Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 9, motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; No. 10, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime; No. 11, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2011; and No. 5, Central Bank and Credit Institutions (Resolution) (No. 2) Bill 2011 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: Nos. 9, 10 and 11 shall be decided without debate; and Private Members' business shall be No. 24, Twenty-Ninth Amendment of the Constitution (No. 3) Bill 2011 — Second Stage, and the proceedings on the Second Stage thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 29 June 2011.

There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 9, 10 and 11 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' business agreed to? Agreed.

Can the Taoiseach explain where all the Labour Party senior Ministers are? I hope there has not been some row that we are unaware of at Cabinet.

That is not a matter for the Order of Business, Deputy.

Sorting out your disaster.


Can we get back to serious business?

A Deputy

He was talking about Ministers so it should not concern the Deputy.

Members have had their moment of fun. Let us get back to business. Does Deputy Martin have a serious issue to raise?

This is very serious. It is probably a manifestation of the new-found arrogance that is emerging — the new "once-a-week will do" kind of approach.


Is it 60 or 65 Members Deputy Martin is missing?

Members should quieten down please.

In October there are supposed to be three constitutional referenda. The constitutional convention to recommend further amendments is due to be up and running. In spite of the Taoiseach's repeated promises, there has been no attempt to consult with the Opposition about those measures. He has consistently refused to give specific dates for when the consultations will take place. Will the Taoiseach give a specific date on which the consultations, which preceded all recent referenda, will be held? Could he explain the timetable within which he proposes to allow the Dáil to consider the legislation?

Deputy Martin has raised the matter on a number of occasions. The Opposition will be consulted fully and properly. Deputy Martin is well aware of the process. When a decision is made by Government to hold a referendum, a Bill must be drawn up and published. The Opposition will be consulted in due course. I cannot give the precise date or the hour on which the consultation will take place but Deputy Martin can take it from me that the Opposition will not be neglected in terms of having an opportunity to give its view on the proposals for the referenda. There will be an opportunity for further discussion in the House as well. We are aware of the timescale and the dates by which legislation must be passed. Deputy Martin should trust me on this one.

Like the people in Roscommon.

Just like the people in Roscommon.

Just like the people of Roscommon can trust the Taoiseach.

I would say they trust us a lot more than they trust you.


I asked about the matter last week and the Taoiseach indicated that he would consult with the Opposition in advance of the publication of the Bills on the forthcoming proposals.

The Taoiseach has answered the Deputy.

We are aware of the timescale, which is getting very tight in terms of the commission that must be established in advance of a referendum being held. We are talking about three referenda and explanatory memoranda. At this stage the Government should be in a position at least to have a preliminary consultation with the Opposition parties on the proposed three referenda. If it does not happen before the summer recess then the Government is in significant difficulty given that its position has always been that we should have more time for referendum commissions than was the case in the past.

Could we finalise the matter?

A number of the Bills are currently being considered by the Attorney General. Deputy Martin will be consulted, as will the leaders of the other parties and the House.

A statement was promised by the Taoiseach from the Minister for Health three weeks ago. He was to report back on the crisis arising from the junior doctors debacle. We have still no notion of when that statement might be made.

The Taoiseach might have noted that I welcomed the Government's commitment to look positively on the obligations of the Irish and British Governments to examine the report published yesterday by the human rights institutions in Belfast and Dublin in which they argued for a single human rights charter for the island of Ireland. Sinn Féin welcomes that. It was part of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Will the Government allow time for a debate on the issue?

The recruitment of hospital doctors is not yet concluded. The Minister will report to the House when that happens. The human rights commission report is an issue the Fianna Fáil Whip could usefully raise at the Whips meeting.

The report has been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The next issue is one I wish to address to the Ceann Comhairle. I raised an issue in the House which was on the Minister's desk on the very first day he came into office, that there would be up to 400 junior doctor vacancies with a subsequent roll-on in hospitals.

I am sorry but the Deputy cannot debate the matter now.

The Taoiseach did not know about that.

I am sorry but this is not a matter on the Order of Business.

I am sorry. I will only be a second. The Taoiseach said that the Minister would come to the House to address the issue, which was fair enough. The Minister has still not done that. In the interests of citizens, how does a Member try to get such information dealt with properly?

