It is proposed to take No. 23, Central Bank Bill 2014 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages. Tomorrow's fortnightly Friday business will be No. 48, Open Adoption Bill 2014 - Second Stage, and No. 11, report on the general scheme of the Gender Recognition Bill 2013.
Order of Business
There are no proposals to be put to the House.
It appears from a very quick review of the record that we had this morning the shortest ever debate on the nomination of a Minister. There was once a tradition of having a day-long debate. On the last comparable occasion, three hours were allowed. It is interesting that, on that occasion, the current Taoiseach, who was then in opposition, attacked the time allowed as insufficient and tabled a counter-motion to extend it to seven hours. This reflects a pattern associated with how the Executive is going about its business regarding stage management, presentation, spin and managing events. The Guerin report is to be published tomorrow and, therefore, there will be no opportunity during Leaders' Questions or the Order of Business to deal with it. From what I can see, this is the standard practice of the Government.
I was somewhat alarmed by the comment of the Minister for Education and Skills that the debate on the Guerin report will not necessarily be next week. The Taoiseach was very clear to me yesterday that there would be a debate thereon in the Dáil next week. I ask the Minister for Education and Skills to make it absolutely clear that there will be a debate on it next week and that the Government will not try to attempt to long-finger it beyond the local and European elections. The approach to everything, including water charges, is to bury the matter in an effort to get beyond the next electoral hurdle. Although the Government had hours to read the Guerin report, which led to the resignation of the Minister for Justice and Equality, the former Minister and Taoiseach were able to make up their minds on it very quickly, if we are to believe all the briefings today. At the very least, we will have a weekend to read the report, which is much longer than the former Minister had. According to the headlines in the newspapers, the Taoiseach gave him but three hours. There is no way that the Minister for Education and Skills should try to slip out of committing to a debate next week on the report. It is what my party is seeking. I ask the Minister for Education and Skills to confirm today that Government time will be made available next week to facilitate it.
Deputy Martin observed that we have just had the shortest ever debate on the appointment of a new Minister.
That is a matter for this House. While other people may have wanted to speak, I understand from the Chief Whip there was no request for extra time. The House was informed last night by the Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe. We have given extra time in the past and that time has not been filled. There is no difficulty for us, unless we have to meet specific commitments in terms of timetables that were set by the troika in regard to various things we had to have enacted by a certain time.
With regard to what I have just said, and what the Taoiseach said yesterday, my recollection of it is slightly better than Deputy Martin's. The Taoiseach said:
The terms of reference will obviously have to be debated here. The report is 300 pages long and needs to be considered carefully. [The net point is as follows.] It may not be appropriate, given its scale, for it to be debated next week, but that is a matter for agreement between the Whips.
If Deputy Martin is of the view, and if the Whips for the Sinn Féin Party and the Technical Group are of a similar view, I am sure we can accommodate that, although I do not want to pre-empt-----
We are. I am of that view.
Okay, but we do not normally discuss Whips' business over the floor. I note the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, did not read the entire report, as he said himself, because of its length. If the general view is that we want to have a debate next week and that sufficient time to read the report and digest it has passed, I am sure that matter can be settled by agreement.
I have two matters. The Minister last took Leaders' Questions on 3 April and, on that occasion, I raised the issue of the Bethany Home with him. He will recall that the previous day, 2 April, a memorial stone had been unveiled to the more than 200 infants and children who died in that mother and baby home in Rathgar. At that point, the Minister committed to contacting the then Minister for Justice and Equality with a view to reviewing that case. I am very disappointed that the promising words he said in April were very promptly rowed back on subsequently by his ministerial colleague. Now that the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, is in situ, I ask again that the Minister, Deputy Quinn, requests of Government to review this case because it is an ongoing and very deep injustice to the survivors concerned.
On a second issue, can the Minister advise us on the regulation of lobbying Bill? I understood this legislation was to be published and substantially progressed by the summer yet we have not seen its publication.
With regard to the second question, I can assure the Deputy the lobbying Bill will be taken this session. With regard to the Bethany Home issue which she raised the last time I took these questions, I will communicate her remarks to new Minister for Justice and Equality.
While I know it was raised earlier, I would like to get some sense of when the Cooke report into the allegations that the GSOC offices were bugged will be published and when the debate will take place. That was supposed to have been presented to the Government and to these Houses before Easter.
Second, on the Legal Services Regulation Bill, it is outrageous that we are over three years through that process and we still have not come to Report Stage and Final Stage. When will that be back on Report Stage?
