It is proposed to take No. 34, statements on European Council, Brussels, pursuant to Standing Order 102A(2)(b); and No. 3, Finance (No. 2) Bill 2013 - Second Stage (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings in regard to No. 34, which shall be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business, shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 85 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the statements shall be made by the Taoiseach and by 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, and shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, a Minister or Minister of State shall take questions for a period not exceeding 20 minutes, and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; the suspension of sitting under Standing Order 23 shall take place today for 30 minutes after the statements and the order shall resume thereafter with Topical Issues; and the following business shall be taken tomorrow after Oral Questions: Finance (No. 2) Bill 2013 - Second Stage (resumed). Private Members’ business shall be No. 136, motion re cannabis regulation (resumed) to conclude at 9 p.m. tonight, if not previously concluded.
Order of Business
There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 34 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for the suspension of the sitting today agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with the Finance (No. 2) Bill tomorrow agreed to? Agreed. I call Deputy Martin on the Order of Business.
The severe water shortage in Dublin over the past two weeks has highlighted many significant issues and difficulties, but in particular it raises the issue of the wisdom of introducing water charges in late 2014 in the absence of being in a position to guarantee large sections of the population timely access to water. There are increased pressures on the system, in particular demographic pressures.
The Government is proceeding with its legislation in regard to water services and the establishment of Irish Water, and also in terms of bringing in water charges. Given what has happened over the past two weeks, serious questions hang over that because there has to be a relationship between availability of and access to water and charging for it.
Correct. It should have started 20 years ago.
People want quality water and a proper service before they are asked to pay for it. In that context, the water services Bill, which deals with the establishment of Irish Water, is coming through but the Government has also committed to providing Irish Water with the necessary powers-----
Thank you, Deputy.
There is legislation on the schedule which seeks to provide Irish Water with the necessary powers to deliver water services, including through service level agreements with local authorities, to define the relationship between Irish Water and local authorities and the economic and environmental regulators, to set out the legal basis for domestic water charges and to extend the water regulatory powers of CER, and to provide for related matters. When can we expect that Bill to come before the House?
The clarity by which we now know of the lack of investment in water over the years is the reason we have to have Irish Water and have consistency in dealing with these things.
I listened to the chief engineer, speaking after the visit of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to Ballymore Eustace, indicate the nature of the particular problem and the impact of possible climate change on that.
That was according to the chief engineer. We need a plan to deal with the leaks from the pipes in Dublin and require a long-term plan to facilitate the provision of water for the city during the next 50 years.
We asked for-----
That is why Irish Water has been established.
The Taoiseach is leaking badly.
The water services Bill will be published during this session.
It will be published this session.
Therefore, the Government is going to proceed with the introduction of water charges.
I wish to raise two issues. One year has passed since the decision to locate the new children's hospital at St. James's Hospital. A new heart centre at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin which was privately financed is opening today. People are watching and wondering when the new children's hospital will be delivered. A deal has been struck to sell the national lottery-----
Has legislation been promised in this area?
-----and the Taoiseach has indicated that money is going to be ring-fenced. When will the national paediatric hospital development board Bill be brought forward? Will the Taoiseach also indicate when the consolidated domestic violence legislation will be forthcoming?
I do not have a date for the publication of the second item of legislation to which the Deputy referred.
The Minister for Health has appointed the chairperson and members of the national paediatric hospital development board. The board has access to the necessary expertise, including that relating to planning, to deliver the project successfully. The comprehensive review of the tri-location plan is part of this process. I expect that a comprehensive plan for the stages of development of the new national children's hospital will be forthcoming in the very short term. This plan will include timelines for how long it will take for planning permission to be obtained and when work will start. I will come back to the Deputy with a date for the publication of the legislation.
The public is expecting the establishment of a delivery unit to oversee improvements in key areas of the Oireachtas, change the management structure of the Oireachtas Service and show evidence that the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission is better equipped to deliver reform of this institution.
Where is the Deputy going with this?
He is going around the Houses.
Deputy James Bannon should proceed and not pay attention to other Members.
When will the Houses of the Oireachtas commission (amendment) Bill be brought before us?
That Bill is scheduled for next year.
