It is proposed to take No. 19, Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 - Second Stage (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and shall adjourn not later than 10 p.m. Private Members' business shall be No. 113, motion re special educational needs (resumed), to conclude at 9 p.m. if not previously concluded.
Order of Business
There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. and shall adjourn not later than 10 p.m. agreed to? Agreed.
Yesterday saw the publication of a major report pertaining to proposed water charges. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan, has indicated his intention to introduce water charges in January 2014 and to repair leakages at the same time. The report yesterday indicated that Irish Water will be seeking hundreds of millions of euro to deal with the level of leakages in the system, with an estimate that some €600 million per year will be required in the next ten years. The undertaking to introduce water charges is included in the programme for Government. We are aware, however, that the level of leakage is up to 40%. There is, moreover, a very poor quality of water in some areas and, in some instances, leakages have nothing to do with households. In that context, does the Government still intend to proceed with the introduction of charges for all households, irrespective of the quality of the water itself, of the water supply or of the associated infrastructure?
This is a matter of considerable importance. The different local authorities throughout the country have operated independently for many years in the way water systems were supplied and water standards devised. Irish Water will introduce nationally applicable standards. The intention is to introduce the water charge levy in October 2013, with the first bills coming through from 1 January 2014. Irish Water, once it is established, will have responsibility for all extensions, repairs and so on, which will necessitate the local knowledge of local authority engineers. As I understand it, leakages from the public meter to individual households will be repaired on a once-off basis. It is a matter for Irish Water to decide, on the basis of the evidence it obtains from local authorities, how to carry out the renewal, repair and extension of pipes. The body will set out its programme in that regard.
I am informed by my learned friend, an Teachta Pearse Doherty, that the Taoiseach may have given the wrong date and that water charges will be introduced in January 2015 rather than January 2014.
Thank you, Deputy Doherty.
The Deputy will keep the Taoiseach right.
There is an axis of collusion between the Government and Sinn Féin.
Following the publication last June of a report by Professor Una Walsh on the barbaric practice of symphysiotomy in this State, many of the victims were very annoyed that there had been no consultation process. An undertaking was given to publish a second report, following consultation, but a year has passed with no sign of it. Will the Taoiseach indicate when it will be published? All of the survivors are elderly and do not have a great deal of time. They want the truth and an acknowledgement of the suffering they endured. They certainly deserve compensation.
I do not have a date for the publication of that report. I have spoken to the Minister of Health about the issue and I understand he expects to bring a memorandum to Government in the not too distant future. I will get back to the Deputy when I have clarified the matter.
When can we expect the publication of the public health (alcohol) Bill to provide for the inclusion of health advice and warnings on alcoholic drink containers such as bottles and cans and on promotional material, including advice on the dangers of consuming alcohol during pregnancy? The Bill will also provide for a minimum price at which alcohol can be sold and for certain matters in regard to the advertising of alcohol and other relevant measures.
The Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Alex White, has done a great deal of work in this area and expects to bring his report to the Cabinet sub-committee in the coming weeks. It will then be referred to the Cabinet for decision. I expect the Bill will be published in the second half of this year.
There has been much talk in recent days about truth, transparency and the filling in of gaps in regard to the banking system in this country. Will the Taoiseach indicate, in this context, when the report on Irish Nationwide Building Society will be published? The Taoiseach has mentioned the many documents missing from his office, but this particular report has been in the Minister for Finance's office since 2009. The Government is suppressing the publication of information on how this institution, which cost the State the most relative to its size, was run by those at the top.
The deal announced by the Tánaiste in regard to the European Union's multi-annual financial framework, MFF, has run into serious difficulties. In fact, the second largest grouping in the European Parliament, which includes the Tánaiste's own MEPs, has unanimously rejected it. Will there be a statement regarding the consequences of this failure for the Irish Presidency? The Tánaiste has potentially jeopardised the delivery of a deal before the end of the Presidency.
I will get back to the Deputy regarding the report on Irish Nationwide Building Society.
In regard to the MFF, the Tánaiste has worked exceptionally hard at this. I travelled with him to Brussels on a bank holiday Monday for discussions on the matter with the President of the European Commission, Mr. Barroso, and the President of the European Parliament, Mr. Schulz. Agreement in this regard is of great importance for the European Union as a whole and not just Ireland. One of the issues they raised was the draft amending budget for 2012-13, which has a ceiling of €11.2 billion. They wanted a substantial down payment on that. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, was able to put €7.3 billion from the countries through ECOFIN, leaving €3.9 billion to be paid towards the end of the year. I was not in a position to give a legally binding guarantee in this regard because I do not have that authority.
Following that meeting, discussions began in respect of the MFF. There has been a great deal of game-playing in this regard.
The European elections are next year. This is a very substantial tranche of money. The Tánaiste and Mr. Lamassoure presented the findings here to the group of rapporteurs, all of them without dissent. Subsequently there were comments made about the nature of the deal. This is proceeding. I understand the Tánaiste is briefing people today in Brussels. There will be a meeting of the presidents of the sectors of the Parliament today. I have to go there either tonight or tomorrow morning. There may be a requirement for a pre-Council presidential meeting dealing with the MFF but I hope that we will be able to get it through. The different sectors in the Parliament have changed their views on several occasions. It seems to be in a way unusual that the European Council agrees on the budget. The European Parliament has a requirement to give its imprimatur and approval following the Lisbon treaty. I respect that fully. The Parliament then voted down the budget, wanted more money, greater flexibility and several other issues-----
The different sectors within the Parliament have their own views. The Presidency is expected to negotiate with the Parliament and say "Okay, you voted against this now I want you to accept it and we will make adjustments internally".
That is called an agreement, is it?
