Order of Business.

The Order of Business is No. a1, Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) and Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices Bill 2009 [Seanad] — Second and Subsequent Stages; No. b1, Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009 — Amendments from the Seanad; No. 1, Local Government (Charges) Bill 2009 [Seanad] — Second and Subsequent Stages; No. 23, Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2009 — Committee and Remaining Stages (resumed).

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 4.45 p.m. today and business shall be interrupted not later than 9 p.m.; the Second and Subsequent Stages of No. a1 shall be taken today and the following arrangements shall apply: the proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1.30 p.m. today; the proceedings on the Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 2 p.m. today by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Finance; the proceedings on No. b1 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 30 minutes and any amendments from the Seanad not disposed of shall be decided by one question which shall be put from the Chair, and which shall, in relation to amendments to the Seanad amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Health and Children; the Second and Subsequent Stages of No. 1 shall be taken today and the following arrangements shall apply: the proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 6.30 p.m. today; the proceedings on the Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 8 p.m. tonight by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government; the Dáil shall sit tomorrow at 10.30 a.m. and shall adjourn not later than 9 p.m.; and the business to be transacted shall be announced on the Order of Business in accordance with Standing Order 26 on that day.

There are five proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 4.45 p.m. today agreed to?

The Labour Party will not agree to any proposal relating to today's business until we have an assurance from the Tánaiste that the report from the McCarthy group will be published and until she is in a position to tell us when it will be published. The weekend before last, almost every newspaper carried the story that the McCarthy report would be available to Government last week. I assume those stories were on the basis of briefings from Government but the Government has now contrived not to receive the McCarthy report until the Taoiseach is no longer in a position to answer questions on it in the House.

Within hours of the Taoiseach taking his last Leaders' Questions before the summer recess the Government conveniently received the McCarthy report. We need to know whether it will be published and, if so, when. I heard Deputy Mary O'Rourke on the radio this morning and I feel I speak for the majority of Members of the House when I say the report should be published.

I agree with Deputy Gilmore and was going to raise this matter at the end of the Order of Business in connection with No. 5.

He got in ahead of Deputy Kenny again.

Deputy Kenny is in the slipstream.

In any event, this epitomises what is wrong with this Government; it dithers over every issue. The problem the Tánaiste and Government face is whether to publish the report. Publish it and be damned. If the Government did not want to publish the report, it should have asked Mr. McCarthy not to supply it until the end of September.

That is what the Opposition would do.

That is not what the Deputy said when Deputy Pat Breen took the flight to England.

Deputy Dooley missed the flight.

The Government has had plenty of practice.

There is now no option but to publish it. Deputy Dooley is entitled to his opinion. There are secret deals with Deputies Finian McGrath, Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae that will not be published either.

Do not look at me, Deputy Kenny.

I am not sure whether Deputy O'Rourke, who is not here, will get a copy from her nephew to read over the weekend. I believe the Tánaiste should publish this as soon as it is given to the Minister for Finance because the public has a right to know. If she continues to hold on to it until after the Lisbon referendum, matters will be made worse for the Government. It should be published now so every Member of the House and everyone in the country can have a chance to read it. We should come back here next week to discuss the implications of Mr. McCarthy's report.

We should sit next week.

Deputy Durkan should be careful; he might get what he is asking for.

I join the other Opposition voices calling on the Government to circulate the McCarthy report by an bord snip nua to Members of this House; indeed, I suggested this some weeks ago. We should have the opportunity to debate properly the contents of the report. Some alternatives may not be under consideration but we have a collective responsibility to face up to these challenges. This matter is not the preserve of the Government; the Opposition has a contribution to make to the resolution of these problems. One thing is certain: we must face the fact that this McCarthy cup will not be overflowing with good news. I urge that the details of this report be circulated and that we be given the opportunity to address them properly. If necessary, we should have the chance to address the report in the coming week. Surely it is within the gift of the Government to agree to this.

It is important to make one or two points. The report has been received by the Minister for Finance and its purpose is to inform the Government in the context of the Estimates process. It is appropriate and equally important to say that the public should be made aware of the choices that must be made and the context in which this will be done. However, as a former member of the Cabinet, the Leader of the Opposition knows there is a process to be followed.

Leak the nice bits.

First, the Minister for Finance gets the report and then the Cabinet sees it. The Cabinet members consider the report and final decisions are made afterwards. The process will be adhered to and a final decision will be made by the Cabinet on when, how and where the report will be published in due course.

