Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 11, motion re referral to select sub-committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Agreement to Improve Tax Compliance and Provide for Reporting and Exchange of Information concerning Tax Matters (United States of America) Order 2013 and the Exchange of Information Relating to Taxes (Montserrat) Order 2013; and No. 3, Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Bill 2013 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 11 shall be decided without debate. Private Members' business, No. 79, motion re further education and training, shall also take place immediately after the Order of Business tomorrow and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes on that day.

There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 11, without debate, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' business agreed to? Agreed.

I read in the Sunday Independent last Sunday that Deputies Olivia Mitchell, Eoghan Murphy and Mary Mitchell O'Connor, to mention a few, are extremely concerned about the unfairness of the Finance (Local Property Tax) Bill and in particular its application to Dublin house owners, who will be expected to pay six times more than the owner of an identical house outside of Dublin. This is an issue of great concern for people throughout the country. Despite the fact that we warned about this during the guillotining of the Bill before Christmas, when it was rammed through in a matter of days in a very unsatisfactory manner, it now seems that Members on the Government benches are waking up to the full implications of that legislation.

Deputy Martin knows all about guillotines.

Perhaps this indicates and illustrates the need to give more time to legislation when it is put before the House. I have a question in terms of forthcoming legislation that I want to ask the Tánaiste in this context. The Minister for Finance has already committed to having a provision in the finance Bill to exempt the owners of pyrite homes from the property tax. Can the Tánaiste confirm the commitments already made to the effect that there will be further amendments to the property tax in the context of the finance Bill as suggested by the Fine Gael Deputies that I have mentioned?

Sorry, Deputy, you are straying somewhat.

The rest of the House would like to share in any suggestion that there would be amendments.

Are there promised amendments to this legislation?

When will that finance Bill be published?

A Cheann Comhairle, on the same Bill-----

Hold on and sit down for one minute, please. We are dealing with the Leaders first.

I saw a leaflet that Deputy Martin distributed in his constituency. It struck me that although he is less than two years in opposition he has already forgotten that in fact his Government had agreed with the troika at the time the memorandum of understanding was reached that it would bring in a property tax that would raise €500 million.

The Tánaiste disagreed with that at the time.

Deputy Martin omitted any reference to that in his leaflet.

The Labour Party has forgotten a lot of its promises in government.

The Tánaiste is top of the class in that.

Deputies are using up time that would be available to Members seeking to raise issues.

The finance Bill will be published this session in February. Matters of detail in the finance Bill will be for the debate that will take place.

The Tánaiste has already acknowledged the widespread public concern about the revelations that horse meat or its DNA has been found in beef burger products. However, there is no space on today's clár for the Minister to come in and make a statement.

I have granted a Topical Issue debate to Deputies who have sought it.

The other question relates to promised legislation and the commitment to legislate for collective bargaining. The Tánaiste will be aware that this year we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Lock-out in Dublin. There could be no better time or year to reflect on the rights of workers and no better way to mark the anniversary. As the Labour Party leader I imagine the Tánaiste will be familiar with all of that. What are the plans? Will we see the long overdue legislation to mark the centenary this year and, equally important, to give workers their rights?

Is there promised legislation?

Yes. The Government has committed in the programme for Government to reform the current law on employee rights to engage in collective bargaining, which is currently enshrined in the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2001 to ensure compliance by the State with recent judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. There will be consultation with employer and trade union organisations in preparation for the legislation.

Officials of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation are setting in train the necessary consultation process and the relevant bodies will be contacted in the very near future. Deputies will see progress on the legislation in 2013.

I understand from the Tánaiste's answer to Deputy Micheál Martin that the Cabinet had information on the meat scare. Food production is of great importance to the economy and Harvest 2020. What efforts will the Government make to ensure traceability of the most minute ingredients in the food supply chain? We saw what happened some years ago with a previous scare and know the damage which can be done to our international reputation, notwithstanding our wonderful record for producing top quality food.

What legislation is the Deputy talking about?

I hope there will be legislation to deal with this issue.

We are dealing with promised legislation.

I will not scaremonger on the issue.

Is there promised legislation?

The Ceann Comhairle has agreed to allow a Topical Issue debate on the matter when I am sure the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine will address the issues raised. The approach of the Government to the matter is open and above board.

I wish to refer briefly to three items of legislation. Will amendments or additions to property tax provisions be made by the Minister for Finance by way of amendments to existing legislation, separate legislation or inclusions in the Finance Bill? Rather than having the House endure further cynical posturing by Fine Gael Deputies pretending to be the champions of Dublin home owners having already voted for it, will the Government repeal this odious tax?

