Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 15a, Access to Central Treasury Funds (Commission for Energy Regulation) Bill 2011 [Seanad] — Committee and Remaining Stages; No. 16, statements on the 2010 annual report of the national review panel on serious incidents including deaths of children in care, to adjourn at 2.30 p.m. if not previously concluded; and No. 17, Health (Provision of General Practitioner Services) Bill 2011 [Seanad] — Second Stage (resumed).

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the following arrangements shall apply with regard to No. 16: the statements of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fail, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, the statement of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, Members may share time and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes.

It is also proposed in respect of the Twenty-Ninth Amendment of the Constitution (No. 2) Bill 2011, the Second Stage of which shall be considered tomorrow, that the following arrangements shall apply: the opening speeches of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group and of a Minister or Minister of State, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, the speeches of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, Members may share time, a Minister or Minister of State, who may speak twice, shall be called upon not later than 1 p.m. to make a speech which shall not exceed 15 minutes, and the main spokesperson for Fianna Fáil shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed 15 minutes.

There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 16, statements on the 2010 annual report of the national review panel on serious incidents including deaths of children in care, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with the Twenty-Ninth Amendment of the Constitution (No. 2) Bill 2011 tomorrow agreed to? Agreed. I call Deputy Ó Cuív on the Order of Business.

I note that the comprehensive spending review will be announced outside the House today. The capital spending review was also announced outside the House. Can the Tánaiste confirm that the budget will be announced in the House? Does the Government intend to announce it at a press conference in the media centre?

You built the media centre.

Is that not what you built it for?

I can confirm that the budget will be announced in the House. I can also confirm that the Government is announcing details of budgetary and expenditure matters and matters relating to public service reform in a way that was not previously done.

It will do it every Sunday between now and budget day.

The Tánaiste had better tell his Ministers in advance.

That was not done by the previous Government because it did not address those issues in time.

We did, and the Labour Party voted with us on every occasion.

That is why we are in the fix we are in now.

We will tell the people the truth.

Deputy Ó Cuív has a point. Today's announcement on public sector reform should be more properly made here in the Dáil.

The Dáil is irrelevant.

I want to ask the Tánaiste about the Taoiseach's meeting in Berlin yesterday. It seems that the honeymoon with Angela is well and truly over.

It was a fleeting affair.

It only lasted for one dance.

Given that the euro is in serious jeopardy and in light of the austerity measures that are being cooked up in advance of the budget and delivered in salami slices——

This is the Order of Business, rather than Question Time

Can time be allocated for the Taoiseach to report to the House on histête-à-tête?

He will not need much time.

Will he give us some sense of where matters stand and of whether there is a plan B, or even a plan A, for this State in respect of the survival of the euro?

I had prepared quite an extensive reply in anticipation that somebody on that side of the House might have thought that yesterday's meeting was important enough to raise on Leaders' Questions.

I would like to offer a piece of advice to the Opposition parties and leaders.

The Tánaiste was very successful in opposition.

If Deputies could stop shouting, I would appreciate it.

Part of my success was an ability to ask the questions that were the important questions of the day. How all three managed to get through Leaders' Questions today without asking a question——

(Interruptions).

I have the reply here. I am sure the Taoiseach would be quite happy to give a response to Deputy McDonald if she manages to table a parliamentary question by the time the Dáil convenes next week.

It would be more important to hear——

We are not having a debate.

——from the Taoiseach who was actually at the meeting rather than this second-hand version.

I call Deputy Healy-Rae.

(Interruptions).

Could we have silence for Deputy Healy-Rae?

A bit of respect from the Chief Whip would be appreciated.

Thank you very much.

Will the Government bring forward emergency legislation to force the remaining banks to pass on the interest rate reductions to people who are struggling on a daily basis to put food on their tables, pay their bills and honour their commitments to the lending institutions as not to do so is criminal?

My second question is——

The first one is out of order. I hope the second one is in order.

Previously, good samaritan legislation was brought forward to protect people who carried out work in public areas in the interest of safety — for example, clearing footpaths during bad weather. Is there further proposed legislation to protect community and voluntary groups who carry out good samaritan acts, in particular as we possibly face a harsh winter?

Is there promised legislation?

I understand that was a Private Members' Bill and it is not on the Government list.

I congratulate the Irish soccer team and management on qualifying for the European championships. I am sure it will be——

I saw the Deputy was there.

It will be a great break for the people who are suffering from the austerity measures. Given that there will probably be a six week recess at some stage next summer, would the Tánaiste consider arranging two weeks of it to coincide with the first two weeks of the soccer?

(Interruptions).

There is no legislation needed for this.

I join Deputy Wallace in congratulating the Irish soccer team on qualifying for the European championships. It is great for the morale of the country. It shows how much times have changed around here. There used to be a time when Opposition Deputies complained about the length of the summer recess. This is certainly a first in that we have got a request not only to extend it——

Not extend it; reorganise it.

