It is proposed to take No. 11, motion regarding a referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of An Bord Bia (Transfer of Functions of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara relating to Fish Marketing) Order 2009; No. 12, motion regarding a referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA) 2006; No. 13, motion regarding ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; and No. 24, Broadcasting Bill 2008 [Seanad] — Report Stage (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 11, 12 and 13 shall be decided without debate; and in the event a division is in progress at the time fixed for taking Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 69, motion regarding special educational needs, Standing Order 117(3) shall not apply and the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted after Private Members’ time, which shall be taken for 90 minutes tonight and shall also take place tomorrow after the Order of Business and shall be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes on that day.
Order of Business.
There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 11, motion regarding a referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of An Bord Bia (Transfer of Functions of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara relating to Fish Marketing) Order 2009; No. 12, motion regarding a referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA) 2006; and No. 13, motion regarding ministerial rota for parliamentary questions agreed to? Agreed?
Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' business agreed to? Agreed.
The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government confirmed last week that the by-elections in Dublin Central and Dublin South will take place on 5 June. When does the Government expect to move the writs so that persons involved can then make arrangements for election material etc.?
I welcome that the Senate in the Czech Republic today approved the Lisbon treaty by the narrowest of margins. As I understand it, now that both Houses in the Czech Republic have given approval for the Lisbon treaty, this should not create a difficulty for President Klaus. Is it the Taoiseach's intention to resurrect the Oireachtas all-party committee dealing with the Lisbon treaty? When does he expect to be in a position to give an indication as to when the referendum might be held? Does he envisage it being at the end of September, October or November? I wish to know so that those of us who support the Lisbon treaty can start to put together a real campaign on this occasion in order that the people be properly informed in advance of giving their verdict and hopefully approval when the referendum is held.
On the first matter, I understand the writs would need to be moved between 8 May and 14 May. It will be a matter for the Whips in due course to agree how that can proceed, but that is the timeframe.
On the second matter, I also welcome that the Senate in the Czech Republic has voted positively in favour of the Lisbon treaty. I cannot give any date, unfortunately, for when a referendum will be held until we have the June European Council meeting. I hope that we will be able to conclude our business at that meeting. I am due to attend an Eastern Partnership summit in Prague tomorrow. I will take the opportunity of meeting the Czech Prime Minister, Mr. Topolánek, and his successor, for the purpose of having some discussions before he, as President, greets those who arrive and proceeds with the meeting as arranged.
While I know the Taoiseach cannot give a specific date now, whenever he is in a position to do so it would be helpful for him to give an indication early on. This is a matter of critical interest to the country. I would be very happy to know whether it will be approximately end of September, October or November so that we can make arrangements.
The Defamation Bill was published on 7 July 2006 and has been making very slow progress through the Houses. I understand it is currently on Committee Stage. It is the Government's intention to have the Bill enacted by the summer recess? From where on earth did the proposal on blasphemous libel come?
We cannot discuss the contents of legislation as the Deputy well knows.
Was the proposal for a €100,000 fine a Government decision?
It applies to the Taoiseach and Tánaiste as well.
We cannot discuss the contents of the legislation.
Was the entire Government present?
We cannot discuss the contents of the legislation.
Were the Green Party Ministers missing that day as well?
We cannot discuss the contents of the legislation. I call the Taoiseach on the Defamation Bill.
It sounds like a blast from the past.
I am informed by the Whip that it will be a matter for those who are dealing with the Committee Stage to ascertain how long it will take for that consideration to be completed and come back to the House for Report Stage.
What about blasphemous libel?
I call Deputy Jan O'Sullivan. We cannot discuss the contents of the legislation.
Was that the Taoiseach's idea?
Deputy Gilmore is being mischievous.
The Joint Committee on the Constitution recommended it be totally abolished.
I call Deputy Jan O'Sullivan.
It is a silly idea.
There will be no sidebar discussions. Deputies can have a discussion about it later. I call Deputy Jan O'Sullivan. Those questions can be asked in the course of the debate on the legislation and not on the Order of Business.
The Taoiseach could be in trouble himself.
The issue that I want to raise is primarily a matter of European law, but it has significant relevance for my constituency in particular. Today, the EU will reduce the amount that a government must pay towards applying for the EU globalisation training fund. The Government indicated that it would apply for this fund in respect of the Dell workers who are to lose their jobs.
That sounds like good material for a parliamentary question.
I understand that the amount is now only 25%. The number of redundancies has decreased from 1,000 to 500.
As the Deputy knows, we cannot go into that matter now.
Has a decision been made on when an application will be made for the EU globalisation fund?
The Deputy will need to raise that question in another way, of which there are several.
It is an important issue. Perhaps the Taoiseach will be able to tell the House.
There are several ways of raising this matter. Deputy McManus is next.
The Taoiseach will not be in the House tomorrow, so this is my only chance to raise it with him.