The Chief Whip circulated with the legislative programme approved by the Cabinet a statement to Members setting out that job creation was to be the programme's top priority. He listed five Bills which will not lead to the creation of a single job. Will the Tánaiste tell the House where is the legislation which will make job creation a priority or state when it is to be published?

Under the heading "Bills in respect of which heads have yet to be approved by Government", I see no reference in the legislative programme to legislation providing for the judgment in the X case and the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in A, B and C v. Ireland to cover circumstances in which a woman's life is in danger by reason of pregnancy. Why is this not on the legislative list and what is the precise timescale for its publication?

Only the last question is in order as it relates to promised legislation. The other questions refer to notional matters.

I am seeking clarification on the publication of legislation.

We are dealing with promised legislation. To what Bills is the Deputy referring?

The Finance Bill and the five Bills enumerated by the Chief Whip.

Which five Bills? I do not know them.

The leader of Fianna Fáil was able to ask that type of question without interruption.

The Deputy has been in that position. He knows there is a little flexibility. We are trying to be fair. I allowed Deputy Mattie McGrath to represent the Technical Group.

There is no one view in the Technical Group, as the Ceann Comhairle knows.

There is no one representing the Technical Group.

They are independent when it suits.

I call on the Tánaiste to deal with the promised legislation relating to the X case.

If Deputy Joe Higgins had read the statement issued by the Chief Whip accompanying the Government's legislative programme yesterday, he would have seen that the Government had decided to legislate on the issue. Following the very successful, reasoned and dignified hearings which took place recently, the Minister for Health and the Attorney General will proceed to prepare the legislation. I compliment Deputy Jerry Buttimer and his committee on the way in which the hearings were conducted last week. Legislation is being prepared as a matter of priority.

My question has been answered.

There is a very hefty programme of pending legislation before us this term.

I saw that myself.

I would appreciate clarification on the children (amendment) Bill. The Bill cites costs and administrative efficiencies in respect of children, detention schools and public interests but, strangely, there is no mention of provision for children and their welfare. Will this vital aspect be included and considered in the Bill?

We will not go there. We are talking about promised legislation. Deputy Bannon can talk all he likes about it when the Bill is published and a debate on it is held. When is the Bill due?

Observations have been received on the draft heads of the children (amendment) Bill and they are currently under consideration. The Bill is expected to be published this year. There is ongoing consideration of the views of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children in respect of the Children First Bill, including significant policy, operational and legal issues. It is expected that this Bill will published this session. There are also other pieces of legislation which the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is bringing forward, including the child and family support agency Bill. Ongoing dialogue is under way with the Attorney General's office regarding further clarification of the functions and scope of this agency. It is expected that this Bill will be also be published this session. The child care (amendment) Bill is also due this session.

The Minister for Justice and Equality made a very welcome statement that forced labour will be criminalised under the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Bill. When will this Bill come before the House?

I thank Deputy Ó Ríordáin and acknowledge his welcome for the removal of forced labour, which is an entirely outdated concept, from our legislative provision. The Bill is expected this session.

I call on Deputy Joan Collins.

Tá sí ina codladh.

My question concerns legislation before the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality and whether it is the Government's view that a sex worker should attend that committee. There seems to be some reluctance to allow a sex worker to speak before the committee.

It is going through the House at the moment so the Deputy can speak on the Bill.

I wish the Ceann Comhairle every good luck for the new year.

I thank the Deputy and look forward to his co-operation.

The Ceann Comhairle can be assured of it. The high cost of private health insurance is driving more and more families to abandon their policies and let them run out. They then must rely on the already struggling public health service. I raise this very important matter in the context of the health (private patient charges) Bill.

That Bill is expected this session.

I have a question about two pieces of legislation. The assisted decision-making (capacity) Bill is obviously on the A list but when might we see it published and what is the expected timeline for its completed passage through the Dáil? The second piece of legislation is associated with the fund on pyrite that was announced before Christmas. Clearly, a piece of legislation will accompany that in respect of a levy on the industry. It is not on the list. Is it necessary for that piece of legislation to be in place before solutions are commenced? When are we likely to see that piece of legislation?

The Minister of State with responsibility for disability, equality and mental health is working on the assisted decision-making (capacity) Bill. It is a priority for the Government and is expected this session. To the best of my knowledge, the pyrite issue is to be dealt with in the finance Bill. I will have the matter checked and a reply sent to the Deputy.

The Tánaiste mentioned earlier that a special Cabinet meeting will be held to deal with the unemployment crisis. More than 430,000 people are on the live register.

