It is proposed to take No. 19, statements on the Government's priorities for the year ahead (resumed). Tomorrow's fortnightly Friday business shall be No. 46, Criminal Law (Incest) (Amendment) Bill 2012 and No. 47, Misuse of Motor Vehicles (Public Spaces) Bill 2012.
Order of Business
Yesterday the House passed Second Stage of the Protection of Residential Mortgage Account Holders Bill 2014, tabled by Deputy Michael McGrath. We are very grateful for the Government's support. I notice, however, that No. 93 on the C list of the Government's legislative programme is the sale of loan books to unregulated third parties Bill.
Government spokespersons yesterday accepted the need to offer protection to mortgage holders against the risk of what vulture capitalists might do if they got hold of these mortgages. Will the Government be bringing forward from 2015 its proposed legislation or will it act immediately on the legislation introduced by Deputy Michael McGrath?
The Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection has been working diligently on the issue of admissions to schools. An admission to schools Bill to provide for openness, equity and consistency in school enrolments has been promised. In my experience, many schools try to be open, consistent and honourable in their approach, but perhaps the Tánaiste can clarify the matter further.
International Women's Day is 8 March. A report was recently published which discussed ways of making Irish politics and the Parliament more family friendly. One of the initiatives advocated in the report was the introduction of maternity and paternity leave for Members. When I introduced a Bill to this effect, it did not exactly receive enthusiastic support from the Government. I ask the Tánaiste whether the matter can be revisited and if he wishes to comment further.
The sale of loan books Bill is due for publication next year. The Minister for Finance has made clear his disposition to legislating for Irish Nationwide Building Society mortgages, if that is considered necessary.
The admission to schools Bill is due this session. On the third matter, the Government has for the first time introduced legislation that places an obligation on political parties to field a minimum number of candidates who are women. There will be a penalty for parties which do not comply and the measure will apply from the next general election. The question of whether general employment law should apply to Members of the Oireachtas can be considered in this House and I would be interested in hearing the arguments in favour of the proposal.
The programme for Government commits to introducing consolidated and reformed domestic violence legislation to address all aspects of domestic violence, threatened violence and intimidation in a manner that provides protection for victims. I have raised this promised legislation consistently, but we still have no sign as to when we can expect it. The State has not yet signed the European Convention on Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence. The Minister for Justice and Equality has advised me that the reason for this relates to problems with Article 52 of the convention and provisions for emergency barring orders which raise dilemmas around property rights. I do not find this an acceptable rationale for not signing this important convention. When does the Government propose to sign the convention and what has it done to resolve the legal difficulties?
The Government takes the issue of violence against women seriously. That is why we made our commitment in the programme for Government. We have studied carefully the report that was issued this week. Even though it indicates that the level of violent incidents against women is lower in Ireland than the European average, the figures are still shockingly high. I will ask the Minister for Justice and Equality to reply directly to the Deputy on implementation of the convention. I do not have a note on the matter.
I also asked about the legislation.
The legislation required to give effect to the commitment in the programme for Government will be introduced.
We had positive news on job numbers earlier this week. We need to do more, of course, and part of the solution is to help small businesses to access credit. What is the status of the credit guarantee (amendment) Bill which will make it easier for small businesses to operate?
I do not have a date for that Bill, but we are looking at ways of promoting more widely the various initiatives the Government has introduced in the past couple of years on non-bank funds. Yesterday I attended a meeting with the chief executives of the chambers of commerce and this was one of the issues we discussed. One of the difficulties is that many business people who should be able to access these funds do not know about their existence or how to go about accessing them. Legislation will be introduced shortly to provide for the strategic investment fund. We are also working on proposals for the establishment of a strategic investment bank.
The Tánaiste recently met representatives of the Stardust victims committee who presented him with new evidence on the cause of the fire and asked for a short and snappy commission of investigation. I ask him to comment on that issue.
When is the insurance Bill due for publication and will it offer help to households which cannot obtain flood insurance?
I met representatives and relatives of the victims of the Stardust tragedy. They gave me material which I am studying.
I do not have a date for the insurance Bill.
When will the criminal law (sexual offences) Bill be published? The annual report of the anti-human trafficking unit of An Garda Síochána contains disturbing figures on trafficking. Of the 23 minors trafficked, 19 were Irish, all of whom were reported as the victims of sexual exploitation.
That Bill is due for publication later this year.
On the vehicle immobilisation Bill, there are inconsistencies between local authorities in the operation of their clamping regimes. Some regimes are operated by management companies and small car parks associated with businesses. When can we expect the Bill to bring consistency to this area?
Is that the road traffic Bill?
The heads of the Bill were approved by the Government last year and the Bill is due to be published this session.
We hear many poignant stories about adoption. There is a clear need to assist people in this regard. Legislation has been promised to provide for an information and tracing service for applicants seeking information on adoption. Has that Bill been discussed by the Cabinet? If the heads have been approved, when is the Bill likely to be brought before the House?
On the proposed legislation allowing for the retention of records of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, the Residential Institutions Redress Board and the Residential Institutions Review Committee, has the Bill been discussed? Have the heads been approved and when can we expect the Bill to be introduced?
On the adoption (tracing and information) Bill, further clarification of legal and constitutional issues is being sought and it is expected that Bill will be published later this year. It is not possible to indicate a date for the retention of certain records Bill at this stage.
When can we expect the noise nuisance Bill, which is to extend and improve the powers available to enforcement authorities to prevent, reduce or abate noise nuisances by allowing for on-the-spot fines and providing for mediation between neighbours?
That applies to Deputy Durkan beside Deputy Fitzgerald there.
Will it apply here at all?
Deputy Dooley's party has a few of them up there.
On the noise nuisance Bill, to extend and improve the powers available to enforcement authorities to prevent, reduce or abate noise nuisances by allowing for on-the-spot fines and providing for mediation between neighbours, it is not possible to give a date for the publication of that Bill at this stage.