Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 9a, motion re membership of committee; No. 22, Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014 - Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stages; No. 23, Protected Disclosures Bill 2013 [Seanad] - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 1, Merchant Shipping (Registration of Ships) Bill 2013 [Seanad] - Second Stage.

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, the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 150, motion re death and burial of children at mother and baby homes (resumed), shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes; and No. 9a shall be decided without debate. Tomorrow's business after Oral Questions shall be No. 23, Protected Disclosures Bill 2013 [Seanad] - Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stages; and No. 6, Radiological Protection (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

There are two 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 No. 9a agreed to? Agreed.

I have read the Department of Finance's response to the decision of the European Commission to open a formal inquiry into a number of individual EU member states, particularly in respect of the application of rulings or opinions relating to a particular multinational company that has been in Ireland for well over 30 years and that at times employs up to 3,000 people. We need a comprehensive debate in this House on industrial policy, foreign direct investment and how we attract it because the narrative has gone askew somewhat. We need a very clear national position vis-à-vis the European Commission and European policy makers and Ireland's competitiveness and that of the EU vis-à-vis other countries like Singapore which spare no effort in terms of the armoury they put together to attract industry. In essence, we are competing against them.

Some companies may go but many stay. Apple has been in Cork for well over 30 years, has gone through many changes and has employed over 3,000 people. It is a matter of concern to real people. These are real bread-and-butter issues for workers that the Houses of the Oireachtas need to interrogate. There are many other companies that the Taoiseach visited, including pharmaceutical and electronic companies. We need to be clear and not just pander to the latest fad about a given issue or company because it is critical to the future of the country and good quality employment.

We are on the Order of Business.

Is the Government prepared to give decent Government time for a comprehensive debate on this issue involving foreign direct investment and multinationals but also SMEs? Let us have a genuine and open debate about where the country should go on this. We need to be far more assertive and robust in the EU than perhaps we have been to date.

I think the Deputy has made his point.

And about a gun to the head of workers-----

I am not saying that.

I ask Deputies Martin and Higgins to settle down and respect the Chair.

I had the privilege of opening the expansion of the Apple plant in Cork recently. It is a fabulous entity employing many thousands of people who have been there for many years, as Deputy Martin noted. I met with the principals of Apple last week in California. They have been very happy with their productivity, track record and the workforce in Cork and want to be there for very many years. We have a very clear and strong position that is evidenced by the strength of the foreign direct investment line coming to the country. I have no objection to a debate here on industrial policy on which we have a very clear and robust position. As the Deputy is aware, it is based on talent, technology, track record and our tax position. We will defend that in any quarter and are defending it very strongly where that is necessary. It is proving to be a very successful process in terms of the outcome because of development, expansion and jobs. Of course, we can have a comprehensive debate on industrial policy but we have a very clear and robust position articulated by the Minister on so many occasions internationally and we will defend that. We can make arrangements for the Whips at the appropriate time to have a comprehensive debate, which I would welcome.

I have two questions for the Taoiseach. The first is about the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014. The Taoiseach knows that the Minister for Health began drafting this legislation a year ago. Its aim of cutting the annual death toll from smoking-related diseases to 5,200 is commendable and deserves the support of people across society. I understand that the Minister brought it to the Cabinet yesterday. When will the Bill be published, when does the Taoiseach expect it to be placed before the Dáil and when does he expect it to be passed into law?

My other question is about the Ballymurphy massacre. Dúirt an Taoiseach tamall ó shin go raibh sé tiománta rún uile-pháirtí a bhunú ar shléacht Bhaile Uí Mhurchú agus ba mhaith liom ceist a chur air faoi sin inniu. Mar is eol dó, dúirt Rialtas na Breataine nach raibh sé chun fiosrúchán a bhunú maidir le marú 11 duine i mBaile Uí Mhurchú i 1971. Ceithre seachtain ó shin, mar fhreagra ar cheist a chuir mé chuig an Taoiseach ar an ábhar seo, gheall sé rún a dhréachtú agus a chur i láthair dúinn. An bhfuil aon dul chun cinn déanta maidir le seo agus cathain a bheidh an rún seo os comhair pháirtí de chuid an Fhreasúra? Cathain a bheidh an téacs os comhair na Dála?

I expect that the Bill with regard to plain packaging for tobacco products will be published at the end of this week and will go to the Seanad next week.

Chuir an Teachta ceist orm faoi fhiosrúchán ag éirí as marú a tharla i mBaile Uí Mhurchú blianta fada ó shin. Tá súil agam go mbeidh an rún sin curtha le chéile agam don chéad seachtain eile agus beidh mé i dteagmháil le cinnirí an Fhreasúra maidir le sin.

