Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 45 — Statements on the report by the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin (resumed); No. 16 — the Motion re: proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the draft scheme entitled Credit Institutions (Eligible Liabilities Guarantee) Scheme 2009; No. 2 — Foreshore and Dumping at Sea (Amendment) Bill 2009 [Seanad] — Second and Subsequent Stages; No. 6 — Civil Partnership Bill 2009 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

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 on the conclusion of Question Time tonight which shall be taken for 75 minutes at 8.45 p.m., and in the event of a Private Notice Question being allowed, it shall be taken after 45 minutes, and the order shall not resume thereafter; the proceedings on No. 16 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 50 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the speeches shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and to the main spokespersons for Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who shall be called upon in that order, who may share their time, and which shall not exceed 10 minutes in each case and a Minister or Minister of State shall make a speech in reply which shall not exceed 10 minutes; the Second and Subsequent Stages of No. 2 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 5.45 p.m. tonight and the proceedings on the Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 6.45 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 Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

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

There is quite an amount of business on the Order Paper today. Before agreeing to it, I wish to ask the Tánaiste if any time will be provided for a statement to be made to the House by her, the Taoiseach or the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, on the talks currently under way with the public service trade unions. We seem to have a very muddled position taken by the Government. It seems to have been made worse over the course of the past day. This morning we had an extraordinary situation whereby the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, who was presumably acting as a proxy for his brother, was on radio contradicting the position which was set out by the Taoiseach in the House yesterday.

We do not know where the talks are going. We are less than a week from the budget. Both sides of the House accept there is a requirement to reduce the public service pay bill by €1.3 billion. We do not know where the Government is going with that. We should get some clarity on this today, and that clarity should be given in the House. I understand a meeting of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party has been convened for today, presumably to discuss this matter. However, it is an issue that needs to be set out in public. What arrangements are being made to allow for a statement to be made to the House and perhaps for some questions to be taken on the progress, or lack of it, being made on these talks? The Government needs to clarify its position. We seem to have two positions, one announced by the Taoiseach yesterday and a second announced by proxy on behalf of the Minister for Finance this morning.

Deputy Mattie McGrath has not yet come into the Dáil.

It is a pity the Government would not reform Parliament.

The Deputy might be slightly presumptuous in guessing why the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party meeting was called. It is to do with the availability of the Minister for Finance, who was not available on Tuesday evening.

Perhaps it is to arrange the Christmas party.

Deputy Mattie McGrath is away too.

However, I am delighted the Deputy is as interested as he seems to be in our parliamentary affairs.

It is a pity the Government would not reform Parliament.

Contrary to what has been said here, the Taoiseach made his position very clear in the House yesterday.

Is that the Government's position?

The Taoiseach represents the Government.

(Interruptions).

It is another simple message the Deputies opposite do not seem to understand either.

Allow the Tánaiste to have the floor.

There have been intensive discussions——

Whom does the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, represent?

I ask Deputies to restrain themselves, please.

We thought he left the Government. He clearly represents it.

The Tánaiste without interruption, please.

There were intensive discussions with the unions yesterday evening and they are resuming again this morning.

Who is running the country, by the way?

Time is very short in the context of the budget so these discussions will be crucial.

Is it the SIPTU president? It is a pity he would not come in here.

It is important to reiterate what the Taoiseach said here yesterday, which is that the proposals that have emerged from the discussions thus far were considered by the Government this week. The Taoiseach indicated to the unions that, in their current form, they did not provide a basis for the Government to confirm that it would not consider other options to effect those necessary savings.

They are beginning to see the light.

At that time the public service unions responded by indicating that they wished to develop their proposals. We very much welcome that and in that context the planned day of industrial action for today was postponed. The Government will consider any further proposals emerging from these discussions. I want to make it very clear that a basis for agreement will only exist if the scale of the reduction in the public service pay is sufficient, if it is clearly seen to be permanent in character and that any transitional arrangements do not impact negatively on services as assessed by the public service management.

Fair play; it sounds like Deputy Mattie McGrath.

A Deputy

The Tánaiste should tell us how the Government can do it without harming public services.

Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed? Agreed.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 16 agreed?

This is not agreed. This item relates to the bank guarantee scheme and involves complex issues. The 50 minutes allocated for its discussion is not sufficient. The Labour Party is opposed to the guillotine on this item.

I agree with that.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 16 be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 74; Níl, 65.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Donoghue, John.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Hanlon, Rory.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Keeffe, Edward.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Christy.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coonan, Noel J.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lee, George.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Mahony, John.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • O’Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Perry, John.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Sheehan, P.J.
  • Sherlock, Seán.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • 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 for dealing with No. 3, Foreshore and Dumping at Sea (Amendment) Bill 2009, agreed to?

I accept the principle of this Bill, which is to divide the responsibility for aquaculture and other matters relevant to the marine between the Departments of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. However, I must point out to the Tánaiste that the country has lost serious amounts of investment because this has been dragged out for so long. The Bill only gives effect to the separation; it does not deal with the expedition of titles and licensing thereafter. Nor does it take into consideration the introduction by the all-party Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security, chaired by Deputy Seán Barrett, of the very good offshore renewable energy development Bill 2009.

I listened to the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, talking about 80,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector. This is an area of real potential, but we have messed around for too long. While I accept the principle of the Bill, I object to the guillotine. This is not how we should do our business. We have lost considerable investment in pilot wave-testing schemes and so on due to the lack of action on this issue.

On behalf of the Labour Party, I do not accept the guillotining of this Bill for slightly different reasons to those we have just heard. This Bill has some valuable suggestions to make on administrative expedition. I am not crossing into anything that I must say on Second Stage. The Bill responds to Acts on the foreshore, two of a major kind on planning and, in addition——

We are really getting into detail on it.

I will not get into detail.

We are really getting into detail.

I will be blunt about it.

A Deputy

Go back to the detail then.

It deals with 39,000 sq. km of asset that is in public ownership and if there was one Bill that should not be rushed through this House, it is a Bill about what the State owns and the most significant asset that the State will have in the development of energy, aquaculture, responding to the threat of climate change, and so on. It is not something that should have a guillotine on Second Stage, no more than it should have a miserly amount of time for amendments.

What does the Bill straighten out? The Bill allows for a conversation between two Ministers, who are left without transparent power. It excludes local representatives from any involvement in decision. It thereby fits neatly——

It would be fine on Second Stage.

——with harbours legislation and ports legislation. It is a beautiful run-on of the chaos that caused the tragedy in north Mayo. We will oppose the guillotine and I will also oppose it on Second Stage. I oppose, in addition, any attempt to ram it through in an undemocratic way that does not provide transparency to those whom the foreshore belongs.

This legislation consolidates onshore and offshore planning to do exactly what Deputy Higgins has spoken of.

It excludes representatives in the same way as——

The Deputy is ignoring the power of the Minister. It will not do that.

The Tánaiste without interruption.

When I was there——

When the Tánaiste was there nothing happened.

——we had several functions dealt with under statutory instrument. The administrative functions have now been finalised. It was clearly the legal view that new legislation had to be put through the House——

We have lost serious investment.

——in the context of ensuring that we have proper offshore and onshore planning. This is a sensible way in dealing with——

By going straight to An Bord Pleanála.

——the absolute necessity of ensuring that we have the opportunities that should be afforded to us, for example, in the context of energy.

So the Government has had to guillotine it.

This is very much streamlining the planning process which will be of significant benefit to the people at large.

It does not deal with offshore renewable energy at all.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 2 be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 73; Níl, 64.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • 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’Donoghue, John.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Hanlon, Rory.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Keeffe, Edward.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Christy.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.

Níl

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coonan, Noel J.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lee, George.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Mahony, John.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • O’Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Perry, John.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Sheehan, P.J.
  • Sherlock, Seán.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.

