It is proposed to take No. 14, Thirtieth Amendment of the Constitution (Houses of the Oireachtas Inquiries) Bill 2011 — Committee and Remaining Stages; No. a11, motion re statement for information of voters in relation to the Thirtieth Amendment of the Constitution (Houses of the Oireachtas Inquiries) Bill 2011, on the Supplementary Order Paper; and No. 4 — European Financial Stability Facility and Euro Area Loan Facility (Amendment) Bill 2011- Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and shall adjourn not later than 10 p.m.; the proceedings on the Committee and Remaining Stages of No. 14, shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after one hour 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 Public Expenditure and Reform; No. a11 shall be taken immediately upon the conclusion of No. 14 and shall be decided without debate, and the Second Stage of No. 4 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 6.30 p.m. tomorrow and the following arrangements shall apply: the opening speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, Members may share time and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes. Private Members’ business shall be No. 23, motion re the ESB and the disposal of State assets.
Order of Business
There are four proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 14 agreed to?
It is not agreed. The implications of this proposed constitutional amendment are very serious. Very serious concerns have been raised in the course of debate inside and outside this House in respect of natural justice, due process and so on. The Minister is aware of those concerns and we have put down an amendment in respect of that. I am concerned that this matter is being rushed. I understand the wish to put the question to the people on the same day as the Presidential election and the other referenda for efficiency purposes but such is the importance and implications of this measure that the House requires more time to consider this. An hour to conclude this business is grossly insufficient.
I support that view. This is an issue that should be given as much time as the Members want to deliberate. Deputy Catherine Murphy has a far-reaching and serious amendment tabled which needs to be discussed and the implications of this also need to be discussed. Therefore, it is wrong that the Government is starting the second term in the way it carried on in the first with guillotines virtually on a daily basis despite it ranting and raving against Fianna Fáil guillotines for all the years it was in opposition.
I wish to put on record that it is disappointing the degree to which the preparations for this have been so rushed given that it does relate to the amendment to the Constitution. It is not satisfactory and it flies in the face of all of the rhetoric about Dáil reform and better procedures. A good deal of time was lost before the summer recess. We have come back now on a tight time schedule. I pointed that out in May and June repeatedly. I seek clarification on when the amendments will be tabled. It is unsatisfactory that such fundamental issues are being rushed so much.
The Deputy rushed the meeting today.
The Minister for Public Expenditure wrote to all of the Opposition parties in advance of this and in setting out the position asked for their observations. This brings to a conclusion the work which was conducted by the then Chairman, for former Deputy Seán Ardagh, in respect of an all-party Oireachtas committee dealing with this very matter.
Three amendments have been tabled: one from Deputy McDonald and two from the Minister. The first one from the Minister is for a more exact translation of the word "inquiry" to change it from fiosrú to imscrúdú, which is accurate and should not cause a problem for anybody. The second amendment from the Minister deals with the amendment which is in the Deputy's own name, while it is implicit in the Government's proposal that there would be adherence to fair procedure in respect of natural justice, what the Minister's amendment does is to make that explicit, it makes it absolutely crystal clear that what is involved is adherence to fair procedure so there should be no reason for any difficulty with any of the three amendments tabled — two in the Minister's name and his second one deals with the Deputy's own amendment.
Is the proposal for dealing with No. 4 agreed to?
Can the House receive clarification from the Taoiseach because we are concerned about the guillotining of the debate on Second Stage of the Bill at 6.30 p.m?
Subsequent to this, the debate on Committee and Remaining Stages is to be guillotined at 10 p.m. That allows for approximately two hours to deal with Committee and Remaining Stages. This seems to be an incredibly short time, given the fundamental importance of the Bill. I ask the Taoiseach to outline how the Government intends to take Committee and Remaining Stages. Will it receive or bring forward amendments? The Fianna Fáil Whip's office received an indication that no amendments would be allowed. I do not know if other Whips received the same indication. It would be incredible if that were to be the case. Before we agree to this proposal, we need to know whether amendments to the European Financial Stability and Euro Area Loan Facility (Amendment) Bill 2011 are to be accepted. The Bill deals with fundamental issues across the eurozone. What signal will it send if the House agrees to guillotine the debate on the Bill after two or three hours tomorrow evening?
