Priority Questions

It is proposed to take No. 13, Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011 - Second Stage (resumed) and No. 15, statements on the Health Service Plan 2012 (resumed), which will be taken at noon. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that in respect of the Family Home Protection (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011, the Second Stage of which shall be considered tomorrow, the following arrangements shall apply: the opening speech of the main spokespersons for the Technical Group, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin 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 speech 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 the Technical Group shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed 15 minutes.

There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with the Family Home Protection (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011 tomorrow agreed to? Agreed.

I have questions on two pending tranches of legislation. The first relates to the children's Bill. When is it expected before the House? We must have this legislation in place ahead of the children's referendum. My second question relates to the finance Bill. Will there be a reconsideration of that Bill in respect of the pending closure of the Irish Embassy in the Vatican? Reports seem to suggest that a review is taking place. I would appreciate if the Tánaiste would confirm this and tell us when the finance Bill will be published.

What does that have to do with the finance Bill?

It is about money. The Tánaiste said he would close it.

A nice try.

Is there white smoke?

In the order in which the questions were asked, a Cheann Comhairle, the children's Bill will be dealt with this session.

He is giving himself time to craft an answer.

The closure of the resident Irish Embassy at the Vatican has absolutely nothing to do with the finance Bill. It is a matter-----

A Deputy

It is our money.

The Tánaiste said it was to save money.

Do not get so excited.


I have line responsibly for that issue.

It was to save €860,000.

I have already answered questions about it and at the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Then it is staying closed.

The answers that I gave in both cases stand.

There is no change. They were sold a pup last night.


I wish to ask the Tánaiste about the children first Bill, especially in respect of the failure of the Garda Inspectorate and its record keeping of sexual offences against children. It was unclear to me whether Deputy Ó Cuív was referring to the legislation for the referendum or this legislation. I realise the Government is committed to introducing this legislation and the Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, has made it plain. But an urgency should be attached to this and rather than telling us that it will be taken this session, will the Tánaiste be more specific and urgent about it?

The Government approved the preparation of the heads of the children first Bill in July. The Minister intends to bring a position paper on the children first policy to Government shortly, following which the heads are expected to go to the committee in the next Dáil term. The Bill is due to be published this session and work is continuing on the preparation of the Bill.

Will the Tánaiste agree to provide time in the House to debate an issue of serious concern throughout the country? The issue is proving a hardship to sick and vulnerable people throughout the country. It is the debacle of the centralised processing of medical cards. Every Deputy has had difficulties in this matter.

Sorry, Deputy.

It is arising on a daily basis. It is an issue despite the best efforts of the HSE staff. I believe it is a result of mismanagement by the HSE and the flawed policy of centralisation. I am asking for time to be made available to discuss and debate this issue.

Matters relating to requests for statements are not in order during the Order of Business. It is a matter to be brought up between the Whips. If there is an issue about which the Deputy has a particular concern I suggest he tables a topical issue and I will give it every consideration.

Perhaps the Tánaiste wishes to make a comment.

The Deputy has a Whip, Deputy Catherine Murphy, and she will bring the matter before the Whips' meeting.

This issue has been raised in every manner. It is about time it was sorted out.

We cannot have everyone jumping up every five minutes looking for a debate. I have orders to stick to and obey like everyone else.

A Deputy

The Tánaiste is offering.

If you do that you will create a precedent.

I am concerned and I realise there is some concern about this issue. I have come here today. On previous occasions I have been prepared and briefed to provide an answer to this question if it was raised by Opposition leaders during Leaders' Questions. If I am asked a question during Leaders' Questions I am happy to answer it.

That is a different issue relating to Leaders' Questions.

Does the Government have a proposal to bring forward legislation in light of what happened yesterday regarding Galway Airport?

Hold on a second.

I am not making a statement.

The Deputy is chancing his arm.

I seek clarity on this issue because there will be serious consequences for businesses throughout the country.

If the Deputy tables a request for a topical issue I will consider it. Thank you.

I wish to ask the Tánaiste because he is the Minister responsible for bringing in-----

Deputy Ó Cuív had a go at that during Leaders' Questions in a roundabout way.

There will be considerable consequences. Banks are cleaning out businesses where loans are up to date.

I call on the Tánaiste to make a statement or comment on it.

He cannot make a statement on it now. If he wants to come in later on-----

Will the Government bring forward legislation to ensure this does not happen again? That is what I wish the Tánaiste to comment on.

I suggest the Deputy submits a topical issue or parliamentary question.

