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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 15 Apr 2014

Vol. 838 No. 1

Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. a9, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the draft Commission of Investigation (Certain Matters relative to An Garda Síochána and other persons) Order 2014; and No. 19, Electoral (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2014 - Committee and Remaining Stages.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that in the event that Topical Issues have not concluded at the time fixed for taking Private Members' business, the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and shall adjourn on the adjournment of Private Members' business, which shall be No. 142, motion re the ambulance service, and shall be taken on the conclusion of Topical Issues and shall, if not previously concluded, adjourn after 90 minutes; No. a9 shall be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 75 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the speech of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and of the 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, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case and such Members may share their time, and the order shall resume thereafter with Topical Issues.

Tomorrow's business after Oral Questions shall be No. 19, Electoral (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2014 - Committee and Remaining Stages (resumed); and No. 3, Competition and Consumer Protection Bill 2014 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

There are two proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. a9 agreed?

No. I am somewhat taken aback by the lack of notice to the leaders of the Opposition regarding the Government proposal in relation to the debate on the terms of reference of the commission of investigation into a whole range of issues, particularly the recording of phone conversations in Garda stations, the Sophie Toscan du Plantier case and so on.

Last week, we inquired as to who, specifically, would be taking this debate and we were told it would be taken by the Minister for Justice and Equality and the spokespersons. It is only in the last hour that we have been told by the Whip's office that the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the leaders of the Opposition parties will be discussing the motion. This is shockingly short notice to give to the leaders of the Opposition. Perhaps the Taoiseach would provide an explanation to the House as to the reason we were told a week ago this debate would be taken by the Minister, Deputy Shatter, and the spokespersons, in respect of which preparations have been made, and why only in the past hour we were alerted to the fact that he and the Tánaiste would be taking it.

The reason the Minister for Justice and Equality is not taking this debate is an issue I will leave aside for now because perhaps the Taoiseach can explain that.

We have not yet had sight of the motion. I specifically asked for a copy of it at 2 p.m. today. I have been in the House all afternoon with the Taoiseach and have still not received it, although I am told a copy of it was deposited in my pigeonhole at 3 p.m. With respect, and leaving aside all the talk about clarity and full and frank debates and so on, that a copy of the motion was only deposited into our pigeonholes at 3 p.m. for a debate due to take place now is not a good way to do business on such an important issue.

This is a matter relevant to the Department of the Taoiseach. What I read into the record in terms of the Order of Business for today was hand delivered to the leaders of the Opposition at 1.30 p.m. today. The Minister for Justice and Equality is in Luxembourg. This is an important issue that requires clarity and decisiveness from a Government perspective. This is the reason I propose to move the motion, which relates to the terms of reference for the commission of investigation. I intend to do likewise in the Seanad. The commission of investigation is being established under a sole member, who is a member of the Supreme Court. It is important the motion is dealt with quickly so that the sole member can get on with his business, in respect of which he has complete and utter independent control.

The proposed Order of Business schedule was hand delivered to members at 1.30 p.m. It is not true to say that Members have been given only 15 minutes' notice of the motion and are now expected to debate it.

The Deputy was already notified in accordance with the normal rules that apply in respect of Tuesday sittings. That is the position.

I did not raise that issue-----

I know that.

Deputy Martin raised it. I referred to the motion, a copy of which I sought at 2 p.m. At that time I asked whether the motion was available and I was informed that it was not. Since I entered the House, I received a text indicating that a copy of the motion had arrived at 3 p.m. The Taoiseach answered a question I did not put.

Was the motion circulated?

Yes. It was circulated at 2.30 p.m. after it had been cleared by the Cabinet.

I am obliged to put the question.

Question, "That the proposal for dealing with No. a9 be agreed to", put and declared carried.

I wish to refer to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's most recent reports, the grave warnings that have been articulated in respect of the future of our planet as a result of the impact of climate change and the lack of any sense of real leadership on the part of the Government regarding this issue. The Taoiseach confirmed that at Question Time when he indicated that the Cabinet committee on climate change and the green economy only met twice during the past 12 months. There is also the matter of the failure to bring forward a Bill on climate change. Will the Taoiseach indicate when such legislation will be published and will he provide a timeline in the context of when it will be debated by the Houses of the Oireachtas?

