It is proposed to take No. 16, Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2011 [Seanad] — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 3, Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme) and Remuneration Bill 2011 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 4, Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. Private Members’ business shall be No. 21, Debt Settlement and Mortgage Resolution Office Bill 2011 — Second Stage (resumed), to conclude at 9 p.m. today if not previously concluded.
Order of Business
There are no matters to be put to the Dáil. Has Deputy Martin a matter which is in order on the Order of Business?
I do. With regard to the announcement the Taoiseach made yesterday on the Order of Business, as with most things announced by the Government, his claim of radically opening up the budget process falls apart under even the most basic examination. The Taoiseach said the budget and the White Paper will be published exactly as before, and the departmental spending Estimates will be published almost exactly as they were last year, including the provision of four-year plans.
One major question arises from the business of the Dáil, namely, how the overall taxation and spending limits will be set. The Taoiseach said yesterday these will be agreed on Tuesday but withheld until after the Dublin West and presidential votes. The Taoiseach spent last month denying that anything would be withheld. Will he explain why this is happening? Can he also explain the absurdity of the fact——
We do not explain on the Order of Business; we ask questions.
I am asking why we are expected to debate and vote on exact spending limits in a few weeks time but we will not be allowed to see the result of the spending review until 1 December.
The Deputy did not hear me.
It is plainly ridiculous. If the comprehensive spending review has any substance——
Sorry, Deputy. Did you hear me?
——we are entitled to see it before we vote on how much spending there should be.
I ask the Deputy to respect the Chair. He knows the Order of Business. It is not a matter for speech making.
The Taoiseach spoke at great length on this yesterday on the Order of Business.
He was replying to a question. I cannot control the length of his replies.
You can. You are in the Chair.
I thought Deputy Martin would welcome this series of opportunities for everyone here, including the Opposition Members, to have their say. I cannot recall saying we were going to publish this on Tuesday. The original intention was that the first announcement would be published at the end of October. As the Deputy is aware, we have to wait for the figures to come in.
It was to be Tuesday.
We have to wait for the votes to be counted.
We have to wait for Dublin West.
I did say it could overrun into the first few days of November for that reason. The Estimates will be published on 1 November and they will go straight to committee before the budget so people can have their chance to debate this.
What about a copy of the spending review?
It never happened in the Deputy's 14 years in government — not beforehand. He will have more information than he will be able to deal with.
We will not.
We had this for years — big budget day and no information. It is all about availability now.
Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur faoi reachtaíocht atá geallta ag an Rialtas. I want to raise a question on promised legislation. Ar dtús, caithfidh mé a rá go bhfuil mé an-sásta a chloistáil, a Cheann Comhairle, go mbeidh tú ag cur béasa ar Theachtaí. The Government has committed to introduce legislation to address all aspects of domestic violence and threatened violence to provide protection for the victims, yet this has now been replaced with a review. When will this legislation be introduced? Does one imply from the fact it has now been reduced to a review that the 38% increase in the number of women and children unable to access refuges last year is not an urgent matter?
I appreciate the importance of the issue Deputy Adams raises. The Minister for Justice and Equality wrote to Deputy McDonald of Deputy Adams' party on 4 October. She had raised on 28 September on the Order of Business a question concerning the Government's intentions on domestic violence legislation. The Minister pointed out in the letter that the commitment in the programme for Government is to introduce consolidated and reformed domestic violence legislation to address all aspects of that, including domestic violence, threatened violence and intimidation, in a way that provides protection to victims.
The Minister made the point that in the meantime the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 has widened the protections that are provided for in the Domestic Violence Act 1996 as follows. First, there is no longer a minimum required period of cohabitation before one of a cohabiting couple may apply for a safety order, whereas previously the applicant was required to have resided with the respondent for at least six of the previous 12 months. Second, same-sex couples now have the same access to the protections of the Domestic Violence Act as opposite-sex couples. The relevant provision previously referred only to couples living together as husband and wife. Third, the scope of section 2, which specifies who may apply for a safety order, has been broadened to enable a person to obtain a safety order against a person with whom they have a child in common. These are the three issues referred to by the Minister for Justice and Equality in the letter to Deputy McDonald on 4 October in respect of the legislation on domestic violence.
My question was when the promised legislation will be brought forward. The Minister, Deputy Shatter, also said he had to re-examine the legislation because of the EU-IMF priority. Is the Government giving greater priority to the EU-IMF diktat than to the plight of, in the main, women and children?
