Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 8a(i), Value-Added Tax Consolidation Bill 2010 — First Stage; No. 8a(ii), motion re Second Stage of the Value-Added Tax Consolidation Bill 2010; No. a17, statements and questions re Minister for Finance’s announcement on banking of 30 September 2010; and No. 4, Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Bill 2010 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 8a(i) and, subject to the agreement of No. 8a(i), No. 8a(ii) shall be decided without debate; a Minister or Minister of State shall take questions on No. a17 and the proceedings, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion after 60 minutes; and the suspension of sitting under Standing Order 23(1) shall take place at 1.30 p.m., or on the conclusion of No. a17, whichever is the later, until 2.30 p.m. Private Members’ business shall be No. 75, motion re loan guarantee scheme — resumed, and to conclude at 8.30 p.m. tonight, if not previously concluded.

There are three proposals to be put to the House today. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 8a(i), Value-Added Tax Consolidation Bill 2010 — First Stage, without debate, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. a17, statements and questions re Minister for Finance’s announcement on banking of 30 September 2010, agreed to?

No. This relates to a debate on statements that the Minister made on "Black Thursday" about the banking situation. Members from all sides of the House spoke on this debate and we feel that the one hour time slot is completely inadequate. In addition, the Taoiseach said yesterday in the Dáil that the State now has a mortgage of €31 billion in respect of the promissory notes. The Department confirmed last night to The Irish Times that the cost of interest on that mortgage is €1.5 billion per year. This is an extra figure that was not known before and which emerged yesterday via the Taoiseach. It is absolutely essential that we have an extra hour for questioning. It would be fair to all Members who have spoken, so I hope the Government agrees to that.

I repeatedly asked yesterday what consideration the Minister for Health and Children would give to presenting herself here to answer questions on her signalling of serious further cutbacks to the health budget. Outside the issue of pay under the terms of the Croke Park agreement, what does this actually mean? What devastation are our health services now facing? While there is inadequate time for questions to the Minister for Finance, will the Government facilitate the opportunity for a debate that I have repeatedly called for about the national children's hospital and yesterday's budgetary announcement that we are facing cuts in the order of €600 million to €1 billion in the health area alone?

We are drifting away from the issue. Does the Deputy have a question?

Has the Taoiseach taken time to consider my appeal in the House yesterday? Will he now indicate that the Minister for Health and Children will come before this House and be accountable to its Members?

The issue before the House is as set out in the Order of Business. The annual cost of the bank rescue was made clear to the House by the Minister last month. It was not introduced by me yesterday. I am trying to be helpful to the House while trying to get on with its business. If it were helpful to avoid a vote on the issue that we added another 20 minutes on to the 60 minutes for questions, that might deal with things.

What about the Minister for Health and Children and the serious issues——

That is out or order. Is the proposal, as amended, agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with the suspension of sitting under Standing Order 23(1) agreed to? Agreed. I call Deputy Kenny.

When will the report on PPARS, which was prepared and given to the Minister for Health and Children, be published? When will the Minister for Education and Skills publish the report on institutes of technology, which has been on her desk for quite some time? When does the Taoiseach expect the minerals development Bill to be ready for publication?

That Bill will be published in the middle of next year. I am not aware that the review on third level education is yet with the Minister. I am sure it is at an advanced stage. I do not know the answer to the first question, and I will try to find out for the Deputy, but perhaps a question to the Minister might elicit a reply.

The residential institutions statutory fund Bill is to provide for the establishment of a statutory fund to support the needs of the survivors of residential institutional child abuse. This was one of the recommendations of the Ryan report and there was all-party agreement in the House that this should be developed as quickly as possible. When will it be published?

It will be published next year. Many non-legislative recommendations of that report are being implemented at the moment.

On the matter of legislation on white collar crime as promised by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, what arrangements are being made by the Government to have the State and the taxpayer represented at bankruptcy proceedings in the state of Massachusetts for an application made by Mr. David Drumm? Will the State be formally represented? This is a man who owes a considerable amount of money to the State. He owes €8 million to Anglo Irish Bank, which is owned by the taxpayer.

That is out of order on the Order of Business.

It is a further example of how blase we have become about financial chicanery——

Do you know the arrangements for the Order of Business?

This matter does not require legislation. There are other ways to pursue it.

It requires an answer from the Government. The taxpayer is the owner of this bank.

Deputy Flanagan, there are other ways to pursue the matter.

There is a clear breach of fiduciary duty on the part of this man. He goes to America.

I ask you for your co-operation.

He runs a coach and four through the system——

I ask you to respect the ruling of the Chair that this matter is out of order on the Order of Business.

I ask that the Government be represented in court in the state of Massachusetts and that the taxpayers' interests be protected.

Resume your seat. I call on Deputy Reilly.

I wish to raise a related matter, namely, money that the State is trying to save——

I will answer Deputy Flanagan's question.