There are a number of ways. The Deputy can raise it on the Adjournment, on Leaders' Questions——

I have done all that.

——or table a parliamentary question.

I have done all of that but I have not got an answer.

The Deputy can do it again.

It is on the roundabout.

As you pointed out to the Deputy, a Cheann Comhairle, these matters can be raised by other means. Deputy Adams can take it that the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, will be happy to give the information to the House when accurate information is available.

When will that be?

Deputy Adams is aware of the recruitment process that took place for non-consultant hospital doctors and the response to that. It is only right and proper in the interests of the health service and those who work within it that the Minister would be able to provide accurate information to the House when he reports, which he will do.

How many hospitals will be closed down by then?

We are not having a debate on the issue. This is the Order of Business.

I understand that. I am just trying to get clarity on protocols and procedures. The Minister does not have to wait until the matter is resolved before he makes a statement.

No, I am sorry.

Let him make a statement now to tell us what is the situation.

He would only make an incomplete statement without giving the detail.

It would be just like the statements the Taoiseach makes.


Order, please.

Just put the hands up.

If the Minister does not have all the information, Deputy Adams can ask him to make another statement.

Could I ask the Taoiseach about the Construction Contracts Bill, which was introduced as a Private Members' Bill in the Seanad? It is urgently required for a sector that is in freefall but a number of defects have been identified. When will it come back to the Dáil? Will it come as a Private Members' Bill or will it be redrafted as a Government Bill?

Are there no Fine Gael Parliamentary Party meetings?

A Deputy

At least we have one.

Deputy Mitchell has raised an important matter. The Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, is working on the Bill which will come to the House later this year as a Government Bill.

The room is too big for the party.

Fine Gael took the room but the party is not using it.

There is a lot more constructive debate in it now than ever came out of it before.

Fair weather politicians. The first fine day we have they are gone to the beach or in St. Stephen's Green.

I call Deputy Mac Lochlainn.

I am just waiting for a bit of ciúnas.

A Deputy is trying to make a point; Members should give him an opportunity.

The Taoiseach may recall that I asked him last week about the European Stability Mechanism, the fact that it requires an amendment to the Lisbon treaty and the right of the people to have a say on the matter. I understand that the Government is continuing to get advice from the Attorney General. On "The Week in Politics" the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, confirmed that is the case, but it is the view at this stage that a referendum will not be necessary. It is time to publish the advice the Government is getting from the Attorney General. I have done what the Ceann Comhairle advised. I submitted a written question and I was told there are difficulties. In the public interest I call on the Taoiseach to publish the advice from the Attorney General. Why will the Government not put this urgent matter before the people?

That is not a matter for the Order of Business.

As the Deputy is aware, advice is received by the Government from the Attorney General. I hope the legislation in respect of the ESM changes will be passed by the House before the summer recess.

In recent weeks and again this week much legislation is being rushed through the Dáil in order to meet the target set by the EU-IMF. Given the proximity of the EU-IMFs delegation's visit between 6 July and 16 July, will we have a chance to give our views about the quarterly review in the House, and in particular to discuss the issue——

Deputy Boyd Barrett's group has a Whip, Deputy Catherine Murphy.

Precisely on that point——

She would be only too pleased to discuss the matter at the Whips meeting.

When I asked the question of the Taoiseach previously he referred it to the Whips but we have had no positive response from the Government.

It is not a matter for the Order of Business.

Could you just let me finish this point, a Cheann Comhairle?

We have asked several times and the Taoiseach has indicated a willingness to provide time for a discussion on the question of the sale of State assets, but this has not yet been granted. Will this decision be made in a few weeks? Will we——

Sorry, this is not a matter for the Order of Business.

Will we get a chance to discuss it in the Dáil?

Deputy, you know there are many ways you can do this — through parliamentary questions, Private Members' time or an Adjournment debate.

There is a massive queue for those, a Cheann Comhairle.

That advice has been given for years.

No. The Deputy has a Whip and the Whip should deal with it in the normal way.

We raised it at every meeting, a Cheann Comhairle.

Well, you should raise it again. I am sorry; I am moving on.