This is unbelievable.
Will amendments be allowed? Will the Government bring forward amendments? Will the Opposition be allowed to bring forward amendments?
It is my understanding that only the debate on Second Stage will be guillotined.
The debate on Committee and Remaining Stages is to be guillotined at 10 p.m. tomorrow.
Yes, that is ordered for tomorrow.
The other Stages are important.
There are only three sections in the Bill. The House is to sit late tonight and again tomorrow. It is very important that this legislation be dealt with and that the decision made by the Houses. The Government has agreed with other Governments to give approval in so far as the decision of 21 July is concerned. It is very straightforward.
Will amendments be allowed?
I think there is a misunderstanding. Am I correct in saying Second Stage shall conclude at 6.30 p.m. tomorrow?
Correct. The Dáil is to sit late tonight.
We are not talking about Committee Stage.
To be fair to all concerned, it is important to be clear.
Right across Europe people are waiting for these amendments to be made.
Does Deputy Martin not have Deputy Ó Cuív to advise him?
Do not mind Deputy Buttimer.
I accept that, a Cheann Comhairle. I will not mind him.
Is it any wonder we are in the mess we are in?
I ask that the Whips meet to discuss the matter.
Second Stage will be taken tomorrow. Will the Taoiseach confirm that only Second Stage will be taken tomorrow?
This proposal is only in respect of Second Stage. All 27 member states must agree to this and it is important that we move on.
Yes, right across Europe they are waiting for the Fianna Fáil amendments.
When he was on this side of the House, the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, was the most vociferous about guillotining debates on Bills and foreshortening debate.
I hear Labhrás is moving them in the Seanad.
I am trying to be constructive. Will the Opposition be allowed to table amendments and does the Government intend to bring forward amendments?
I thank Deputies for their co-operation.
Government Deputies are becoming very arrogant.
We need clarification on this matter. The debate on Second Stage is to be guillotined, which is unacceptable. May we have clarification with regard to Committee, Report and Final Stages which have been timetabled for tomorrow at 9 p.m? Is the debate on these Stages to be guillotined and will Opposition amendments be accepted? Earlier today it was suggested to me we could not submit amendments because the EU-IMF would not tolerate the House making amendments and that we simply had to accept the whole lot.
These questions are from the honours paper. This is the pass paper.
We need clarification about the process to be followed.
It is my understanding Second Stage will conclude tomorrow at 6.30 p.m. On tomorrow's Order of Business it will be in order for Deputies to raise issues relating to Committee and Remaining Stages. I will put the question.
Last June the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, announced that the Government had a plan which he would bring before the House to impose substantial losses on senior bondholders in Anglo Irish Bank and the Irish Nationwide Building Society. He added that he did not think the taxpayer should have to redeem what had become speculative investment. Will the Taoiseach confirm whether that plan is to be brought before the House or has it been abandoned because European authorities are dead set against it, as the Minister for Finance said on Friday? Will the plan be brought before the House?
Where did the Minister for Finance indicate his intention with regard to this plan?
In a statement on 15 June.
What did he say?
He announced that the Government had a plan to impose substantial losses. Is the Taoiseach saying the Minister did not announce that plan?
No, I am just asking——
He announced that he had a plan to impose substantial losses on senior bondholders in Anglo Irish Bank and the Irish Nationwide Building Society. He said at the time, "We do not think the Irish taxpayer should have to redeem what has become speculative investment." I hope the Taoiseach is not about to rewrite this.
We are not dealing with that issue now.
Is legislation required?
