On a point of order, I ask the Ceann Comhairle, the Government Whip and all the party Whips why, once again, Independents are excluded on this big debate today.
Order of Business
I am sure the Whips are listening.
We look forward to accommodating Members who wish to speak today.
A Cheann Comhairle, you are missing the point. It is always the Taoiseach who must get up or the Government who allocates time. The Whips of all the parties should agree to a certain time for Independent TDs. It is called Dáil reform. We have been talking about it for years. Get real and get on with the job.
The Taoiseach has intimated that provision will be made for Deputy Finian McGrath.
It is proposed to take No. 7a, motion re Technical Amendments to Standing Orders; No. 7b — motion re Orders of Reference of Committees; and No. b16 — Statements on the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 7a and 7b shall be decided without debate; and the following arrangements shall apply on No. b16: the statements of the Taoiseach and of the leaders of Fine Gael, the Labour Party, the Green Party and Sinn Féin, or a person nominated in his stead, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case, the statement of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case, the statement of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case, and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes.
There are two proposals to be put to the House today. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 7a and 7b, motions re Technical Amendments to Standing Orders and Orders of Reference of Committees, without debate, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. b16, Statements on the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014, agreed to?
It is not agreed.
When is it proposed that this debate conclude?
Everybody who wishes to speak on this debate should be allowed to speak, and it can continue next week if they wish.
If the Government is so confident that this plan which it has been forced to bring in here is the path to recovery for the country, why does the Taoiseach not put down a motion and have it approved by the Dáil by vote?
As was explained to the House, this policy proposal is being brought forward as a confidence building measure, internally and externally. The first instalment of the plan will be on 7 December when the budget will be put to the House.
I do not accept this. This plan is not the path to recovery. There are issues in it with which I agree, but it does not go far enough to rectify the state of the nation.
There will be ample opportunity to discuss the merits of the plan when the debate starts.
I do not accept the Order of Business as proposed. If the Government is stating that this is a first step or this is the path towards a first step, then let us adjudicate on what the Taoiseach considers is the path of recovery. There are areas in it with which I do not agree. There are areas on which the Government does not go far enough. The Government's growth plan is non-existent. It has nothing to do with the real problem out here of the spectre of the banking institutions.
We will debate that matter in a few minutes.
From that point of view, if the Taoiseach is so confident about it, put it to the test and let us have a motion and a vote on it.
The Labour Party does not agree to the Taoiseach's proposal to deal with this issue. What is proposed here is a set of statements which is an anodyne way of dealing with a major document from the Government.
Like Deputy Kenny, I, too, do not believe that this is a plan for national recovery. It is a plan certainly for budgetary adjustments but it is not a plan for national recovery, and we will discuss this in greater detail when we make statements. There should be provision for questions to the relevant Ministers about aspects of the plan; no provision is made for this. Many aspects of what is proposed in the plan are not clear. There is a major question as to the status of the plan and to what extent it has been discussed, agreed or negotiated with the IMF and European institutions. We have no opportunity in these arrangements to put those questions.
In any event, it is a document that the Government should put to the House for decision. We have no motion attached to the proposal and there is no opportunity to vote on the plan. Earlier this week, I asked the Taoiseach whether he was confident he still retained a majority of Members in the House who would support this plan and the budget——
All of these points can be made during the debate.
——he intends to introduce. At the time, he indicated he did have such a majority. If he is confident of this, and he has used the word "confidence" on a number of occasions, then the proposal before us today should be subject to a motion and a vote in the House.
The Sinn Féin Deputies do not agree to the Order of Business proposed by the Taoiseach. Yesterday, we watched the Minister for Finance arrogantly state that any proposals put before the people in the upcoming general election not based on the four year plan would be nonsense. He also stated we all partied. This is insulting to the Irish people; the Irish people did not all party and he should direct those remarks——
The Deputy is anticipating the debate.
——to where they actually apply.
I am sure Deputy Ó Caoláin will make these points when the debate starts.
Yesterday, we saw the leader of the Green Party stand along with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance——
——lauding and applauding a four year plan despite the fact he has already given the Taoiseach a forward-dated notice to quit.
We are not planning to debate it on the Order of Business. Immediately the Order of Business is completed we will move on to the debate.