In the context of the Local Government Bill, when the property tax was introduced, we were promised that in 2014 some 80% of the revenue generated would be ring-fenced for use in the local authority areas in which it was collected. I understand the position has changed and that this will not now happen until 2015. Given the level of dysfunction in a huge number of local authorities in the context of budget overruns, outstanding bank debts etc. it is important that the Government honours the commitment to the effect that incentives for local authorities to perform properly and spend responsibly would be provided. That could be done very simply by means of an amendment to the Local Government Bill which is before the House. It would enshrine in law the commitment provided orally by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.
It was only a Government promise. It does not matter.
The Bill is before the Dáil
In the context of the Government's long-promised judicial council Bill and in view of the fact that yesterday I introduced a Bill on the appointment of judges, will the Taoiseach indicate when the intends to introduce legislation - as promised - to remove the rampant cronyism that has been evident for many years in the appointment of judges?
That Bill is expected to be published by the middle of next year.
I call Deputy Robert Troy. Is the Deputy present?
He has gone home.
In that event, I call Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl.
The Government has promised to introduce major items of administrative legislation in the area of the arts and heritage, namely, the national cultural institutions (museums and archives) Bill which will deal with the National Library, the National Museum and the National Archives and the national cultural institutions (galleries) Bill which will give effect to the policy changes the Government proposes to bring forward in respect of the abandonment of the arm's-length principle. Has the Cabinet considered the heads of these two important items of legislation? When will the Bills be published and is there any co-ordination in respect of their introduction?
The heads of the national cultural institutions (museums and archives) Bill have not yet been approved by the Government. The heads of the national cultural institutions (galleries) Bill were cleared in July and work is proceeding in drafting the legislation. Obviously, there is a degree of connection and co-operation on these Bills. I will ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to provide the Deputy with an update on the position.
A number of sections of the Charities Act 2009 remain to be implemented. When is it expected that these sections will become operational? Many legitimate charities have expressed concerns about the delay in their being brought into force.
Will the Taoiseach indicate whether it would it be possible for the housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill to be withdrawn from the list of proposed legislative measures and for an emergency measure to deal with the rapidly emerging housing crisis in the greater Dublin area to be introduced?
That is a matter for another day.
The Charities Act was passed into law in 2009. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, is considering the position on the matter to which the Deputy refers.
The Government is aware of the pressure in the greater Dublin area in respect of housing provision. The housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill is due to be published next year. However, the Government is attempting to take steps to alleviate the pressure.
The Nordic countries which have excellent rail networks are having an undue influence on a particular policy which could have a detrimental effect on our export trade. Everybody knows the importance of this trade to Ireland. In the context of the road transport Bill, is the Government aware of the threat to our live export trade if the countries to which I refer get their way in influencing our policy on road transport?
The matter to which the Deputy refers can be discussed without introducing the road transport Bill which is due for publication next year. Issues of a European nature are discussed at the relevant forums and ministerial Councils at European level.
In the context of the electricity (supply) (electronic communications networks) (amendment) Bill and on the issue of pylons, I refer to the lack of engagement on the part of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, who has just left the Chamber.
We can have a chat about that-----
I tabled questions on this issue, but the Ceann Comhairle ruled them out of order and stated the Minister had no responsibility in the matter.
The responsibility lies with EirGrid.
EirGrid will not meet anybody.
To which Bill is the Deputy referring?
This is similar to the position which obtained when the British were still here and landlords thought they could do as they liked. The Minister will not take responsibility and will not answer questions.
I want to correct the record on this matter. The Deputy should resume his seat. He has stated the Chair will not allow questions to be answered. That is not true. I am obliged to deal with questions in accordance with Standing Orders. If a question is out of order, it must undergo a particular procedure, which includes obtaining advice from officials of the Houses. It is only then that a decision is taken. The Deputy should be careful when he accuses people of wrongdoing.
The Bill to which Deputy Mattie McGrath referred will be published before the end of the year.
When can we expect the adoption (tracing and information) Bill to provide for an information and tracing service for applicants seeking information on adoptions on a statutory basis to be published?
That is a matter for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. It will be next year before the Bill is published.
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for circulating to Members the modifications and amendments to Standing Orders in book form. We all hope they will help to make the House more effective and, most importantly, relevant to the lives of real people.
