It is proposed to take No. 14, motion re referral to select sub-committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of taxation agreements; and No. 3, Gas Regulation Bill 2013 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 14 shall be decided without debate; and Private Members' business which shall be No. 114 – motion re mortgage arrears, shall also take place immediately after the Order of Business tomorrow and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes on that day.
Order of Business
There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 14, motion re referral to select sub-committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of taxation agreements, agreed?
It is not agreed. As a mark of protest about the manner in which the Government is doing business, I am opposing this proposal. In the last session, the Taoiseach gave me a very solemn promise and commitment, indicating he would consult with me on a package of Dáil reform measures that would be brought before the House. He did not do so and broke the promise; it was very dishonest of the Taoiseach to make that statement in the House without any clear commitment to following through.
We are here with business as usual, with the Government ordering the schedule of the House, which illustrates better than anything else the degree to which nothing has happened with the relationship between this Parliament and the Government. There is an absolute paucity of any meaningful, profound or serious reform of this House so that it can be independent and hold the Executive fully to account.
The Deputy was worn out from reforming.
There have been no meetings and it is extraordinary that at a time when people say they are dramatically reforming the House, not one single Member-----
The Deputy had his chance.
-----has been consulted.
We cannot have a debate on it.
We have been presented with a fait accompli.
The Deputy has made his point.
That illustrates the lack of sincerity on the Taoiseach's behalf and that of the Chief Whip with regard to meaningful Dáil reform.
They have been slagging Independents.
It is a charade and the measures were published last week because of the upcoming vote in the Seanad referendum. It is a pretence that the Government is interested in making itself accountable to the Dáil.
If the Deputy was still in government, we would still have short pants on.
All objective assessments of the package have described it as underwhelming and having no impact. It is merely tinkering with the system-----
The Deputy has had his say.
-----and is not incentivising the Dáil to hold the Government aggressively to account, etc. It seems to be about reducing the level of accountability. The Taoiseach was dishonest and broke his promise genuinely to consult with Opposition leaders in advance of publishing any measures.
I was quite surprised to read about the various measures in the media and I do not consider them reforms of any substantive nature. I was surprised because of the commitment given not once by the Taoiseach but at least on four or five occasions that we would be brought together to discuss the matters and try to get some consensus.
I thank the Deputies for their contributions. It is always difficult for people who are deemed to be dictators to be in any way sensitive to understanding.
Is the Taoiseach accepting he is a dictator?
If that is the basic idea, the Deputies are wrong. This evening, the Government Chief Whip, as well as Deputy Stagg, will meet the other Whips to discuss a range of propositions for changing the way the Dáil is run.
It is too late.
That is after their publication. Well done.
Hold on Timmy.
We were supposed to be consulted.
These proposals will take effect from 1 October. I gave Deputies a commitment to sit down with Opposition leaders and I will do so with Deputies Martin and Adams, as well as whomever the Technical Group appoints.
It is too late. The Taoiseach said it would happen in advance of the publication.
Perhaps it will be Deputy McGrath. I would be very happy to do that.
I suppose we will have a debate on the Seanad after it closes.
Deputy Martin, among all people, has been here for a long time and had many opportunities to bring change but did nothing.
He was there for 14 years.
We will now make changes in the interest of Deputies, making the Dáil more open and transparent, providing the opportunity for all the discussion we want. We will not go down the road of being beaten over the head about guillotines every day of the week.
There have been guillotines every day of the week.
Quite a number of Bills had to be introduced because of the legacy mess left behind by the Deputy's Government.
Here we go again.
We had troika engagement after troika engagement that required complex and technical legislation that had to be introduced within specific periods in order to help sort out the economic mess the last Government left behind.
What about the property tax and the cut to child benefit? They were rammed through the Dáil.
The streamlining of the way legislation is to be drafted in future-----
We are debating a time motion.
There was no consultation.
It will have a very beneficial effect for all Deputies elected to the House. I will sit down with the Deputy if he has time within his busy schedule-----
The Taoiseach sat down with no Member in advance. He can be flippant all he likes, but he has shown a fundamental disregard for Members.
-----as well as Deputy Gerry Adams and whoever else over there. We will sit down and have a chat about this. I will be very fluirseach with them.
I must put the question.
Will the alliance have its say?
Will the leader of the newest party be included? Will Deputy Lucinda Creighton be in on it?
I am trying to put the question.
I am sorry.
Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' business tomorrow agreed to? Agreed.