——but to have it in June. Unwittingly, Deputy Wallace might have stumbled on an issue which will find considerable support on the Government side. The Government will make a considerable effort to keep its nose to the grindstone and deal with the issues of the people. We will have to watch the games on the television.

I asked for the time to be reorganised.

Deputy Wallace had his run.

More than 60,000 people work in the community and voluntary sector and they do great work in their local communities. However, they have a problem. Last week I met representatives of the Meath community forum and they told me that the cost of doing audits every year is eating into their limited funds. I understand the companies Bill will be brought forward and that there will be provisions in it to deal with the issue of audit requirements. When does the Tánaiste expect to see the Bill in the House and will it include issues in regard to audit requirements for voluntary companies?

The companies Bill is a major piece of legislation and of consolidation work. I think there are approximately 1,200 heads for that Bill. The expectation is that it will be brought forward around the middle of next year. I agree with Deputy Hannigan about the excellent work being done by the 60,000 people who work in the community and voluntary sector. I will ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to look at that issue.

Yesterday a press release slipped out of the Department of Finance extending the eligible liabilities guarantee scheme which, to most people and Members, is the bank guarantee scheme. Will there be an opportunity for the Labour Party Deputies, in particular, to discuss this measure over the coming weeks as it was a very significant announcement by the Government but which was made by way of press release? Could we have a debate over the coming weeks to discuss the bank guarantee scheme——

It is a matter for the Whips.

——which the Labour Party vehemently opposed only eight months ago?

It is a matter for the Whips.

I do not have any difficulty having the issue debated in the House and reminding the Deputy that the guarantee, which was a bad decision at the time, was introduced by his Government and that we are stuck with it.

(Interruptions).

Currently, 200,000 people in this State are working for wages of approximately €18,000 per annum and have been doing so for the past six months without a legislative floor to prevent downward pressure on their wages and the rates. We have been promised replacement legislation for the joint labour committees for the past number of months. Given that the passage of my legislation through the committee process has slowed on the promise of this new legislation, will the Tánaiste tell us when it will be published?

The Government is very conscious of the extent to which 200,000 employees in the State are legally exposed as a result of the decision of the High Court to strike down the system of joint labour committees and the employment regulation orders that previously governed their wages. That is why the Government has decided to bring in legislation to provide the legal protection those workers need. That legislation is being prepared as a matter of priority and it is hoped it will be published this session.

What is the extent of progress on the preparation of the European Communities (amendment) Bill to amend the 1972 European Communities Act, the education and training boards Bill and the planning and development (foreshore) Bill, all of which are of general importance and will have a considerable impact?

The European Communities (amendment) Bill is being prepared in my Department and I hope to have it brought forward before the end of this year. I understand the Minister for Education and Skills intends to have the heads of the education and training boards Bill discussed at the Joint Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education prior to its publication. The planning and development (foreshore) Bill will be brought forward next year.

We are all aware that the social welfare safety net in this country is under huge strain at the moment. One of the holes in the net is an idiosyncracy whereby self-employed people get either very little or nothing when they lose their jobs or their companies close. Like other Deputies, I have constituents in Wicklow and east Carlow whose businesses have folded but who are getting nothing from the State. They do not get the dole or what PAYE workers get and they are struggling to find money to buy food for their children. They are in an extraordinarily vulnerable situation. Does the Government intend to address this in the upcoming finance Bill or social welfare Bill? If it is in the social welfare Bill, when might we expect to see it?

That is more appropriate to a parliamentary question. Is there promised legislation?

The Minister for Social Protection has a commission which is examining a range of issues, including that raised by the Deputy. I am not sure when it is due to report but a programme of reform has been undertaken by the Minister and this matter is part of it.

As the Tánaiste is aware, legislation has been introduced in the other House to deal with the problems faced by sub-contractors who have failed to be paid for work in several important State contracts, etc, which is, in turn, causing great hardship to families across the country. What assurances can the Tánaiste give us that the legislation will be introduced in the House this term?

The Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Brian Hayes, is working on the legislation in question. My understanding is he wants to introduce it in the House this side of Christmas, if possible. It must be borne in mind, however, that there are scheduling issues between now and Christmas because of the budget and legislation which will arise from it.

I have two questions. First, the Water Services (Amendment) Bill is going through the Seanad. When is it expected to be brought to this House? Second, regarding the decision under the capital infrastructure investment plan to withdraw €400 million funding for the Aughnacloy-Derry A5 road——

That is a matter for a parliamentary question and is not relevant to the Order of Business.

The first part of the Deputy's query is in order but the second is not.

If I could just make——

No, the Deputy cannot because it is not about promised legislation.

A Cheann Comhairle, I was going to seek a variation to the Order of Business to have the Taoiseach and the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport address the Dáil——

The Order of Business is over and has been agreed.

——in advance of the North-South Ministerial Council meeting tomorrow. It is a matter I have been trying to bring up since Tuesday. Unfortunately, due to the way the Order of Business has run——

I did not receive a request from the Deputy to raise it as a Topical Issue matter.