I am sorry. I did not realise the Taoiseach was going to answer.


The previous query is out of order.

I will revert to Deputy Flanagan on the matter at a later stage. Without notice I cannot commit to——-

Will the Taoiseach agree to talk to the Attorney General on the issue?

These matters are obviously discussed by the bank and I will take up the matter and find out the position.

In a week when the Minister for Health and Children told us that she intends to cut somewhere between €600 million and €1 billion off the health budget, can the Taoiseach tell us when he will bring in the drugs reference pricing Bill? This was supposed to come in at the beginning of the year, along with the prescription charges Bill, but it has now been put on the long finger until some time in 2011. Can the Taoiseach provide a more accurate timeframe for this? When we are seeking savings, these are the areas that we should examine, rather than hurting front line services, patients and patient care.

I understand that issue will be next year.

Is legislation necessary in order to release the independent report carried out on Mr. Michael Shine by a senior counsel? The Dignity for Patients group has been waiting on this report for a long time, but its representatives are getting no information on when it will be released.

That is a matter for the line Minister.

Is legislation required or can the report be released?

The Deputy should ask a parliamentary question of the line Minister. I call on Deputy Breen.

There is an announcement imminent on the loss of 184 jobs at Shannon Aerospace. Did the Government get an early warning that this was going to happen?

What advance notice did it get?

It is out of order on the Order of Business.

Was the Minister, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, involved?

It is out of order on the Order of Business.

I do not think it is out of order.

The Deputy should submit the matter for consideration on the Adjournment.

This is a very serious issue for people living in fear in the Shannon area. We have already seen job losses in Dublin Airport——

Deputy, please.

——regarding hangar 6——

We are trying to establish some discipline on the Order of Business.

——and the Ryanair aeroplane maintenance jobs.

I am afraid the Deputy is not co-operating.

It is coming at a time——

There are other ways to raise the matter.

It is coming at a time when Dublin Aerospace got the contract for EasyJet.

I am sure it is very important, but there are other ways.

Now we hear that there will be an announcement tomorrow morning on Shannon Aerospace.

The Deputy is out of order.

Sorry, a Cheann Comhairle, but the mid-west region is being totally ignored by the Government.

The Deputy is out of order.

We have Shannon Airport in crisis at the moment.

I will need to ask the Deputy to leave the House if he does not resume his seat.

I do not want to leave the House.

As a well behaved Deputy in the House I do not wish to do so, but I will have to.

My job is to make the Government accountable in the House.

I ask the Deputy to raise it some other way.

Perhaps the Taoiseach might just answer the question——

The Adjournment is one way and a parliamentary question is another.

——on this matter of importance.

I call Deputy Shortall.

The Taoiseach might like to answer the question. Was the Minister, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, informed of these potential job losses?

It is entirely unfair to expect the Taoiseach to have an answer to that question on the Order of Business.

I am sure the loss of jobs is being discussed in every Department.

There are other ways, as I have indicated to the Deputy. I ask him to submit the matter for consideration on the Adjournment and we will be sympathetic.

It is a serious issue in the mid-west region——

I have no doubt it is.

——where unemployment is at a major high and this is due to happen tomorrow morning.

Deputy, please.

It is a big issue, a Cheann Comhairle.

I am extremely concerned and angry.

I have invited the Deputy to submit it for consideration on the Adjournment, so I have been quite reasonable with him. I ask him to resume his seat.

What action will the Taoiseach take?

I ask the Deputy to resume his seat.

I will resume my seat, but I would like to know what action the Government is taking on this matter.

I call Deputy Shortall.

When can we expect to see the promised legislation to transfer the functions of FÁS to the Department of Social Protection?

We hope to have that by the end of the year, I understand.

It has been scheduled for Committee Stage at the beginning of December. I want to make sure we have it in time to consider it before the debate. Is there a date for its publication? Could the Taoiseach get it for us?

I do not have a precise date on it.

Could the Taoiseach come back to me on that, please?

I will ask the Minister to note it.

The Taoiseach will be aware that many businesses are closing down in the current economic climate. Many of those businesses are vacating their premises and putting on their alarms. As there is no legislation limiting the length of time an alarm can ring, they are ringing for days on end. A number in my constituency have been ringing for weeks at this point and the Garda is unable to identify the owners of the premises because they have gone into liquidation. When does the Taoiseach intend to introduce the noise nuisance Bill to allow enforcement authorities to prevent, reduce or abate noise nuisance and in particular noise from continuously sounding alarms? Alternatively, he might have a job stimulus to get those companies back into business again.

I understand the Bill is on the A list so it would be hoped it would be published by the end of this session or the beginning of the next session.