The Taoiseach again did not answer the question. I reiterate that he did consult me in advance of the preparation or publication of the package of Dáil reforms. He said he would, but he did not. He broke that commitment which he gave on many occasions during Taoiseach's Questions.
With regard to the health Vote, will the Taoiseach confirm whether there will be a Supplementary Estimate? Mixed messages emanated yesterday. The Minister for Health indicated that he would introduce such an Estimate, while the Taoiseach indicated that there would not be one. My main concern is that we are getting reports from all over the country that surgery is being cancelled in hospital after hospital. The number of cancellations has increased dramatically because of a shortage of funds in many hospitals. The tightening is unreal and a significant number of cancellations is taking place. Inpatient and day case waiting lists have dramatically increased in the past few months and I fear that the three months before Christmas will be bleak for many patients. I would appreciate clarification on whether there will be a Supplementary Estimate.
I said yesterday that the situation in so far as the health Vote was concerned had improved dramatically and considerably from what it was last year at this stage. At this point last year more than €250 million had been spent in excess of the Vote, while currently the amount is in or around €60 million. There are difficulties with the demand-led schemes because of the problems experienced during the winter. The health Vote is down from €16 billion to its current level. The Minister has made it clear to the Department, the HSE and its agencies that they are required to bring their Vote within the agreed ceiling. The pressure is to see that is brought back into line. The position has improved considerably from what it was last year, but it is not yet where it needs to be.
The Minister said the opposite yesterday. He said there would be a Supplementary Estimate.
That is the position and the same applies to every other Department.
Do I take it, therefore, that the Minister was incorrect yesterday when he said he would not keep them within the limit?
I am sorry; we are not having a debate.
The Minister merely pointed to the reality of the current situation. Obviously, in preparing for a difficult budget-----
The Taoiseach is talking double Dutch. I do not understand. The Minister said he would spend a small bit over the limit, but the Taoiseach said he will not. I know he follows the Dutch model, but this is really double Dutch.
I am not talking double Dutch or double Irish.
We are not having a debate on this issue.
The problem is that every Minister is required to do whatever is necessary to bring his or her Vote back into line.
The answer is "No".
As far as the health Vote is concerned, it is in a better position than it was last year, but it is not yet in line with what was agreed.
Will there be a Supplementary Estimate?
The Minister is working hard to see that that happens.
Sinn Féin produced a comprehensive, detailed document on root and branch political reform. Perhaps when the Taoiseach eventually gets around to meeting us on political reform, that might be on the clár of our cruinniú. Ba mhaith liom cheist a chur faoi reachtaíocht atá fógraithe. In the programme for Government there is a commitment to provide ring-fenced funding for mental health services to enable the roll-out of a suicide prevention strategy to reduce the high levels of suicide. I do not know if the Taoiseach is aware of the research published this morning that provides evidence of a direct link between economic crises and the increasing suicide rate. I refer to the question I asked during Leaders' Question which the Taoiseach did not answer. We have experienced the highest increase in the level of suicide since the crash of any EU member state. The research links this, particularly among young men, with the increasing rate of unemployment. Will the Taoiseach give the House an update on the implementation of the Government's suicide prevention strategy, the filling of the additional 477 posts for mental health services in 2013 and whether consideration has been given to having an all-Ireland suicide prevention strategy? He responded positively when I raised this issue previously because clearly this problem knows no borders.
I do not have the figures the Deputy asked for to hand, but I will have a detailed response sent to him by the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch. The Deputy is aware of the Government's decision to ring-fence money for this area and the brilliant work going on in so many areas involving many organisations in dealing with the phenomenon of suicide. I will give him an updated report on the current situation regarding recruitment and the expenditure allocated to this area.
What about an all-Ireland strategy?
The Minister for State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, the Minister for Health and Minister Poots may have had discussions about it. I will check that matter for the Deputy also.
The Spent Convictions Bill 2012 passed Committee Stage last March. When will it be brought before the House for Report and Final Stages?
It is awaiting Report Stage.
When will it be taken?
It is just a matter of getting room to table it.
The Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011 was taken on Committee Stage before the summer recess. When is it due to be completed? The Coroners Bill was initiated as far as back as 2007. When might it be progressed?
I welcome the two reports of the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications on the sponsorship of sports organisations by the alcohol industry and the growth of social media and how to deal with issues this raises. It is also welcome that, through last week's proposed Dáil reforms, such reports can be discussed in the House. Will the Taoiseach ask the Government Chief Whip to table them for debate at the earliest opportunity?
