Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 10, motion re leave to introduce Supplementary Estimates (Votes 18, 31 and 35); No. 11, motion re referral of Supplementary Estimates (Votes 18, 31 and 35) to select committee or sub-committee; No. 21, Health (Alteration of Criteria for Eligibility) (No. 2) Bill 2013 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 22, Forestry Bill 2013 - Second Stage (resumed).

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that in the event a division is in progress at the time fixed for taking Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 128, motion re bond repayments, the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. and Private Members' business shall, if not previously concluded, adjourn after 90 minutes; No. 10 shall be decided without debate and, subject to the agreement of No. 10, No. 11, referral to select committee or sub-committee, shall be decided without debate and any divisions demanded thereon shall be taken forthwith; and the following business shall be taken tomorrow after Oral Questions: Health (Alteration of Criteria for Eligibility) (No. 2) Bill 2013 - Report and Final Stages (resumed), if not previously concluded, and Gas Regulation Bill 2013 - amendments from the Seanad.

There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 10 and 11, motions re leave to introduce and referral of Supplementary Estimates, without debate agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with the Health (Alteration of Criteria for Eligibility) (No. 2) Bill 2013 and the Gas Regulation Bill 2013 tomorrow agreed to? Agreed. I call Deputy Martin on the Order of Business.

As the Taoiseach knows, the medical card situation is creating grave anxiety across the country. Approximately 40,000 medical cards were taken out of the system last year. Some 10,000 of them were discretionary medical cards. We know that the passing of the Health (Alteration of Criteria for Eligibility) (No. 2) Bill 2013 will lead to 35,000 medical cards being taken from people over the age of 70. We know from the budget that up to 100,000 additional medical cards could be taken if the Government follows through on its estimate. At the same time, hospital waiting lists are going through the roof. The children's hospital, inpatient and day case waiting lists increased by 18% generally between September 2012 and September 2013. We have had huge cuts in access to therapies for children. There have been cuts to older people's services. These are just some elements of the serious issues people are facing as a result of decisions made in the health budget. We know that the health service plan has been sent to the Minister.

The Deputy is going on a bit.

Will the Taoiseach provide Government time for this House to debate the health service plan? Deputies should have reasonable time to make an input into the health service plan. There is acute anxiety among the public in relation to health matters generally. When can we expect the Bill providing for the dismantling of the HSE to be brought to the House?

Some 10,000 new cards have been issued this year, of which 20,000 were discretionary cards. I have already explained that there is a process with regard to the health service plan. The HSE has presented the Minister with its recommendations based on the budgetary situation. The Minister has 21 days to reflect on that. The plan will be published. I have no objection to it being debated here.

What about the Bill?

It is expected in this session.

I understand the issue of symphysiotomy was to be raised at this morning's Cabinet meeting. Can the Taoiseach tell us when he will publish the second part of Professor Oonagh Walsh's report? I believe he has had it since the end of May. Is he in a position to name the judge who is to be appointed to engage in a mediation process with the victims? Can he give us details of her terms of reference? Can he give us some idea of how long that process might take?

Yesterday marked the first of 16 days of action regarding violence against women. As the Taoiseach knows, this is an annual campaign. The programme for Government includes a commitment to "introduce consolidated and reformed domestic violence legislation". I have raised this matter with the Minister for Justice and Equality on several occasions. He has repeatedly told me he has more urgent matters on his agenda in respect of the troika programme. As we exit the bailout programme, can the Taoiseach tell me when we might expect to see this long-awaited legislation? As he knows, the issue of violence against women affects at least one in five of our women. That is a conservative estimate.

The symphysiotomy question is being dealt with by the Government. The Cabinet decided this morning to appoint Judge Yvonne Murphy, who is a respected judge, to engage with the insurance companies about putting together a fund from which women whose lives have been affected by symphysiotomy will be dealt with. I understand that the Minister for Health and the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, were due to make a statement about this matter at a press conference at 4.30 p.m. All the details will be given there. The Walsh report will be published after Judge Murphy reports and the Government decides on the options. I do not expect that will take too long. There is a known number of people involved in this. I should also mention that the lifting of the Statute of Limitations bar, which had been requested, will not happen. The Government has decided, on the basis of very clear advice, that it should not happen. Judge Murphy will deal with the various groups, the women involved and the insurance companies in respect of setting up a fund. I am quite sure the full details have already been given by the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, and the Minister, Deputy Reilly.