I wish to raise a number of issues with the Tánaiste. We are just six days away from what is recognised as a crucial budget for the economic future of this country. The Government's approach, however, is one of paralysis and inaction. It is epitomised by the fact that three weeks ago the Government was challenging every Opposition party to produce details of how they would present an alternative budget. This morning, we heard a Minister of State say that the Government is waiting for new ideas from the trade unions. Is the Tánaiste aware of the level of fear and uncertainty around the country, or has the Government become completely immune to the raw feelings on the streets. I refer in particular to employers who are struggling to hold on to employees, not to mention employing new ones.

We are not having Leaders' Questions on Thursday and the Deputy should be cognisant of that.

I am aware of that but this is important. Has the Government set a deadline as to when this uncertainty will conclude in the context of discussions with the trade unions? Has the Government decided that one way or the other it will fix an agenda for presentation in the budget, which is now six days hence, or will this be dragged out interminably until 9 December with no certainty or fix on the future by the Government? The Government is now paralysed and riven by inaction.

Unfortunately, people do not seem to hear what we have been reiterating ad infinitum, which is that there will be a €4 billion adjustment in the context of the budget on Wednesday next. As a former Minister, the Leader of the Opposition is fully aware that all matters during the preparation of a budget are for discussion among Cabinet Ministers. They are not matters for discussion on the public airwaves.

Tell that to the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan.

Those final decisions will be made by the Government and we will be advised of them in the budget on Wednesday.

This is completely unsatisfactory and epitomises what is going on here. This morning, I heard a Minister of State on the national airwaves telling the nation: "We are waiting for new ideas from the trade unions". I heard him say that in response to a comment from Deputy Richard Bruton.

We do not have any Leaders' Questions on a Thursday morning.

The Minister of State, on behalf of the Government, said they were waiting for new ideas to come in from the trade unions. Is that true or not? While it is in order for trade unions and their representatives to negotiate with the Government, it is the Government's responsibility to make decisions. However, the Government is paralysed by an inability to make any decision. There is no confidence, no morale and a wave of depression throughout the country because the Government has no fix on the future. It appears completely unable to act. Has the Government set a deadline for the current discussions with trade union representatives to conclude today, tomorrow, at the weekend or on Monday, so that there will be some certainty about what the Government will present on 9 December? This is very important for everybody in the country and for our economic well-being. It is time to stop messing around.

I call the Tánaiste to reply briefly because we have spent enough time on this.

The Government has indicated that the adjustment will be €4 billion. Unlike Deputy Kenny, who wishes to dictate and determine——

She sounds like a bishop now.

It is about showing leadership.

The Tánaiste without interruption, please.

This Government wants to obtain an effective and efficient public service wherein we need change.

Twelve days a year.

It is mismanagement.

This is not Leaders' Questions.

The methods by which that change can be achieved must be workable and permanent, and must participate as part of our financial adjustment. Unlike the Deputy, we are prepared to listen to what other people have to say in the context of bringing matters to finality. Following on from the discussions the Taoiseach had on Tuesday, the unions indicated that they would consider further options. That is why we are continuing to have discussions this morning. It is clearly the Government's intention to bring those discussions to finality at an appropriate time, which will be well in time for the budget on Wednesday.

Well in time? It is less than a week away.

Everybody will agree with the Tánaiste's central assertion that we need an efficient public service that gives value for money. In the context of the discussions with the trade unions, how in heaven's name can the Government expect to deliver — based on the proposal by the Minister for Finance to deliver more for less — the same level of service with a 5% reduction in man hours?

There must be a possibility of an answer.

Can the Tánaiste answer that?

The Deputy is standing up, so I will sit down.

The Tánaiste's colleagues have left her high and dry. They have all gone.

We can carry on with this farce all day if the Deputies want to.

Please, Deputies.

The Taoiseach indicated that what was brought forward by the unions on Tuesday was inadequate. The unions indicated that they wished to revise and reconsider their proposals and bring them back to the Government. There are ongoing discussions today, so let us await the outcome. As the Taoiseach has said categorically, at the end of the day the Government will make a decision on the basis of a €4 billion adjustment. Those decisions will be finalised and brought to the floor of this House at 3.45 p.m. next Wednesday.

All the Tánaiste's colleagues have taken to the lifeboats.

Deputy Kenny has had a very good innings.