Amendments to the Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011 are being drafted by the Parliamentary Counsel's office and, therefore, we are awaiting its return on Committee Stage. The Coroners Bill 2007 has not moved any appreciable distance since it was last raised.
With regard to the committee report on sponsorship by the alcohol industry, I expect the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Alex White, to report to the Cabinet sub-committee during the next series of meetings on Monday week. What was the Deputy's final question?
The second report was on how to address the growth in social media. The Dáil reform package suggested such reports be debated in the House.
That will be one of the first reports to be debated during the Friday sittings to deal specifically with reports. The Government Chief Whip will communicate with the Deputy in respect of it.
Now that the Houses of the Oireachtas inquiries Act is in place, what is the Taoiseach's view on the establishment of an inquiry into the banking crisis which has caused so much devastation throughout the country?
The Government at its meeting this morning approved motions to be proposed to the Dáil and the Seanad by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to commence the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013. The view of the Government is that the first inquiry to be undertaken under the new legislation should be into the banking crisis. The Government believes the inquiry should be modular in nature and that the three main modules should be the bank guarantee and events leading up to it, the role of banks and auditors and the role of State institutions.
However, the conduct of an inquiry, including its methods and terms of reference will be entirely a matter for the Oireachtas. The Government is committed to ensuring that such an inquiry is adequately resourced and that it will have the full co-operation of the relevant Departments and State agencies. It is my earnest hope and expectation, and that of the Government, that the important powers and solemn responsibilities vested in and accruing to ordinary Members of this House, pursuant to the provisions of the new Act, will be exercised prudently and judiciously, having regard to pending criminal trials. It will also be implemented robustly and effectively. The objective should be to determine without fear or favour and with dispassion and integrity all of the true material facts and the material circumstances that led to the collapse of the banking sector which continues to cause profound hardship, loss and suffering to people.
That is a nice set-up.
For everybody in the House, the new inquiries Act offers an opportunity for the House to meet the concerns of our citizens and to fulfil its true democratic potential. The Act being in place and having been signed by the President, it is a matter for the Oireachtas now to proceed in respect of having the appropriate parliamentary inquiry put in place.
At the end of this month it is proposed to change the rules with regard to the taxation of motor vehicles. Will the Government extend the time for the change to the end of October to allow the motor taxation offices to deal with the massive backlog they have at present? All we are seeking is an extension of one more month.
I am sorry, but I do not think that is on the Order of Business.
I will ask the Minister to contact Deputy Healy-Rae.
It would mean an awful lot if it could be done.
I wish to return to an issue I raised earlier about Priory Hall. Will the Taoiseach arrange for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to come to the House to give a report on the current situation? It is astonishing that the Finnegan process collapsed on 16 August last, more than a month ago, and Deputies were not informed about that. There has been talk of a 21 day ultimatum to the banks. The Minister for Finance, who is sitting beside the Taoiseach is obviously aware of that, but again we have had no information on what that might involve. Looking back on this incredibly tragic situation, the fundamental problem seems to be that the Taoiseach and the Minister effectively put the interests of banks and developers before those of ordinary people.
A Cheann Comhairle, I wish to speak on the same issue.
No. The Deputy should please resume his seat. I did not call him yet.
I disagree with Deputy Broughan’s assertion. I have given my views about the Priory Hall situation and I spoke to the good citizen who lost her partner recently in tragic circumstances. The Minister, Deputy Hogan, made it clear that he could not intervene until the court mediation under the former judge, Mr. Finnegan, was resolved.
He was not party to it. He could have met people over a long period.
I am sorry, but we are not having a debate on the issue.
The Minister was informed formally that the mediation failed to reach a solution and that was conveyed to him through Dublin City Council last week. I have given a response to the matter and the Minister, Deputy Hogan, will continue his work. We want to see an effective solution as quickly as possible for the residents of Priory Hall. I understand that none of those who had their principal, private homes there want to go back to Priory Hall. The Minister, as the lead Minister in the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, is now setting out to engage with all of those with responsibility in the matter, starting with a meeting with the Irish Banking Federation tomorrow. In fairness to Deputy Broughan, he has referred to the matter in the House on a few occasions.
On a few occasions. I raised it virtually every week.
We are stuck for time and a number of Deputies wish to speak.
We want this sorted out.
I told the Taoiseach to start behaving like a Taoiseach and to do something.