Is the Tánaiste deferring this until September?

Question, "That the Dáil shall sit later than 4.45 p.m. today", put and declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. a1, relating to Second and Remaining Stages of the Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) and Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices Bill 2009, agreed to?

This is a touchy subject. I have made my point on the principle of guillotines but I want to be clear that because this item refers to Members of this House I will not call a vote. I do not want my intention to be misconstrued.

In this case we are applying the guillotine unnecessarily. The time allowed before the guillotine falls is longer than necessary as there is agreement on the proposals before us. I would say that in many cases they are welcome. There is absolutely no need to use a guillotine as the debate will be long finished before its time comes. The purpose of the guillotine is to set aside Standing Orders in case of an emergency — this is not an emergency. This is standard, routine legislation on which there is agreement so there is no need for the guillotine.

If the business is finished we will move on to the next piece of legislation.

We know that but sufficient time is not given to most Bills.

The guillotine is a method by which business can be finished.

Is No. 2 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. b1, relating to amendments from the Seanad to the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008, agreed to?

It is not agreed. The Sinn Féin Deputies will not agree to the ordering of any business today relating to health. The very idea is galling as the Government yesterday presided over the final announcement of the closure of acute medical services at Monaghan General Hospital.

The Deputy is out of order and may not raise a constituency matter on the Order of Business under any circumstances.

This is not out of order. I am giving the reasons I will not agree to No. b1. The Ceann Comhairle would give any other Member the opportunity to speak and I can tell him that it will not be long before the same situation occurs in his own constituency.

This is a national issue and it is a scandal. What is being done to Monaghan General Hospital is an absolute scandal and must be addressed.

The Government must wake up to what it is presiding over; it is an absolute disgrace.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. b1 be agreed to.”
The Dáil divided: Tá, 70; Níl, 68.

  • 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.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Flynn, Beverley.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • 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.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Hanlon, Rory.
  • O’Keeffe, Edward.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Christy.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

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

I cannot support the guillotine on the Local Government (Charges) Bill. This Bill appears, by fact rather than intent, to focus on the elderly. It looks as if the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government was not fully awake when it was discussed at Cabinet because I do not see any amendments from him clarifying a range of specific circumstances in which elderly people find themselves as a consequence of it. That is why I oppose the guillotine.

The Minister's intends to bring forward the Local Government (Charges) Bill despite the debacle on its introduction in the Seanad with legislation by "Liveline", on Joe Duffy's radio show, dealing with caravans and mobile homes and other matters. The Bill is full of anomalies and needs further clarity. Why is a guillotine being put on the Bill when it is bereft of clear thinking? It is going from Second Stage to Report and Final Stages in a couple of hours. The Labour Party will oppose the guillotine.

Sinn Féin will also oppose the guillotine on the Local Government (Charges) Bill 2009.

The disadvantaged areas: REPS 4.

What is partly new is that we have just seen a vote of 70:68 and regrettably three of the Cavan-Monaghan Members voted against the interests of hospital care in our constituency.

The Deputy can raise that matter on the Adjournment.

The Ceann Comhairle cut me off on the last occasion when we were discussing the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. If the provision of acute medical services at Monaghan General Hospital did not come under that particular topic then why not?

I am not going to deal with a constituency matter on the Order of Business. The Deputy should raise that on the Adjournment this evening if he wishes and he is welcome to do that.

The Ceann Comhairle has a very jaundiced view of Deputies raising hospital services in this Chamber.

(Interruptions).
Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 1 be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 69; Níl, 66.

  • 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.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Flynn, Beverley.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • 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.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Hanlon, Rory.
  • O’Keeffe, Edward.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Christy.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

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

Is the proposal that the Dáil will sit tomorrow agreed to? Agreed.

I wish to raise a number of matters on the Order of Business. Will the Tánaiste offer a little more clarity in respect of the McCarthy report? I am aware of the process and that the Minister for Finance received the report yesterday. I am sorry for missing Deputy O'Rourke but I did not see her so far around on the seats.

I love being on the backbenches.

I know that. Will there be a review of this report's publication, as the Government must publish it in everybody's interest? The use of the guillotine by the Government in the final four weeks of this session in 2009 occurred in 86% of cases or 18 of 21 Bills. In four of those Bills there were clear constitutional implications. Those are the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill, the Defamation Bill, the Twenty-Eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Treaty of Lisbon) Bill and the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Bill.

