Order of Business

It is proposed to take No.14, motion re membership of committee, and No. 22, statements of appreciation in respect of the life and work of Seamus Heaney.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. and shall adjourn on the adjournment of Private Members' business, which shall be No. 114, motion re education, and which shall take place at 7.30 p.m. or on the conclusion of Topical Issues, whichever is the later; No. 14 shall be decided without debate; and the proceedings on No. 22 shall be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the statement of the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and leaders of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, or a person nominated in their stead, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share their time, shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; the statement of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share their time, shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, and the order shall resume thereafter with Topical Issues.

There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 14, motion re membership of committee, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing for No. 22, statements of appreciation in respect of the life and work of Seamus Heaney, agreed to? Agreed.

I have two issues to raise. In the programme for Government, the Government committed itself to overhauling the top level appointments committee, TLAC. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform committed himself to legislation in that respect, particularly with regard to the issue of the appointment of the successor to outgoing Clerk of the Dáil, Kieran Coughlan, who is Secretary General of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission. Could the Taoiseach confirm or clarify the position in respect of that? Will legislation be brought to forward to govern that appointment? Will it be through an independent panel or through TLAC?

Can the Taoiseach confirm when the heads of the health (general practitioner medical service) Bill, which provides for the extension of a publicly funded GP service, will be published and whether discussions have commenced with the Irish Medical Organisation, IMO?

The health (general practitioner medical service) Bill will be discussed at a Cabinet sub-committee in the next fortnight. It is being presented by the Minister of State with responsibility for primary care, Deputy White.

Have discussions commenced with the IMO?

The Minister of State will report to the Cabinet sub-committee on whatever progress has been made or whatever discussions have taken place.

Legislation has not yet been prepared in respect of the question of the appointment of a Clerk of the Dáil. There is legislation governing this going back as far as 1959, and I am of the view that this should be an open competition. Clearly, the Ceann Comhairle of the day has responsibilities under the Act and in accordance with his or her requirement to consult the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission. We must have discussions with the Ceann Comhairle about that process.

I have a few very brief issues to raise. In respect of voted expenditure in health, does the Taoiseach expect that there will be a supplementary budget for health this year? Could he clarify what progress has been made on the issue of bilateral cochlear implants for deaf children?

In respect of Narrow Water Bridge, the Taoiseach knows the funding from Europe is time limited and it was not clear to me where the process is at this time. Could the Taoiseach clarify this, if it is possible?

Would it be possible to have or consider having a special debate about the current situation in the North? That is not to say it is all doom and gloom. It is not, but there are issues of grave concern and it might be better to have some of them ventilated in this Chamber. Could the Taoiseach consider the possibility of that in the upcoming period?

I do not have any objection to a debate on North-South issues. It might be useful at an appropriate time. A number of contacts are being made with the First Minister, Deputy First Minister and different Ministers, and that might help the process in so far as up-to-date information about particular issues is concerned.

I answered a question from Deputy Martin about Narrow Water Bridge. I am very conscious that it is time limited. I am also conscious of the impact of this on North-South community connections, with this being the first physical connection across the lough. Discussions are taking place arising from the cost issue identified by Louth County Council, and I would like to see those completed.

I will have to come back to Deputy Adams in respect of the implants question. I pointed out last week that the overrun in the health Vote has been significantly reduced from what it was last year. The Minister for Health has made it clear to the Department and the HSE that he expects any overruns to be reigned in. From that perspective, he has had direct contact with the agencies of the Department and I hope that can be achieved.

In the context of Arthur's day taking place this week, will the Taoiseach bring forward the sale of alcohol Bill? I see it is listed. Does the Taoiseach agree with me that we should encourage a boycott of Arthur's day to give hospital staff and gardaí a break on that night?

I understand the matters to which Deputy Dowds referred will be the subject of a presentation by the Minister of State, Deputy Alex White, at the Cabinet sub-committee next Monday. However, it does not take a particular day for there to be, in accident and emergency wards around this country, a situation which, to put it mildly, is not very nice. Some 2,000 beds every night are occupied in our country because of the consequences of drink. This is not because of any individual firm or any individual day, but is part of our culture. It needs to change because of the impact it is having on people's health, the way it wrecks families and because of the societal change it brings about, not to mention the cost involved. I am sure this will form part of the presentation of the Minister of State.

On promised legislation, in respect of the National Treasury Management Agency Bills Nos. 1 and 2, which are scheduled for this session, is it intended that they be passed before the end of this session and when are they expected to be introduced in the House? Is it intended to bring the regulation of lobbying Bill, promised under section B of the schedule, before the House in the near future?

I believe there are 27 Bills on the A list for this session, including both NTMA Bills. Work has gone quite some distance on the regulation of lobbying Bill to which the Deputy refers but it will be early next year before it is introduced.

We were promised we would see a White Paper on housing in the autumn, in particular on the issue of shared ownership. Where does that stand? Can submissions be made and, if so, when?

I will have to return to the Deputy on that. The Minister of State, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, is dealing with it and I will advise the Deputy on the position.

