Leaders' Questions

As we reach the end of this session, on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party I express our sincere thanks to the staff of the House for their dedication and commitment throughout the session. It has been a particularly challenging time for them and their families. They deserve our good wishes as they attempt to have some time off from here. To the members of the media who have endured our antiquated and outdated method of doing business in the past session and to the rest of the members of the press gallery, I express our good wishes as they head for their summer break. I thank the Ceann Comhairle sincerely on behalf of our party for the way he has co-operated and worked with us in our effort to do our business.

Has Deputy Dooley his bucket and spade?

It is interesting that the Taoiseach has announced that he has seen the light and that the Government will create jobs.

A three-point plan. It was a five-point plan.

We are told there will be a new focus on jobs, but we have heard this many times in the past two and a half years and there has been little by way of real effort or exercise-----

Some 2,000 per month.

-----in bringing it to fruition.

Those are the Minister's expenses.

The Taoiseach told the Irish Independent today that the Government plans to create 75,000 jobs by taking people off the dole. I am all for giving people hope, but not on the back of false promises. It would seem that, instead of job creation, people must realise that work actually pays. The Taoiseach has come up with an interesting concept there. There is more than a hint of a belief that people are choosing to stay on social protection instead of working or seeking work.

Whatever that contention might have held during the Celtic tiger era or better times, I see no indication that jobs are being left vacant or that people are failing to take up employment because they find life easier on social welfare. Maybe the Labour and Fine Gael parties have some interesting insights and will allude to them.

More insights than Fianna Fáil anyway.

The Government's Action Plan for Jobs was announced 18 months ago and has been re-announced quite a few times since. It was due to create 100,000 jobs by 2016. How credible is the commitment given in the Government's previous promises on job creation that, unfortunately, have not come to fruition? How credible can today's announcement be when the Government has not achieved its targets? NewERA, a Fine Gael document from some time ago, was due to create 100,000 jobs. Where has that gone? To the best of my knowledge, the only job created by NewERA is the role for the Minister of State from County Louth. There is quite a bit to go.

This announcement is even more extraordinary, given the fact that Fianna Fáil's call, which was made more than one and a half years ago, for measures to improve employment, including the use of the National Pensions Reserve Fund, NPRF, was ignored until the country was back in recession.

This is ridiculous.

(Interruptions).

I thank Deputy Dooley, but we are over time.

He is losing the House.

(Interruptions).

By closing down the Seanad, more jobs will be gone.

Given the chorus from the Labour Party, it is clearly upset by the facts being placed before it.

The Deputy should put his question.

If that party's Members gave me an opportunity to make my points to the Tánaiste, I would not need to disrupt them.

Send in the next one. Deputy Dooley has failed again.

Deputy Dooley is over time. That is unfortunate for him.

(Interruptions).

The economy is bouncing along the bottom despite the Minister for Finance's claim that it was about to take off like a rocket. How does the Government intend to take people off of social protection and create 75,000 jobs?

I join Deputy Dooley in expressing thanks to the Ceann Comhairle, the staff of the House and everyone who works here, including the media, for what has been a long and productive session since Easter.

I am glad that Deputy Dooley has raised the issue of employment with me. In the three years before the general election after which this Government was formed, 250,000 jobs were lost in the economy under Fianna Fáil's watch.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

That is some record.

This amounted to 80,000 jobs per year in a three-year period.

This situation is turning. Jobs in the private sector are being created at a rate of approximately 2,000 per month. The number of people in employment has increased for the first time since 2008. The number of people on the live register is declining, but a great deal more needs to be done.

Getting people back to work is the cornerstone of the economy's recovery. It is the primary focus of this Government. We all know the kinds of target that have dominated political and economic discussion in this country in recent years. Those targets must be met in terms of the troika and so on.

We are about to exit the programme. As a country, we need to set ourselves a new target, that being, full employment. We must create employment for people who lost jobs during the recession, for young people who are leaving school and college and cannot find work and for people who have needed to emigrate and would like the opportunity to return.

For this reason, we have adopted a range of measures to address the employment crisis. This is why we are having a special meeting of the Cabinet today on the jobs crisis.

That is why the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, introduced the Pathways to Work scheme. In addition, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, introduced a stimulus package last year. We also decided to establish a strategic investment fund to provide funding that will stimulate growth in our economy. In addition, we got agreement at European level on the youth guarantee and provided funding for it to address the problem of youth unemployment.