Before Deputy Gilmore comes in, I wish to raise a different matter if I may. The Minister for Finance admitted that he made a serious mistake in raising VAT levels. Almost €1 billion has gone north of the Border.

It strikes me that this is a question that should be directed to the Minister for Finance.

I am coming to legislation. The Tánaiste, who has a critical role in this matter and represents the Donegal South-West constituency, said that every euro spent in one's local community is a stake in that community. Earlier this year, she said that if things did not change concerning cross-Border shopping — with the flight of people to the North to do their shopping — she would take action, including new initiatives. As she rightly said, people have a choice either to spend money in their local communities on this side of the Border, or leave that money with Her Majesty's government.

The Deputy is anticipating the budget.

As the position has deteriorated and will be exacerbated between now and the new year, what action does the Tánaiste propose to take to deal with this problem, having listened to all the complaints and suggestions? She cannot deal with every aspect due to sterling and UK interest rates being set by the Bank of England, but she could take other initiatives. What action does she propose to take to deal with this matter, so that people in Border counties will have an opportunity and an incentive to shop in their local communities and keep spending euro with businesses on this side of the Border?

That is a question for the budget.

On the Order Paper, this is Question No. 40 to the Minister for Finance this evening.

It will not be reached.

It is on the Order Paper. I am from the Border region and I am acutely aware of the issues. I distinctly recall being vilified last year on the basis that one of the main reasons people travel to the North is to buy alcohol. That has proved to be correct. It is important to say, for the benefit of the retailers in this country, that we now see better value for money here. There has been a decrease in the prices and we have seen more competition.

Will the Tánaiste take action?

It is important to say that in the context of the value for money being provided by retailers in this jurisdiction. Every €10 spent in the retail sector is worth €24 within the Irish economy, and it is important to get that across.

It is giving it, in effect, to Her Majesty's Government.

I have articulated these concerns in many ways to the Minister for Finance in the light of considerations he is taking in the context of his preparation for the budget. After 23 years in this House, I will not disclose the outcome of such briefings on the basis that I have due regard for the process of budgetary preparations.

There are regularly six-mile traffic jams outside Newry.

As the Deputy knows, we have decided to proceed with a code of practice. That is in hand and I am taking into account concerns in this regard. I have heard what the joint committee has had to say and I shall soon be making further announcements in that context, to deal with the code of practice and the many issues that have been raised, particularly by the food sector.

Will that be before the budget?

It is important, however, to emphasise that we get good value from many of the retailers working in this jurisdiction.

I have a question for the Tánaiste about legislation. As we know, thousands of families and businesses are still coping with the aftermath of the worst flooding in this country in living memory. On 23 October 2007 a European Union directive was signed which provided a framework for the assessment and management of flood risks, aiming at the reduction of adverse consequences for human health, the environment and so on.

Have we a question about promised legislation?

Yes, we do. The Ceann Comhairle should bear with me.

That EU directive was due for transposition on 25 November this year, but it has not yet been transposed. My colleague, Deputy Joe Costello, asked about this on 14 October 2008 and he was told at that stage that the transposition of the directive was under discussion between the OPW and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and decisions would have to be made as to which Minister would introduce it, and whether it was to be done by primary or secondary legislation.

Will the Tánaiste say whether it has yet been decided which Minister will introduce it and if the directive will be transposed by primary or secondary legislation? When will either the Bill or the regulation be put before the House?

Without wanting to be unhelpful, I shall have to revert to the Deputy because it is secondary legislation.

This is important.

It may be important, but I am not in a position at this time to bring forward an answer on the basis of a secondary item of legislation. Under Standing Orders, I am entitled to revert to the Deputy, which I shall be more than happy to do as soon as we are finished here.

That is fine and I shall look forward to hearing what is reverted to me, but the reply indicates that the issue of preparation for floods has not exactly been a priority for Government.

We are going to have to move on, Deputy.

Hold on a second, a Cheann Comhairle. People have had their houses flooded, their homes wrecked and have been in misery for the past number of weeks.

It is weeks and months.

Nobody blames the Government for the bad weather, but clearly there was lack of preparation and it is perfectly obvious that the issue of flooding, the preparation for it and the taking of the necessary measures to alleviate it have not been a priority.

