Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. a1, Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Bill 2011 - amendments from the Seanad; and No. 1, Health (Amendment) Bill 2013 [Seanad] - Second Stage, to adjourn at 5 p.m. today if not previously concluded.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 5.45 p.m. tonight and shall adjourn on the conclusion of Oral Questions; Topical Issues will be taken on the adjournment of No. 1, and the order shall resume thereafter with Oral Questions; the Dáil shall sit tomorrow at 10.30 a.m. and shall adjourn not later than 4 p.m., and any divisions demanded shall be taken immediately after the Order of Business on Tuesday, 9 July 2013; there shall be no Order of Business within the meaning of Standing Order 26 and, accordingly, the business to be transacted shall be as follows: No. 1, Health (Amendment) Bill 2013 [Seanad] - Second Stage (resumed), and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1 p.m.; in regard to the Brighter Evenings Bill 2012, the following arrangements shall apply: the opening speech of Deputy Thomas Broughan and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, the Technical Group and of a Minister or Minister of State, who shall be called upon in that order, and who may share their time, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 15 minutes and such Members may share their time, a Minister or Minister of State, who may speak twice, shall be called upon not later than 3.30 p.m. to make a speech which shall not exceed 15 minutes, and Deputy Thomas Broughan shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed 15 minutes.

There are three proposals to be put to the House today. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 5.45 p.m. tonight agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Topical Issues agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with the sitting and business of the Dáil tomorrow agreed to? Agreed.

I wish to raise a couple of Bills. The Government has announced again that the strategic investment fund will be established on a statutory basis, with the Bill in question the National Treasury Management Agency (amendment) Bill. It comes almost two years from the original announcement in September 2011 but it is a very important Bill that will help to channel upwards of €6 billion to viable commercial projects, which we welcome. Will the Tánaiste give a commitment that we will have that Bill early in the autumn session, as I do not see why it has taken this long? Will he at least commit to the element that will allow commercial investment to start flowing? We should deal with that as quickly as possible.

I am sure the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, is tired of being asked about the consumer and competition Bill, which has been delayed significantly. Will the Tánaiste give as specific a date as possible on when the Bill will be taken in this House?

The heads of the National Treasury Management Agency (amendment) Bill have been approved. It is a very important piece of legislation, as the Deputy noted, and there is a commitment in the programme for Government to establish the strategic investment fund. That amounts to a €6 billion fund to get some growth and movement in the economy. The Bill will be published later this year. The consumer and competition Bill is to be published this session.

I commend Deputy Broughan on bringing forward such a lovely sounding Bill in the form of the Brighter Evenings Bill. It is almost poetic.

It is for brighter days.

It certainly made me smile.

I want to ask the Tánaiste about two things. The report on marriage equality from the Convention on the Constitution has been laid before the Oireachtas this week. Will the four month deadline for a response from Government be adhered to and when does the Tánaiste envisage a referendum being put to the people on that matter?

I asked last week about a debate in the Dáil on the Quirke report and the redress scheme for survivors of the Magdalen laundries. I appreciate that Mr. Justice Quirke has brought his report forward but I think it merits time for discussion in this House, not least because the UN Committee against Torture has written to the Government raising some serious concerns about the treatment of the Magdalen issue from start to finish.

I understand the Government is to give a response in respect of Bethany Home in Rathgar. Could the Tánaiste indicate a precise date on which the Government will make clear its position?

I am glad to hear that Deputy McDonald is in favour in something.

Brightness, always.

I am greatly relieved. I thought she was against everything. In respect of the reports from the Convention on the Constitution, it is planned to have a debate in the House on the first report in the last week of our sitting. The Government intends to comply with the four month deadline we have set ourselves to respond to each report so I expect in respect of the second report, which deals with the issue of marriage equality, that we will give a response within four months.

The question of a debate on the Quirke report can be discussed by the Whips. The issue of Bethany Home is still under consideration by the Minister and Minister of State.

