Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 10, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Employment Equality Act 1998 (Section 12) (Church of Ireland College of Education) Order 2013, back from committee; No. 11, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Electricity Regulation Act 1999 (Restricted Electrical Works) Regulations 2013; No. 17, statements on pre-European Council meeting of 27–28 June; No. 18, Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Bill 2013 - Second and Remaining Stages (resumed); and No. 12 - motion re statement for information of voters in relation to the Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Bill 2013, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 18.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and shall adjourn on the conclusion of No. 12; Nos. 10, 11 and 12 shall be decided without debate; (3) No. 17 shall be taken immediately following the Order of Business and the proceedings thereon 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 the order shall resume thereafter with Topical Issues; and the following arrangements shall apply in relation to No. 18: the resumed Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 9.30 p.m. tonight, and Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10.30 p.m. tonight by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Taoiseach; in the event a division is in progress at the time fixed for taking Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 113, motion re special educational needs, Standing Order 121(3) shall not apply and Private Members’ business shall, if not previously concluded, adjourn after 90 minutes.

There are five proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. and shall adjourn on the conclusion of No. 12 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 10, 11 and 12 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 17 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 18 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' business agreed to? Agreed.

Some six weeks or two months ago I asked about a commitment made in the programme for Government on primary care. The programme for Government promised a universal primary care Act and clearly indicated that universal primary care would be introduced in phases, particularly in respect of recruiting additional doctors, nurses and allied health professionals for the new primary care areas. Crucially, it also promised that access without fee to primary care would be extended in the first year of the Government's term to claimants of free drugs under the long-term illness scheme, at a cost of €17 million. This Government has now been two and a half years in office. Access without fee to primary care was to be extended to claimants of free drugs under the high technology drugs scheme during the Government's second year, at a cost of €15 million. There are many more commitments but I ask the Taoiseach to deal first with the ones I have mentioned. When can we expect them to be fulfilled? He indicated that the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy White, would bring legislation before the House on the first phase, that is, access to free GP care for those on the long-term illness scheme. Where is that legislation, when can we expect it and will it be in the House prior to the summer recess?

We spoke about this previously and the Minister of State, Deputy White, has done considerable work on it. The Cabinet sub-committee discussed it briefly on Monday. The Minister of State will make his final proposition on long-term illness and primary care in approximately three weeks' time. I expect he will bring it to the Cabinet sub-committee at our next meeting in July.

We were told it would be before the Dáil by now.

We got a solid promise that he would revert to us at the time of the announcement. That did not happen.

He said a number of issues required clarification before it could be finalised. I expect this will take another three weeks.

Tá ceist agam faoi reachtaíocht atá fógartha. The programme for Government commits to reforming the current law on employees' rights to engage in collective bargaining so as to ensure the State complies with recent judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. The Labour Party promised in its election manifesto to introduce legislation to strengthen the rights of workers to engage in collective bargaining. The Taoiseach may be aware that the UNITE trade union is considering the withdrawal of its political and financial support for the Labour Party until it receives an assurance that the commitment to protect workers' rights will be upheld. I am sure the Taoiseach would not like to see that happen.

He would not like to see it on the Order of Business.

When will the Government introduce legislation to provide for workers' rights to engage in collective bargaining?

I do not have a date for that legislation. The workplace regulations legislation is complex. It was to be introduced this session but that will not be possible now.

It has become clear that the revaluation process currently being conducted in Waterford by the Valuation Office will result in businesses, and retailers in particular, going to the wall in large numbers. The Valuation (Amendment) Bill 2012, which was introduced in the Seanad, provides for an entirely different system of assessing rates for businesses based on self-assessment by the property owner. In light of the enormous damage that will be done by massive increases in rates bills for businesses, will the Taoiseach undertake to expedite the aforementioned Bill?

I understand the Bill is on Committee Stage in the Seanad. I am aware of its implications. It is a matter for the Seanad to deal with the Bill before it comes before the Dáil. At the current rate of progress, I do not envisage it coming before us prior to the summer recess.

I understand that but I am conscious of the damage that will be done with the revaluation process currently underway by the Valuation Office.

The Bill has been drafted and introduced because it provides for a better way of assessment - self-assessment by businesses. This is extremely important because businesses will go to the wall under the existing system of revaluation by the Valuation Office. It is absolutely imperative for the Government to expedite the passage of the Bill through the Oireachtas.

I take the Deputy's point and will discuss the matter with the Seanad authorities to see what their schedule is. The Deputy will be aware that the process of rates being imposed on retail businesses on the basis of valuations has applied for many years. The taxation base is being broadened, for example, through the introduction of the property tax. Last year most local authorities were able to reduce rates or suspend rate increases.

The existing legislation-----

I am sorry, but I cannot have further discussion now.

This is germane. The existing legislation was drafted in 2001 in completely different economic times.

Of course; I am well aware of that.

We cannot have a discussion on this issue.

I will get back to the Deputy on the matter.

I thank the Taoiseach.

In the light of the information revealed in the Anglo Irish Bank tapes, what legislation does the Government intend to put in place to protect tapes of conversations in the other covered financial institutions?

Has legislation been promised?

No, but the Minister, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, has been dealing with elements of cybersecurity. Clearly, this kind of information is available in banks-----

The Minister would want to call in the Criminal Assets Bureau to deal with the fellows whose conversations were taped.

