ardagh chalice.

The national monuments Bill is an issue that is close to everyone's heart in that part of the midlands.

The Government closed down the barracks in Longford.

I assure the Deputy the Bill will have the highest possible priority and will be brought forward as soon as possible, which will probably be some time in the future.

Now that is a positive answer.

I thank the Taoiseach and I hope he will intervene.

The Minister of State, Deputy Carey has taken note.

The Taoiseach may possibly be aware that the former Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy McGuinness, informed the House in an Adjournment debate in early April that proposals would be going to Cabinet later this month on the issue of export credit insurance, which is no longer available to many companies exporting goods. This is particularly of concern to companies in the dairy industry, which are facing considerable difficulties at the moment.

That is a matter for the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Will this issue, which is of major concern to companies that are exporting goods and sustaining employment in the community, be addressed in the Finance Bill, which is expected shortly?

All the Taoiseach can do is to tell the Deputy when the publication of the Finance Bill is expected. We cannot go further than that.

I know Deputy McGuinness is no longer a Minister of State, but the issue is not gone.

Do not mind that.

I hope that was not the cause of the schism between the Deputy and his senior Minister in the Department.

Whatever about that, I must obey Standing Orders.

It is a critical issue, and I hope the Tánaiste will not renege on this commitment.

I cannot go into that now.

The Taoiseach may wish to comment on the issue in the context of the Finance Bill.

He can only tell the Deputy when the Finance Bill will be published. That is all he can do.

He cannot discuss the detail of the Finance Bill on the Order of Business, for goodness sake.

He might tell us specifically whether the issue will be addressed in the Bill.

No, he cannot.

There are proposals going to Cabinet.

Deputy McHugh is next.

We have not had any response from the Taoiseach. I am asking a legitimate question about the Finance Bill.

The Deputy cannot ask about the detail of the Finance Bill on the Order of Business.

Will the Taoiseach tell us when the Finance Bill will be introduced?

When is the Finance Bill due? That is the only thing with which the Taoiseach can help the Deputy.

It should be published on 7 May.

Is the Tánaiste aware of the issue of export credit insurance?

Do not mind about that. I call Deputy McHugh.

Silence. Bring back Deputy McGuinness.

That is a smart-ass comment.

For a smart-ass Taoiseach.

This time yesterday this House and, in particular, members of the Taoiseach's own parliamentary party were under the impression that BreastCheck would be rolled out in Donegal——

We cannot have a debate on health now.

Hold on a minute, a Cheann Comhairle. I have not even finished my first sentence. Where is the equity in representation here? I ask the Ceann Comhairle to let me finish my first sentence.

I will, but I ask the Deputy to come within order.

As of yesterday, Members of this House and the Taoiseach's parliamentary party were under the impression that BreastCheck would be rolled out in Donegal in 2009. This morning, a spokesperson from the HSE announced that it would not be rolled out and that the timeframe would be indefinite.

The Deputy will have to raise that on the Adjournment or submit a question.

My question is to do with the health information Bill. There is an information deficit between the Government and the HSE. This raises the question of who is actually in charge. The health information Bill should be introduced sooner rather than later.

The Taoiseach on the health information Bill.

We do not have a date for the publication of the Bill but we should have the heads of the Bill in May.