We answered questions yesterday in the House about the pressure on the Parliamentary Counsel and the drafting situation. Some 30 Bills are listed for production in this session, some very complex and lengthy, including the legal services Bill of more than 300 pages. That legislation will not be produced in this session but that does not mean the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Government are not focusing on the importance of the issue the Deputy raises.
I welcome any informed debate on the budgetary process but not the manipulation of that to hide from the people before the Dublin West by-election and the presidential election the real truth of the savage cuts the Taoiseach is promising. He promised, and the Minister for Finance promised earlier, that this would be published in October. I ask the Taoiseach to publish now and to bring forward the date from that which he indicated yesterday.
By the way, it would perhaps do us all a favour in getting the media to pass on the real concerns and issues facing our people and away from this tiresome parade of personalities and vision makers that passes for a presidential campaign, which fills newspapers endlessly.
We will if the Deputy will shorten his speech.
In regard to specific promised legislation, what is the publication date of the local government (charges) Bill to impose an annual household charge?
On the latter question, that will be in this session. On the first point, there is no manipulation of the budget going on here. The condition signed on for with the memorandum of understanding is for a debt reduction to 8.6%. The details of how this will actually be achieved have not been worked out yet and cannot be worked out until the figures in respect of the self-employed, corporates and growth projections are clear.
Yesterday, the Minister for Health confirmed to a number of us that he is to privatise the management of a number of hospitals in the west and mid-west. Obviously, this raises some very serious issues. Is it the beginning of a path towards the privatisation of the health services generally? When will the appropriate legislation be brought before the House to confirm the process which is under way to privatise the management of these hospitals?
Is there promised legislation?
No legislation is promised.
On the same issue, I must have missed the passage of the privatisation of public hospitals——
No, you did not miss anything that relates to the Order of Business.
——because I have not seen it before the House. The Taoiseach will recall that in the previous Dáil there was very strong opposition from all parties to the privatisation——
——and co-location proposals of the former Minister and Government, yet——
Will the Deputy please respect the Chair and resume his seat? This is totally out of order as there is no promised legislation.
It is absolutely out of order. We are privatising public hospitals' management——
No legislation is necessary.
——and there is no explanation, let alone justification for what is happening.
The Deputy has had his say. I call Deputy Durkan.
I raised an issue on which I seek a response from the Taoiseach.
I might have one word in response to the Deputy's question. No legislation is required as temporary contracts are issued that are approved by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. For many years, the position has been that there have been trolleys in hospitals. However, in Tallaght Hospital, for instance, the other day there were no trolleys in evidence for the first time in many years. Moreover, the cost base actually is moving down.
They were sent elsewhere.
The Minister has——
It was proper management.
——taken short-term contracts.
Is this a Labour Party initiative?
There has been proper management to look at the cost structure of hospitals and it already is paying dividends.
The privatisation of hospitals.
Clearly, the Taoiseach is confirming that privatisation works.
Has the Deputy no regard for patients?
Is it the case that next week——
I call Deputy Durkan.
——nurses will be provided through agencies——
The Deputy should resume his seat.
——and that all nursing care will be privatised?
Does Deputy Dooley hear me?
Moreover, the word "temporary" is absolute nonsense.
Can the Taoiseach confirm this?
Once it is in, the Government will hold with it.
I call Deputy Durkan.
What of the problem in the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick?
Deputy Dooley does not want any change. He does not want reform.
I ask the Minister to desist. I call Deputy Durkan.
Does the Minister confirm there is agreement with the Labour Party that the delivery of health care is to be privatised?
Rubbish. Moreover, the Deputy knows it is rubbish.
Privatisation by the Labour Party.
Deputy Durkan should proceed. Deputy Dooley should resume his seat.
In that case, the Minister should explain what is happening. The Government is doing it through the back door.
There is no——
Deputy Dooley, I will not call you again.
This is privatisation by stealth.
A Cheann Comhairle, this is outside the scope of the Croke Park agreement.
The Deputy is not interested in——
On promised legislation——
This is an attack on the Croke Park agreement.
——change or reform.
What of University Hospital Galway? On how many other hospital sites will this happen?
I ask the Minister not to answer the aggro. I call Deputy Durkan.
The Minister should explain that to his backbenchers.
What a shame on the Labour Party to be absolutely complicit in this.
That is new Labour. The Labour Party is gone.