Every single day, the Government is working on initiatives to get people back to work, as well as promoting economic growth, increased investment so that jobs are created, and increased confidence in our domestic economy. No one has ever argued that it would be easy or that there would be a single, silver bullet solution to unemployment. A range of measures are joined up across Government through Action Plan for Jobs. Every Department and State agency is working in a co-ordinated manner to promote the one thing that unemployed people need most, which is increased employment opportunities. Every Member of this House should support the Government's efforts in that regard.

The Tánaiste's indignation is welcome. If I were to go back over the record of the Dáil when the Tánaiste was on the Opposition benches, I am sure it was the same script he repeated every week. The only difference now is that the Tánaiste has been on the Government benches for the past two and a half years. The record, unfortunately-----

You broke it and we are fixing it.

I need no history lesson from you, so keep to yourself for a minute and work out where you are going on your holidays.

I need no history lesson about what happened. The Tánaiste will be aware that there was an election in the meantime. The Government was elected on the basis of job creation commitments made by Labour and Fine Gael. The fact of the matter is, however, that the jobs are not there.

More people are working.

The Tánaiste has given interesting employment figures that seem to gloss over the facts. If one teases through them, one will find that many full-time jobs have become part-time ones. Labour activation has come into play with people being taken off the live register numbers and, in addition, people have emigrated. Therefore, what the Tánaiste believes to be an increase of 2,000 jobs per week is a farce when one teases it out.

The Deputy should put a supplementary question.

The Tánaiste has announced the same thing three or four times. He has achieved nothing else in the meantime other than job announcements.

A question please, Deputy.

There is a big difference between job announcements and those jobs coming to fruition. I know all about it. I come from a county that has often been subject to hundreds or thousands of job announcements over time, but they never came to fruition, so we will go back to the basic question.

No, the Deputy will not go back. He is going nowhere. He is supposed to ask a supplementary question, but is now three minutes over his time.

I have two simple follow-up questions. How does the Tánaiste intend to demonstrate that work can actually pay?

It is simple, all right.

The Taoiseach has said he will demonstrate that work can pay. Second, how will the Tánaiste engage differently with the unemployed to convince them to find a job in an environment where the Government has failed to create employment? One only has to look-----

Will the Deputy please resume his seat?

That is an awful insult to people who are out of work.

Employers are unable to get the appropriate level of finance from the financial institutions to create jobs. They are only getting a trickle. One need only speak to the small and medium enterprises to appreciate that.

When I ask the Deputy to stop, he should please stop and not totally ignore the Chair. The Deputy is way over time. I have been very fair to him.

Deputy Dooley does need a history lesson. Fianna Fáil wrecked this country's economy.

And left the dregs.

In the three years before the people rightly booted it out of office, they presided over the loss of 250,000 jobs in this economy.

We are witnessing history repeating itself with this Government's carry on.

No government in this country - and to my knowledge no government in modern times in Europe or any other developed country - has ever presided over such a loss of employment in its own economy. It was a disgraceful record, and our job has been to turn that around.

A Deputy

You are not doing it.

A Deputy

Clark Kent himself.

We are turning it around. For the first time since 2008, the number of people at work has increased. In 2012, the IDA had its best year in ten years. Enterprise Ireland has had a record year for exports. All of that is sustaining, supporting and building jobs in this country.

A Deputy

The Tánaiste is spending more time on the Government jet.

Frankly, I find the Deputy's attitude to unemployed people patronising and unacceptable.

They are being left on social welfare by the Government.

People who are out of work know very well that they would be better off in work, earning a living, which is what they want to do. That is what they expect the Government to work on to help create the jobs they need.

Unlike Deputy Dooley's Government, this Government is not satisfied to leave unemployed people sitting idle and unable to develop the skills to improve their opportunities for getting back to work. That is why we have introduced the Pathways to Work scheme which will enable people to identify what they need to be re-employed. In that way they can equip themselves better to take up employment opportunities when they become available. The world of work is changing, which is why we have reformed the education and training system.

A Deputy

They are closing schools.

The Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn, is undertaking that reform through the establishment of SOLAS. The development of education and training means the introduction of JobBridge and a range of other measures to assist unemployed people either to get education, training, work or work experience - whatever it takes to get them back into the workforce. There are two parts to the equation. One is to do what is necessary to generate jobs and the other is to equip unemployed people so that they will be in a position to take up those employment opportunities when they become available.

