Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 22a, statements re the recent severe storm damage; and No. 5, Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013 - Second Stage (resumed).

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings on No. 22a shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 4.42 p.m. and the following arrangements shall apply: 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, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case and such Members may share their time, the statement of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case and such Members may share their time, and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes. Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 132, motion re Irish Water (resumed), shall, in accordance with the order of the Dáil of yesterday, take place on the conclusion of Order of Business and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes.

There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 22a, statements on the recent severe storm damage, agreed to? Agreed.

On that issue, yesterday I received 15 requests for a Topical Issue debate on this matter. Due to the time constraints on the Topical Issue debate, I requested the Government Whip's office to provide a special debate and I very much appreciate that the request was granted. I ask that those who submitted the Topical Issue matters be given priority when allocating the time. It is only fair that I should say that as this arose from the Topical Issue requests of 15 Members. They are from all parties.

Yes. I could never forget the Deputy. I ask Members to give consideration to that in allocating the time and to take account of the Members who submitted formal requests for a Topical Issue debate on this matter.

Well done, a Cheann Comhairle.

I am not looking for any praise for doing it, but it is only fair-----

Take it when you are getting it from that quarter, a Cheann Comhairle.

I call Deputy Ó Fearghaíl on the Order of Business.

We should commend you on your initiative, a Cheann Comhairle, and we will take on board the advice you have given us.

My first question is on the health care initiatives Bill, which proposes to allow the HSE to establish a number of companies and subsidiaries. At the same time as that Bill is on the legislative programme, there is also a Bill proposing the disestablishment of the HSE. Will the Tánaiste outline the position regarding those two proposed legislative measures? It is particularly important, not least in the context of Bord Gáis and its establishment of Uisce Éireann. The Oireachtas must be in a position to ask the right questions in order that we can, we hope, get the right answers in this area.

When can we expect the proposed Seanad electoral (university members) (amendment) Bill? The Tánaiste will be aware that the Taoiseach, in the aftermath of the unsuccessful referendum, indicated that the Government had got a wallop for its proposal. Is this legislation the totality of what is proposed by the Government at this stage in terms of reform of the Seanad?

I refer to matters in the defence area. Three legislative measures are promised in the A, B and C lists. The defence (amendment) (discipline) Bill is on the B list, but no date has been given for its publication. There are two Bills on the C list, the defence (amendment) Bill, which proposes to amend the 2006 Act, and the Red Cross (amendment) Bill. It is proposed to publish both of those sometime in 2015. My concern is that one legislative measure emanating from the Department of Defence has no date for publication while it appears that the other two are deferred until 2015. The Minister for Justice and Equality, who is also the Minister for Defence, appears to be inordinately busy in the justice area and appears, perhaps, not to have the time that is necessary to devote to the Department of Defence. Would the Tánaiste share my concern about that?

That is a long list of questions but if I forget any of them, I am sure the Deputy will remind me. It is not possible to indicate a date for the health care initiatives Bill. It is No. 95 in section C.

The Bill relating to the university constituency for the Seanad is expected later in the year. The Deputy asked if it was the only reform being contemplated by the Government. The Taoiseach and I met the leaders of the political parties and groupings in the Seanad some time ago and we discussed some proposals in that area. That discussion is continuing. All of us have interpreted the outcome of the referendum as a desire for reform of the Seanad rather than continue to apply the status quo.

As regards legislation in the defence area, the Minister, Deputy Shatter, is probably the most active Minister for Defence we have had for a very long time.

He might be active in justice, but not in defence.

He closed the barracks in Clonmel.

His record compares very favourably with some of his predecessors who had that portfolio as a sole responsibility, with the exception, of course, of the Ceann Comhairle who had an outstanding record as Minister for Defence, which I recall very well. As the Deputy said, the proposed legislative measures in the defence area are mainly due in 2015.

They are long fingered.

There is no long fingering. A date is indicated for them and the Deputy knows quite well that the progressing of legislation is done over a period of time. I am sure the Minister will be happy to answer any specific questions about his plans for those legislative measures.

The Tánaiste will be aware that representatives of the Central Remedial Clinic are appearing before the Committee of Public Accounts today to deal with the scandal that emerged before Christmas. This has thrown into sharp focus the Charities Act 2009 which has not been enacted and the need for a charities regulator. When will the Government enact the Charities Act?

My second question refers to the mediation Bill. We are dealing with the Legal Services Regulation Bill. The reason the latter Bill was pushed so hard by the IMF and others was due to the cost of legal services for people in this State. However, the mediation Bill would have a much bigger impact in reducing costs by encouraging and enabling people in the context of family law and civil law to engage at an early stage before going the route of huge costs. The mediation Bill is on the B list, but that is not good enough. It might be available at the end of this year, but it is likely that it will be next year. Will the Tánaiste try to push that Bill forward?

With regard to the commencement of the Charities Act, the Minister, Deputy Shatter, on 19 December last, wrote to Deputies who have been raising this issue and set out his intentions in that regard. The Legal Services Regulation Bill was before the committee yesterday and I understand it is scheduled to be discussed again in a couple of weeks. The mediation Bill will be published later this year.

I know that, but will the Tánaiste push it forward? It could run into next year. I am asking the Government to prioritise it.

That is something to pursue with the Minister.