With regard to the Cooke report, although the Deputy may not have been in the House, as I said earlier, the note I have is that it will be published imminently. The request to former Mr. Justice Cooke to do this work was made on 19 February, so he has it less than three months.
In regard to the Legal Services Regulation Bill, this is complex legislation, as the Deputy knows better than I as he was involved in it. The amendments required for Report Stage are being drafted and the intention is to have it as quickly as possible.
Regarding the Minister's earlier remarks about time being available, in regard to the fourth group, if one likes, in the Opposition - the others - this week, on a number of issues, there has been no time available. I think the Minister misled the House, effectively, in that regard. It was a very short debate. I remember many instances when Governments changed and there was a wide-ranging debate over a number of hours.
On the Minister's own portfolio, a couple of weeks ago I questioned him in regard to the changes at junior certificate level and whether we will have an opportunity in this House to discuss the matter. As he knows, there is grave disquiet among second level teachers about this. Many observers did not agree with the approach taken at the ASTI conference in particular, but I believe the megaphone and everything else did express a feeling that the Minister simply was not listening to people and that the need for an independent evaluation at around age 14 or 15 is still there. This is an issue which may need debate in this House.
With regard to the summer works scheme, while I welcome the amount of funding the Minister has provided, some schools have just missed out, for example, an Educate Together school in Kilbarrack in my own constituency. Is it possible there will be further assistance for those schools that have badly needed works and whose buildings have deteriorated?
On the two earlier matters, the question of time allocation in this House is a matter for the Whips and the House in terms of how it deals with its affairs. I do not have a role in that regard.
With regard to the teacher unions, I would love them to come in to talks and to explore with the Department and myself how we can make progress. I have listened to and am aware of their concerns, and we would like to move a step further, if that is possible. That has been indicated by me to them on a number of occasions and the matter is with them.
On the last point concerning the summer works scheme, we got through tranches of this year's summer works scheme because of the money we were able to make available, and quite a large number of schools have been able to benefit from that. If more money becomes available, there will not be another summer works scheme because we do not have the time to process it, so it will be for next year, if that is possible.
Earlier, when the Taoiseach spoke to the House and explained his new Cabinet appointments, he indicated he was taking the Department of Defence to himself, albeit on a temporary basis. In so doing, I suppose he was accepting a point we have made here on many occasions, which is that the Department of Defence and the Department of Justice and Equality should not, in fact, ever have been combined. Will the Minister indicate when the role of Minister for Defence will be reassigned? The very least the members of the Defence Forces deserve from us is to be assured they are not some sort of afterthought on the part of the Government.
Self-evidently, the Taoiseach will deal with this matter himself, and it is a matter for him. I can assure the Deputy it is not the intention, as I understand it, for him to retain indefinitely the responsibility for the Department of Defence.
In regard to what had been on the Order of Business earlier this week, which was the debate on the banking inquiry, as brought forward by the Government, there are also on the Order Paper aspects in regard to the banking inquiry that were brought forward under Private Members' business, particularly the terms of reference and the need for all the members of the boards of banks and building societies during the period 2001 onwards to the crash, and even up to today, in order to bring forward to the public, in the same way as we have just debated for the justice system-----
You have had your say, Deputy. We are straying away from the Order of Business.
No, I am not. I am very much on it. As Deputy Broughan has just said, the time afforded to "other Members", as we are termed in this House, has actually melted like the snow. It is not good enough when there are Members in that category who have contributed very relevantly, professionally and factually to this area that they might be minimised or ignored, although I hope that will not happen.
This is extremely important for the people of this country because we must put in place transparent, accountable and responsible systems throughout the banking system today and board members must be accountable and responsible for the policies of the banks and building societies they direct. That did not happen for seven years and is measurable by reference to-----
The Deputy has had his fair share, which is totally out of order on the Order of Business. When is the banking inquiry due?
The other Minister behind the Minister for Education and Skills will be aware of this. The facts and analyses show this and it needs to be shared with the public.
I understand that the banking committee motion will come before this House next Wednesday. The comments and suggestions for change made by Deputy Mathews would be more appropriate when that motion is before this House.
Will the others get a chance to speak on it?
Yes. If anybody wishes to ask for time, they should not be afraid to contact my office. This is a debating Chamber and I do not have any intention of excluding anyone unless there are time limits.
When is the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill expected before the Dáil? Will it include a proposal to limit the number of cigarettes an individual can bring into the country because that is a major problem at the moment? People are bringing in numbers of cigarettes that are in excess of what they can actually smoke.
The pre-legislative consultation took longer than was anticipated. I am informed that the Bill will be taken later this session.