There is a lot of complex stuff going on there. I hope that under the direction of the Tánaiste and his counterparts it can be sorted out before the European Council meeting on Friday.
Our heritage is very much what we inherited. It is linked to the past and has huge links with the tourism industry, up and down the country. There is a huge number of artefacts-----
I am sure there are but would the Deputy get on with the question about the legislation?
They have been stored away for nearly half a century in buildings owned by the OPW.
No more speeches please. The Deputy should just ask the question.
It is important to get those artefacts back to their local communities. I would like to know-----
What important legislation is the Deputy talking about?
It is an important element in giving local areas their identities through their heritage. I would like to see some of those artefacts coming back-----
What legislation is the Deputy talking about?
I will come to that.
The Big Houses of Ireland Bill.
The Heritage (Amendment) Bill. When can we expect to have that before the House?
The Humpty Dumpty Bill.
There is a long list of Deputies waiting to speak so Deputies should just ask their questions.
There are two Bills about heritage. The Monuments Bill is due in the middle of next year. The Heritage (Amendment) Bill is due in autumn of this year.
There will be a monument erected to the Deputy.
Given the urgent necessity to accelerate the criminal investigation of activities in the banking system over the past few years is it intended to accelerate the progress through the House of the amendment to the Criminal Assets Bureau Bill, with a view to ensuring that adequate strength is applied to ensure the forensic examination of the issues which have been the subject matter of discussion in the past few days?
This is the Proceeds of Crime Bill. Deputy Durkan has raised this on several occasions. These discussions with CAB are ongoing and I cannot tell him when they will conclude but hopefully it will be fairly soon. That is an essential part of completing the Bill.
We will be debating a Bill on Cork jail in the next few days. Unfortunately 90% of the cells planned for the new jail will be shared cells where people will have to use the toilet in front of one another. That is against the direction in which we want our penal system to go. When will the Government bring in the Fines (Amendment) Bill that will prevent people going to jail for non-payment of fines?
When will the Assisted Decision-making (Capacity) Bill come before the Houses again?
The Fines (Amendment) Bill will be published in this session. The Assisted Decision-making (Capacity) Bill will also be published in the next couple of weeks.
I believe at the outset I am supposed to declare what could be perceived as an interest. An Post has been named as the most reputable semi-State body in Ireland. With regard to the Communications Regulation (Postal Services) Act there is a concern that if the Government-----
We are talking about Bills here, not Acts.
I meant to say Bill. If the Government proceeds with its policy-----
We are talking about the problems of the Kilgarvan post office.
------to channel social welfare payments out of An Post to financial institutions-----
A parliamentary question is a more suitable way to deal with that issue.
-----it could result in closing down our post office network. That is the question.
It is a parliamentary question.
We are not going to Kilgarvan.
Do we have a new Taoiseach?
We do not have a Bill on that. It was introduced already.
There is a need to put in place a new legal framework for the Irish Red Cross Society and I wonder when the Red Cross (Amendment) Bill will come before the House.
I think that is going to have to wait until the new year.
Under the Electoral (Amendment) (Referendum Spending and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, we voted in this House to run the Children (Referendum) Bill. The Supreme Court found that the Government misappropriated - that is a kind word, the Court was stronger than that - €1.1 million of that funding. When will we have a debate on that or will the Government avoid it like everything else? It is an outrage.
What Bill is the Deputy asking about?
The Electoral (Amendment) (Referendum Spending and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.
When is that Bill coming in?
I have one more question.
We will find out about this Bill first.
The Supreme Court made its finding and the Government complied with it immediately. The Electoral (Amendment) (Referendum Spending and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will be next year.
I did not understand the first part of the Taoiseach's reply.
What did the Taoiseach say?
The Electoral (Amendment) (Referendum Spending and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will be next year.
Before he said that what did the Taoiseach allude to?
The Deputy should get on with his question.
I did not hear. The Taoiseach said something but níor chuala mé. What about the Central Bank (Consolidation) Bill? We are talking about banks and we are playing silly games around here but if that Bill was brought in it would sort out all this blackguarding and cronyism, and whatever else one wants to call it, regarding banking. If the Taoiseach wanted to deal with it he could deal with it and that is the Bill to do it.
The Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Bill 2011 has to go through both Houses. It is on Committee Stage in the Seanad at the moment. That has to go through before the Central Bank (Consolidation) Bill can be implemented.
Regulation was promised to regulate the private clamping sector. When does the Government intend to bring that legislation to the House?
That will be later this year. The heads of the Bill have been prepared.
I understand the Taoiseach has given a commitment to the House that the Consumer Competition Bill will be dealt with before the end of this session. Will the Government be able to adhere to that?
I also want to ask about the Mediation Bill and the Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill. When can we expect to see those?
A number of drafts have gone over and back between the Departments about this. It is very well advanced and it is expected to be published in this session.
What about the other two?
We have no dates yet for the Mediation Bill and the Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill.
When is publication expected of the Family Law Bill to make provision for pension adjustments in the context of separation agreements and certain other reforms in family law?
That will be this year.
In the absence of Deputy Mattie McGrath I welcome his acceptance of the Supreme Court and its judgments. It is very welcome.
In Pride week I want to ask the Taoiseach about the Family Relationships and Children Bill. As the Taoiseach knows quite well many same sex couples await the publication of this very important legislation. Their children await it too, to get formal legal recognition. Can we have an idea of when that Bill will come forward?
I can confirm that there has been a great deal of preparatory work done on this Bill but I do not have a date for its preparation or publication. I will keep the Deputy informed.
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs confirmed to me by way of a reply to a parliamentary question that she was in receipt of the Government rapporteur 2012 annual report on child protection. When will this report be laid before the House?
I cannot say. The Minister would normally bring that to Government before getting approval to publish it. I will advise him as to when that might happen.