The Deputy has had an answer to his question as regards secondary legislation and we are going to have to move on.

This is a directive which should have been transposed by now. It was the subject of a Dáil question more than a year ago, and the Tánaiste does not know which Minister will be responsible for introducing it or whether it will be primary or secondary legislation. It is manifestly clear that there was no discussion in Government about the issue of floods until the bad weather came.

We have an answer to this question and we shall move on to Deputy Bernard Durkan.

I am seeking information on the same issue, but by a different route, a Cheann Comhairle.

Are we talking about the same legislation?

It is about promised legislation as well.

Is it similar legislation to that raised in Deputy Gilmore's question?

No, this is different legislation. I concur entirely with the points raised by Deputy Gilmore on this.

In view of the concerns expressed by many community leaders throughout the country, in the aftermath of the flooding and destruction that took place in the past couple of weeks, will the Tánaiste indicate to the House whether there is to be a review of the national emergency plan, which did not work? Community leaders were left fending for themselves, where there were adequate facilities and services available, but it did not work. Who is the national co-ordinator? Which Minister has responsibility and will he or she——

Deputy Durkan, the Tánaiste indicated in her reply to the previous question that she was going to revert to the Deputy concerned. I am sure the same information could be furnished to your good self.

Hold on now, a Cheann Comhairle. I have raised this question in the House over several years because this was something that was waiting to happen. We now have a situation in which nothing happens at all, there is no emergency response and it has not happened.

The Deputy will have to find an alternative way to raise this matter.

The Tánaiste will have to address this as a matter of urgency.

I do not disagree, but there is the Adjournment or Question Time. There are many different ways in which the Deputy can raise this matter.

I acknowledge what the Ceann Comhairle has said. He has admitted there is an issue and I shall now put it up to the Tánaiste, and the House awaits her response.

As is normal after any emergency, there is always a review of all the planning. I am sure this will take place in the context of the aftermath of the flooding. However, it is unfair of the Deputy to say there was no plan. It is very unfair to those who have given a considerable amount of their time and effort, the Civil Defence, for example and the county councils under the stewardship and direction of the emergency plan

The Civil Defence people did it on their own. Where was the Minister responsible? Who was that Minister?

It is important to emphasise that in the context of any such crisis, the emergency plan is always reviewed to see whether any new initiatives need to be introduced.

It was introduced only two years ago. This is crazy stuff.

I have asked the Tánaiste on a number of occasions about the profiteering seen in the Republic as regards the translation of prices from sterling to euro. The replies have been to the effect that the Minister has a programme in train to integrate the National Consumer Agency with the Competition Authority.

Is the Deputy referring to promised legislation in this area?

Absolutely, a Cheann Comhairle. I am referring to legislation about the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority. It appears that little or nothing is happening on the consumer protection front in relation to the rip-off that is taking place. In any of the British chain stores in or around Grafton Street one finds items on sale for €100 which are available in their UK counterparts for £65.

If there is promised legislation we are now into the detail of it, which is not acceptable on the Order of Business.

The mark-ups are absolutely indefensible and the National Consumer Agency seems unable——

We are into detail at this point, Deputy.

This is the famous agency concerning which the Taoiseach whispered in the Minister's ear — asking her to call in this agency. I shall not be as frank as the Taoiseach was on that occasion but no action whatsoever is being taken.

Deputy, this is the Order of Business and we are abusing it.

What is the progress on the integration of the National Consumer Agency with the Competition Authority? Where is the promised legislation? The Tánaiste has not been dealing with the floods or jobs for young people, so what the heck is she doing as a Minister?

Deputy Burton, please. Let us get an answer as regards legislation, if there is any.

Can we have an answer on how we can stop our consumers being ripped off? The Tánaiste and I have something in common which the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance do not. They do not seem to go shopping, but we do and we know what the rip-offs are like, and I want the Tánaiste to respond.

The Deputy has gone into the detail of promised legislation. Is legislation promised in this area?

There is promised legislation.

Those people do not go shopping, which is such a pity.