I wish everyone well as they go off for their summer break. Coincidentally, as we rise for the summer recess, today is the 95th birthday of Nelson Mandela, who is also known as Madiba. I am sure the Tánaiste will join me and others here in sending best wishes, on behalf of the Irish people, to him and his family on this occasion.

By the time we return in September, many students will have started their third level college courses. We are all too well aware of the debacle surrounding the SUSI grant application system last year. Thousands of applications were delayed, rejected in error or, in some cases, lost. I know of one young student whose grant, believe it or not, only came through this week. That student has been waiting for the grant since before Christmas. As the Tánaiste knows, students will not be entitled to graduate from their courses if their fees remain outstanding - not to mention the hardship caused to many students by the delay or denial of grants. This morning, the Ombudsman for Children, Ms Emily Logan, confirmed that students may complain to her if they are unhappy with their treatment by SUSI.

What guarantee can the Tánaiste give that next year's intake of third level students will not have the same experience? Can the Tánaiste guarantee that the first payment of third level grants will come through by Christmas? Have the recommendations of the independent review of SUSI been fully implemented? Is the Tánaiste satisfied that SUSI has adequate resources in place to process third level grant applications in a timely fashion?

I join Deputy McDonald in expressing, on behalf of the Government, my best wishes on the 95th birthday of Nelson Mandela. He is a heroic and iconic figure for us all.

For the coming year, SUSI has introduced changes to make the process much easier for most applicants. Its internal procedures have been developed to respond to the experiences of last year's applicants. No one in this House was satisfied with SUSI's first year of operation, but all the changes to SUSI will serve to improve significantly the service offered to students applying for student grants.

There have been reports in the media of students still awaiting grant payments for the 2012-2013 academic year. Those reports are of serious concern to us all, especially the Minister for Education and Skills.

Of the 70,000 applications for student grants, 99.23% are now fully complete. SUSI is still awaiting some documentation from 18 students, representing 0.02% of all applications, and is in contact with them by telephone, e-mail and post in this regard.

Twelve months later.

Final decisions have been made in respect of a further 500 applicants, representing 0.75% of all applications, but payment has not yet been made. In most cases, this is because SUSI has not received bank account details or students are no longer continuing their courses. The next payment date is 25 July. I appeal to each of these students to ensure they have provided their bank details to SUSI in time for payment to be made on that day.

In terms of the coming year, 22,000 students who were awarded grants last year have already submitted applications to renew their grants for next year and a further 26,000 students have submitted new applications for next year. This will allow SUSI to process applications over the summer months rather than having to wait until September to commence receipt of applications.

An independent review of SUSI was carried out by Accenture in recent months. In line with the recommendations of that review and, in preparation for the 2013-14 academic year, the online applications system and application assessment process have been further developed to deal with the difficulties experienced in year one. A number of new initiatives will also make the application process more efficient this year. Applications for the 2013-14 academic year have been accepted since 20 May this year while those who received grants last year have been able to apply for a renewal of their grant online in recent weeks. A number of changes have been made to the application process, including the collection of bank account details at an earlier stage in the process so that grant payments can be made as soon as applications are approved. More significantly, a direct transfer of data between the Revenue Commissioners, the Central Admissions Office and General Registration Office is now in place. SUSI now has access to appropriate Department of Social Protection social welfare records. This will allow it to significantly reduce the supporting documentation required of applicants.

SUSI is working to improve how it communicates with students. Its website has been completely overhauled to ensure that all information for students is available in one place and an online tracker system is now also available to applicants so that they can monitor the progress of their applications.

The fact that at this stage there are 600 students still experiencing difficulty in terms of their grant applications says it all. This is only a glimpse of the chaos we know reined in this system in the last academic year.

The Tánaiste referred to the provision of documentation. I am sure he is aware that the level of bureaucracy involved in this exercise almost caused parents and students the length and breadth of this country to have nervous breakdowns. While I welcome that there will now be data exchange between the Revenue Commissioners, the Central Admissions Office and the Department of Social Protection, it is hardly revolutionary. We do not exactly live in the dark ages. However, I am glad this will now happen.