I said it was one of the worst examples of the excesses of the so-called Celtic tiger years. Those people were put into what effectively amounted to fire traps. In so far as the Government is concerned, we will see to it that a solution is found that is in the people's interests.
Could we have a debate on it tomorrow?
The Minister is meeting with the Irish Banking Federation tomorrow.
I compliment the Taoiseach and the Government on enacting 124 Bills since the Government came into office.
Is Deputy Bannon looking forward to a reshuffle?
That is a record for the House.
Is it in order?
We have nine minutes left and seven or eight Members are seeking to raise issues.
Much of it was legislation to get rid of quangos that were created by the previous Administration. One Bill I would like to see brought forward is the sports Ireland Bill, which is to amalgamate the Irish Sports Council and the National Sports Campus Development Authority. It is urgently needed because both organisations are doing the same work.
I thought Deputy Bannon was going to offer me a few tickets for Sunday. The amalgamation Bill to which he referred is due before the House next year. The legislative programme for this session is before the House. We expect to have 28 Bills either implemented or published before the end of this year. They have been assessed very carefully in the interests of what must be done.
I wish to raise two issues with the Taoiseach. On the proposal that was agreed by the Cabinet on the banking inquiry, could he give the House an indicative timeframe as to when a committee will be appointed and established to hold the inquiry? I accept the terms of reference are in the gift of this House but I wish to hear whether the Taoiseach expects the inquiry to get under way this year or if it will be next year. I ask the question while mindful that there are legal cases that may then require the inquiry to stop its work.
The second question relates to upcoming legislation. The finance Bill will come before the House at the end of October. The Department has already provided us with a timeframe for Second Stage, Committee Stage and other Stages. We are in a unique position this year in that the statutory-----
I thank the Deputy.
I will finish on this point. The statutory requirement to have Second Stage passed will extend to January of next year. Why is it proposed to have only two days of debate on Second Stage, and is it the intention of the Government to guillotine the finance Bill? Could the Taoiseach give an assurance that the finance Bill, which will give effect to the budget – another tough budget as he described it – will not be guillotined in this House on Second Stage?
It is the intention to give the same time period as finance Bills in previous years when discussions and block votes took place.
They were guillotined in previous years.
We did enough talking about it anyway.
We would like to be very clear about this; Ministers should be able to sit down with Opposition spokespersons and work out blocks of time for the individual sections of Bills. That could work very effectively as it did on a number of Bills recently.
The triggering of the inquiries Bill is now a matter for the Oireachtas. It is not a case of the Government wanting to dictate or direct to the Oireachtas what the composition of the inquiry should be, but it is something that requires very great care by those who will eventually participate in the inquiry. Once the Bill which has been signed is now triggered with a proposition that we have a banking inquiry, it is a matter for the Oireachtas and for the House. Clearly, the Committee on Procedure and Privileges has a function in the matter. I will not say what the composition of the committee should be or when it will sit but there are three important modules and the State will make available to the committee the resources and facilities of Departments and agencies to help it in its inquiry. I wish to make clear that there will not be a direction, instruction or compulsion from the Government about it; it is a matter now for the Oireachtas to decide on the exact type of inquiry that takes place.
I refer to motion No. 122 on the Order Paper in my name and the names of Deputies Timmins, Terence Flanagan, Mathews and Naughten.
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the leadership he has shown the House and for the democratic fairness he has demonstrated to all of us by his actions in allowing all of us who find ourselves outside of the party Whip to have the opportunity to speak, participate and represent the people in the Chamber.
In that light, will the Taoiseach consider very carefully our motion, No. 122 on the Order Paper, and show leadership in injecting more democracy and opportunity for participation by Members in both Houses? While I do not expect that he can deal with this right now, I ask him to instruct the Chief Whip to liaise with those of us who find ourselves excluded from participation in Oireachtas committees and to find a way to allow us to represent the interests of the people on the key issues of the day. That is simply what we are requesting, and we simply want to be treated equally.
I commend the Ceann Comhairle on his clarification of the decision under Standing Orders that he made yesterday. Clearly, bearing in mind the position on elected Members who are members of a registered political party or a technical group, there is a slight difference if members of a particular party decide, by their actions, not to be members of it anymore. The position, as I understand it, is that there is only one Technical Group in the House but that if anybody who is no longer a member of a registered political party applies for membership of it, he or she cannot be refused.
That is not correct.