I did on Tuesday and Wednesday.

It was dealt with yesterday during the debate on the infrastructure plan. However, considering the North-South Ministerial Council is meeting tomorrow——

That is not a matter for the Order of Business.

It is unacceptable that the Taoiseach and the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport will not address the Dáil on this issue before they go to the meeting.

This is not a matter for the Order of Business. The first part of the Deputy's query is but not this.

Given that for the past three days I have been unable to bring this matter up due to the way the Order of Business went——

The Deputy cannot raise this matter on the Order of Business.

Due to the fact there was a vote yesterday and the Order of Business did not happen——

Whose fault was that? It was not mine.

When there is a vote on the Order of Business, then no questions can be raised subsequently.

The Deputy's second matter is still out of order on the Order of Business.

If we are talking about genuine Dáil reform, this is very poor.

The Deputy will have to find another way of raising this matter.

I will leave it at that.

The Deputy did not have a request in this morning to raise this matter as a Topical Issue.

It has been in for the past two days.

Not this morning.

Deputy McConalogue was late again. He slipped up.

Second Stage of the Water Services (Amendment) Bill was completed in the Seanad yesterday and Committee Stage is scheduled for next week. When it has completed all Stages in the Seanad, it will come into this House.

I want to raise a similar matter to Deputy Donnelly's regarding the self-employed and what we read in the media at the weekend which will require promised legislation. The Minister for Social Protection has suggested changes to the sick pay scheme. While I feel this may be——

The Deputy might feel something but has he a question on the Order of Business?

(Interruptions).

I have a question.

Well put it then because we have only 40 seconds left for the Order of Business and another Deputy is indicating.

I had my hand up for 15 minutes.

There are other Deputies as well.

To be fair, I had it up long before. With these seating arrangements, the Ceann Comhairle may not be able to see me in the corner here.

Maybe the Deputy should move.

The Ceann Comhairle might not be able to see me.

I can certainly hear the Deputy.

I might have to sit further over there in the Opposition benches because I cannot be seen here in the corner.

(Interruptions).

He will be back with Fianna Fáil then.

He will be back with them.

Will the Deputy put his question?

A Cheann Comhairle, you will not allow me. You are making a mockery of me.

Bring back Noel Davern.

The Chief Whip might have to apologise again, as he had to apologise to Deputy Healy-Rae. Bí cúramach, más é do thoil é.

Will the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation introduce legislation for sick pay arrangements? This is a sensitive area. While there is a big problem in the public service with sick leave, there is no such problem in many small companies. Small companies are hanging on by their fingertips.

What is the Deputy's question?

The Minister must examine this matter carefully. It is a case of make haste slowly.

What is the Deputy's question?

Is there promised legislation?

The Deputy is asking everyone to examine all sorts of things. Will the Deputy tell us what is his question?

I will change my question then, a Cheann Comhairle.

A Cheann Comhairle, I feel that over the past several weeks you have not been fair to me.

(Interruptions).

I want to put that on the record of the House. You ignored me for 25 minutes.

I will be ignoring you twice as much if you keep on with this.

(Interruptions).

A Cheann Comhairle, you have a duty.

Will the Deputy resume his seat?

A Cheann Comhairle, you have a duty.

Resume your seat, Deputy.

The Cheann Comhairle has a duty to call all Members and be fair. I have submitted 35 matters for the Topical Issue debate so far this term but not one has been selected. Why is that?

The Deputy should ask Noel Davern.

The Chief Whip should respect retired Members.

Will the Deputy please resume his seat and not be making a joke out of everything?

Can the Ceann Comhairle make sure there is fair play? Otherwise, he will have to get lessons for it.

Deputy Mattie McGrath, if you keep carrying on like this, you will not be called at all.

That is what is happening anyway.

I call on Deputy Michael McGrath.

Excuse me, a Cheann Comhairle, I have a right to be called.

I feel a stunt coming on.

There is no stunt coming. I have a right to be called.

Deputy Mattie McGrath has a right to be called when he is in order.

Deputy Sean Fleming, Mark II.

Can I get an answer to my question?

Is there promised legislation regarding sick pay?

Not everything in a newspaper report will become legislation. There will be a social welfare Bill after the budget which will give effect to the measures contained in the Budget Statement.

The Minister was briefing about it yesterday.

Tomorrow the Central Bank will publish the latest mortgage arrears statistics. Most expect they will show a further deterioration.

More of Fianna Fáil's legacy.

The Keane report continues to be debated in this House seven weeks after it was published.

Who caused it all?

Some good suggestions have come forward in the debate. However, when will the Government make decisions on the Keane report's recommendations? When will they be announced in the House and when will legislation be brought forward?

We have to correct all the damage done by the Deputy's party as fast as we can.

While the Keane report is being debated in the House, the Government is also considering an implementation plan for measures to deal with those who are facing difficulties with mortgage arrears. I expect the Government will make an announcement on this matter in the near future.