It is now 18 months since Second Stage of the Legal Services Regulation Bill. I am sure the Tánaiste will agree that this is a hugely important Bill in terms of the administration of law in this State and its impact on many people, particularly in respect of cost. We were supposed to take Committee Stage next Wednesday. The Opposition worked extremely hard this week to get our amendments in for the deadline of 11 a.m. today but we now learn that the Government is pushing that back by a week. We will have one and a half hours to discuss this Bill on Committee Stage and then we are into the summer recess and the autumn. Does the Tánaiste agree that this is absolutely outrageous at this stage? We have been waiting 18 months for this Bill to get to Committee Stage and it is now put back by another three months and one and a half hours is offered for debate. What was all the work we put into amendments this week for?

I know there are some amendments to this Bill which are being proposed by the Minister for Justice and Equality and being considered by the Government. The timing and arranging of the meetings of the committee are matters for the committee itself. I am sure it will be able to arrange its timing itself but there are amendments under consideration by the Government in respect of that Bill.

Is it possible to bring forward the criminal justice (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, which was promised, in an effort to tighten the law relating to fraud with criminal intent and to ensure that persons suspected of such activity are brought before the courts at the earliest opportunity with a view to ensuring that the law is adequately provided for in that respect?

The heads of the criminal justice (miscellaneous provisions) Bill have been approved by the Government and it is expected to be published later this year.

I call on Deputy Healy-Rae. I ask Deputies to be brief.

I will. The Government is selling off 40 former Garda stations because it cannot identify alternative State uses for the buildings. This is a disgrace. I am raising this issue in respect of the criminal justice (miscellaneous provisions) Bill. I ask the Tánaiste not to sell off these buildings because we were promised in this Chamber that they would be made available to local community groups.

The Deputy should table a parliamentary question or Topical Issue request on the matter.

We were given that commitment in the House and I want the Tánaiste to tell me why the Government is doing a U-turn on that commitment.

The second item relates to the Health (Amendment) Bill. The Department of Social Protection has ensured that in the majority of cases, GP evidence is no longer acceptable and consultants' letters are required when applying for the many schemes it administers, putting another financial burden on already struggling householders. Will the Government reverse this policy?

There is no legislation promised in respect of either of those matters. There is nothing to prevent local organisations or local authorities from acquiring the Garda stations that are no longer in use and that are available for alternative use.

I wish to ask the Tánaiste about promised water services legislation. We have a significant number of assets which must be transferred from local authorities to Uisce Éireann. They include water treatment plants, networks and sewage treatment plants. Will these require votes in each council chamber under section 183 of the existing local authority legislation or will the Bill the Government is bringing forward supersede all of this? There are hundreds of public private partnerships, PPPs, which are mainly design, build and operate, DBO, projects. Will Uisce Éireann take over all of them with their associated liabilities and debts? When will we see the Bill and what are its main provisions because we are in the dark? We have tried to get this information out of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government but we are in the dark on this issue. Even the Brighter Evenings Bill might shed some light on it. I hope the Tánaiste can shine some light on it this morning. What will happen to the DBOs and the transfer of assets from local authorities to Uisce Éireann?

I understand that the Minister and his Department have reached agreement with the trade unions representing staff in the local authorities on the transfer of water services under the new arrangements. We are proceeding with the drafting of that Bill to give effect to that. The preparation of the heads of the Bill was recently approved by the Government so work is under way on that legislation.

Shortly after the Government entered office, it introduced the Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Act 2011, which gave people rights to protect their property and homes. The criminal justice (victims rights) Bill has been outstanding for quite a long time. It is important we make communities safer by focusing on victims' rights and making life tougher for criminals by properly resourcing our gardaí. This is an important Bill that has been promised for quite some time. Could the Tánaiste give us an update as to when it will come before the House?

Preliminary work is under way on the criminal justice (victims rights) Bill, which aims to strengthen the rights of victims of crime and their families and to give effect to a proposed EU directive. It is not possible at this stage to indicate when it will be published.

The Tánaiste referenced very important legislation coming before the House today. This is the Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Bill 2011. I commend the Minister for Finance on his openness to accepting amendments. Given the discussion we had, what does it really mean? We can give all the powers we want to the regulator but the Government is unwilling to ask a public interest director in a State-owned bank who did not inform the Central Bank, which is the regulator, that tapes exist with recordings of individuals which are now deemed serious by the Central Bank and are being looked at for regulatory breaches.

That is not a matter for the Order of Business.

What is the point of this Bill if we have a Government that is unwilling to lift the phone to a former Minister for Finance?