On promised legislation, what is the current status of the proposed national vetting bureau legislation? What progress is expected and can Members expect its implementation within a reasonable timescale?
Thank you. That is grand.
Another accurate question from Deputy Durkan.
A good deflection from Deputy Durkan.
I can tell him it is being worked on as a matter of priority and will be introduced this session.
The Deputy has been active since the change of Government.
Does the Deputy never attend his parliamentary party meetings?
As the Taoiseach is aware, when it comes to helping vulnerable people to interact with our judicial system, we still operate under draconian legislation dating from 1798, namely, the Lunacy Act, with its insulting terminology. The programme for Government and the legislative programme contain a commitment to the publication of capacity legislation. Can the Taoiseach confirm to the House when he expects the publication of that Bill?
Is legislation promised?
I believe Deputy Harris is referring to the proposed mental capacity Bill, which will be published early next year.
As the Taoiseach is aware, the national review panel for investigation into serious incidents and child deaths produced its report yesterday. It highlighted some very serious inadequacies in our social care system. I believe the report merits the allocation of time in the Dáil to discuss it.
Yes. That is grand.
I ask the Taoiseach to set aside time in the Dáil in the near future to debate this serious matter. In addition, yesterday——
Thank you, Deputy. The first thing he should do is ask his Whip to raise the matter.
The Government orders time.
The Taoiseach is not here to——
I also have an addendum in respect of the Order of Business yesterday, when the Taoiseach indicated that the national review panel was set up in response to the publication at a press conference held last year by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, of the details of a named person and regarding the investigation into how that person's death came about. The Taoiseach should correct the record of the House because the review panel publication yesterday makes clear the six cases involved were dealt with anonymously and in an appropriate manner.
Sorry Deputy, this is not on the Order of Business.
No, but I seek a correction of the debate on the Order of Business yesterday.
The Taoiseach indicated the review panel was set up in response to the reckless action of the Minister, Deputy Shatter——
Thank you, Deputy. Please resume your seat.
——which must be corrected because what was set up was a thorough establishment of——
Sorry Deputy, not on the Order of Business.
I refer to a thorough establishment of the position by the HSE and the Taoiseach needs to correct the record of the Dáil on that matter.
The Deputy might try to table a parliamentary question.
The Deputy seeks a correction of the Dáil record.
I agree with the ruling of the Ceann Comhairle in this regard and if the Deputy raises this issue with his Whips, who are responsible, I see no reason Members cannot have a debate on this matter at an appropriate time. Before Deputy McConalogue entered this House, Deputy Shatter persistently pursued the issue of the death of children in care. While the criteria set out are very broad, it was following the unfortunate and tragic death of Tracey Fay, which Deputy Shatter raised in this Chamber numerous times, that this review came about.
I refer to forthcoming legislation, namely, the temporary partial credit guarantee Bill. The Taoiseach is aware that small and medium enterprises continue to struggle to access credit and this is an ongoing problem. On a day like today when job losses are making headlines, it is important to maintain one's focus and I seek an update from the Taoiseach in this regard.
It was to have been brought in last September.
I assure Deputy Daly that this is a matter of priority for Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. I expect that legislation to be published in this session.
Does Fine Gael not hold parliamentary party meetings any more? As it got the room, it may as well make use of it.
It is a matter of a tender process for the structure of a partial loan guarantee scheme that is so important for the Government.
Fine Gael is making no use of the parliamentary party room. Would the Chief Whip not provide this information to the lads at parliamentary party meetings?
The Deputy should speak up. I cannot hear him.
I will talk to the Chief Whip afterwards when it will be easier to get to him.
Sorry, we do not have chats across the floor here. Thanks a million. Speak through the Chair please.
I call Deputy O'Dea.
We discuss what to do for the country after Fianna Fáil's time in office.
God help us.
I wish to raise two legislative items. First, the Government has stated the personal insolvency Bill is central to solving the problems of distressed mortgage payers. When exactly will it be published, as their situation is worsening on a daily basis? Second, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation yesterday announced a major overhaul of competition and consumer law. When will Members have sight of the Bill to provide for this change, namely the consumer and competition Bill, in order that the Minister will have an opportunity to announce this again?
I expect the personal insolvency Bill to come before the Government next week. The consumer regulation Bill to which the Minister referred yesterday is due early next year.
Did the Taoiseach mention a date for the publication of the local government (charges) Bill and when will it be taken in the House?
I did not mention a date but it will be published and taken this session.
There is no date.
After the election.