I did not get from the Tánaiste's response the type of commitment I was seeking from him on behalf of Government to the students. He said that the independent review recommendations have been implemented. Can he assure students that the chaotic scenario which prevailed in the last academic year will not recur this year and that they will receive this year's payments by Christmas? Will he give that commitment?

On assessment of grants, the Tánaiste will be aware that assessment of eligibility of a student to a grant on the basis of gross income has caused significant problems for many families. My colleagues and I have received a great deal of correspondence on this issue as, I am sure, has the Tánaiste.

The Deputy must conclude. She is over time.

It takes no account of outgoings or a family's debt burden. The Tánaiste referred to assessment criteria. Would it not be fairer to calculate a student's eligibility on the basis of net rather than gross income?

Some 42% of all third level students are in receipt of a grant. Last year, the student grant administration system was transferred from 66 different bodies, including county and city councils and VECs, to one body, namely, SUSI. I have acknowledged, as has the Minister for Education and Skills on a number of occasions, that there were problems with this. What is important is that the lessons learned in that transition process have resulted in changes being made, including an increase of 23 in the number of staff in SUSI involved in the processing of applications. In addition, a review was undertaken by Accenture of the way in which the process operated. As I said earlier, the recommendations made by Accenture are being implemented. Some of those recommendations involve earlier processing of applications and an earlier-----

I know all that. I want to know if students will receive this year's payments by Christmas.

We are way over time.

Students will not experience the type of difficulties they experienced last year. However, as we all know much depends on the quality of applications and so on. As far as the operation of SUSI is concerned, the type of problems experienced last year have been addressed. There has been a significant number of changes made in the operation-----

The Tánaiste cannot guarantee payments will be made by Christmas.

We are over time.

The Fianna Fáil spokesperson ran over time too.

There is an application system for student grants in place. Nobody can guarantee what decision will be made in respect of applications. It may be-----

Can the Tánaiste guarantee that eligible students will receive their grants by Christmas?

The Deputy asked if the recommendations of the review were being implemented.

I asked if students will receive their grant payments by Christmas.

I detailed the changes being made for the Deputy. When that information was not bad enough, she decided to change tack and ask a different question.

No. I want to know if students will receive their grant payments by Christmas.

Grant applications will be processed efficiently by SUSI. We have put in place a much better system for this year. It is the intention that the applications will be processed by Christmas.

Over two weeks ago, a woman called Mary Kerr, who was a symphysiotomy survivor, died. As she was unable to do so, her family were active in fighting for justice for her, a justice she will now never get.

In response to a question yesterday from Deputy Adams on the Magdalen laundries, the Tánaiste made the point that time is not on the side of the Magdalen laundries survivors. Time is not on the side of symphysiotomy survivors either. The Taoiseach told us last week that the reason for the delay in dealing with this issue was that the Minister for Health was considering the final draft of the Walsh report, which report he has had for seven weeks now, so as to ensure the appropriate treatment for the women concerned. There is no appropriate treatment for symphysiotomy. The damage done to these women decades ago cannot be undone. Many of them have had up to 25 operations and some have never left their homes. Husbands lost their wives and children their mothers. This is not a matter of health, it is a matter of justice. Comparisons with the Magdalen laundries are totally inappropriate. What we are talking about in respect of symphysiotomy survivors is personal injuries as a result of gross medical negligence.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 13b, motion re statement of Estimates for the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission; No. 14, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the fight against fraud to the Union’s financial interests by means of criminal law - general approach, back from committee; No. 15, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation and Training, Europol, and repealing Decisions 2009/371/JHA and 2005/681/JHA, back from committee; No. a15a, motion re: ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; No. 15c, motion re membership of committees; and No. 15b motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Non-Use of Motor Vehicles (Section 3) Regulations 2013, without debate and that any division demanded on No 13b shall be taken forthwith agreed?

Not agreed. I refer to No. 15, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation and Training, Europol, and repealing Decisions 2009/371/JHA and 2005/681/JHA. This proposal deserves debate here. The joint supervisory body of Europol in a published opinion on this decision characterised it as a clearly retrograde step in respect of data protection issues. It is clearly a sensitive issue. We have debated these issues in the Chamber before. I do not believe it should go through on the nod and should be afforded time to be discussed.

It was debated at the committee.

This was referred to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality and was debated, I believe, yesterday. What we have is what has come back from the committee. It has already been considered and discussed in the committee and to my knowledge no division was called at the committee.