I have dealt with this matter. What the Deputy quoted does not refer to a plan. Obviously, the Minister had discussions last week with his colleagues in Europe and Jean-Claude Trichet. He said he would reflect on the outcome of those discussions.
The Minister said he had a plan.
Jean-Claude Trichet is only a civil servant.
The savings brought about by the interest rate reductions are very significant for the people.
He was making a big man of himself in Washington, promising to do the devil and all and cut the bondholders off at the ankles. That is what we want an explanation for. What changed?
I will give Deputies in the back row an opportunity to speak.
The Comptroller and Auditor General's 2010 report on the public service requires that time be set aside for a debate in the House. Clearly, the contents are serious. The report outlines the effects of the vicious austerity policy pursued by Fianna Fáil and the consequent unemployment, fall in tax revenue and so on. I am sure the Taoiseach is aware of its contents. I ask that time be set aside for a debate on it. It raises matters of concern to public policy issues.
Has a debate been promised?
Since 1923, these matters have been referred to the Committee of Public Accounts which goes through the report on each occasion, line by line and word for word. That is where it will be debated.
The difficulty is that the Committee of Public Accounts is one year behind. Tomorrow it will examine the accounts for 2009. This is more current and requires debate.
The Deputy should ask her Whip to make arrangements for such a debate.
Deputy McGuinness will rectify the matter.
Deputy McGuinness is into efficiency and everything else.
Does the Taoiseach agree that there will be no legislation with regard to what the Minister for Finance promised in Washington, that he would cut the speculators off at the legs on behalf of the people?
There is no need to expand. Has legislation been promised?
No legislation has been promised.
Late night television is very violent.
The Minister for Finance was like a schoolboy smoking behind the shed and talking big against the teacher in Washington. When he got to Frankfurt, it was a different tune.
Does the Deputy have another question.
Will the Taoiseach indicate precisely when the Local Government Charges Bill will be published?
It will be published this session.
That is all the Deputy gets now.
I know it will be published this session. I am asking for the date on which it will be published.
I cannot give the date or the exact time, but I can confirm that it is being drafted and will be published during this session.
The legislative programme indicates that the housing Bill is expected in early 2012. Why is it being taken in 2012, when new housing policy guidelines are already being implemented——
We cannot have a debate on it.
I am asking about the timing of it.
We will find out for the Deputy.
I have to ask the question in order to——
No, you just have to ask when it is being published.
I am asking a question about the reasoning for the timing.
The Deputy cannot do that on the Order of Business.
Is that not what the Order of Business is about?
No, it is not about that at all. When is the Bill due?
The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government has effectively thrown 20,000 to 30,000 thousand people off council housing lists.
If the Deputy tables a question on that, we will get him an answer.
This has been implemented by local authorities throughout the country——
Please resume your seat, thank you.
——and we have not had a chance to debate that. This is a move that will essentially be another bailout for developers and speculators who caused the economic crisis.
Do not mind the speculators for the moment. Has the Taoiseach a time for the legislation?
Much of the legislation in this session is on a timeline owing to requirements of the memorandum of understanding with the troika. Some of these Bills are very comprehensive and quite complex. I did not want the usual situation where a long list of legislation would be put forward which in reality would not be published. If there are elements of this that are of concern to Deputies, there are other ways of raising it. The timescale for what we have to do between now and Christmas is very challenging. I have said to Ministers that Bills on the A list are those we must get through either owing to the memorandum of understanding or because they are crucial Bills that will be published and can be dealt with. We cannot deal with the entire list. That is why the housing Bill is listed for 2012.
Why are we imposing the policy before we have the chance to debate the legislation? It has very far-reaching consequences, even in terms of the public finances.
Will the Taoiseach confirm, in line with earlier commitments by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, that the comprehensive spending review will be published in early October?
The Minister will report when he has concluded his deliberations on the comprehensive expenditure review. The Minister for Finance will be in contact with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform about his proposals to publish his fiscal programme for the next number of years.