There are other ways to raise it. The Deputy could ask the line Minister.
Would the Taoiseach not wish to——
Deputy McManus is next.
This EU legislation is being changed today.
Deputy Jan O'Sullivan is out of order, as she knows better than I do.
People have already lost their jobs. They have no training, options or anywhere to go.
I appreciate all of that, but there are other ways of raising the issue. She must utilise them.
The Government indicated months ago that it would apply for the fund.
The Deputy has long experience of the rules of the House and knows that she is out of order.
I am sure that the Taoiseach could give me information.
I am raising an issue on secondary legislation relating to the ending of the adoption agreement between Ireland and Vietnam. I imagine that everyone in the House has received a considerable number of e-mails from the almost 1,500 adoptive families directly affected. Some of them are distressed. After working towards adoption for four or five years, they have been left stranded by the Minister of State with responsibility for children, Deputy Barry Andrews. Will the Taoiseach introduce interim legislation or when will the secondary legislation be laid before the House?
It is appalling that people have been left in this position when they could provide homes for children whom they have come to know.
The Deputy has made her point.
They have seen photographs of the children in question in orphanages, but they cannot get access because of the Government's failure to provide a new agreement.
I endorse Deputy McManus's case. This is an important issue for many families and every effort must be galvanised to solve what appear to be difficulties that have emerged at a late stage and that still persist.
As an Opposition Whip, I do not doubt that the Opposition Whips would make time available were the Government in agreement so that this matter could be sorted out as soon as possible. Every Deputy has received a significant number of e-mails on this issue in recent days.
The point has been made.
It is a significant issue and should be sorted out as soon as possible.
The Government is aware of the concern and anxieties that this process is causing to prospective adoptive parents. However, the Government is also firmly committed to ensuring that arrangements between Ireland and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam protect the best interests of the children, their families and prospective adoptive parents. The Minister of State with responsibility for children and youth affairs has communicated at every opportunity to update prospective adoptive parents and their representative groups on these matters and has already committed to continuing with this process. Therefore, he is seeking to negotiate a new strengthened agreement in this respect.
On secondary legislation, approximately a fortnight ago the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government published revised regulations on the nitrates directive and the implementation of a second round of inspections by local authorities. Subsequently, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food saw sense and stated that the one set of inspections by his officials could be utilised to streamline the process, which we would welcome. However, I understand that the regulations published by the Minister, Deputy John Gormley, will need to be amended. When will they be tabled in the House and will we be provided with clarity regarding the inspections? It seems that the Minister, who is prepared to comment on everything, is not prepared to comment on his Department's responsibilities.
There is no need for the Taoiseach to elaborate. Is legislation promised in this area?
Obviously, this was a regulation, secondary legislation, that was being enacted in respect of this matter. I will have to come back to the Deputy after I check what the position is as to whether an amendment is required and what timescale is involved.
The public health (miscellaneous provisions) Bill is like a sun bed in that it seems to observe no seasons. It has appeared on the autumn and spring schedules. Now, it has appeared on the summer schedule. When will this important Bill be before the House?
A Bill for all seasons.
Is that Bill on the horizon?
Unfortunately, I have no date for that Bill at the moment.
It could appear on the autumn and winter schedules yet.
Some people could be getting too much sun.
In the past ten years, the Government has pursued a Thatcherite policy of establishing quangos for all sorts of purposes that were previously within the remit of the Dáil and the Ministers serving in it. Each quango has a chief executive officer, chairman, board and, usually, a public relations officer at a considerable cost to the Exchequer. Quangos remove authority from this elected Chamber of the people.
The Government has promised to introduce legislation this parliamentary session to abolish quangos, but the only thing that has happened so far is that the Equality Authority has been starved of funding. It has been effectively abolished because it has not received enough funding to act properly.
We cannot go into that matter now.
When will the legislation be introduced and will there be several Bills to deal with the approximately 600 quangos? What Ministers will introduce the Bills? Will it be all of those with quangos under their remits or will just one Minister handle it all?
Individual Ministers can update the Deputy in respect of each individual case. In budget 2009, the Minister for Finance announced 30 rationalisation decisions to reduce the number of State agencies by 41. As of now, nine of the 30 rationalisation decisions have been implemented, covering nine State agencies and the closure of four Army barracks.
Following analysis by Departments, legislation is required in 18 decisions. Legislation for two of the decisions has already been passed in the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008. The Bills to implement a further three decisions are already in the Oireachtas — the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008 and the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009, which fully covers two decisions and most of a third.
Of the remainder, the public transport regulation Bill to implement one decision and the legislation to merge the Fisheries Boards are currently being drafted. In addition, the Government, on 24 March, approved the drafting of the nursing and midwives Bill 2009, which will implement a further decision, and also the drafting of legislation to disestablish the Children Acts Advisory Board. Heads of four further Bills are expected to be submitted to the Government by the summer. The heads of a further Bill are expected in the second half of this year and work on the legislation to implement the final four rationalisation decisions is under way in Departments.