I would say to light a candle.

The Taoiseach wants to respond.

The Taoiseach must comply with the rules of the House like everybody else. I am sorry about that.

You allowed it with others, a Cheann Comhairle.

When will the Minister for Health come to the House to make a statement on the difficulties with regard to junior hospital doctors?

Is that promised?

He should also tell us the strategy for diverting people from the hospitals that will be closed.

The Deputy is totally out of order.

There is a serious problem associated with that.

I appreciate that.

It would be incomplete——

Not on the Order of Business.

——to have a statement that did not deal with that strategy.

Is there a statement promised on this issue? No. Deputy McConalogue — where is he gone?


He is not here.

Was I imagining it? Deputy Doherty.

Maybe the Taoiseach could be helpful and direct me to the legislation that gives effect to the small rural hospitals that, as the Minister for Health has stated on RTE television, will lose accident and emergency services. I cannot see any legislation in this regard.

If the Deputy goes down to the Library the staff will help him. They have a very good service down there.

I cannot find it. The question is——

It is not up to the Taoiseach to come in here and advise the Deputy on these issues.

If the Ceann Comhairle will let me finish, I will do so. Is the Government preparing to introduce legislation to define small rural hospitals? My understanding is that the hospitals that will be closing or losing their accident and emergency services are actually quite large, urban hospitals that provide many services. Secondly——

The Deputy is out of order.

The other issue is one of promised legislation.

The Deputy should follow the example of his leader, who actually sits down when I ask him.


On promised legislation, a Cheann Comhairle——

Now you are talking.

EUROSTAT figures released today show that Irish consumer prices are 18% above the European average, with food prices 20% above average——

What legislation are we talking about?

——and restaurant and accommodation prices 29% above average. This is all happening in the context of cuts. What legislation does the Government intend to introduce to help support small businesses so they can reduce their prices, particularly in the area of food?

The Deputy is out of order again.

Legislation has been promised on upward-only rent reviews. When will that legislation come before the House?

The Deputy is going from Billy to Jack.

Will the Government give a commitment that its own Department will cease to operate upward-only rent reviews, which are already putting companies under severe pressure or out of business?

Will the Taoiseach answer the question that is in order, please?

I cannot give the Deputy a date for the legislation on upward-only rent reviews. That is a matter that is being worked on at the moment. Decisions made by clinicians in hospitals do not generally require legislation, whether the hospital is small or big.

With regard to the blather raised by Deputy Boyd Barrett last Wednesday, when he objected to the guillotining of Bills in the House, the Dáil was suspended for two hours because the Deputy's group did not have sufficient speakers on the Finance Bill.


Hear, hear.

I do not think the blather is working.

I spoke on the Bill.

This Government is operating upward-only rent reviews.

Deputy, excuse me.

Government Departments are operating upward-only rent reviews.

The Deputy must learn the rules of the House.

Departments are doing this and the Government can stop them immediately.

Learn the rules of the House, please, and do not jump to your feet without being called.

What the Taoiseach said is not true.

A Deputy

It is true.

When the Taoiseach is introducing legislation later in the year for the referendums he has planned, will he consider asking the people if they wish to have a temporary suspension of contract law for the specific purpose of reducing salaries——

That is out of order, Deputy. A parliamentary question may be tabled instead.

How is this out of order?

It is not promised legislation.

We are having difficulty reducing salaries that already exist.

Deputy, you are out of order. Please.

If we suspend contract law, which we can achieve through the referendum process, we could tackle the problem head-on.

I want to ask the Taoiseach about promised whistleblower legislation. He will be aware of the scenario that unfolded in the Rostrevor nursing home, in which nurses came forward and co-operated fully with HIQA, jeopardising their own livelihoods — in this instance, they were migrant workers.

There is no need to expand.

The legislation has been promised and is long overdue. When will it be introduced to the House to afford the kind of legal comfort and protection that workers in such circumstances deserve?

This is being dealt with by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin. I expect it will be concluded later in the year, because it covers a number of sectors.

Is there a date for the publication of the education (amendment) Bill promised for later in the year? Is there any update?

Is there a date for that?

