Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 9, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of the euro and other currencies against counterfeiting by criminal law, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2000/383/JHA; and No. 3, Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Bill 2013 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 9 shall be decided without debate. Private Members’ business shall be No. 102, motion re organ donation.

There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 9, inclusive, without debate, agreed to? Agreed.

Two years ago, promises were made in the programme for Government on reforming how lobbying is done and a Bill was promised. We have just been talking about the sale of State assets. The legislation on selling the national lottery has gone through the House. Other State assets are for sale. There have been recommendations from tribunals on a lobbyist Bill to regulate the role of lobbyists. In the context of the sale of State assets, one would have thought that such a Bill would be enacted in advance of the sale of any State assets to regulate the activity surrounding those endeavouring to make presentations, representations etc. My understanding is the Bill is on the C list. Can the Taoiseach indicate when he expects that Bill to be published?

The heads of the Bill were approved by Cabinet this morning. The Minister was given authorisation to go ahead and draft the Bill and that work has commenced.

Would it be possible to send the heads of the Bill to the relevant committee straight away?

Yes. The Minister intends to attend at the committee to deal with Deputies' issues.

Will he forward the heads of the Bill before drafting?

Yes. The heads of the Bill were approved today. They will go off to the committee and the Minister will attend there.

On 14 April, the Constitutional Convention recommended that the Constitution be changed to allow for civil marriage between same-sex couples. As the Taoiseach will be aware, the result of the convention was decisive. I believe it represented a landmark moment for equal rights in Ireland. I ask the Taoiseach to set out for us the timetable he envisages for the consideration of this decision of the convention and when he imagines this issue might go to referendum for decision by the people.

The Constitutional Convention will have to send two reports to Government. The first is in respect of the number of issues that it discussed in the first draft. I expect the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to bring a memo to Cabinet on the first report dealing with those number of issues, probably next week. The Government will decide at that stage what response will be given to the issues that were discussed and decided upon by the convention and what we should do about them.

The second report is due by July of this year. That will include the discussions and the decision that the Constitutional Convention made in respect of gay marriage.

I stated all along that if Government responded to a report and indicated that it might decide to hold a referendum on any particular issue, it would indicate a timeline as to when that might be so. In the event, when the Government considers the immediate report, it may be possible for Government to hold another referendum this year in conjunction with those of the Seanad and the court of civil appeal.

The discussions on the second report will be probably towards the end of this session. In that event, if in any of those matters were to be agreed by Government and that a referendum should be held, it would be sometime next year, whenever Government would decide to do that.

The county enterprise board sector has been in limbo since 2008 when the former Minister, Mr. Batt O'Keeffe, signalled that it was going to come to an end. Since then, the sector has been rudderless and morale has been low. The Government promised legislation on this to which the SME sector is opposed. When will this legislation come before the Dáil?

That will be this session. I expect there will be two or three pilot schemes operational very quickly.

When does the Taoiseach expect the publication of the criminal justice (legal aid) Bill to provide for amendment of the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act 1962?

That will be later this year.

On 20 December last year, during the course of a debate on the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012, the Minister of State, Deputy Alex White, who was taking the Bill, stated:

the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform intends to bring forward legislation early in 2013 to ensure the modernisation of the senior management structures of the Oireachtas Service. These are specifically recognised in the Staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas Act 1959. It is accepted that the configuration in that Act, particularly in terms of senior management structures, needs to be modernised.

Of what legislation does Deputy Dooley speak?

The Minister of State put that on the record of the House and the expectation from this side of the House was that legislation would be brought forward early in the new year. We are into the second semester and there is nothing on the published list to state that this legislation is due to come. The Taoiseach will be aware that a senior position in the services of the House will become vacant later this year. The question would be whether that position will be filled under the 1959 Act or under the modernised Bill, which was promised at the time. At the time, we accepted that amending legislation would be brought forward and we expect that the Taoiseach will give us a commitment on that.

I was a little confused by Deputy Dooley's question. I thought he was referring to inquiries, the legislation on which is due shortly. The Bill in respect of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission is scheduled for later this year.

I call Deputy Tom Fleming.

Will the position that is due to become vacant later this year be filled under the 1959 Act-----

I ask Deputy Dooley to resume his seat. We are not having a debate on it.

-----or under the new legislation?

Will the Government introduce new legislation to address emergencies in agriculture? I request that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Deputy Coveney, extend the closing date for the fodder crisis transport subsidy from Friday, 3 May until at least the middle of May.