I refer to a two-part issue which was raised last week by my colleague, Deputy Denis Naughten, in respect of secondary legislation and section 22 of the Finance Act 2012. This concerns the employment investment incentive scheme which awaits approval by the European Commission. How does this scheme, which has an impact for 230,000 SMEs in this country, stand? In the past the mid-Leinster region and counties Dublin and Cork have been excluded from the scheme, previously known as the business expansion scheme, or BES. Will the Taoiseach consider including those areas?

I refer to No. 30 on the Order Paper, resumed statements on the Action Plan for Jobs. Will the Taoiseach give a commitment that Government time will be given to this in the near future? He might enlighten us on reports of an announcement of a task force, or such development, on employment - if there is anything to impart. Given the directive issued by the Ceann Comhairle on speaking time during the Government period, I hope that when the time comes for statements on the action plan the spirit of the directive will be adhered to, unlike today. We do not want to have to make an issue of this if we are later precluded from contributing to statements.

The question raised by the Deputy was also raised by Deputy Naughten, and is due for answer in a parliamentary question tomorrow. I do not have the details of that answer. The business expansion scheme, BES, is related, including exclusion of particular areas.

The Ceann Comhairle has clarified the position on speaking rights. We have an action plan, No. 2, for jobs, containing 332 action points, which is being implemented and overseen by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, along with the Department of the Taoiseach. This will to ensure it is time-lined and implemented effectively. It is paying dividends. The challenge for all of us is to get the effect of the plan known to business, the business community, chambers of commerce and people who are involved in setting up the many individual start-up companies on a monthly basis.

Deputy Timmins is aware of the improvement in the situation whereby 3,000 jobs are being created every month. We need to build on these foundations to get our people back to work.

I refer to two Bills. When will the greyhound Bill be published? I welcome the strategic plan for the industry for the coming five years. I am sure many Deputies are seeing many people in their constituency offices in respect of a housing Bill that would strengthen the regulation framework for social housing, provide statutory underpinning for a new scheme of housing assistance payments, a new housing agency and other matters. This issue did not arise overnight. We have a serious problem with social housing. We see the value we got from our schools, with €30 million for schools development arising from the strategic plan. Social housing must be brought in the same way and we must push for it. We will never have a better time to start building social housing and we must look at this. The previous Government did nothing for 14 years.

I have spoken to the Minister of State, Deputy Tom Hayes, about the greyhound industry, in which he takes a passionate interest. I will have him advise the House as to the progress being made on the preparation of that legislation. The Deputy is aware that the Government wishes to deal with housing assistance payments as an incentive to getting people off the live register and back to work without experiencing a complete break from the current system if they take up a job. The Minister of State, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, is dealing with this, with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, and I will ask her to advise Deputy Butler on the current position.

I refer to three pieces of legislation. The noise nuisance Bill has been long promised. When the Green Party existed in this Chamber it promised that Bill would help to address some of the problems people in cities have with their neighbours. In the same vein is the housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill which was promised for later this year to address issues concerning the power of local authorities to evict those involved in anti-social behaviour or criminal activity. Is there any indication of a time for this? There is also the national paediatric hospital development board (amendment) Bill. The Government recently announced the name of the person who will lead that board but the actual board does not yet have the long-promised legislative backing from the Government. When will we see that, with a view to progress being made on the national pediatric hospital?

I do not have a date for the noise nuisance Bill. I have referred to the housing Bill. Work has been undertaken on the national paediatric hospital development board (amendment) Bill which will be the subject of discussion at Cabinet sub-committee in the near future. The Minister for Health will outline the progress being made.

I believe all information on the legislative programme is available on the Whips' website. I would like to see this updated so that when work is progressed in the preparation of Bills Deputies will automatically be informed.

When does the Taoiseach expect the publication of the public health (alcohol) Bill? This is to provide for the inclusion of health advice and warnings on alcohol containers such as bottles and cans, and to outline the dangers of consuming alcohol during pregnancy.

I thank the Taoiseach for coming to Dundalk last night, where he was more than welcome.

The Deputy is doing a great job. I already answered that question. The Minister of State, Deputy Alex White, will engage with the Cabinet sub-committee next week in regard to this matter.

When is the Constituency Commission report on European electoral constituencies expected to be published?

It is getting hot in Roscommon.

I believe that report will issue in the coming week or so. I will confirm this when I have the news from the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

In its programme for Government the Government gave a commitment on Dáil reform, stating that Ministers would answer parliamentary questions during periods of recess.

Deputy Troy is well aware of the potential of the natural facility we have in terms of mean wind speeds in particular locations around the country, including many locations in the west. There is an issue of contention balanced against this potential source of energy and jobs for the future. I am sure the issue has been raised already under the Topical Issues debate. It can be debated at committees and the engagement of civic society is part of that. The matter can be raised by the Deputy's party Whip at a Whips' meeting, if that is appropriate.

I have had discussions and arguments with Deputies Martin and Adams about Dáil reform. I want to sit down with the leaders of the parties.

The Taoiseach has been saying that for two years. He has not sat down with anybody.

Deputy Troy is talking about Ministers being able to provide answers to questions during recess periods. This has never happened before. I have ideas about how it might happen now, but this country effectively closes down in August in delivering elements of the public service in this respect. I am quite sure that the leader of the Deputy's party will raise it with me when I have the chance to talk to him.

Is the Taoiseach going to commit to his own programme for Government?