There is a considerable degree of dissatisfaction among members of the health community, including GPs, in respect of a range of matters including the vulnerability of those with multiple disabilities and injuries. A range of legislation has been promised in respect of this matter but none of it has yet been forthcoming. In that context, I ask the Taoiseach to indicate when the following items of legislation will be published: the health care initiatives Bill; the health transport support Bill - the purpose of which is to provide for a scheme to make individual payments to people with severe disabilities who cannot access public transport as a contribution towards their transport costs; the human tissue Bill - the purpose of which is to meet the key recommendation of the Madden report that was published some years ago; the licensing of health care facilities Bill - the purpose of which is to provide for a mandatory system of licensing for public and private health care facilities; and the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board Bill - the purpose of which is to provide for an amendment to the functions and membership of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board.

I do not agree with the Deputy's assertion regarding a lack of leadership on climate change. As I stated on Question Time, the Cabinet committee on climate change and the green economy met formally on two occasions and the officials on the committee have been meeting on a regular basis since its most recent meeting. The Minister has prepared a Bill and it will be published following the next meeting of the Cabinet.

I do not have a date for the publication of the health care initiatives Bill or the human tissue Bill. The health transport support Bill will be published later in the year. I will revert to the Deputy in respect of the publication of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board Bill.

What about the licensing of health care facilities Bill?

That is due to be published later this year.

The Taoiseach acknowledged earlier that the Cabinet committee on climate change and the green economy has not discussed the work of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. On Question Time I referred to one of the reports produced by that panel and entitled Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, which was published prior to Christmas. Has the Cabinet committee discussed this report and has it met since Christmas?

That matter is not really relevant to the Order of Business.

The Deputy should really table a parliamentary question in respect of it.

I have raised the issue of the reports of the Constitutional Convention on a number of occasions. On 31 March, the convention published its ninth and final report in which it addresses outstanding proposals for constitutional change identified during the public consultation process and proposes that the Government empower another convention to continue the work this unique body undertook in respect of constitutional review and reform. The convention has concluded its deliberations and produced its final report. When can we expect the Dáil to have an opportunity to discuss recommendations contained in the series of reports produced by the Constitutional Convention? Would the Taoiseach consider rescheduling the two outstanding debates in order that they might take place during the sitting week following the Easter recess?

The Deputy has a case in respect of the convention. We have not discussed the relevant reports but they will be discussed after Easter. I have already discussed this matter with the Government Chief Whip.

The Cabinet committee on climate change and the green economy met on 24 February, when it discussed a number of issues. As already stated on Question Time, the first meeting of the sub-committee on climate change will take place after Easter. The report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was published before Christmas, will be discussed and reflected upon at that meeting.

On the water services (No. 3) Bill, I hope the Taoiseach realises that many people in Country Kerry and elsewhere-----

I am sure he does.

-----are very disappointed with him and his Government in the context of the proposed basic charge of €100 for water services.

To which Bill is the Deputy referring?

The water services (No. 3) Bill.

Is that not an Act?

No, it is not. The Bill will be published later this year.

People are very angry with both the Taoiseach and his candidates for the local and European elections.

I visited the Black Valley last summer and they were very happy with me-----

The Taoiseach knows that he would be made very welcome if he were to return. He is always welcome in Kerry, just not at present.

The Taoiseach would not want to go down there now.

-----particularly in the context of single farm payments, Pillar 2 funding and everything else we ensured was retained for the good farmers of Kerry.

On a personal level the Taoiseach is welcome in Kerry at all times and he knows that.

The Taoiseach should not encourage the Deputy.

I saw the Deputy's van outside Kilgarvan. It was parked sideways on to the road.

However, perhaps he should stay away for a while.

I call Deputy Mattie McGrath and I am sure he will do his best to remain in order.

I will do my best. I wish the Ceann Comhairle a happy Easter.

I thank the Deputy very much. I will have a very happy Easter if he obeys Standing Orders.

I will do my best. Thousands of people took to the streets today - when they could have been working on their farms or at home - to protest about what is happening regarding our policy on wind energy generation and EirGrid. The EirGrid Bill was pushed back from 2013 to this year but there is no sign of it yet.

In the context of the Central Bank (consolidation) Bill, when will the Government stop particular institutions harassing, intimidating and bullying people? There are five texts on my mobile phone which were forwarded to me by a farmer who received them from an individual involved in finance. That is intimidation and bullying. Those involved are breaking the code.

The Deputy can have a chat with the Taoiseach about that matter afterwards.