He was paid by the State to be a public interest director for the past four years.

I am sure the Deputy can raise this-----

Does it not send out a negative signal about the Bill, which is an important and good Bill?

The Deputy can raise it in another way.

We should try to tighten up enforcement and regulation in the banks.

I will tell Deputy Doherty what it means; it means Sinn Féin got it wrong twice. It got it wrong first when it fell hook, line and sinker for what the guys on the tapes were asking for, which was a bailout for Anglo Irish Bank. Sinn Féin agreed with it, voted for it and praised it.

The current Government extended it.

It got it wrong a second time when it opposed this Government's Bill to liquidate Anglo Irish Bank.

Will the Tánaiste lift the phone and ask the public interest director? This did not happen five years ago. Up to five months ago the public interest directors did not inform the Central Bank-----

Deputy Doherty is wasting-----

-----of potential regulatory breaches of which they were in charge.

The Government is refusing to contact the banks because it is protecting the political elite-----

Deputy Doherty should resume his seat.

A former leader of Fine Gael, a former Minister for Finance, and a former Fianna Fáil Senator are on the board of a State-owned bank which did not inform the Central Bank of potential regulatory breaches up until five months ago.

The Deputy is wasting the time of his colleagues.

It is absolutely disgraceful. We do not need an inquiry to find out this information.

I call Deputy Mattie McGrath.

Deputy Doherty is all mouth and however loud he shouts, the fact of the matter is Sinn Féin got it fundamentally wrong in 2008 and fell for what those guys on the tapes said.

The lies they were telling. Use the word.

They were looking for a bailout from the Irish taxpayer and Sinn Féin fell for it hook, line and sinker. It is about time Deputy Doherty explained and apologised to the Irish people for doing so.

Make the call. The Tánaiste will not make the call because he is protecting vested interests.

I call Deputy Mattie McGrath and I ask him to be brief as we are running out of time.

I will be as brief as I can and before the Tánaiste tells me I fell for it too, the late Brian Lenihan was lied to and I did vote for it. The Labour Party promised it would burn the bondholders and it did not.

What is the issue?

I have come from a sad event at the Shelbourne Hotel this morning. At the Allsop auction 121 properties were put up for sale by an English group of auctioneers. There is supposed to be a code of practice for the Central Bank. Under the Central Bank (Consolidation) Bill and consumer protection law when will the Government deal with the banks? A total of 85% of the properties for sale this morning had no goodwill and in many cases they did not have proper title. Deputies Michael Healy-Rae and Tom Fleming and I went up-----

What did you buy?

-----and saw for ourselves what was going on. The Tánaiste and his advisers should see what is going on with regard to ordinary people's houses, businesses and family homes. Misery is being perpetrated by the banks. The Tánaiste heaped opprobrium when on this side of the House. I ask him to open his eyes and see what is going on with the banks. It is appropriate the book is in red because there is blood money and Cromwell is back. I could quote Charles Stewart Parnell-----

I will not do so but I could. I ask the Tánaiste please to deal with the banks so they do not create misery for the ordinary people of Ireland on an hourly basis.

The Government will not even phone a friend.

I am not sure whether a question was asked so I call Deputy Dessie Ellis.

I would like an answer to my question.

Deputy McGrath did not ask about legislation.

I asked about the Central Bank (Consolidation) Bill and consumer protection law. The Tánaiste was not as quiet when he was over here. Hellfire was going to be hotter than the bondholders' fire. I would like an answer to my question please.

What is the question?

Under the Central Bank (Consolidation) Bill will the Government deal with the code of practice for the bankers and chancers who are creating misery for people? Under consumer protection legislation will ordinary householders be protected?

As soon as we are finished with the Order of Business the House will deal with-----

Yesterday we had an eviction Bill.

-----the Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Bill. Deputy McGrath will have an opportunity to discuss the matter. When the Bill has completed its passage-----

Another two years.

It will not take another two years.

This is happening now.

The Government has introduced more legislation in the past two years to reform the-----

It is all toothless. The banks have a veto.

If the Deputy wants an answer he should listen.

The Government has introduced more legislation on reforming our banking system and improving regulation in the past two years than was done during the previous 14 years.

That is not true.