What sort of governance are we witnessing here? It is an absolute travesty. Make no mistake about it, I happen to have to state I welcome the stated positions of Fine Gael and the Labour Party with regard to the Order Paper. Sinn Féin presented these arguments yesterday and had to stand alone along with the Independent Deputies Finian McGrath and Maureen O'Sullivan. I hope we will have a united opposition standing before the Taoiseach today because what he proposes is unacceptable. We want a proper debate and we want the right as the elected representatives of the Irish people to pass judgment. We can do so only by having a motion and a vote in the Chamber. We reject what the Taoiseach proposes.
- Ahern, Bertie.
- Ahern, Dermot.
- Ahern, Michael.
- Ahern, Noel.
- Andrews, Barry.
- Andrews, Chris.
- Ardagh, Seán.
- Aylward, Bobby.
- Behan, Joe.
- Blaney, Niall.
- Brady, Áine.
- Brady, Cyprian.
- Brady, Johnny.
- Browne, John.
- Byrne, Thomas.
- Calleary, Dara.
- Carey, Pat.
- Collins, Niall.
- Conlon, Margaret.
- Connick, Seán.
- Cowen, Brian.
- Cuffe, Ciarán.
- Curran, John.
- Dempsey, Noel.
- Devins, Jimmy.
- Dooley, Timmy.
- Fahey, Frank.
- Finneran, Michael.
- Fitzpatrick, Michael.
- Fleming, Seán.
- Flynn, Beverley.
- Gogarty, Paul.
- Gormley, John.
- Hanafin, Mary.
- Harney, Mary.
- Haughey, Seán.
- Healy-Rae, Jackie.
- Hoctor, Máire.
- Kelleher, Billy.
- Kelly, Peter.
- Kenneally, Brendan.
- Kennedy, Michael.
- Killeen, Tony.
- Kitt, Michael P.
- Kitt, Tom.
- McEllistrim, Thomas.
- McGrath, Mattie.
- McGrath, Michael.
- Mansergh, Martin.
- Martin, Micheál.
- Moloney, John.
- Moynihan, Michael.
- Nolan, M.J.
- Ó Cuív, Éamon.
- Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
- 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.
- Sargent, Trevor.
- Scanlon, Eamon.
- Smith, Brendan.
- Treacy, Noel.
- Wallace, Mary.
- White, Mary Alexandra.
- Woods, Michael.
- Bannon, James.
- Barrett, Seán.
- Breen, Pat.
- Broughan, Thomas P.
- Bruton, Richard.
- Burke, Ulick.
- Burton, Joan.
- Byrne, Catherine.
- Carey, Joe.
- Connaughton, Paul.
- Coonan, Noel J.
- Costello, Joe.
- Crawford, Seymour.
- Creighton, Lucinda.
- D’Arcy, Michael.
- Deasy, John.
- Deenihan, Jimmy.
- Doyle, Andrew.
- Durkan, Bernard J.
- English, Damien.
- Enright, Olwyn.
- Feighan, Frank.
- Flanagan, Charles.
- Flanagan, Terence.
- Gilmore, Eamon.
- Hayes, Brian.
- Higgins, Michael D..
- Hogan, Phil.
- Howlin, Brendan.
- Kehoe, Paul.
- Kenny, Enda.
- Lynch, Ciarán.
- Lynch, Kathleen.
- McCormack, Pádraic.
- McEntee, Shane.
- McGrath, Finian.
- 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.
- Reilly, James.
- Ring, Michael.
- Shatter, Alan.
- Sheahan, Tom.
- Sheehan, P.J.
- Sherlock, Seán.
- Shortall, Róisín.
- Stagg, Emmet.
- Stanton, David.
- Timmins, Billy.
- Tuffy, Joanna.
- Upton, Mary.
Will the Taoiseach clarify again the proposed date for the introduction of the Social Welfare Bill and does he expect it to be approved before the Christmas recess? What is the proposed date for the introduction of the finance Bill which, as he knows, gives legal effect to measures in the budget? The Dáil will meet for nine more working days before the Christmas recess and according to the current calendar it is intended to break up for 33 days. Given the international and national circumstances that apply, this is not appropriate.
As the Deputy knows, the social welfare Bill is taken in the immediate aftermath of the budget announcements, so it probably will be taken during that week. The Finance Bill must be prepared and brought forward as quickly as possible. On budget day, we probably will be in a better position to outline with a greater degree of certainty the timelines for the enactment of the budget announcements.
That is if the usual circumstances apply and nothing happens to disrupt that situation. In view of the observations from Europe, the longer things drift before the enactment of the Finance Bill, the more difficult it will be for taxpayers and Ireland because of the restrictions that will apply in respect of measures that may have to be drawn down from the contingency fund.