The Ceann Comhairle is being unfair on this issue.

During the Holocaust commemorations at the weekend, the Minister for Justice and Equality referred to our record at the time, which was rather bad, in respect of giving refuge to those fleeing the Holocaust. I know that at present we grant people refuge in this country and we allow people to stay here on humanitarian grounds. At the same time our law is flawed and it is broadly recognised that there is need for a more transparent system. The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010 is listed on the Government legislative programme as awaiting committee. This is rather vague. What is the timeframe for that Bill coming to the committee and being progressed through the Houses?

I do not have a date for when that will be considered in committee. I understand the normal practice is for the committee to set a date for Committee Stage consideration of the Bill.

The Taoiseach told me a few weeks ago that the Coroners Bill was still meandering through the Oireachtas, but I have since seen a note saying it had been withdrawn. What is the current position on that Bill? Second, the Tánaiste and I met the Priory Hall residents on 27 October, election day. Now, three or four months on, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan, has still not met them.

There is a question on that today on the Order Paper.

There is, but unfortunately it will not be reached. Is the Tánaiste moving that issue towards a resolution for the 50 families?

I think the Deputy has proposed this as a Topical Issue and I will certainly consider it.

The Tánaiste might like to respond because he has already met the residents. He is aware of the issues.

I have already ruled that the Deputy is out of order on that issue. I must be fair to everybody in the House. The Tánaiste, on the Coroners Bill please.

I understand the Coroners Bill has reached Committee Stage in the Seanad, but I do not have a date for when it will be considered there. With regard to Priory Hall, there is a question on the Order Paper for the Minister and I do not want to anticipate his reply.

The companies Bill has been on the map for quite a long time and it should clarify and simplify the companies' code and modernise Irish company law through the consolidation of the existing 15 company law Acts, other regulations and case law. I realise it is a complicated piece of legislation, but it is necessary. If that legislation had been introduced five or ten-----

I will record the Deputy's contribution on this.

I hope the Ceann Comhairle will give me the time to do that. This Bill is vital in the context of the crisis affecting the country. If it had been implemented several years ago, we would possibly not have some of the difficulties we now have.

Perhaps the Tánaiste will-----

Is work in progress on the preparation of the heads for this Bill? I have a second issue I wish to raise. The money laundering Bill has been mooted for some time and it is an interesting and important issue. Has any progress been made on the heads of that Bill, with a view to combating organised crime, terrorism and related issues specific to money laundering?

The companies Bill is a large comprehensive piece of legislation. There are 1,270 heads in that Bill and it is expected that it will be published late in 2012. I do not have a date for the money laundering Bill.

Is there any promised legislation in the Department of Finance relating to diesel, fuel and excise duty?

I am afraid that is another parliamentary question job.

No, it concerns the finance Bill.

Is the Deputy asking when the finance Bill will be taken?

No. I am asking about this particular aspect of it, because it is a huge problem, especially -----

I appreciate the big problem, but I have a problem too. I have ruled Members out of order on the Order of Business because the issue raised is not in keeping with the rules. I must apply the rules equally to everybody, including Deputy McGrath.

Life is full of problems, but I am asking the Tánaiste-----

The Deputy can put down a parliamentary question.

This is crippling hauliers and now there is talk of agri-diesel being included. There are other ways of dealing with that than going down that road.

The finance Bill will come before the House and the Deputy can make his point on it then. When is the finance Bill due?

I expect the finance Bill will be considered by Government in the near future and that it will be published and dealt with this session and that it will provide Deputy McGrath with an opportunity to talk at length about that.

What is the timeframe for the personal insolvency Bill and will there be ancillary legislation in the contexts of the banks and the State agencies that will deal with insolvency?

A committee is to consider the heads of that Bill and the objective is to have completed its consideration of the heads by the end of February. Detailed drafting of the final Bill will then take place before it is published shortly thereafter. With regard to ancillary matters, the personal insolvency Bill is part of a package of measures and the Government is proceeding to implement the recommendations of the group it established to deal with the issues of mortgage distress and negative equity. The personal insolvency Bill is the responsibility of the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Minister for Finance, the Minister with responsibility for housing and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government have responsibility for some of the ancillary matters. A co-ordinating group within the Department of Finance is driving this ahead and is reporting directly to the economic management council of the Government.

When can we expect the independent review into the death of children in care to be published and laid before the House?

I do not know the answer to that, but I will ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to communicate directly with the Deputy on the issue.