I acknowledge and thank the Ceann Comhairle for establishing the principle of allowing speaking slots for Deputies belonging to the group of "others".
We have not done so. That is a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. This is a special occasion.
The Ceann Comhairle's strong endorsement of the proposal will be of great assistance.
I very much appreciate the Ceann Comhairle's support in the matter and hope he will also soon support further amendments to Deputies from the "others" group to contribute to Priority Questions, Leaders' Questions and Private Members' business.
That is a separate matter.
I hope the Ceann Comhairle will give positive consideration to our request.
The second issue I wish to raise-----
We are dealing with promised legislation.
-----is the long-promised housing Bill. When can we expect to have sight of the legislation? Will the Taoiseach confirm that it will make provision for strengthening the hand of local authorities in dealing with anti-social behaviour on the part of tenants? There is a lacuna in current legislation which badly needs to be filled.
The Bill is due for publication next year. The matter the Deputy raises is of particular importance and I hope the Bill will include measures to deal with it. This problem affects a number of areas of the country.
When will the juries Bill to give effect to the Law Reform Commission's report on juries come before the House?
There is not yet a date for publication of the Bill. I will update the Deputy on the work in progress.
To clarify an issue, I believe the Taoiseach told Deputy Martin yesterday that he expected victims legislation would be produced in the second half of next year. Will he consider bringing forward this legislation in view of the recent horrendous and stomach-churning RTE programme which detailed the murders of people who were separated from their families whose members were subsequently not told anything? The Northern Ireland authorities appear to be making all the running on this matter.
We cannot debate the matter on the Order of Business.
Jean McConville was found buried in this jurisdiction. I ask the Taoiseach to consider advancing the legislation and placing victims centre stage.
When is the Bill due?
It is due next year. We are trying to make some changes to address the bottleneck that normally arises with legislation being produced. In that context, I will certainly consider the Deputy's comments. This is a particularly sensitive and important issue. As to the discussions yesterday, everybody would like to see closure brought to this matter and those who were disappeared brought home in order that their families can grieve for them. While I cannot give the Deputy a guarantee on the matter, I will have the Minister for Justice and Equality consider it in the context of the changes we are making to expedite legislation, if I may put it that way.
Four hospital chief executives, in an unprecedented move, have written to the chief executive of the Health Service Executive-----
The House dealt with that matter.
I am raising it in the context of legislation rather than as a means of highlighting, as my party leader did, the serious issue of people potentially dying as a result of a lack of safety in hospitals arising from cutbacks. The chief executives made a very serious charge. When will the patient safety authority Bill be published? The new authority will act in an advocacy role and will include the Health Information and Quality Authority. A commitment to this effect was given in the programme for Government.
It will be next year.
Next year will be too late.
Action should be taken quicker given the serious difficulties that have arisen. The HSE has been told that patients could die in four Dublin hospitals.
I have already answered questions on this matter from the leader of the Deputy's party and Deputy McDonald, on behalf of the Sinn Féin Party.
I will read the Taoiseach's replies with interest.
The explicit exclusion of all semi-State bodies from the scope of an upcoming freedom of information Bill is very worrying. When will the Bill come before the House to allow Deputies to thoroughly investigate the reasons bodies such as Irish Water are being excluded from the proposed legislation?
Deputy Cowen may raise that matter on Committee Stage of the Bill, for which we are awaiting an opportunity to have a debate in the House. The Deputy can tease out the issue at that point.
Unfortunately, a number of children remain in highly vulnerable circumstances owing to the inaction of the Government. On assuming office, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, identified as one of her key priorities the need to place the Children First guidelines on a mandatory and legislative basis. More than three years later, we are still awaiting legislation on the guidelines. Will the Taoiseach indicate when the legislation will come before the House?
Several weeks ago, when I introduced a Private Members' Bill on wind turbines, the Taoiseach indicated he was willing to provide time to debate this extremely important issue. The proposed erection of wind turbines affects my constituency and the midlands in general. Is he still willing to facilitate such a debate?
The Whips should be able to facilitate such a debate at the appropriate time.
The heads of the Bill on the Children First guidelines were cleared in July. A great deal of work has been done on the legislation, which I expect to be published either close to the end of this year or early next year. It was intended to do so before the end of the year but we may not realise that objective.