I am sure the Deputy can make these points during the debate.
In view of these exceptional circumstances, does the Government propose to expedite the finance Bill? Debate on the Finance Bill 2010 was not concluded until 3 April but we cannot allow our deliberations to take the same length of time. It is just not on.
We will all be acting in the national interest in ensuring we enact the legislation that derives from the budget. I cannot anticipate those decisions until the budget is announced. There will be a better opportunity on budget day to give an indication of what is involved. I certainly do not anticipate a timeline which is similar to last year's.
In light of the exceptional circumstances that apply, if the Government decides on budget day that it is in a clear position to make an indication on the finance Bill, surely this House should come back much earlier to deal with it. We cannot expect a public that is distressed and under pressure to accept that the House will not meet for 33 days——
The Deputy will have an opportunity later on to discuss that issue.
——when we have to deal with business of national importance. It would be crazy to continue as before.
On 10 October, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation stated in a reply to a question put by Deputy O'Shea that the matter of the review of the national minimum wage was before the Labour Court and that he was awaiting a decision from that court. The Minister said it would be inappropriate——
I am sure the Deputy's point can be made during the debate.
Níl an pointe deánta——
Its appropriateness to the Order of Business is questionable.
Gabh mo leithscéal, ach níl an pointe déanta agam ar chor ar bith fós.
Tá go maith, ar aghaidh leat.
Tá ceist agam don Taoiseach agus má fhanann an Ceann Comhairle go gcloiseann sé an cheist, beidh sé soiléir dó go bhfuil mé in ord. The Minister stated that it would be inappropriate for him to comment further on the matter while it is before the court. It is proposed in the four year plan to reduce the minimum wage by €1 per hour. Under the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 a ministerial order is required to change the minimum wage. When does the Government intend to lay that order before the House?
Given that the House will not meet again until next Tuesday, is it intended that an announcement will be made between now and then in respect of restructuring the banks?
I appreciate we will largely be dealing with economic issues today but tomorrow is the anniversary of the publication of the Murphy report into sexual abuse of children in the Dublin archdiocese. Last year, the House unanimously agreed on a range of measures arising from that report. I ask the Taoiseach if an opportunity could be provided next week to allow the Minister of State at the Office of the Minister for Children to report on progress, or lack thereof, on those matters.
In respect of the first matter raised by the Deputy, whatever statutory amendment is required to put that in place will be introduced. I do not anticipate any change in advance of the budget announcements but it will be done thereafter by means of whatever legislative measure is necessary.
In regard to the question on the discussions that are ongoing, I cannot anticipate when they will be concluded. We are dealing with a number of issues which were discussed earlier this week on Leaders' Questions. The Cabinet will have to meet to discuss any developments when we come to that point. I cannot anticipate the outcome but, clearly, whenever decisions are made it will be a matter of bringing them before the House during the course of that week to discuss them in full.
The third matter raised by Deputy Gilmore was the anniversary of the Murphy report. It is a matter for the Whips to determine if it is possible to provide for an update on the implementation of the recommendations outlined in that report.
The Government is at loggerheads with the Ombudsman over nursing home care. A related issue has arisen. Recently the Health Information and Quality Authority secured a court order for the closure of the Upton House private nursing home in the Taoiseach's home town of Clara, County Offaly.
The Deputy should put a parliamentary question to the line Minister——
HIQA was clearly acting in the interest——
——or raise a matter on the Adjournment——
——and welfare of the residents——
——but it is not appropriate for the Order of Business.
——of that facility.
This is not an appropriate matter for the Order of Business.
HIQA is performing its duty but a serious deficiency in legislation has been identified by the Ombudsman, HIQA and other voices. This is relevant and pertinent and, in light of the Taoiseach's personal experience of a situation so close to where he lives——
Is legislation promised in this area?
——I am asking whether, in light of what I have said and many other incidents, he will fast-track the publication of the health information Bill and the eligibility for health and personal social services Bill, both of which have been promised for quite some time. They could make a real contribution to these major deficiencies.
The Taoiseach on the promised legislation.
It was expected that the health information Bill would be published in the middle of next year but I understand it is hoped that it will be brought forward for publication earlier in the year. There is no date for the eligibility for health Bill at this point.
I welcome that the four year plan makes reference to the Government's intention to reduce the pay and pensions of the Judiciary. Can the Taoiseach indicate whether this will require a referendum?
Has the Deputy submitted his name for speaking on the plan? He can raise the matter during the debate.