Sorry, Deputy-----

It should also be extended to the livestock marts-----

That is not-----

-----and private merchants.

It is a very important issue.

It is a wonderful scheme and I thank the Government and the Minister in particular for introducing it. The Government should consider extending the scheme.

However, we cannot deal with it on the Order of Business.

In some areas it is only hitting the tip of the iceberg.

The Deputy will need to find another way to raise the issue.

It is working and I ask that extending it further be considered.

I call Deputy Mattie McGrath.

The Minister is monitoring this very carefully. Even with a burst of heat at this stage it will still take a few weeks for grass to grow.

The Department and the Minister are conscious of the crisis for many people and it is monitored on a daily basis.

The continuing cold weather is appropriate to my question. STEP is providing insulation for hundreds of houses in County Tipperary and has a contract with the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Its funding has been frozen.

That is very interesting. Does the Deputy have a question on legislation?

The next time the you are down in Tipperary, a Cheann Comhairle, you might see some of the nice houses it has insulated-----

I go down there regularly.

-----under the geothermal and energy Bill.

Tom spoke to me this morning.

I appreciate that he did and I hope Tom or the Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, can do something about it if he can because 50 jobs are on the line here.

All over the country.

Can the Deputy put his question?

I was going to, but I was not allowed by the Whip. Will the Taoiseach investigate the matter to ensure that Muintir na Tíre and other groups can continue to provide the service they are providing allowing people to insulate their homes?

The Bill is the geothermal energy development Bill.

When is that due?

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources is working on the issue of retrofit for energy saving in residential homes. The geothermal energy development Bill that the Deputy mentioned is not due until the middle of next year.

Jobs are at stake.

As we approach May Day it is particularly cruel that the Government is imposing carbon tax on solid fuel, which will hurt the old, the vulnerable and the disabled as they go into next winter. Will the Government do a U-turn on this-----

The Deputy should not mind his U-turns and should tell us the legislation in question.

-----under the environment (miscellaneous provisions) Bill?

The environment miscellaneous provisions Bill.

If the Taoiseach were relying on buying bags of coal to keep a little fire going, he would hate to think the bag of coal was going up by €1.25, would he not?

I call the Taoiseach.

It is very mean on the part of the Taoiseach, his Government and those who support it.

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government was given authorisation to produce that Bill this morning.

The Deputy will have ample opportunity to state his case here in the House when it is discussed.

The Minister will produce the Bill as quickly as possible.

Was it frosty in the Cabinet room this morning?

I apologise to the Taoiseach. When I asked my previous question on the Marie Fleming judgment, I thought the Order of Business had started. It must have seemed a very odd question to be asked in the context of a discussion on Coillte.

Deputy Boyd Barrett would not have got away with it anyway.

I appreciate the Taoiseach's answer that it is not on the legislative agenda. In light of the ruling on this very important issue, would the Taoiseach commit to considering putting it on the Government's legislative agenda?

We only deal with promised legislation here so the Deputy will need to table a parliamentary question.

Is there any chance-----

When will the maritime area development and foreshore (amendment) Bill be published given its importance in the development of ports?

Is the maritime area development and foreshore (amendment) Bill the one dealing with foreshore licences?

The heads of that Bill came before Cabinet before Easter and work is ongoing on it. I expect it to be published later this year. It is an important Bill in the sense of investment in terms of marine activities and connections to the shore.

Given the importance of the noise nuisance Bill to people in Cork city, when will the Bill be introduced? It affects rented accommodation and the role of landlords with enforcement powers being given to local authorities. Landlords have responsibility as do tenants. In residential areas they are causing mayhem to local residents in the area around UCC and Bishopstown.

The Deputy is well aware of the local legislation that applies here where nuisance occurs. No date has been fixed for publication of the noise Bill.

When will the Report and Final Stages of the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill be taken in the House? It was on the Order Paper and I believe it has been removed. A number people are waiting to have their minor convictions expunged.

That Bill is awaiting hearing on Report Stage. It is a matter of working it through the process now. It should not be too long.

Some time ago a commitment was made to publish a White Paper on universal health insurance. There was an interim report but when will the actual White Paper come before Cabinet and be published or has the policy on universal health insurance changed?

I cannot give the Deputy a date, but I will follow up with the Minister and maybe give him an indication as to when we might expect it.