There is promised legislation.

They might learn something about what life is like for people.

Deputy Burton, please.

Deputy Burton and I should head off shopping now.

The Minister of State should try it too. He should push a trolley around.

Deputy Burton, please.

As for the legislation, the Government intends to amalgamate the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency.

That forms part of the legislation.

I give that a single clap.

Who will lose their positions on the board?

The Deputy should not worry about it. I have the corporate governance sorted in that regard as well.

They simply will be amalgamated.

Come back Gerry Collins.

They will look after their own.

Second, the Deputy may not be aware that an undertaking was given to review the entire Competition Act.

That has been done and is almost complete. I wish to ensure that this legislation is fit for purpose in the context of our economic and industrial policy. This legislation will be brought forward at the beginning of next year for consideration by this House. I look forward to the Deputy's input and her views in the context of the legislation.

What will the Tánaiste do about the rip-off of consumers coming up to Christmas?

I call Deputy Costello.

Jobs are walking out of this country because of the Tánaiste's failure to take action.

Deputy Burton, please. I call Deputy Costello.

They are walking out.

I call Deputy Costello.

One third of our young men are unemployed. The Tánaiste cannot be proud of that.

I ask Deputy Burton to resume her seat.

We are being ripped off.

We are being absolutely ripped off.

While the Government sits idly by.

And so say all of us. The Dublin Docklands Development Authority presented its annual report to the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service during the week. It was alarming that——

Is legislation promised in this area?

Yes, there is. The number of irregularities regarding funding and planning that were addressed during those discussions was quite alarming.

The Deputy should refer to the legislation promised.

Will the Tánaiste consider amending the legislation that set up the Dublin Docklands Development Authority with a view to bringing it within the remit of the local authority? It is a regeneration project that has gone wrong. No transparency exists there at present and a huge number of irregularities have taken place. In those circumstances——

A parliamentary question, rather than the Order of Business, would be an ideal vehicle in which to get this information.

My question is extremely important to my constituency in terms of legislative matters.

I accept that. Avenues are available such as Question Time and Adjournment debates.

I will repeat the question. Will the Tánaiste consider changing the legislation to ensure that a body such as the local authority, namely, Dublin City Council, which has transparent mechanisms——

The Deputy should table a parliamentary question on this issue.

——should now take over the remit of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority?

The Deputy should submit a parliamentary question on the matter for next week.

This is a legislative matter.

We will move on. I call Deputy Crawford. Deputy Costello should table a parliamentary question.

I wish to raise two connected issues. I presume the Tánaiste is aware that up to 50% of the alcohol sold on the island of Ireland this year has been sold in the Six Counties. This gives some indication of how much is sold across the Border.

We are anticipating the budget debate next week.

Yes, we are anticipating it.

The sale of alcohol Bill would cover at least some of the issues in this regard and I wish to ascertain when that Bill will be brought before this House. Preferably, it will be next Tuesday. Second, I spoke——

If the Deputy leaves it, we will have a response on promised legislation in this area.

——to a person this morning who has booked a return train journey from Dublin to Belfast for €20. The three trains scheduled for Saturday morning are now booked out completely. In this context, when will the value added tax consolidation Bill be brought before this House to try to do something about the extraordinary and completely unacceptable levels of VAT in this jurisdiction compared to Northern Ireland?

The Tánaiste, briefly.

There is no date for the consolidation Bill. The sale of alcohol Bill will be introduced next year.

This morning, I read with interest a story in one of the national newspapers about a €9,000 limousine waiting for the Tánaiste in Switzerland.

Deputy, this has nothing to do with promised legislation.

It has nothing to do with it. I suggest the Deputy should table a parliamentary question next week.

It has a lot to do with legislation. In recent weeks, matters such as people's flooding difficulties and cutbacks in education and health has been raised in the House——

The Deputy should submit a parliamentary question on the matter.

Perhaps the Tánaiste would like to make a comment on the €9,000 limousine waiting on her in Switzerland recently.

This matter should be dealt with by way of parliamentary question. I call Deputy Terence Flanagan.