Does the Government still propose to legislate for a bank resolution mechanism that would enable the country to deal with future bank collapses without the kind of blanket bailout into which the Government entered, and which would also allow the country to deal with the issue of the senior bondholders and subordinated debt in a structured way? The Government has indicated the possibility of doing this. Has the Government reached a decision on whether it will legislate for a bank resolution mechanism and, if so, when?

The up-to-date position in relation to any queries about that matter can be dealt with in the context of the discussion that will take place shortly.

What progress has taken place on the preparation for presentation to the House of the national vetting bureau Bill given its urgency?

I understand the matter is being worked on as a priority and the heads of the Bill are expected by the end of the year.

When I raised this previously the Taoiseach and Tánaiste seemed to give an indication that the Bill——

The Order of Business arrangement does not anticipate a debate on this matter.

I am not looking for a debate.

The Deputy has put a question to the Taoiseach on legislation.

I am fully aware of that, but I am talking about urgently required and desired legislation as generally agreed and the comparison between what is on the pink pages of the legislative programme and the ones that are still waiting. Has any degree of urgency been applied to the preparation of that Bill, which is generally regarded by everybody outside this House——

The Deputy should submit a parliamentary question to the line Minister.

I have done that also.

I have indicated it is being handled as a matter of priority in the relevant Department.

We must move on.

I am sorry, a Cheann Comhairle.

Deputy, please your co-operation is required.

I did not hear because you were interrupting, a Cheann Comhairle. Did the Taoiseach say it was not a matter of priority?

The Chair does not interrupt; the Chair intervenes.

It is a matter of priority.

I am sorry, I cannot hear the reply.

It is a matter of priority, as I said in my original reply.

Good. Now I come to the second question on promised legislation. There is a proposal to introduce a Bill to provide for a new risk equalisation scheme for health insurance. Given the problems of the health insurance industry and the costs in the health area in general, when is it intended to bring that Bill to the House? Have the heads been studied, worked upon, agreed or discussed in Cabinet?

A consultation process is under way at the moment. The earliest that would be available would be next year.

I understand that the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 is under review in the office of the Minister of State, Deputy Finneran. Has that review been completed and will we see amendments to the legislation coming before the House before the end of the year? The working group on mortgage arrears, which published its preliminary report in July, is due to complete the second stage of that report in the coming weeks. Can the Taoiseach indicate when will that report be completed? Will Dáil time be given to discuss the recommendations and findings of that report?

I understand the residential tenancies (amendment) Bill is not due until next year. The other matter is a matter for its publication by the group concerned and then to deal with it in whatever way it needs to be handled by the House.

Is there a date for when the report will be completed?

I do not have a date.

I will try not to be out of order——

That is a good start.

——but I have tried to raise this issue on a number of occasions. I have submitted it for discussion on the Adjournment debate and have tabled parliamentary questions, but I have yet to have my voice heard. I refer to funding for special needs assistants. On Saturday, 9 October, I attended a march in Enniscorthy.

The Deputy is veering towards being out of order at this point.

I would appreciate if you could give me a hearing, a Cheann Comhairle. I attended a march along with more than 300 parents in Enniscorthy. The parents are concerned about their children's education.

The Deputy can exercise the option of submitting a parliamentary question or submitting yet again an item for consideration on the Adjournment.

I have tried the parliamentary question route on numerous occasions, but cannot get an answer from the line Minister. Last week and the previous week I submitted the matter for consideration for the Adjournment debate.

The Deputy is out of order.

I applied again yesterday. I have applied for the past 2.5 weeks and have been refused.

There is no answer to this.

Can you give me some information on how I can get an answer to a question of such concern to parents and their children, a Cheann Comhairle?

Persistence pays on these matters, so I suggest that the Deputy should stay with the Adjournment or parliamentary questions.

Could I get some indication from you, a Cheann Comhairle, that if I stayed with the Adjournment, I might get an opportunity?

It will be considered.

Canvassing will disqualify.

Could I say that you might look favourably at it, if I put it forward again?

A nod or a wink.

Yes, it will be sympathetically considered, but no promises, just sympathetic consideration.

I will have to persist each morning if I do not get some form of——

I am forewarned.

I ask the Taoiseach to intervene to prevent the closure of the FÁS premises in Cabra, which have a capacity for 450 students. If those premises close as is forecast to happen within the next two to three weeks, people in the area who wish to avail of FÁS facilities will need to travel across the city at significant inconvenience and cost to themselves.

That will put many people off availing of that FÁS facility. I understand there is an issue concerning the roof of premises and that it could be repaired.

The Deputy is seeking detailed information. He should table a parliamentary question to the line Minister.

I am not tested but if the Ceann Comhairle ever gives lessons on patience, I will be a customer.

The Deputy will be most welcome.

Is the Taoiseach aware of this matter and will he intervene to prevent the closure of this important facility?

The Deputy should submit a parliamentary question on the matter and I am sure the Minister concerned will be only too glad to reply to it.