On that basis, one is entitled, as a member of a technical group, to full membership of committees and, therefore, one can make representations and express one's views at those committees. It is also possible, as the Deputy is well aware from experience, for every Deputy to attend any committee meeting and contribute. He or she can table amendments to Bills on Report Stage if the matters are raised on Committee Stage and, of course, contribute in respect of the new format regarding submissions on pre-legislative issues. In respect of having full membership of committees, while Members were appointed full members of committees by virtue of their having been representatives of a political party-----
They are voted on by the Dáil.
-----and not now being so, it is still possible for them-----
Parties should not own the Dáil.
-----to be considered for full membership of committees as members of the Technical Group. I understand that if anybody wishes to apply for membership and, therefore, have full membership of committees, that is a matter for-----
Is that a convoluted "No"?
We are not having a debate on this.
It is very clear; it is not a convoluted "No".
It is very clear and democratic.
This is the Order of Business and four more Members wish to contribute. There is a minute and a half remaining.
If any Deputy seeks full membership of a committee, the route to that, according to the clarification given by the Ceann Comhairle, is to apply for membership of the Technical Group.
On a point or order, that is misleading and not correct.
That is not correct.
The Deputy can correct that later but I cannot allow a debate. There is one minute remaining and four Deputies wish to contribute.
It should not be on the record.
The information is on the record and it is misleading. It is not correct.
It is not correct.
The issue should be raised separately. We are straying from the Order of Business.
I hope Deputy Martin watched "Six One News" last night.
Please get on with it; the time is up.
The Deputy's obsession with me is always reassuring, from a constituency perspective.
I have one minute in which to deal with four Members.
I will be very brief. As happened on 8 September and as will happen on 22 September, there are people who cannot gain entry to the biggest sporting events in the world, the all-Ireland hurling and football finals.
For God's sake, Deputy, this is the Order of Business.
It is on the Order of Business.
We do not give out tickets here for the all-Ireland finals.
Under the Government's legislative programme, I am asking the Taoiseach whether the Government is considering the fact that there are ticket touts who can sell tickets at exorbitant prices, including online.
Is there promised legislation on ticket touts?
I want to ask about promised legislation. Also-----
The Deputy should just ask the question, please. He is over time and should be fair to the other Deputies.
With regard to the ordering of business, there has been a very important reform proposed for Oral Questions that would allow only Members who are present to have their questions answered. That deserves recognition. I have been calling for it for some time and am glad it is happening in this term.
Will the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Bill provide for eliminating the abuse of the system by some people?
We cannot deal with the content of legislation. When is the Bill due?
Many hundreds of convictions are costing the State huge amounts owing to free legal aid. Will the Bill actually provide for a means of recouping the moneys from the people concerned or a way of eliminating the abuse?
The Deputy knows as well as I do that he cannot ask about the content of legislation. When is the Bill due?
We had a big, long exposé on another Bill.
Based on the current rate of progress, that is due in the middle of next year.
I indicated I wished to contribute on Priory Hall earlier.
I am sorry but we cannot have a debate on it.
I welcome the Taoiseach's recent pronouncement regarding the resolution of the current Priory Hall debacle. Will he put a process in place such that all public representatives will be kept up to date with all developments, in addition to the residents' committee? Could liaison on this be carried out through the Department of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government?
Yes, of course.
Before the summer recess, I raised the matter of the consumer and competition Bill. The Taoiseach outlined to me at that stage there were a number of difficulties with it. As the Taoiseach knows, it makes provision for the statutory code of conduct for the grocery industry. What progress has been made on the Bill since the end of July or thereabouts? What is the timescale for the introduction of the Bill?
I can confirm to Deputy Deering that the Bill is now very well advanced. It just did not make it onto the A list for this session. I assume it will be introduced very early in the next session.
Two and a half years into the term of the Government, it has still to publish legislation to provide for a statutory right to collective bargaining. That was a core element of the programme for Government that the Taoiseach agreed. Given that it is 100 years since the Dublin Lock-out, will the Taoiseach not agree that it is appropriate to mark the sacrifice of the men and women concerned with the publication of the legislation? Why, after two and a half years, has the Government yet to publish the Bill? When will be deal with it on the floor of the House?
The Minister has not made proposals in that regard before the Cabinet yet. Some consideration is being given to the legalities surrounding that but it has not come before the Cabinet yet.
When does the Taoiseach expect the publication of the standardised packaging of tobacco products Bill, which is to be introduced with a view to increasing the effectiveness of health warnings and reducing the attractiveness of tobacco products to consumers?
I understand that is due in this session. The Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, will confirm the position with the Deputy.