On 29 September the Government announced the strategic investment fund. As part of that announcement it indicated that legislative change would be needed to allow for resources to be channelled from the National Pensions Reserve Fund into the productive economy. It is now 2013 and the legislative programme was published yesterday. This legislation is not due for publication this term and the heads of the Bill have not even been agreed. The strategic investment fund was supposed to be a major plank in the Government's strategy to get people back to work. Given that it was announced nearly one and a half years ago but the legislation has not even come before the House, when will the amendment to the National Pensions Reserve Fund legislation be brought to the House to allow for the channelling of funds sitting in the NPRF into the domestic economy to help get people back to work?

The important part of the narrative that Deputy Doherty omitted was the announcement last year by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform of a stimulus package worth €2.25 billion, which relates directly to the National Pensions Reserve Fund and the strategic investment fund. The way in which the strategic investment fund and the NPRF will be dealt with is among the issues that will be considered by the Government in the context of our discussion on jobs.

I call Deputy Griffin.

On the first day of the new term-----

We are not having a debate on this.

-----I asked a specific question in regard to promised legislation. The Bill sits at No. 84 on the schedule announced this week.

Is legislation promised?

When will the legislation be introduced? We can duck and dive all we want but this is required to give full effect to the strategic investment fund.

Thank you, Deputy. Other Deputies wish to raise questions and we are constrained by time. I cannot allow speeches.

There is no need for Deputy Doherty to get excited. This legislation is being worked on and will be introduced. Certain technical issues have to be ironed out but it is at an advanced stage and will be brought before the House.

It will be introduced this session.

I ask about two items of legislation. Under the Department of Health, when will we see legislation on the merger of the Opticians' Board with the Health and Social Care Professionals' Council? Under the Department of Justice and Equality, when will we see legislation on the new commission to merge the Equality Authority and the Human Rights Commission?

In regard to the merger of the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority, it is intended that legislation will be published this session. In regard to the other matter, it is the intention to publish the relevant legislation this year.

I apologise for not calling Deputy Griffin. I was distracted.

It is a tough station.

In regard to the legislative programme for the Department of Justice and Equality, which Bill will provide for the electronic tagging of sex offenders? We discussed this matter in the previous term and I was assured that provision would be made in forthcoming legislation.

I will check that and have a reply sent to the Deputy. I think it is the DNA database Bill.

Last summer the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs announced the establishment of the new child and family support agency, which we welcomed, and a commitment was given on that occasion by the Minister and subsequently by the Taoiseach that legislation to give effect to this agency would be brought before the House during the last session. That did not happen. The Tánaiste indicated that the legislation would be introduced this session. I ask that the commitment be met.

Does the Deputy want a double assurance?

For good reason.

A commitment was given last year but it was not honoured. I am seeking a commitment that it will be honoured this session to put this important agency on a statutory footing.

Has the Tánaiste answered that question?

The heads of the Bill were approved by the Government on 6 November 2012 and dialogue is ongoing with the Office of the Attorney General on further clarifying the functions and scope of services of the agency. The Bill is expected to be published this session.

In regard to section A of the legislative programme, is it intended to prioritise any particular or urgently required aspects of the proposed Bills in this session?

My second question relates to the National Treasury Management Agency (Amendment) Bill to enable management by the State Claims Agency of claims for third party legal costs arising from tribunals and commissions of inquiry and legal costs awarded against the State by the courts. Have the heads of the Bill been discussed and when is it likely that the Bill will be brought before the House?

The second question is in order.

The heads of the Bill were cleared in November and we expect the Bill to be brought before the House by the middle of the year.

What about the prioritisation of the others?

That is a general issue.

Clearly, the Government wants to move ahead with all items of legislation as quickly as possible and the A list reflects its priorities. The statement issued by the Chief Whip yesterday clearly identifies a number of items of legislation which are Government priorities.

The Deputy can check the list in the Whip's office.

I have questions regarding two items of legislation. Arising from Foy v. an t-Ard Chláraitheoir, Ireland and the Attorney General, a declaration of incompatibility was granted by the High Court regarding Ireland's refusal to recognise transgender realignment. When will a Bill be brought forward to rectify the position?

Second, the programme for Government contains a commitment to ratify the convention on persons with a disability, for which a wide range of legislative changes are required. When will a Bill be brought forward to make the changes required in order that Ireland can proceed with ratifying the convention on the rights of persons with a disability?

It is intended that the gender recognition Bill will be introduced this year. With regard to ratification of the agreements and the convention on disability, I will ask the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, to reply directly to the Deputy.