I also asked about the domestic violence legislation.

It is receiving priority. Significant proposals are being discussed in the Department at the moment.

When will the criminal justice (cyber crimes) Bill come before the House? This legislation will ratify a Council of Europe convention.

There is no date for the publication of that Bill.

I would like to raise two matters with the Taoiseach, the first of which relates to the Diseases of Animals Act 1966 and sections 10 and 12 of a further Act that was passed in 1993.

Under that legislation, will the Taoiseach deal with the comments of Judge Reynolds on the special investigations unit and the person who supervises that unit? When she appeared in court during the week she requested that the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine should take on board her comments and investigate the activities of that unit given the type of evidence given in that court case. An internal investigation-----

That is not really a matter for the Order of Business.

I am asking if the Taoiseach will make time available to debate this because an internal investigation is not good enough. I am aware that there are files with a superintendent and a detective regarding this case.

I thank the Deputy.

Criminal issues may be involved.

I thank the Deputy.

The people who are being dealt with by that unit have been bullied and harassed. A handicapped child was bullied and harassed by the unit.

The Deputy might not have heard me, but it is not a matter for the Order of Business.

Under the two Acts mentioned will the Taoiseach outline to me where those powers are-----

There are other ways of raising this matter, but not on the Order of Business.

Will he deal with the investigation that has been requested?

The Seanad has passed the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013. Will the Taoiseach ensure that Bill comes before this House as quickly as possible? As I asked him previously, will he ensure the spirit of this legislation is applied in the case of the Garda whistleblowers and the FÁS whistleblower who is being treated very badly by that organisation?

Hold on, Deputy.

It is necessary for the Government to step in and give some direction-----

There are other Deputies seeking to raise matters here.

-----so that the spirit of the legislation can at least be acknowledged and that those people can go about their duties in a reasonable fashion while investigations are being carried out.

If the Deputy continues to ignore the Chair in this manner-----

That case brought in the north east has dragged on for quite some time.

-----he will not be called again, I can tell him.

I do not bother you too much, a Cheann Comhairle.

I take grave exception. The Deputy totally disregards the Chair. He knows well it is not in order.

It is a matter for the Order of Business.

It is not on the Order of Business.

On the Deputy's question on legislation, the first thing to note is that the Protected Disclosures Bill has gone through the Seanad and is now awaiting Second Stage here. Clearly it is a matter for the Whips to divide the time on this. I do not expect that should be unduly delayed for any reason.

I do not have the details of the comments of a member of the Judiciary from the court case the Deputy mentioned. I am sure the Minister concerned will follow through on what that means.

It is not a matter for the Order of Business.

In light of the revelation that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport was aware that problems existed with emergency beacons on sea-going vessels, will the Taoiseach arrange for an independent investigation into this matter? In doing so, he might consider having it carried out at the same time as the passage of the merchant shipping (registration of ships) Bill.

The matter is being dealt with as a Topical Issue.

Perhaps he might tell us when that legislation will be coming forward.

When is it intended to introduce the roads (amendment) Bill, which deals with the merger of the Railway Procurement Agency and the NRA?

The merchant shipping (registration of ships) Bill is due in this session as is the roads (amendment) Bill.

What about the independent investigation?

I suggest the Deputy take up the investigation of comments about facilities at sea directly with the Minister or raise it if he gets consent from the Ceann Comhairle.

The matter is being raised after the Order of Business as a Topical issue.

Last week the Taoiseach said that progress on the water services Bill would be discussed at Cabinet today. Can he now commit to the Dáil that all the legislation outstanding will be dealt with in this session? I refer to the legislation on the transfer of network assets and to give effect to the billing system.

The Bill was discussed this morning and approval was given to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to publish the water services Bill and to have it dealt with here before the close of business for this session. A second Bill will be required and will be dealt with in the spring. In respect of the troika requirement for the water services Bill, that was decided by Cabinet this morning and it will be taken and enacted before Christmas.

The Government - in particular the Minister for Health - is to be commended on the tough position adopted in respect of the tobacco industry. When can we expect to see the public health (standardised packaging of tobacco) Bill to be introduced? This important Bill is aimed at discouraging young people and particularly girls from engaging in the habit of smoking.