I will ask a short supplementary question. Is it intended that, as well as abolishing some of the authorities, the other bodies will be returned to the remit of the Dáil and the Ministers who serve here?
As I say, the question of decisions further to those that have been announced by the Minister for Finance are a matter for Government to consider in due course. I am referring to those areas where, in fact, Government decisions have been made.
The Minister for Finance is on record as saying that a quango is no way to rule. I presume that he will be bringing back a few.
The Deputy has been very good at appointing a few himself.
The Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance have previously stressed to the House the importance of a return to conventional banking and lending practices. Is this likely to be done through the means of the proposed financial services legislation or new legislation?
We cannot comment on the contents of the legislation. Is legislation promised in this area?
It is promised. I do not want to read the plethora of Bills outlined in section C, but some could deal with the issue. If this is not the case, is it intended to introduce primary legislation to deal with the issue, as expressed in the House by the Taoiseach on 29 September 2009?
The whole question of seeking to improve credit availability in the financial system in Ireland is dictated both by administrative practice and some of the legislative changes that we have implemented. The question of recapitalisation, for example, required legislation. That is one of the legislative means by which we are seeking to bring stability to the financial system and to improve access to credit.
Obviously, recapitalising the banks is an important means by which one can ensure they obtain access to money on wholesale markets in order that they can conduct their business. Obviously, the establishment of the National Assets Management Agency constitutes another means and a further step by which the Government seeks to improve the means by which banks get access to money and return to the core franchise they now should prioritise.
First, will the road traffic Bill be published before the end of this session? The Minister for Transport, who is sitting beside the Taoiseach, made some commitments to road traffic campaigners to the effect that it might be passed by the end of the summer session. I refer to the number of serious accidents that have taken place in recent weeks.
Second, when will the Tánaiste be in a position to make a statement on the SR Technics facility at Dublin Airport? As I told the Taoiseach privately a week or so ago——
The Deputy cannot do that.
——the third year apprentices have been treated badly and let down. The Taoiseach might take a personal interest in this and——
The Deputy cannot go into that.
——try to ascertain whether they can continue their education because the manner in which they have been treated is disgraceful.
The Deputy cannot raise that issue in this way. The Taoiseach, on the road traffic Bill.
The road traffic Bill is expected this session.
As for what Deputy Broughan and I discussed privately, it was in a conversation that took place in the Chamber as he and I were leaving the House. One should not indicate it was anything more sinister than that.
No, I meant about the apprentices.
Obviously, the Tánaiste continues to work extremely hard in this respect to try to find a solution to that problem.
I wish to raise two matters. What is the current position in respect of the trade union legislation promised in the last social partnership agreement, specifically in respect of the recognition of trade unions and revision of the Competition Act?
Second, I refer to the ratification process of international agreements and to the matter the Ceann Comhairle allowed earlier in respect of the Vietnamese agreement. This issue arises both in that regard and in respect of the agreements with Russia and Ethiopia. It is clear that nothing less than a diplomatic initiative, which may involve the sending of a Minister, now can resolve this issue as it is perfectly clear that the exchange of administrative opinions between the Vietnamese Government and Ireland will not resolve the issue. In order to be in a position to bring an agreement to be laid before the House for acceptance in the shortest possible time, will the Taoiseach take a diplomatic initiative? The Department of Foreign Affairs is the lead Department for signing international agreements and it requires an intervention of that status at this stage to rescue both this agreement and the other two agreements.
I do not have a date for the legislation to which the Deputy referred in the first part of his question. As the Deputy is aware, it has been the subject of ongoing and continual discussion between the social partners. We have a voluntary industrial relations code and trying to resolve that issue has been a matter of considerable discussion and debate between the social partners. Ongoing efforts continue to find a common understanding as to what is the position to which we are trying to return in the aftermath of the High Court decision that brought about a problem that required resolution, certainly as far as the trade union movement was concerned.
As for the question pertaining to diplomatic initiatives, both the Ministers concerned, that is, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Micheál Martin, and the Minister of State with responsibility for children, Deputy Barry Andrews, are engaged in this matter, as are their officials. As the Deputy is aware, we require a level of co-operation and a preparedness to sign the strengthened agreements we have been seeking from the sovereign Governments on the other side. I assure the Deputy that everything possible that can be done will be done in this regard. I have heard his advice on the matter and will check whether that would be helpful at this point. As he is aware, the question of ministerial visits often can be helpful when there is a disposition on the other side to reach a conclusion on these matters.
Briefly, in respect of that last matter, my understanding is that the Vietnamese Government seeks a resolution at the level of an intergovernmental representation at ministerial level, howsoever this might be achieved, and that within the two cultures of the two sides of the agreement, administrative exchanges may not produce the result at this stage. I appreciate the Taoiseach's willingness to consider a diplomatic initiative that might be taken to resolve this matter.