The consequences of using the guillotine to the extent the Government has means that elected representatives do not get the opportunity to scrutinise legislation in the way they should and the Dáil does not fully perform its constitutional role of enacting legislation. Most important, the presumption of constitutionality is threatened in the development of legislation in these circumstances. It behoves the Government to look again at the requirements for guillotines, which should only be used in truly exceptional circumstances.

Is there any Bill on the A list that will be taken tomorrow of which we do not have notice? On 22 April the Government Chief Whip announced the legislative programme for the summer session, indicating that the Government intended to publish 26 Bills in that session. Of those, 17 Bills have been published and nine have not. I am not clear from the Government Whip's office as to whether there is an intention to take one of those Bills tomorrow, namely the employment agency regulation Bill, which has not yet been published. If not, I assume the nine unpublished Bills will go on the list for the autumn session. I hope there will be clarity from the Tánaiste on when the House will be expected to return to deal with NAMA.

I have received correspondence from the editors of The Irish Times and the Irish Independent, major national newspapers, and they make a point on the importance of having a team of journalists in Leinster House with ready access to the politicians and public representatives.

It is absolutely essential.

We cannot really deal with this on the Order of Business.

They make the point that there is an attempt to move the journalists away from Leinster House because of construction work which is taking place.

There is always Doheny and Nesbitts.

That matter is being dealt with.

The Tánaiste has long had interaction with journalists from newspapers and other sources.

It is a health and safety issue.

We cannot deal with that now. It is being dealt with by the authorities of the House and is not in order now.

The Ceann Comhairle is in charge of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, which deals with the running of the Houses of the Oireachtas and perhaps I should direct it to you.

No, you should not. I merely intervene on the Order of Business to ensure Standing Orders are implemented.

I understand that.

The issue raised by the Deputy is being dealt with by the authorities of the House. The Tánaiste can deal with the legislative aspects of the matter.

As it was long ago.

Is it a touchy subject?

Both editors make the point very strongly that although there are structural works to be completed upstairs, it is important from the media and journalistic perspective that they have a facility in Leinster House.

We must return to the Order of Business.

I have always supported that, irrespective of what attitude they take towards the people who sit down here.

They have to move because of the construction.

I call on the Tánaiste.

Will the Ceann Comhairle, in his capacity as the esteemed chairman of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission——

As I have said, the authorities of the House are dealing with the matter.

Plámás will get me nowhere, will it not?

Does the Deputy want them to fall in on us?

I call on the Tánaiste.

I respectfully suggest that the Ceann Comhairle might read this correspondence from both editors of major newspapers and see if anything can be done.

I am sure they will send it to him.

There is no need for further clarity. The Leader of the Opposition is requesting a date or timeframe but I am not in a position to give that. I indicated the process by which this matter would be dealt with.

Another process.

On the issue of the guillotine, it is a matter by which order is given to the legislative process. In many circumstances it is not necessary but I remind the Leader of the Opposition that his Government acted similarly in 1996.

We are going back a long time now.

The Tánaiste may as well tell us what happened in 1886.

That was in the last century.

The Communications (Retention of Data) Bill was published today and as a consequence there are six remaining pieces of legislation, a number of which fall within my own remit. They are progressing and I hope to have them published this month. There are one or two other pieces of legislation with which some unforeseen complications have arisen but it is expected that these will be published shortly.

Will it be in the next fortnight?

I wish to question the Tánaiste further on "process". She told us there is a process for the McCarthy report. I interpret from what she has said and the Taoiseach's comments yesterday that it will not be published at all.

That is what I understand.

That is a misinterpretation.

I am glad to hear that; it is news. If indeed it is to be published, when will it be published?

The issue will be considered.

If the Cabinet is considering it next week, can we take it that it will be published following the Cabinet consideration. Will the Tánaiste clarify that?

Continuing on the subject of process, when will the NAMA legislation be published? I agree with Deputy Kenny on the undesirability, to put it mildly, of the continued use of the guillotine in respect of all the legislation being forced through the House. The forcing of legislation through the House without the kind of scrutiny it deserves, particularly in the criminal justice area, is likely to result in bad law. Too much processed food is bad for one's health. Similarly, too much processed legislation is bad for the health of our democracy.