With regard to the legislation to amend the Irish Horseracing Industry Act 1994 and deal with related matters, will the Tánaiste ensure the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine introduces a proper culling scheme for the horses in the country at present? Thousands of owners cannot dispose of them because of very strong restrictions. This is an emergency matter and I hope it will be addressed in the forthcoming legislation. Also, it is costing local authorities hundreds of thousands of euro to dispose of the horses within their remit. It is only fair we introduce a proper system-----

The Deputy cannot debate the issue. He can only ask the question.

-----and appropriate compensation for the owners of these horses.

A horseracing Bill is due to be published later in the session, but obviously that issue does not come under that Bill. The Animal Health and Welfare Act was enacted earlier this year, so it is probably a case of the application of the law by the relevant authorities.

I wish to raise two matters with the Tánaiste. One is the road transport Bill, which will deal with the height of loads. The legislation will have a huge impact by restricting high loads, especially in the case of fodder delivery. It will be a problem for Food Harvest 2020. I understand the problem is being examined, so I hope something can be done about it.

My second question concerns 7,500 apprentices who are now being levied with a bill of between €833 and €1,433 for attending colleges, including institutes of technology, while awaiting apprenticeships. The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, might be interested in this. I salute the companies who hire them and we are encouraging the creation of jobs all the time. However, these young apprentices are faced with paying an additional fee of between €800 and €1,400 when they are doing modules in institutes of technology through FÁS.

The Deputy knows we cannot debate the issue now.

It is a retrograde step and I am asking for it to be examined.

What is the legislation?

It is the protection of employees (temporary agency work) Bill. They need protection. They are young people who want to get trained to return to the workplace.

The road transport Bill is scheduled for next year.

The fodder crisis could happen again.

The Bill is in place.

The Bill to protect temporary agency workers was enacted in 2012.

Who is going to protect them?

That is a separate issue for another occasion.

I call Deputy Healy-Rae.

As regards the Finance (Local Property Tax) (Amendment) Act , when did the Government decide to change from giving 100% of the money back to local authorities to giving them only 20%?

I do not know about that.

The people were conned with the property tax.

The Deputy should table a parliamentary question about that matter.

Will the Tánaiste give any answers?

I am sure he will but he cannot do it on the Order of Business.

He conned the people.

It might be a freedom of information request.

Will the proposed foreshore management legislation go through the Oireachtas before any permission is given to the Dublin Array? As the Tánaiste knows, permissions for inshore windmills were given by the former Ministers, Noel Dempsey and Frank Fahey. The Dublin Array profoundly affects the constituency of the Ceann Comhairle and the Tánaiste, as well as my own constituency, due to the impact it will have on our environment and landscape. Will that legislation come before the House before any permission is given to the Dublin Array?

This is important legislation to modernise the foreshore planning regime in the maritime area. It is to streamline the development of the consent process for the foreshore. The heads of the Bill were approved by the Government at the end of July 2013 and we expect it to be published in this session.

I am glad to see that we have a lovely new list of proposed legislative measures.

We cannot deal with the whole list today because we have only six minutes left.

Some of them go back to the time of the previous Government. I compliment the Government on the number of Bills it has passed in the past two and a half years, but the list remains. What is the status of the national paediatric hospital development board (amendment) Bill and when can we expect it to come before the House? Has it been approved by Cabinet and, if so, have the heads of the Bill been signed off?

Similarly, what is the time schedule for the passage of the education (admission to schools) Bill? Has it been cleared by Cabinet? In the interim, will the proposals therein impact on admission policies?

As regards the housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, I compliment the Minister of State with responsibility for housing, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, on the tremendous work she has done. She inherited a huge problem. In view of the serious housing emergency that is emerging, which was inherited from the previous Administration, can that Bill be implemented as a matter of urgency with a view to identifying the full extent of the problem unfolding?

I do not have a date for publication of the national paediatric hospital development board (amendment) Bill but, as the Deputy is aware, the Government has decided to proceed with building the national children's hospital and has provided funding for that. After decades of talk about it, we are getting on with it.

It is intended that the education (admission to schools) Bill will be introduced in this session. I understand the Minister for Education and Skills will be talking about that to the Committee on Education and Social Protection.

The housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill was approved by the Government before Christmas. It is intended to publish it in this session. In the October budget, for the first time in many years, the Government provided funding for a public housing programme.

I wish to ask a question about the Government's political reform agenda. It was stated that during future recess periods, Deputies should be able to access the facility of parliamentary questions, but will that happen at the end of this term?

Through statutory instruments, Governments in the past have been able to provide top-ups to certain Ministers of State who have a special role at Cabinet. Is secondary legislation expected in this session as the result of a Cabinet reshuffle?

The Government took the lead in initiating a range of reforms of the way in which the House does its business, including some changes to the way in which parliamentary questions are asked and to the Topical Issue debate. We are absolutely open to having an engagement with the Opposition about any further ways in which we can improve the operation of the House. It is important that the Dáil functions as effectively as possible.

I have no idea what the Deputy's second question is about.

It is not really suitable for the Order of Business.

No thanks. The Deputy is entitled to raise matters regarding secondary legislation, but Cabinet changes are out of bounds. It is a matter for the Taoiseach.

There is another Minister who refuses to speak about a reshuffle.

There is too much fiction.