Will the matter necessitate a referendum?
Where has the Local Government (Dublin Mayor and Regional Authority) Bill 2010 gone?
We cleared the legislative programme for this week in order to deal with these important issues and we can return to the Bill in due course, with the agreement of the Whips.
It is gone with the wind.
The reason I raise the matter——
The Deputy cannot elaborate on it.
Kerry cannot do without Deputy Sheahan.
I raised the matter because the debacle that arose over the renaming of Dingle to Dingle-Daingean Uí Chúis is included in the Bill. People have been waiting more than three years——
We are on the Order of Business, not the Adjournment.
——for their rights to be met.
The Deputy should put down a parliamentary question or raise the matter on the Adjournment.
That is why I ask whether it will be brought back.
On yesterday's Order of Business I asked the Taoiseach about the Local Government (Dublin Mayor and Regional Authority) Bill 2010. I noted that the Bill had been removed from the schedule for this week. When the Taoiseach responded——
He addressed the matter in his reply to the last Deputy who asked a question on it.
He said it was a matter for the Whips and that it may be on next week's schedule.
I have been informed this morning that it is not coming on the schedule for next week. I have been further informed that at the Whips' meeting, my party Whip was told this was not an urgent matter. I agree with the Chief Whip on that point.
Will the Taoiseach confirm to the House whether the mayoral Bill will see the light of day in this House again or has it been scrapped as part of the fallout from this week's events involving the Green Party?
The Taoiseach has just answered that question. Let us move on. The Deputy's party has a very experienced Whip.
Ultimately, if the Taoiseach is of the view that it will be completed before the term of the Government is completed, will he explain the stages by which it can be done? It is not scheduled for next week.
We are moving on.
The following week is the budget, following that we will move on to the finance Bill and following that there will be a general election.
Will the Deputy give way to his party colleague?
Will the Taoiseach confirm to the House that the mayoral Bill has been scrapped?
I call Deputy Burton.
Will the Taoiseach answer the question?
The Taoiseach has answered the question in response to the previous Deputy.
I answered the question just moments ago. The Deputy might not have been listening as he prepared for his own contribution. As I said, the Chief Whip informs me that next week's business is not yet finalised.
It will be finalised in the House but we have agreed it.
The Chief Whip has explained to me that it is not finalised.
He often does that.
The Deputy is obviously far more agreeable than usual.
On a point of information, can the Kerry placename change from An Daingean to Dingle-Daingean Uí Chúis?
The Deputy should submit a parliamentary question on the matter.
Can it be done through ministerial order?
Will the Deputy submit a parliamentary question?
Can it be done through an order? I want to know.
It is a legitimate question but will the Deputy submit a parliamentary question to the line Minister? I call Deputy Burton.
When is it proposed that Ireland's draft contract with the IMF will go to Washington? I understand it is expected in Washington next week. Can the Taoiseach confirm this? On the letter of intent, the draft contract with the IMF, will he tell us what is the timeframe for that going to Washington and then coming back to Ireland and being finalised?
In that context, I am sure the Taoiseach has noticed that the——
I am sure the Deputy will raise this matter during the debate.
There are no questions to the Taoiseach during the debate. This is the most important international agreement Ireland will ever sign. With respect, a Cheann Comhairle, it is perfectly in order to ask the Taoiseach when that agreement is being processed.
Every moment lost on the Order of Business is time lost from the debate.
Second, given that Irish bond spreads and interest costs are rising dramatically despite yesterday's announcement, and given the four year plan or roadmap which we received yesterday does not include any reference to the bank bailout or to the absolutely critical issue of the cost of interest for the various rescue packages, I want to ask the Taoiseach if those issues——
The Deputy can raise these questions during the debate.
With respect, there is no provision for questions. I am putting the question now as to when the Government will make time in the Dáil to answer precise questions on these matters.
Standing Order 26 does not accommodate what the Deputy is trying to do. We are moving on.
May we have an answer on the timeframe? The contract will be in Washington next week and the Americans in Washington will be reading the contract but we will not. Will the Taoiseach comment?
We will move onto the debate as quickly as possible. I call Deputy Tuffy.
The Deputy's party's policies would certainly bring down the bond spreads.
Actually, they would have. Deputy Fahey is absolutely right for once.
The Government's policies did a great job with them, anyway. They were a great success.
Deputy Burton, please. The Taoiseach will reply briefly.
Deputy Fahey is right for once.
They were trying to tie the Government's hands last week. It is political game playing.