I welcome the Ceann Comhairle's statement to the effect that the matter raised by the editors of newspapers and television news programmes is being dealt with. I had understood that the arrangement whereby some of the members of the press corps were moved to an office in Molesworth Street was to facilitate the refurbishment of some offices in this building. It had also been my impression that these individuals would return here. It is important the members of the press should be around the House in order that Members might interact with and keep an eye on them.

There are approximately 137 members of the press accredited to the House. We will, therefore, need many more eyes and certainly more chairs.

In the event that there may be a misinterpretation or a misapprehension of what I said or did not say, it has not been decided whether the McCarthy report is to be published. It is appropriate that the Minister for Finance should have the opportunity to brief his colleagues in Cabinet who do not have access to the report. Once that has happened——

That is not what——

Will it also be kept secret from the Minister for Finance's colleagues in Cabinet for weeks?

——the Government will come to a decision.

They will probably read about it in the Sunday Independent.

It is clearly not the intention to keep from the public serious problems relating to the economy.

In a mature democracy, the report would be published and publicly debated. Members of the public should not be treated like children.

In a mature democracy, the Government would be allowed to consider the report in the first instance.

The report should be published. If this were any other European democracy, it would be published and made available for public debate.

(Interruptions).

In a mature democracy, the Government considers matters in the first instance. The report will be published but not before the Government has dealt with it.

The public must be kept apprised of the difficult choices that must be made.

This is not the old Soviet Union.

Deputy Shatter will force me to censor him if he does not obey the Chair.

Sir, the Government forgets that this is a parliamentary democracy.

I accept that it is a parliamentary democracy.

The report should be published.

As the Taoiseach indicated, the legislation relating to NAMA will be published this month.

This is a parliamentary democracy and the report should be published.

It is a parliamentary democracy and that is why I am trying to allow the Tánaiste to answer the question that was put to her. That is the objective of the exercise.

If a report is compiled at taxpayers' expense, then members of the public are entitled to know what it contains. As Members of Parliament, we are entitled to consider and debate the report in public.

Deputy Shatter will be obliged to leave the House if he continues in the same vein. Does the Tánaiste wish to continue with her reply?

I have already answered the two questions I was asked.

It is outrageous the way the Government conducts its business. It has been in power for 12 years and it has no respect for either the Members of this Parliament or the public.

Deputy Shatter is ignoring the Chair.

I call Deputy Crawford.

A Deputy

Deputy O'Rourke wants the report to be published.

Yesterday I tried to obtain an indication from the Taoiseach——

The fact that Deputy O'Rourke wants the report to be published is big news. Apparently, the rest of us are irrelevant. The Government should publish the report and let it be debated during the summer months in order that mature and reflective decisions might be made.

Deputy Shatter is doing his best to make himself irrelevant.

The Minister for Transport will be irrelevant in the near future. So I would not worry if I were him.

I must inform Deputy Shatter that Deputy Crawford has been called on the Order of Business. Perhaps Deputy Shatter might give his party colleague the opportunity to make his contribution.

Yesterday I tried to obtain an indication from the Taoiseach with regard to whether he would make time available for a debate on agriculture, particularly as the situation relating to it is extremely serious. As it happened, REPS 4 was abandoned yesterday.

We cannot discuss that matter now.

When will the animal health and welfare Bill be published? The welfare of farmers, never mind that of animals, is extremely important. The legislation to which I refer should be debated at the earliest possible opportunity following the summer recess.

In light of the fact that a large proportion of those in my constituency will no longer be able to access the health services to which they are entitled, when will the eligibility for health and personal social services Bill be introduced in order that we might engage in a full debate on whether people are entitled to any care whatsoever in this State?

The animal health and welfare Bill relates to the health of animals, not that of farmers.

Farmers' health is important too.

The animal health and welfare Bill is not yet ready for publication. As the Deputy is aware, the legislation in question will impose significant requirements on members of the farming community. That is why careful consideration is being given to it before we finalise a date for publication. Record numbers of people, some 62,000 — 17,000 of them since May — are on REPS.

It is expected that proposals relating to the eligibility for health and personal social services Bill will be brought before the Government later in the year.

Will the Tánaiste indicate what is likely to happen in respect of the pharmacy (No. 2) Bill? The Taoiseach kindly wrote to me and stated that we would be briefed on this matter in the near future. Is it intended to reintroduce the legislation and if so, will it deal with the current impasse involving pharmacists and the Minister for Health and Children?