The Minister for Justice and Equality has said that the legal services Bill will be published in this session. Can the Taoiseach give a more specific date? Will the Bill include the establishment of a judicial council, or is there a separate Bill for that?
That is out of order. When is the Bill being published?
The matter of a judicial council is for a separate Bill. I can confirm that the legal services Bill is at a very advanced stage.
The treaty to establish the European stability mechanism was agreed in July, and two Bills will be put through this House in the autumn to ratify that. The Taoiseach knows the concerns that exist about the mechanism and the potential impact in terms of the further erosion of our economic sovereignty. In the next few days, 25 Members of the Oireachtas will publish a letter in the national media, calling for a referendum.
Does the Deputy have a question?
If the Government does not agree to hold a referendum, will it publish the Attorney General's advice as to why this very important issue is not being put to the people, which is their constitutional right.
Is legislation necessary?
Will the Taoiseach publish the Attorney General's advice?
The Deputy cannot debate that on the Order of Business. It is not in order.
Can I ask the Taoiseach about the Government's plans to introduce a new 2% levy on insurance policies? The Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2011 passed through the Seanad last week. When will it be brought before this House?
That will be in the House next week.
It is proposed in the local government Bill to allow the appointment of a single manager to two counties. Will the Government publish a list of the counties to be amalgamated and will this be in train for the next local elections? Will we have combined local authorities, similar to the VECs?
That is a matter for a parliamentary question.
When will the noise nuisance Bill be published? I realise that there is not an actual date on it, but I urge the Taoiseach to bring it forward as soon as possible owing to the problems some people are facing with neighbours.
It is an important Bill, but noise and nuisance are part and parcel of public life.
Maybe we need some more in this Chamber.
I do not have a date for its publication. It is proceeding slowly.
Given that HIQA has announced that it is unable to inspect hospitals for cleanliness and hygiene owing to the embargo on public service recruitment and the lack of resources, when will the Bill be published to establish a patient safety authority and amalgamate it with HIQA? This is quite urgent, given that HIQA is quite incapable of guaranteeing patient safety owing to the fact that it cannot investigate hygiene standards at hospitals.
I will get the Minister for Health to respond directly to the Deputy's question. I do not have the answer to his question right now. I understand that the Department of Health is in the process of responding to a query on the issue.
This is very urgent.
I agree. He will respond as soon as possible.
When can we expect the Government's legislation on mandatory reporting coming before the House? Will the Taoiseach request that there be a resource assessment on the implications of the legislation and how the Government will deal with it?
That is on the A list and is a priority for the Government. Work is proceeding on it and it will be published in this session.
In view of the likelihood of public servants being redeployed to assist with excessive workloads in areas such as the Department of Social Protection, would it be possible to bring forward No. 118 of the proposed legislative programme, namely, the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004 (amendment) Bill? The purpose of this, according to the programme, is "To remove barriers to mobility and redeployment from statutory recruitment and appointment procedures for posts in the Civil and Public Service and to address other issues that arise on changing employer". To what extent is this Bill being discussed in the Cabinet? Is it likely to be a prerequisite to other changes that may take place? I am aware that quite a number of civil and public servants require redeployment and they are anxious that the legislation be passed?
When is this legislation due?
That Bill will not be published in this session, but it will be published in 2012.
Can I ask the Taoiseach if the Minister for Defence will be making a statement to the House on the future of a number of Army barracks throughout the country? I understand there is an imminent proposal to close some barracks. When will the Minister make a statement to this House?
The Deputy cannot ask for statements. I suggest he table a parliamentary question.
It is causing great uncertainty.
If the Deputy tables a parliamentary question, I will see to it that it is answered. Last but not least, I call on Deputy Ellis.
Are there any plans to bring in legislation on so-called leafleting? People are going around leafleting in the early hours of the morning. Different companies are doing it.
I will ask the Taoiseach if it is on the A list.
I will have to tell Labhrás to call back his forces.