It is proposed to take No.a1, Twenty-Ninth Amendment of the Constitution (Judges’ Remuneration) Bill 2011 — amendments from the Seanad; No. b11, motion re Statement for Information of Voters in relation to the Twenty-Ninth Amendment of the Constitution (Judges’ Remuneration) Bill 2011; and No. 5, National Tourism Development Authority (Amendment) Bill 2011 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders that the proceedings on No. a1 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after one hour and any amendments from the Seanad not disposed of shall be decided by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in respect of amendments to the Seanad amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Justice and Equality; and that No. b11 shall be taken immediately upon the conclusion of No. a1 and shall be decided without debate.
Order of Business
There are two proposals to be put to the House.
Normally we have reservations about guillotines but in this case we believe it is reasonable and take the view we would waste more time debating or voting on this issue than we would by simply getting on with the job today.
Is the proposal for dealing with No.a1 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. b11, without debate, agreed? Agreed. Does Deputy Ó Cuív wish to raise something on the Order of Business?
I will need the Ceann Comhairle's guidance on whether this is promised legislation because I cannot find it on the list of promised legislation. One of the greatest crises facing the country at the moment is the issue of people in mortgage arrears and assistance for them. There were proposals in the Cooney report to amend the Social Welfare Acts and to change the rules on mortgage interest supplement. I cannot find any reference to that in any proposed legislation. Will the Minister confirm whether there is proposed legislation and when it will be taken? This is a matter of great urgency. It was ready to be done and should have been done in the spring. Amendments should have been made to that scheme to make it easier for people to access help when they need it.
Is there promised legislation?
As the Deputy will know, the area of mortgage arrears has been a major focus of Government in recent months.
The Government is not doing anything about it.
An expert group is due to report to Government within the next two weeks.
The Deputy knows about the expert group. We have discussed it. It will discover a number of potential tranches of legislation, including the matter to which the Deputy has referred but also issues such as personal insolvency and so on. I imagine that within the next two weeks we will be in a position to have a clearer view of the range of activities required to address the real issue of debt insolvency. There will be no one single measure.
Many simple steps could have been taken immediately which were outside the Cooney report but which would have made a great difference to the people dependent on mortgage interest supplement.
We cannot debate the issue now.
They include the so-called 30 hour rules and other rules. I am appalled that something that could have been done in the spring is now being put back for another fortnight for further consideration.
The Deputy is completely abusing the Order of Business.
Will we see the necessary amendments before Christmas on foot of the report the Government will receive in a fortnight's time?
On several occasions I have endeavoured to draw the Cabinet's attention to the deteriorating situation on promised legislation from the Department of Health and the Minister for Health. I wish to highlight this deteriorating situation. The health information Bill was committed to in the last term for publication in late 2011. Now it is indicated that publication is expected in mid 2012. Publication was expected for the health (miscellaneous provisions) Bill in 2011 but now it is expected in 2012. Publication was expected for the health (pricing and supply of medicines) Bill in 2011 before the summer recess but now publication is expected in 2012. Publication was expected for the public health (sunbeds) Bill in 2011 and now it is expected in 2012. Most worrying is the mental health (amendment) Bill. Publication was expected in 2011. Not only is it not now promised for 2012, the Government has stated that it is not now possible to indicate when it will be published. I have raised this matter repeatedly in recent weeks. Will the Minister please take on board these concerns? This is a serious and deteriorating situation that merits address by the Minister for Health and his Department. Will the Minister, Deputy Howlin, so intervene?
The Deputy will be aware that this is a productive Government producing a raft of new legislation. Much of it is prioritised because of commitments that are binding within the EU-IMF deal. In truth, some of the urgent legislation — some of which falls within my area of operation — is dislodging other legislation because the physical capacity of the Parliamentary Counsel to do all that must be done is strained. There will be two tranches of health legislation in this session, however: the health (provision of general practitioners services) Bill and the health insurance (miscellaneous provisions) Bill. Both of these will be progressed in this session.
Will the Minister indicate if any legislation is proposed regarding a situation that is beginning to arise throughout the country, that is to say, liquidation sales taking place every Saturday and Sunday? This weekend alone three will take place in Galway.
I know of one company, in particular, which is having its eighth liquidation sale this weekend. I have contacted Revenue which has told me the companies are not paying tax or PRSI, and the local authority which has told me they are not paying rates. I have met the representatives of the furniture industry who have told me there will be a mass closure of companies unless this stops.
We cannot debate the issue now.
Will the Government bring forward legislation or some proposals to close this loophole which will cost us a lot of jobs?
There is no new legislation promised to deal with the matter raised by the Deputy. If there are breaches of taxation law, that is a matter for Revenue. If there are breaches of planning regulations, there is robust legislation in place.
They have told me it takes six to eight months to get them into court.
If there is a planning issue, the Deputy might pursue the matter with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, or the Minister for Finance on a Revenue matter.
We have done that.
I suggest the Deputy table a parliamentary question or put down an item for discussion in the topical issues debate.
I will do so.
When is a publication date expected for the legal services Bill and is there agreement at Cabinet level on the contents of the Bill? I notice in today's Questions Paper that a Deputy has tabled a question to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, about the awarding of a lottery licence in his constituency. The Deputy concerned was elected on a political reform ticket, but obviously that issue has been left behind. Is Deputy Howlin the Minister in charge of the national lottery?
Again, the legal services Bill is the subject of a commitment in the EU-IMF deal. We are committed to having the legislation published in this session. I know the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, has worked very hard on this voluminous legislation which is being crafted and should be brought before the House in this session.
As far as ministerial oversight is concerned, while the national lottery is within the remit of my Department, the allocation of individual lotto terminals has nothing to do with the Minister.
Hard luck, Peter.
I am disappointed by the Minister's answer as I thought every village in Ireland might have a lotto machine.
With regard to the housing Bill and the residential tenancies (amendment) Bill, I have previously raised the issue of homeless persons, particularly young homeless persons. The legislation was to be brought before the House early next year, but there is now no date for the publication of the housing Bill. I hope this urgent issue can be dealt with quickly by the Government.
They are both very important Bills dealing wtih complicated issues. They are expected to be brought before the House next year.
On the Government's plans to set up the NewERA authority and create the promised 100,000 jobs, is it still the intention that it will be set up as a statutory body by primary legislation? According to some media reports, it may be a non-statutory body under the NTMA. Has a Government decision been made and is legislation pending?
As the Deputy knows, there is a commitment in the programme for Government to establish a holding company called NewERA to get the best value from State assets. There is a parallel commitment to establish a strategic investment fund to ensure we can use some of the proceeds from the sale of State assets to invest in a new generation of jobs. Both matters are being progressed. The NTMA has been asked, given its expertise, to examine, for example, the value that might be placed on some State assets in order to facilitate future decision making if the Government was to determine there should be further use of State assets. There will be a holding company, probably under the auspices of the NTMA, which will be called NewERA. No decisions on its statutory structure have yet been taken by the Government.