Perhaps there was a touch of populism there.

The Tánaiste should make a comment.

I wish to raise with the Tánaiste the worrying situation whereby for a number of years, local authorities have been issuing fire certificates without carrying out inspections of apartment complexes. This is a time bomb, particularly as there is a potential for another Stardust incident.

Deputy Flanagan should table a parliamentary question to get this information.

The Government is not taking this issue seriously and is being very passive.

I ask the Deputy to submit a parliamentary question on the matter.

In addition no responsibility is being shown towards property management companies and making them ultimately responsible. Legislation is forthcoming in this regard. However, in respect of fire safety, this issue is not being taken seriously——

The Deputy should not raise this issue on the Order of Business. He should submit a parliamentary question on the matter.

There must be fines and people must be prosecuted. The Tánaiste must investigate this matter further. Many apartment complexes——

A well crafted parliamentary question would secure the information for the Deputy.

——have been shoddily finished. Only last week, in the constituency of Dublin South, a roof was blown off an apartment complex.

Deputy, please.

This issue is not being taken seriously enough and people's lives are at risk. This issue must be investigated urgently.

The €9,000 to which I referred would put the roof back on the apartment block.

The Tánaiste read out three conditions attaching to the public pay talks and the union response, one of which was that the effect must be permanent. These are the same three conditions referred to by the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, in a radio broadcast this morning. Members heard nothing of this from the Taoiseach yesterday morning. Given that the days' leave are, by definition, temporary and the Tánaiste now states that one of the requirements is permanency, is she stating there is no chance of the Government accepting the trade union offer?

We have dealt with this at length. Is there a further qualification?

I have no further comment.

There is no further qualification.

While I do not often intrude, I felt that——

Although it always is a pleasure to answer the Deputy, I have said what I had to say. I cannot add much more to it at present.

It is interesting that the Tánaiste has stated that one of the conditions is that the effect should be permanent, while it is known that the offer made is impermanent. How can that run?

It is conditional.

Is the Tánaiste in a position to tell the House?

As I have indicated, the discussions are ongoing and when the Taoiseach met the unions on Tuesday afternoon, he indicated that what was on the table was not acceptable. The unions have decided that they will engage in further discussions and it will be in that context that the matter will be brought to finality one way or the other before Wednesday.

Is it desirable for people to take 12 days' additional leave?

The Taoiseach never mentioned this yesterday. This was concocted at last night's Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting.

I call Deputy Sheahan.

I thought, according to Deputy Mattie McGrath, that D-Day would take place at 12 noon in the Fianna Fáil parliamentary rooms.

The Deputy is welcome to join.

I will turn down that invitation. There will be no transfer of fees there.

They are going to introduce the explosives Bill at that meeting.

I ask Deputies to allow Deputy Sheahan to ask his question.

In the past week, two widows have visited my constituency office whose husbands died suddenly and whose REPS plans died with them. Will the Government consider introducing legislation——

This is a matter for a parliamentary question or for the Adjournment.

——whereby the REPS plan would stay with the herd number?

There is no promised legislation in this area.

They should reapply.

Those affected are in dire need. They have young families and their REPS plan has just died.

The Deputy should table a parliamentary question.

Although they were due last September, their husbands have died subsequently.

There are many other ways of getting this information.

However, it must be done through legislation.

I suspect that what the Deputy seeks can be acquired through a parliamentary question——

——or on the Adjournment.

I seek two REPS cheques.

Will be Tánaiste do him a favour?

Does the Deputy seek legislation?

We will move on.

I refer to No. 39, the proposed national cultural institutions Bill. While I am unsure whether I am in order in this regard, the Government is always talking about a sense of fairness in Bills and legislation. Although I do not know whether I should describe him as a national institution, the former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, is going around suggesting the Tánaiste has been bad-mouthing him——

Deputy Kenny, please.

——and that this is most unfair. I do not want him going into the Christmas period believing that the Tánaiste is bad-mouthing him.

Is the Deputy worried about me?

Deputy Kenny, please.

When does the Government intend to introduce the national cultural institutions Bill?

Níl sé socraithe go fóill.