That is simply not true. On a point of order what the Tánaiste has just said is not true.

The Deputy can take it up when discussing the Bill.

I could call it something else but I will not do so.

I will not. It is not true and it is an insult to say it. We did not come down in the last shower.

What shower did you come down in?

Delivery of a universal health scheme was promised by the Minister, Deputy Reilly, and was also in the programme for Government. We were told it would be delivered before the end of the term of the Government, which is in just over two years' time. People are no longer able to afford private health care and are being forced to leave it. The Tánaiste and his party believe in a public health care system, as do we. We have not seen the bones of the universal health care system which is planned. When will we see legislation prepared for it and when will it be brought before the House? When will we see what is planned, because massive problems exist across the board. I would rather see a public health care system but let us see what the plans are for this universal health care system.

Work is advanced on a range of legislation to reform the health service in line with the programme for Government. The health (amendment) Bill will be published this year. A health general practitioner medical service Bill and a number of alternative options for the phased implementation of a universal GP service without fees are under consideration at present. Other legislation will come at various stages. Work is proceeding on the various pieces of legislation.

Will we see it before the end of the term of this Government?

I wish to inquire about a Bill which may be of some assistance when dealing with agitated backbenchers. It is the mediation Bill. After this morning's session it is becoming more desperate. Will the Bill be published by the end of the year?

I thank Deputy Maloney-----

I think it should be guillotined, by the way.

Is Deputy Maloney not into mediation?

There has been an epidemic of that.

I am not sure whether mediation would work in here because there must be willingness. Mediation only works if every party is willing to participate, and there is nothing that will satisfy some people on the Opposition benches. The last thing they would ever agree to is mediation. The heads of the mediation Bill have been approved by the Government and it is expected to be published later this year.

When does the Government propose to bring forward legislation to give effect to the creation of between 50 and 60 new local authority members in Dublin?

Deputy Cowen is probably referring to the most extensive and radical reform of local government since the end of the 19th century, which is long overdue.

It will provide some possibility for improvement for the Labour Party.

The Bill will be later in the year.

On a light note I suggest the Brighter Evenings Bill should begin an hour earlier tomorrow in keeping with the spirit of the proposed legislation. On a far more serious note, a number of discoveries of explosive devices and components were made by gardaí in Dublin last night. What is the timeframe with regard to the explosives Bill? We need to prioritise it.

The Bill is expected later this year.

I presume most Members received correspondence in recent days from the Irish Cancer Society regarding the lack of regulation in the area of sunbeds. One point raised in the documentation is that the risk of skin cancer from sunbed use is more than double that of spending the same length of time in Mediterranean sun. In the programme for Government a commitment was made to introduce legislation to regulate this industry. When will we see this legislation?

The heads of the public health (sunbeds) Bill to introduce a number of measures to regulate the use of sunbeds including a prohibition on their use by people aged under 18 years have been approved by the Government and it is expected to be published later this year.

The betting (amendment) Bill is on the A list of legislation and it was to be published before the end of this term. Have the heads of the Bill been considered by Government and will the Bill be published before we adjourn for the summer recess?

While I am on my feet I wish to allude briefly to an item referred to in the programme for Government, namely, the plight of the 32 survivors of thalidomide, which I have raised with the Tánaiste on numerous occasions. I understand the Minister for Health was to meet with those people. Has the meeting taken place yet?

The betting legislation is currently under consideration by the Government. I do not know whether the Minister for Health has met the victims of thalidomide but I will ask him to respond directly to the Deputy.

I was going to speak about the Central Bank (consolidation) Bill but I will not do so. The consumer and competition Bill is currently being prepared. I would like to see legislation on banks that have written off debts and sold it on to companies that are popping up all over the place. They are buying debt for very little and making people’s lives a misery. It is a huge issue. I am hearing much about it in my constituency office. I would welcome legislation on banks selling on bad debt, second hand, which they have already written off. It will become a huge problem in the future.

There is no legislation promised in the area but I accept what the Deputy has said. I agree it is an issue that must be addressed.

When will the assisted decision-making (capacity) Bill, formerly known as mental capacity legislation, be published? I believe it is imminent. Will it be published before we break for the summer or during the summer?

The Bill is expected to be published this session.