In light of the liberal use of the guillotine in recent times, one would have thought it would have been necessary to introduce, as a matter of urgency, the legislation in respect of the collection and exchange of information relating to the endangerment, sexual exploitation and sexual abuse or risk thereof of children. It would be appropriate to bring forward this legislation in view of recent events. Will the Tánaiste indicate the degree of urgency that will be applied in respect of introducing the relevant Bill?

As indicated previously, the provisions of the Pharmacy Act 2007 have not yet been implemented in full. It has not, therefore, been decided whether it would be appropriate to introduce a second item of legislation. The legislation relating to soft information is currently being drafted by the relevant Minister.

When will the proposed forestry Bill be introduced? It is over six years since that legislation was promised and it is still hiding in the forest.

One cannot see the wood for the trees.

I would hate to lose Deputy P. J. Sheehan in the forest. The heads of the legislation were approved in March. I will ask the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Killeen, to revert to the Deputy in respect of a timeframe for the Bill's publication.

It is about time the Bill should be published, particularly as it has been hiding in the forest for six years.

I had almost drafted the legislation before I left the relevant Department.

We were waiting for Deputy P. J. Sheehan to return from the forest.

The Minister for Transport was not too kind to me the other evening.

The Deputy was not too kind to me either.

With regard to the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill and the serious abuse of Dáil procedures by the Government in using the guillotine, I wish to indicate that Fine Gael supports the legislation but there are major issues regarding the detail which must be debated in the House. The latter will not happen, however, particularly in light of the time allocated in respect of the Bill. Will the Tánaiste consider deferring Report Stage of the Bill until the autumn in order to allow for public debate and a period of due consideration?

The Bill has far-reaching implications. Fine Gael supports it but is anxious that it should be a workable statute. I am aware that at least one Cabinet Minister shares my view in this regard. I ask the Tánaiste to consult the Government Chief Whip in order to ensure that we get this matter right.

The Tánaiste is on record as stating that the Bill must be passed as a matter of urgency. However, when enacted, it will not be capable of being used during the summer because there are no court sittings in August and September.

The Deputy has made his point.

If Report Stage were deferred, this would give Members the opportunity to reflect on and give due consideration to the legislation during the summer months. We could then, as is our duty, return to the House in the autumn and pass it. At least one Cabinet Minister is in favour of my proposal in this regard. I ask that due consideration be given to that proposal during the remainder of today and tomorrow. If we were to proceed as I suggest, it would have the effect of reducing the impact of the guillotine on the other important items of legislation the House is due to process either today or tomorrow.

We have only reached section 5 of the Bill on Committee Stage. Two or three aspects of the legislation are extremely controversial. An expectation has been built up that some 300 gangsters and thugs will be locked up by the weekend if the Bill is passed. As Deputy Charlie Flanagan stated, that will not be the case. Committee Stage is being taken in the House. If the Tánaiste would agree to refer the Bill to the Select Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, the issues relating to it could be teased out over the summer months and it could be brought back before the House when it meets in mid-September. Nothing will be lost in the interim. It is wrong to give people the impression that the gangsters to whom I refer will be locked up in the next week or ten days.

A Cheann Comhairle, on the same point——

I beg Deputy Morgan's pardon. I also am aware that a delegation of lawyers met a Cabinet Minister yesterday who assured them that he takes a similar view, namely, that it should be a case of festina lente in this regard and that the House should have time to tease through the more difficult aspects of the Bill.

I call Deputy Morgan. I will only take brief comments on this matter because we must move on.

There is genuine and deep public concern regarding the content of this Bill. Rather than being a case of backing down, it would be courageous of the Government to agree to give more time through the summer, as the two previous speakers have suggested, to consider this Bill. Were Members to be brought back a few days earlier in September or whenever to conclude its passage, so be it. However, I would appreciate it were the Government to give consideration to providing more time to this Bill.

Briefly, Deputy Shatter, to be followed by Deputy Durkan.

I support what has been said and wish to draw another issue to the Government's attention. If the Government truly believes this legislation to be urgent, is it aware that if the Bill goes through in its current form, it is inevitable that its coming into full force will be delayed for an extended time for one of two reasons? The first possibility is that it will be referred by the President under Article 26 of the Constitution for consideration by the Supreme Court because of grave concerns regarding the constitutionality of certain aspects of the Bill. Does the Government intend or wish that there be such referral? Second, in the absence of such referral it is absolutely inevitable that the very first prosecution taken under this legislation will result in a constitutional challenge that could block use of this legislation for 18 months to two years, while the constitutional issues are being dealt with in the High Court and Supreme Court. Moreover, it is possible that it could even find its way before the European Court of Human Rights.