The heads of that Bill were cleared on 19 November. Many different groups are involved in this issue. Some 5,200 people will die in this country directly as a result of smoking. The Bill will go to the Oireachtas committee for hearings and Deputy Buttimer is in charge of that. I am sure he will take input from across the board.

I inquire again about the EirGrid Bill, which is urgent. I thank the Taoiseach and the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Rabbitte, for allowing an extension of time for submissions. Somebody contacted EirGrid, as did the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications.

My second question is on medical cards. The Taoiseach tried to explain it earlier and it is very confusing. A person over 70-----

No, we are not going there.

-----who was slightly over the threshold was told he was to apply on the under-70 scheme.

The Deputy may ask about promised legislation.

I ask the Taoiseach to give time tomorrow to debate the issue under the Health (Alteration of Criteria for Eligibility) (No. 2) Bill, which is to be dealt with there today and tomorrow. A person over 70 has been told-----

Report Stage will be taken this evening.

I am asking if he can give time.

He does not need to give time; it is to be dealt with this evening.

This man who is over 70 has been told that he must apply as an under 70-----

It will be dealt with this evening.

He can only appeal on the basis of income threshold under separate criteria.

I thank the Deputy.

What I have here is extraordinary.

Report Stage of that Bill will be taken today and the Deputy will have an opportunity to refer to that as the Ceann Comhairle has pointed out to him.

The EirGrid Bill is due for publication early next year.

Does the Taoiseach have any idea when?

In respect of current difficulties, the consultation period has been extended by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to 12 January.

The Valuation (Amendment) Bill was introduced to the Seanad earlier this year but has not progressed.

That important Bill is awaiting Committee Sage in the Seanad. The Whips there will make arrangements for when it is to be taken.

It has been waiting for a long time.

It is entirely a matter for the Seanad.

There are 9,000 appeals in Dublin at present.

When may we expect publication of the customs Bill to modernise legislation relating to customs and consolidate it into a single Act?

I do not have good news on that. It will be late next year.

I wish to ask about two Bills. When will we see the Betting (Amendment) Bill, expanding income to the Exchequer from remote operators, which is long overdue? The second Bill is related although from a different Department. In light of the 2012 Indecon report on proposed changes to the Horse Racing Ireland Bill when will both Bills be taken in the House?

The Betting (Amendment) Bill is on Second Stage. It is moving through the process. We were supposed to have the heads of the Horse Racing Ireland Bill this session but it will not happen until the end of the year, therefore, it will be spring before the Bill is deal with.

There is a huge problem with landlords putting out tenants who are in receipt of rental supplement. This is resulting in many people being made homeless. It is mainly because the landlords are looking for higher rents. A housing Bill to transfer responsibility for dealing with the rent supplement to local authorities is due. Could this be speeded up given the crisis?

I discussed this matter yesterday with a number of interested political groups, Cabinet sub-committees and so on. It will be early next year. The heads of the Bill have not been formulated yet but they will shortly and the Bill will be published early next year.

Will it be necessary to introduce legislation to deal with the co-financing arrangement for Pillar 2 of the Common Agricultural Policy? There is much speculation as to what might happen in that regard. Various schemes depend on the co-financing arrangement being introduced expeditiously.

When can we expect clarity on this issue?

This is an important issue with implications for provincial Ireland. I expect to have a meeting with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine very shortly.

On several occasions I have raised the question of amending the Adoption Act 2010 to facilitate five Irish families who remain in legal limbo in their adoption process. I understand the Government is exploring the possibility of amending this Act with a view to looking compassionately on their cases. Will the Taoiseach update the House on this and can we expect this legislation to be brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas prior to the Christmas recess?

The Deputy has raised this several times. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs informs me that there is a great deal of serious work going on to see if there are possible legal solutions. It is not an easy situation to resolve. The Minister is very committed to seeing whether there is a legal solution to the problem for the small number of families involved for whom it is a very sensitive matter.

When does the Government expect to publish a criminal justice Bill to strengthen the rights of victims of crime and their families and to give effect to a proposed EU directive, in light of what we have seen in the past couple of days?

I do not have a date for publication of that Bill but I will report progress on it to Deputy Butler.