I do not have a timetable for it, but we will keep the Deputy informed as the work is progressing.

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Rabbitte, promised in the House last week that he and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, would be introducing legislation dealing with media diversity. I am sure the Taoiseach is aware of the danger of a dominant ownership model emerging in the Irish media. When will that legislation be introduced?

Ask Deputy Ross.

I do not have a date for it. I will have the information conveyed to the Deputy as soon as I have any clarity on it.

They are getting such positive PR at the moment they do not need it.

The Minister for Health announced some time ago that he intended to abolish the HSE. In view of the fact that he is now abolishing many small country hospitals, when will he introduce legislation to abolish HIQA——

Which Fianna Fáil set up.

Deputy Martin set it up.

——the organisation he is hiding behind, along with the reduction in the non-consultant hospital doctors, in closing the small rural hospitals of Ireland? When will this legislation be introduced?

Deputy Martin set it up.

There is no such legislation.

I am not sure what tablets the Deputy took today. The Minister has no intention of abolishing small hospitals.

He is starting well. In his first 100 days he has closed one in Cork and one in Roscommon.

The Minister has already made it perfectly clear that it will take some time to restructure the leviathan that was set up to be the best provider of services in the world, the HSE. In addition, HIQA has set out its stall in investigating a number of hospitals.

When will the legislation be introduced to abolish HIQA as part of the programme for Government?

The HSE will be restructured during the lifetime of the Government, with beneficial effects for every patient in every hospital in the country.

Deputy Durkan.

The man from Del Monte.


This is for the benefit of the Opposition. It is my concession to the neo-liberal dress code.


Will you give the Deputy a chance, please?

"And even the ranks of Tuscany could scarce forbear to cheer."

The Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs in white trousers.

I wish to ask about two items of promised legislation. It would be of major help to the Opposition if we could get some information on one particular Bill from the Taoiseach, because the Opposition parties, when they were in Government, promised this legislation for five or six years——

We do not need a history class.

——and in fact threatened to introduce the legislation on numerous occasions over that period. We can bring this to a conclusion. When will the health information Bill be introduced to the House? The previous Government——

Does the Deputy have another Bill to ask about?

I have indeed. Another promised Bill is the legislation to provide for an amendment of the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act, which is in need of updating. This was promised some considerable time ago; I will not embarrass the Opposition by suggesting how many years ago.

There is no need for that.

The latter Bill is No. 35.

He is blinded by the jacket.

The health information Bill has 90 different headings.

That might be too many for Deputy Bernard Durkan.

The heads of the Bill were approved by the then Government on 16 June 2009. The Minister has examined this and expects to publish the legislation later this year.

He is a bit busy at the moment.

The legal aid Bill will be published later this year.

When is it proposed to introduce a motion to enable written parliamentary questions to be answered during the summer recess?

There would have been a long wait for that if those opposite were still in power.

That is part of the package of Dáil reform. The Chief Whip has already given details of the schedule to implement this. I hope it will be in place for this summer recess. There is a serious package of changes for the Deputy's perusal and analysis. I am sure it will be of interest to him when it is introduced in September.

I hope it is more comprehensive than the review of the committee system.

I must point out for the interests of accuracy that what we objected to last week was the principle of the guillotine on legislation.

Thank you, Deputy.

Guillotines are being increasingly used. We did point out that the Finance (No. 3) Bill was uncontroversial. It was due to the Government's inefficiency that it could not ascertain the number of speakers for the Bill and have other business rostered.

Thank you, Deputy.

The debate was allowed to collapse by the Opposition.

This is the Deputy's second time up on the Order of Business.

I did not get a chance to finish my last question.

What promised legislation does the Deputy want to ask about?

I want an answer to the question I asked about the energy miscellaneous provisions Bill.

We expect it to be published this session.

Will this be before the EU-IMF deal?

When will legislation to amalgamate Limerick City Council and Limerick County Council be introduced? Will it provide for a directly elected mayor for Limerick?

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government will be reporting on his work in this regard shortly.

He announced it earlier today in Limerick.

The Cabinet approved it this morning. The matter referred to by Deputy Dara Calleary will be included in this.

When will the legislation be introduced?

It will be introduced in due course.