That individual is acting on behalf of a company called Everyday Finance and his behaviour is completely unacceptable. I will not mention his name.

The Deputy should not do so.

The final matter I want to refer to relates to general practitioners, who are carrying this country's health service on their backs at present. In the context of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007 (amendment) (No. 2) Bill, when does the Taoiseach propose to negotiate with general practitioners? When will he recognise the role they play? They have known their patients for generations and they provide them with front-line services.

The Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy White, is engaging with the representatives of GPs on a regular basis.

He is not engaging with them.

As the Deputy is aware, a court case regarding whether negotiating rights should be given to GPs-----

Such rights should be given to them.

-----is pending. That is a matter I cannot comment on.

I do not have a publication date for the Central Bank (consolidation) Bill. The EirGrid Bill will be published next year.

When will the health transport support Bill come before the House?

Later in the year.

What progress has been made in respect of the State airports (Shannon group) Bill, which is the final cog in the wheel in the context of granting independence? I ask this in view of the fact that Shannon Development owns a significant land bank across the mid-west.

That Bill was approved by the Cabinet this morning.

The private rented sector will not provide the solution to the current housing crisis, which has allowed for tenants to be exploited by unscrupulous landlords. Many people are losing their deposits or have been subjected to massive rent increases and petty harassment. The State's rental accommodation scheme has been completely undermined by the actions of some landlords. When will the landlord and tenant Bill be introduced and will it offer real protection and rent control for tenants?

I do not have a publication date for the landlord and tenant Bill. I thought the Deputy was going to ask about the housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, which is due in May. I will revert to her in respect of the legislation she referred to.

Two important tranches of legislation are promised, including the statistics (heritage amendment) Bill, which is of considerable importance. Will the Taoiseach indicate whether the heads have been cleared by Cabinet and when is it likely to come before the House?

I will return to my traditional inquiry on the bail Bill. How is it progressing? Is it winding its way towards this House? I emphasise its importance and the fact that we must go back to the 1960s for its origins.

No heads of the information Bill have come to Cabinet yet. That is a while away. The bail Bill is still on bail. The draft heads have been prepared but they have not come to Cabinet yet.

We have appalling suffering and stress on a daily basis as families face homelessness through rent increases, rent supplement not keeping up, etc. Is it not incredible? The Library and Research Service tells us that in the 1970s we were building between 6,000 and 8,000 social houses per year.

You will have to bring that up some other way.

The Government is building several hundred now as against the 90,000 plus in need of homes.

Deputy, you are out of order, you know that.

Will the housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill make provision for an emergency response to this awful situation?

When is that Bill due, Taoiseach?

It will be published in May. We can have a thorough debate at that stage about what needs to be done.

Does the Taoiseach realise how bad the situation is?

I do; I realise the pressure.

We cannot have a conversation about it now.

The Taoiseach has already indicated that the heads of the climate action and low carbon development Bill will be published immediately after Easter following the next Cabinet meeting. Will the Taoiseach clarify how long he expects it will take for the Bill to clear the House, because it is urgent? What is the position on the expert advisory group, which is part of the Bill? The Taoiseach has already indicated that the expert group would be appointed prior to the Bill coming to the House. Is this still the Government's intention?

I cannot answer the question for Deputy Humphreys. This issue is gaining in importance and interest for Members. I would like to think that it will be gone through the House by the summer recess. It will be published early but it depends on the extent of conversation or contributions that people wish to make.

What is the position on the expert advisory group?

I will get back to Deputy Humphreys on that.

What is the position on the promised legislation to extend the code of conduct on mortgage arrears to external entities such as Oaktree Capital and Loan Star? Does the Taoiseach have a date for when the heads of the Bill will be expected before the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform?

It is published and therefore it is a case of the Chairman of the finance committee making arrangements to receive it and have the discussions. I will contact him and advise Deputy Donnelly.

The harbours (amendment) Bill will amend the Harbour Acts 1996 to 2009, allow for the transfer of control of certain port companies to local authorities, amend existing provisions with regard to board membership, repeal the Harbours Act 1946 and provide for related matters. Since 2014 Dundalk Port has turned away 14 ships-----

Deputy, come on, please. You know you are out of order. Stick to the question.

Next week, the port will turn away three ships. I am hoping the Taoiseach might be able to give us a hand in this situation.

That is due next year.