Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. a10, motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; No. 26, statements on pre-European Council meeting of 7 and 8 February; No. 25, National Lottery Bill 2012 - Second Stage (resumed); and No. 1, Water Services Bill 2013 [Seanad] - Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. a10 shall be decided without debate and that the proceedings in respect of No. 26 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 65 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the statements shall be made by the Taoiseach and by the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share their time and shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes, and, in the event the statements have not concluded by 1.30 p.m., the suspension of sitting under Standing Order 23 shall take place on the conclusion of the statements until 2.30 p.m.

Private Members’ business shall be No. 90, motion re promissory notes (resumed), to conclude at 9 p.m. if not previously concluded.

There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. a10, motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions without debate agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 26, statements on pre-European Council meeting of 7 and 8 February, agreed to? Agreed.

I refer to promised legislation in the context of the traceability of horses. As the Taoiseach is aware, a major scandal is unfolding with deeply profound consequences for the food industry and the beef industry in particular because of the contamination of beef products with horsemeat and with all the consequences this entails. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has belatedly given a commitment to introduce legislation to ensure full traceability for horses as is in place for cattle, sheep and pigs. There is an absence of such traceability at present and yesterday I asked the Taoiseach how one could be certain that horsemeat, either legally or illegally, is not getting into the food chain. This is a very serious issue and one cannot say that with certainty. Moreover, a number of television documentaries have been broadcast and The Sunday Times has covered a number of reports in this regard. Can the Taoiseach indicate when this legislation to ensure traceability of horses will be introduced?

It is not on any list at present. It is a matter of considerable importance. The Minister is receiving a briefing today from the Garda and from the special investigation unit of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Obviously, he will report to the House and I will see to it that he refers to the current status of the preparation of such legislation.

I wish to ask the Taoiseach about two commitments made in the programme for Government, the first of which is the commitment to allow access to primary care without fees to claimants of free drugs under the long-term illness scheme. The second commitment concerns access to primary care without fees to claimants of free drugs under the high-tech drugs scheme. These two commitments were to be delivered in years one and two of the Government's term. As the second anniversary of the Taoiseach's election to government approaches, can he provide Members with an update as to when the legislation to give effect to these promises will come before the Dáil?

I do not believe it is too far away. The Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy White, is dealing with that matter. He reported in the recent bilateral meeting I had with him on the stage of preparation. I will have the Minister of State, Deputy White, provide Deputy McDonald with an update.

I wish to ask the Taoiseach about the status of the Central Bank (consolidation) Bill because there is considerable uncertainty about what is happening within the Central Bank. I had a meeting with senior Central Bank officials last week and am very worried, to say the least, as to what views and developments are percolating down from there to the lending banks, particularly regarding the code of conduct for the lending banks.

Second, I wish to raise the courts (consolidation and reform) Bill, the purpose of which is to provide for the implementation of recommendations of the Law Reform Commission. Many things are happening, particularly before the commercial courts, that are extremely worrying and disconcerting. Again, lending institutions are acting under the impression that they have court orders - sometimes they have and sometimes they have not - and are not obeying the laws of the land. They actually are bullying families and individuals.

Deputy Mattie McGrath has raised two items of legislation. I dealt yesterday with the position regarding the Central Bank (consolidation) Bill. It cannot proceed until the Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Bill has been dealt with. It has gone through Second Stage and awaits Committee Stage in this House. Consequently, that will move through and thereafter, the preparation of the Central Bank (consolidation) Bill can take place. The Deputy referred to the courts Bill, which is due this session.

Will the health information Bill ensure the Government's commitment that the money will follow the patient will be met?

Will it follow the Minister?

In light of this, I ask the Taoiseach what is the reason Mullingar hospital has suffered a cut of 2.5%-----

I think a parliamentary question is coming upon me.

-----considering that its activity has increased by 4%? The Taoiseach might confirm what is the reason performing hospitals have been penalised in their allocation of funding by the HSE-----

I am afraid that is a matter for another day.

-----and will this be addressed? I merely ask because this is a very important issue.

I appreciate that.

Services are to be removed from a hospital that has been performing. In light of the health information Bill, will this issue be addressed because I consider it to be a great anomaly?

The Taoiseach, on the health information Bill.

There has been a change in the way in which budgets are being prepared for hospitals. The health information Bill is due later this year. On Deputy Troy's comment in respect of the money-follows-the-patient exercise, the Minister has had approval for a paper on that. It will be published as a Green Paper, in conjunction with a paper to be published very shortly on universal health insurance, which it is the intention of the Government to introduce at the end of its period of office.

Are there times for the publication of those papers?