The Government should recognise that Members have a duty to scrutinise legislation to ensure it is constitutionally viable and appropriate. In the circumstances, this House should be allowed to do its duty and to process properly this legislation in a manner whereby the individual sections are fully teased out and constitutional issues that are of serious nature are addressed, so as to ensure the legislation is fully effective and the gangs that all Members wish to see put behind jail doors are properly and fully prosecuted in a manner that is not open to constitutional challenge.

I raised this issue yesterday morning because 100 legal professionals wrote to The Irish Times expressing their concern about the possible constitutionality issue to the effect that Ireland might be shamed in the international arena as a result of the passage of the legislation, were it to be passed as presently constituted. My concern is similar to that of other speakers. The purpose of this exercise is to put seasoned, hardened and organised criminals behind bars and to protect society. I again ask the Tánaiste whether any effort has been made since yesterday, and in view of the points raised by other speakers, to be assured that from a constitutional perspective, the proposed legislation is fair, well tested and will stand any contest anywhere. If this fails, the worst possible outcome then will be that those hardened criminals who have been terrorising people in recent years will be given a type of approval.

We must move on. The Tánaiste, to respond. However, I presume the difficulty is that the order has been made.

The position is that following the death of Shane Geoghegan, everyone in this House was revulsed by what happened and all Members were asked to do whatever was necessary to deal with such issues. Members were ad idem on this matter in the House. While I acknowledge this legislation is extremely tough, very tough items of legislation have been introduced to the House over the years. It is inappropriate for any Member to comment on the role of the President. As an independent officer, it is her prerogative to decide what she must do, one way or the other. It would be most inappropriate to refer to it at all in this House in the context of this legislation.

A total of 12.5 hours has been provided for the discussion. If other legislative items on the Order Paper today are completed much earlier, that would give even more time for consideration by the House.

The Tánaiste completely misses the point.

All I can say to Deputy Charles Flanagan at this point is that the question of whether there is to be a guillotine in respect of this legislation will in any event arise on the Order of Business tomorrow. There will be an Order of Business tomorrow and the Deputy will have the opportunity to raise the matter again. I call Deputy O'Shea.

I refer to two defence bills for which the heads have been agreed and the text is in preparation, namely, the Curragh of Kildare Bill and the defence (amendment) Bill. What progress has been made with regard to the preparation of the texts and when will the Bills be published?

Early next year.

While I do not wish to reopen the issue of the McCarthy report, which has been adequately aired, will a new approach be adopted this year to the presentation of the Estimates? As the Tánaiste is aware, the present position is that there is no scrutiny whatsoever of the Government's plans in respect of the choices on public spending. When the Estimates are presented, the House receives no information about what will be achieved and it is not until six months later that Members receive any information about what is to be achieved by the spending Estimates. If there is to be some real and substantive engagement in this time of crisis on the choices that must be made, will there be a change in the Estimates procedure in order that the various committees of the House will get advance notice of the options on the table regarding their respective areas of expenditure? There then could be a reasoned debate about which choices ought to be made. There is no point in going into the form of Punch and Judy dialogue of the deaf in which the Government engages, whereby it suggests Members should come up with choices without revealing anything of its own intentions or the implications of different choices. The House deserves both the publication of a McCarthy report and a realistic process for engagement on the choices open to Members. Will there be change in this regard or will there be a reversion to the same old crazy and archaic system of deciding Estimates?

Deputy Bruton, the Tánaiste cannot change that on the Order of Business. All she can do is answer in respect of the publication of the report in the context of it being laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

She can answer in respect of the Government's intentions.

If the Tánaiste can be of help, that is fine but I do not believe she can.

The Deputy is more than able to articulate this point and discuss the matter with the Minister for Finance. However, as yet there has been no decision to change the process.

I call Deputy Reilly.

The Tánaiste should take the views of the rest of the House seriously when she goes to Cabinet to discuss this process, be it today, tomorrow or next week. Members seek a serious engagement and not the crazy activity that takes place at present.

The Deputy has made his point. I call Deputy Reilly.

Is legislation planned to address the issue of medical indemnity insurance in Ireland, given that more than 50% of claims now are consumed by legal fees and settlements?

Is such legislation promised?

I am unsure and will revert to the Deputy.