A member gets kicked off a committee for calling a vote.

Question, "That the proposal for dealing with No. 13b, No. 14, No. 15, No. a15a, N. 15c and No. 15b be agreed to," put and declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 15a, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the despatch of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for service with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in Syria agreed? Agreed.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 23, Committee and Remaining Stages of the Electoral, Local Government and Planning and Development Bill 2013 agreed? Agreed.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. a1, Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Bill 2013, amendment from the Seanad agreed?

It is not agreed. This is a Bill that would make it easier to repossess the family home - effectively an eviction Bill - that plays into the hands of the banks. I suppose it is consistent with Government policy that leaves control in the hands of the bankers on the resolution of people's personal indebtedness

Deputy Dooley knows all about bankers.

Is Deputy McNamara on the right side today or on the wrong side? Does he know what buttons he is pressing?

Any day I am on a different side from Deputy Dooley.

Perhaps we can get back to dealing with the issue.

The Deputy is back in the pack anyway - he is back in tune with Deputy Stagg.

One more sheep back in the pen.

The bottom line is that we disagree with the way in which it is being rushed through the House and guillotined. We disagree in principle with the Bill.

There is one amendment from the Seanad.

The Tánaiste is all heart.

I believe an hour is plenty of time to debate that amendment. Is there no end to the hard neck of Fianna Fáil?

The Tánaiste is tied to his friends.

First the Deputy gets up and talks about jobs after his party losing 250,000.

The Government is going to evict people from their homes for the banks. Deputy Eamon Gilmore, the bankers' friend.

Now he has the effrontery to get up and talk about banks after what his party did with the blanket bailout and took the-----

The Government took the banker's shilling.

This is about enabling people to get out-----

It is taking the shilling and-----

There is no end to the hard neck and effrontery of Fianna Fáil.

It is evicting people out of their homes.

A period of repentant silence from Fianna Fáil is long overdue.

Did it get the 10%?

Question, "That the proposal for dealing with No. a1 be agreed to," put and declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 24, Order for Report, Report and Final Stages of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012, agreed? Agreed.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 25, statements on the report of the Constitutional Convention, agreed? Agreed.

I finally come to one in which people will be very interested. Is the proposal that the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 18 September 2013 agreed? Agreed.

I call Deputy Dooley on the Order of Business.

(Interruptions).

Give Deputy Dooley an opportunity to make his point.

In a break with tradition and custom that was exercised by those on the other side when they occupied these benches-----

(Interruptions).

----- we will not be seeking an extension of this session. We will not be complaining about the length of the Dáil session. However, on a serious point I hope in the course of the next session we have an opportunity to discuss real Dáil reform. It is not about the length of time we sit, but about the way in which we order our business.

We want more time in the bright evenings.

The way we do our business in this House needs to be reformed. While I will not make an overly political point, it is unfortunate we are dealing with so many items on the last day.

A Cheann Comhairle-----

I would argue we should take a summer break of approximately four weeks, but the other four weeks should be dispersed over the year-----

Deputy Dooley should be careful of what he wishes for.

Is this Deputy Dooley's contribution on the Order of Business?

Sorry, Deputy-----

-----so that we do not have this glut at the end of it.

Is the Deputy raising something on the Order of Business?

I am. I am raising Dáil reform.

Is this on the Order of Business?

In the reform of the Dáil procedures we should reduce the big block of time in summer-----

Deputy Ó Fearghaíl, the man sitting behind Deputy Dooley, is very good at that.

-----and share that time throughout the year in a way that allows us to do our work effectively.

The Deputy should leave it to the experts.

The Deputy has made his point at this stage.

It would also allow the staff of the House to do their work more effectively.

A Cheann Comhairle, is this Deputy Dooley's contribution on the Order of Business?

It would stop this sham throughout the year.

The Deputy has made his point.

What is Deputy Dooley like?

In the lifetime of this Government we have made a number of very significant changes to the way in which the Dáil operates, for example, the amount of time that is spent, the introduction of ways in which Members of the House can introduce legislation, the operation of committees and the legislation the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, has recently introduced to provide for parliamentary inquiries. We have more to do in reforming the House, but it is not just about the procedures, the formal rules and so on. It is also about the way in which Members use the House.