Deputy Fahey, please. I call the Taoiseach, without interruption.
The Taoiseach should try to rein in some of his men.
Deputy Gilmore will have to apologise to them.
That is a sexist remark.
It is not like the Deputy. Here is the Labour Party getting all huffed. I am glad they have regained their sense of humour over there.
To come back to the serious question——
The Taoiseach should put on his serious face.
The Government will, of course, consider any issue that arises. I cannot anticipate the progress of these discussions as they are ongoing. As I said, when there is an issue for briefing for Cabinet or for decision for Cabinet, that will be done. When we make the decisions, if there are decisions to be made, these matters will then be dealt with in the House. That is the normal procedure and it will be accommodated. I think that was all.
Time is of the essence. Will this be done around the time of the budget?
Will Deputy Burton resume her seat? I call Deputy Tuffy.
Time is of the essence if we are to have anything left in the Irish banks.
What will happen to the Multi-Unit Developments Bill and the Property Services (Regulation) Bill, which had been making progress through the House? They were long awaited and are very important for people who live in apartments, given the problems they face at present. Will those Bills be passed before the Taoiseach dissolves the Government?
I understand those issues will go to Report Stage very soon and will be dealt with, I hope.
On the serious matter of legal fees arising from the various tribunals that will fall on the Exchequer and the taxpayer at some stage, and which were referred to in the four year plan and the various commentaries associated with it, will the Taoiseach indicate to the House when the legal costs Bill is likely to be introduced? Will it be introduced in time to be of benefit to the Exchequer in dealing with the costs that are likely to arise from the tribunals?
I am not sure.
I did not ask the Ceann Comhairle.
The legal costs Bill will be taken in 2011.
Therefore, the answer is it will not be in time.
2011 is the indicative time.
A commentator this morning mentioned that specifically.
We cannot deal——
I will not delay the House.
If the Deputy wants to add that to the list of important enactments that are to be done before the election, he might take it up with his party leader.
We will know how to deal with it in due course.
I wish to raise three matters. To come back to the Multi-Unit Developments Bill, that has to come to the House for Report Stage. It is particularly urgent legislation that has been hanging around for a long time. Will the Taoiseach ensure Report Stage happens next week? There should not be any difficulty in taking it up next week.
The second matter has been raised many times in the House. I note a recent comment from the Minister of State with responsibility for children, Deputy Barry Andrews, that the deliberative process within Government on the children's referendum Bill was almost complete and that there was some new form of wording to be published. When will that occur and will it be this side of Christmas?
On the final matter, both Deputies Kenny and Gilmore raised the issue of the finance Bill. I appreciate the Taoiseach said he will be telling the House on budget day when we will be taking the finance Bill. Will he be more specific? Does he not agree that the House should return at the very latest on 10 January and the finance Bill should be taken up by 10 January?
We have dealt with this matter.
I draw the Taoiseach's attention to the fact his absent Green colleagues in government have indicated they want a general election to be completed by the end of January.
That is not in order.
Will he tell the House whether the Minister, Deputy Gormley, has given the Taoiseach a stay of execution? Would he not acknowledge it is in the national interest to bring stability to Government and to have the election the general public is demanding?
The Deputy should resume his seat. The Taoiseach should answer the queries on legislation.
With regard to the first matter raised, it is hoped at this point that this legislation could come to the House next Thursday for Report Stage at least and hopefully for its finalisation. On the second matter, the Minister of State with responsibility for children and youth affairs, Deputy Barry Andrews, has advanced a great deal of work in this area which we hope will come to Government soon, possibly before Christmas. We may then have to come back and talk to people who have put forward other wording for discussion. I do not know what the process may be but the work of the Minister of State is being advanced.
Budget day will be the day on which, based on the budget announcements, we can outline what legislative enactments are necessary to implement that budget and what period may be regarded as appropriate for its preparation and proper enactment.
Everybody is aware that three weeks ago a pot of €40 million was put into a kitty for three housing estates in County Dublin where people are suffering the effects of structural damage to their houses. Is the Taoiseach aware that in Ashbourne in my constituency——
Deputy, this is out of order on the Order of Business.
It is not.
It is a matter for the line Minister.
It has to do with finance.
Is it about specific legislation that may be enacted?
The Taoiseach's colleague beside him, the Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey, knows what I am talking about. There are a number of estates in Ashbourne and north county Dublin where banks——
I ask the Deputy to submit a parliamentary question. We will move on with the Order of Business.
I only ask that somebody be accountable.