I mean banks have data in lots of places and facilities. In so far as legislation is concerned, I mentioned earlier that we were processing the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2013, which will obviously be relevant in this regard. The tapes were secured by the Garda, on foot of warrants, arising from information given to the force. They were transmitted from Anglo Irish Bank directly to the Garda four years ago.

I just want to provide clarification.

There is no clarification.

It is important. I reckon that there is a need for emergency legislation to protect information contained in other recordings made in some of the other financial institutions.

Why is that, Timmy?

Has the Government given any consideration to that matter?

The Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter, has been dealing with this complex and technical issue at European level and at home. It was discussed at the relevant Council of Ministers meetings in the past few weeks.

I want to ask the Taoiseach about the proposed health information Bill. This day last week over 30 people were waiting for beds in the corridors at South Tipperary General Hospital. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Association has stated this is the third worst number in the country, behind only those for Beaumont Hospital and Cork University Hospital, which is alarming. We are not getting the staff we need. Will the Taoiseach ask the Minister for Health to give the hospital the staff it needs to cope with the situation? Can I also ask-----

Will we get a response on the legislation first?

I am asking about the health information Bill. I would also like to ask about the criminal records information Bill in the context of what Deputy Timmy Dooley said. Will these tapes be protected? Will our European colleagues be informed of them? I did not get an answer when I asked whether the Minister for Justice and Equality had these tapes. Was he aware that they were handed to the Garda? It is very important that they are protected. The Taoiseach said they had been handed over four years ago. I seek clarification of this.

I wish to clarify that I am concerned about protecting them from sabotage.

The health information Bill is listed for publication early next year. The criminal records information Bill is listed for publication later this year.

On the same subject, I would like to ask about the extent to which the eventual outcome of a criminal investigation can be prejudiced by information gleaned by the investigating authorities - the Garda, in this case. In that context, perhaps the Taoiseach might comment on whether it might be advisable to bring the criminal justice (corruption) Bill to the House as a matter of urgency. The Bill in question could address the issues raised by other Deputies.

I do not have a date for publication of the criminal justice (corruption) Bill. I will consult the Minister for Justice and Equality to ascertain the extent of the work done in that regard.

The promised legislation about which I wish to ask is the Children First Bill. Will the Taoiseach advise whether the Bill provides for mandatory reporting? An issue arose in my constituency recently when many parents were unhappy about the level of supervision afforded to 38 children who went on a school trip to County Donegal. An investigation recently took place involving the principal of the school and, apparently, he stepped aside during the course of the investigation. Many parents and others are concerned about the level of abuse in the case.

We cannot discuss the issue now.

I have spoken about the matter of mandatory reporting in the Dáil on a couple of occasions. I am interested and anxious to know whether it will be provided for in the legislation I have mentioned.

The Deputy has been an advocate of this issue for some time. A great deal of work has been done on the Children First Bill which was supposed to come through the House before the summer recess. Given the pressure on legislation, I cannot see it actually making it through. I think it will be taken early in the next session.

Will the Taoiseach indicate whether mandatory reporting will be included in the Bill?

That is a matter for the debate on the legislation when published. We cannot debate it now.

Will the Taoiseach come back to me on it?

The Home from Home family support service in the Ballydowney area of Killarney offers after-school activities to children with special needs, many of whom have needs that require a one-on-one service. The Taoiseach kindly opened the service.

That is very good.

He made a substantial personal donation which we all very much appreciated.

That is even twice as good, but will the Deputy get on with it?

I will. Why has this vital service not received the recognition that it deserves in the form of adequate structural funding?

The Deputy is not going to get an answer on the Order of Business.

I am asking this question in the context of the Education For Persons with Special Educational Needs Act. The Taoiseach is well aware of this excellent service.

About which legislation are we talking?

I have mentioned the Education For Persons with Special Educational Needs Act.

Elements of the Act have not been implemented. I am not sure about which section the Deputy is talking.

I am talking about funding.

I will ask the Ministers for Children and Youth Affairs and Education and Skills to follow up the matter for the Deputy.

I would like to know when the Employment Equality (Amendment)(No.2) Bill 2013 which has passed Second Stage in the Seanad will appear before this House. The Bill proposes to remove the right of State-funded religious institutions to discriminate against individuals whom they consider undermine their ethos, including members of the LGBT community.

I will have to come back to the Deputy on it. I cannot give him an answer now.

The Bill is before the Seanad.

It has been passed by the Seanad on Second Stage.

Has it gone completely through the Seanad? I will ask the Whip to let the Deputy know when it will be brought before this House.

That old Seanad is doing a fine job unknown to the Taoiseach.

I am informed that the Bill has yet to pass through Committee Stage in the Seanad. It has finished Second Stage. They do things more quickly over there.

More quickly than the Taoiseach gives them credit for.

The rush is on.

Will the Taoiseach confirm that the Cabinet today considered Mr. Justice Quirke's report on redress for survivors of the Magdalen laundries? When does the Government intend to publish the report? Will the Taoiseach give us an update on the Government's position on the recognition of, and provision of compensation for, the Bethany Home survivors?

I can confirm that the Cabinet considered the Quirke report on the Magdalen issue today. The Government has approved Mr. Justice Quirke's recommendations and the report will be published tomorrow. A press conference will be held by the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, to deal with its implications. The women who are involved will receive a copy of the report and coverage in that regard. The Minister for Justice and Equality will report on Bethany Home. That will probably happen in the next two or three weeks.