There is a responsibility on every elected Member of Dáil Éireann to make the best possible use of Dáil time, Dáil procedures, committees and so on to raise the issues that matter to people to make the House much more relevant to the lives of people outside the House. That is a responsibility that we all share. Discussion on Dáil reform is an issue to which we can return and I would be very happy to do so after the break.

I call Deputy McDonald.

I am not going to-----

Is this my opportunity to speak on matters on the Order of Business?

On the Order of Business.

Sorry, I misunderstood. I thought this was just a random thing between two guys in the Chamber.

The Deputy should join in.

That is okay. I take back my feelings of utter frustration as I listened to the lads.

Thank you Deputy.

One of the big glaring issues on Dáil reform, leaving aside the technicalities of how we do our business is the gender issue in the Houses of the Oireachtas. We need to address it.

Thank you Deputy.

I wish to raise two substantive issues with the Tánaiste. In May I raised the issue of the need to have Down's syndrome added to the list of low-incidence disabilities to ensure those students and children have adequate educational supports.

Can the Tánaiste tell us when he will bring forward his proposal in that regard? Can he confirm what was for me a welcome announcement yesterday by An Taoiseach to the effect that the issue of the Bethany Home would be discussed at the next week's Cabinet meeting, a decision taken and an announcement made?

Deputy McDonald asked about the gender composition of the Dáil. As she is aware, the Government has introduced legislation.

Yes, but there is a need to remind the House that we have provided an arrangement for the next general election whereby every political party will be required to nominate a minimum of 30% of their candidates of either gender, and that goes up to 40% at the subsequent general election. Any party which does not do so will have half of its State funding cut. It is the first serious attempt made to address the serious gender imbalance that we have in the Chamber.

The Minister for Education and Skills met the deputation Deputy McDonald asked me about to discuss the Down's syndrome issue and the matter is under consideration.

I can confirm that the issue of the Bethany Home is being considered by the Government. I expect that it will be considered probably at our meeting next week.

I wish to ask about two items under the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. The Omagh bomb victims handed a report to the Minister for Justice and Equality tomorrow 12 months ago, that is, 19 July 2012, and they have heard nothing back. I implore the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to try to meet those people to give them a response to that important report. It was an expert report and over 12 months is too long to wait.

My second question is under to the Central Bank (consolidation) Bill and relates to the operations of the Credit Review Office. The office is toothless in dealing with Bank of Ireland and many other banks as well. It is siding with the banks in most reports, it is not getting the true facts from the banks and a true picture is not being given, nor is there a proper opportunity to review cases fairly under that office.

I will make some inquiries about the report of the Omagh bomb victims and I will ask the Minister for Justice and Equality to respond directly to the Deputy. The Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill to which he referred will be later this year. I do not have a date yet for the credit legislation.

When is the independent charities regulatory authority to be set up, in other words, when will we see the full implementation of the Charities Act 2009?

I do not know the answer to that question but I will get it for Deputy Healy-Rae and communicate with him.

My question comes under the Irish human rights and equality commission Bill and follows the announcement by the Minister for Justice and Equality on Garda recruitment. There is great concern among the people who had successfully applied before the Government embargo was imposed in 2009.

That is a separate issue. It is not on the Order of Business. Thank you.

They passed all eligibility levels at interview and examination and they are fully qualified in every way and have been accepted by the Department of Justice and Equality. I would like to see that their positions would be honoured and they would get the first call for any recruitment.

Sorry, Deputy, that is not on the Order of Business. Thank you. Deputy Ellis is next.

Will the Tánaiste ask the Minister for Justice and Equality to look at these immediately?

That is not on the Order of Business. Thank you.

A transfer of services and assets will have to take place to Irish Water from local authorities throughout the country. This will include resources such as storage facilities and tanks, local authority equipment, infrastructure and man power. It will require legislation. Will the Tánaiste outline when this legislation will be introduced or when we are proposing to bring it in? We have had to bring in legislation to access the National Pensions Reserve Fund.

Is there promised legislation?

There is, yes. There have been discussions between the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and Irish Water with the local authorities and the trade unions representing staff in the local authorities. Those discussions have concluded. A water services Bill, the heads of which were approved by Government approximately two weeks ago is emerging and it is expected to be published later this year.

I wish to raise two items of legislation promised for some time. One is the criminal procedure Bill which is to reform the pre-trial process and hopefully speed it up and identify the issues that cause delays. Has this come to Cabinet, have the heads been discussed or approved and when is it likely to come before the House?

Another important tranche of legislation promised is the data sharing Bill which relates to sharing of data between specified Government agencies on the regulation of business to ensure the elimination of potential area for conflict.

Deputy Durkan asked about two tranches of legislation. I do not have a date for the publication of either.

We will try again.

Is there any proposed legislation on the issue of diversity of media ownership, including mergers and acquisitions? I get a sense form the Tánaiste that it is not a priority or that it might be an issue the Government is shying away from. Can the Tánaiste enlighten us? Does he intend to deal with the issue?

No, we are not shying away from it at all. There is a consumer and competition Bill and the issue of media mergers is to be addressed in that. There is work being done on that. The Bill is at an advanced stage.

What is the delay?

The issues are being considered jointly by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. Preparation of the Bill is ongoing.

Is it a priority?

The time has expired but some other Deputies wish to speak and, seeing as it is the last day, I will ask them-----

I did not get an answer.

Not on Garda recruitment. There is a Topical Issue debate on that today. Deputies Tuffy, Ó Cuív, Lowry and Kitt have indicated. If you put your questions, we will get the Tánaiste to reply.

My question relates to a matter mentioned by the Tánaiste. Members make the best of facilities in the House. Members are particularly able to make an input in committees. At this stage, they have a more meaningful input in committees than here in the Chamber. The problem in the Chamber is that everything centres around set pieces such as Leaders' Questions and the rest of the Deputies are asked to come along by the Whips, but we can have no input whatsoever. In other parliaments Deputies like us are allowed to participate and we used to be allowed in this House. Leaders' Questions is a new phenomenon. It only goes back ten or 15 years and did not exist before then. Leaders should not be given priority in the House because we are all equal. When Dáil reform proposals come up there should be proposals to allow backbenches to have an input into the ordering of the business of the Dáil.

A total of 27 Bills were promised on the A list. How many of those have been published to date?

That is a parliamentary question, Deputy. This is the Order of Business. We are asking about when legislation is being taken. We are over time and there is a lot of business here today.

How many will be published before the end of the session? In particular, when will the consumer and competition Bill, which was promised by An Taoiseach in the House before the end of this session, be published? I am looking for total numbers of Bills published.

No, you cannot get that. That is a parliamentary question.

My question relates to the housing (miscellaneous provisions)(No. 2) Bill. Will the Tánaiste inform the House whether the serious difficulties that have arisen with the shared ownership scheme will be legislated for within that Bill? The shared ownership scheme was brought in to assist and support low-income families to buy a house.

That is fine, Deputy, thank you. We cannot debate it.

At the moment thousands of families are trapped in the scheme. The scheme has been stood down but we need redress for those who are in the scheme at the moment.

May I ask the Tánaiste what is the position on the new tenant purchase scheme and whether families in voluntary housing schemes could be allowed to purchases their houses in the same way as other tenants.

When Members broke for the recess in 2011 on this day two years ago, the Taoiseach gave a commitment that parliamentary questions would be allowed over recesses. Nothing has been pursued in this regard and, again, no Deputy will have the ability to question Departments between now and the middle of September. Has there been progress in this regard or are there plans to do anything about it?

First, on the issue raised by Deputy Tuffy, when responding to this issue earlier I had in mind the performance of the Opposition rather than the performance of Members on the Government side. However, I did not wish to be unduly adversarial in my response.

When did that ever stop the Tánaiste?

I agree that on the issue of the involvement of all Members of the House, the principle of equality of treatment of all Members of the House must govern the manner in which Dáil reform is considered. In response to Deputy Ó Cuív on the number of Bills, 12 Bills have been published thus far. Four Bills have been approved by the Cabinet and are awaiting publication and five Bills that were not on the A list have been published thus far. I answered in respect of the consumer and competition Bill earlier but the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel provided revised drafts of the Bill on 28 June relating to the amalgamation of the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority. Some legal issues are being examined and, as I mentioned earlier on the issue of media mergers, a number of detailed questions are being considered jointly by the two Departments concerned. Preparation of the Bill is at an advanced stage. As for the housing Bill, which was raised by Deputy Lowry and to which Deputy Kitt's question also relates, the Bill in question is due to be published next year. In response to the issue regarding replies to Dáil questions, this issue must be considered in the context of wider Dáil reform.