My question concerns the adoption (information and tracing) Bill. In light of the ongoing controversy around the horrific events at mother and baby homes and in particular the scandal of children being taken from their mothers for adoption, it is clear from the survivors that there is a significant gap in the availability of information for children who want to locate their mothers. This Bill would put in place a process to make this possible. It was due for publication in 2013. That deadline has passed. Has the Department completed the heads of the legislation? When will these be placed before the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children and when will the Bill be published?

This legislation has been around and talked about for a while. It is a very complex matter. There are constitutional requirements here relating to privacy and it would appear that a referendum will be required in respect of some of the privacy issues involved here. There are amendments being worked on that are very complex and have constitutional implications but I will inform the Deputy of the current state of play. It is not as simple as it looks. Obviously, the interdepartmental group is now looking at the range to be dealt with by the commission of investigation to be set up by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. This will be part of that study but believe me, it is not as simple as it looks.

In view of the preparations for budget 2015 and in respect of cost savings and efficiencies, when is the data sharing and governance Bill expected in the House?

Approval was given by the Government to draft the heads of that Bill. They will come back and go to pre-legislative hearings at the appropriate committee. It will be next year before that Bill is published.

Deputies O'Dea and Dooley had their hands up together so whichever one wants to go first can do so. I do not want to show a preference. They hit the line together. It was a photo finish.

Last week in the Taoiseach's absence on what I am sure is very important national business, we debated yet another Social Welfare Bill. The Taoiseach will be interested to know that on the first day that Second Stage of that Bill was taken, I received a communication from the Whip's office asking me to put forward amendments because the amendments were being debated at 1 p.m. The Taoiseach will be aware that there is a direct commitment in the programme for Government to allow at least a fortnight for a period of reflection between Second Stage and Committee Stage of legislation. The Government is at least 75% through its lifetime and it is still shunting legislation through in this fashion.

I think the Deputy has made his point.

Does the Taoiseach think this is acceptable and when will this change come about? I have been asking about it for six months.

Social welfare arises at different times. They try to keep the two-week gap mentioned by the Deputy. I do not think it never happens with social welfare but it is different from a normal Bill because there are timelines and payments to be made. I regret if the Deputy is upset about it. The barrage last year used to be about Bills being guillotined. We have not had any of that. I take the Deputy's point but social welfare is a different kind of Bill.

(Interruptions).

The Deputy made his point and the Taoiseach has taken it on board.

The spent convictions Bill has been in the stocks since last year. When is it intended to bring it forward?

We are waiting to take it on Report Stage because a number of amendments are coming through.

When will it be taken?

Before the end of this session.

Like Deputy Gerry Adams, I welcome the Cabinet decision yesterday on the marketing and sale of tobacco products. I refer to another issue that I have highlighted previously, the harm associated with alcohol misuse and the effects on society. Recent reports show we have the largest binge drinking population in Europe. We are all aware of the problems associated with alcohol. When will the public health (alcohol) Bill be brought before the House?

There are two alcohol-related Bills: one relating to public health and the other to the sale of alcohol. The Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Alex White, is working on them. He might be distracted at the moment by something else, but I will bring the Deputy up to date on when they might be produced.

I wanted to refer to the sale of alcohol Bill, but the Taoiseach has referred to it.

I refer to the international tax agreement Bill which was recently on the second clár of upcoming legislation. Will it address serious allegations about the construction programme in the education, health and transport sectors and public procurement whereby significant numbers of the workforce working on the projects are black economy workers from another jurisdiction? They come from another jurisdiction which perhaps is part of our nation but not part of the jurisdiction; they are effectively working in the black economy on projects which were tendered for through the public procurement process. Would the Taoiseach have a concern if these allegations were true?

We do not deal with concerns on the Order of Business.

There is a committee dealing with the black economy; it is chaired by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

The Deputy has made his point.

The Minister for Education and Skills is very much aware of the issue also.

Does the Taoiseach recall the employment figures? Deputy Catherine Murphy, for example, raised them with him on the Order of Business. We were anxious about a downturn in the rate of increase and there was concern about what was causing the downturn. Could it have been caused by something in the construction industry? Will the Taoiseach investigate the issue?

Ministers are aware of it and we have had discussions about it. The legislation in respect of international tax issues will be taken later this year.

In view of the increased importance and impact of climate change, when is the climate change Bill likely to be brought before the House? Will it be passed before the end of the year? What is the position on the geothermal energy Bill which has a similar association?

It will be passed before the end of the year. The 2020 targets set for Ireland were the consequence of a flawed methodology which has left the country with a difficult position to reach. The targets to be set for 2030 will need to be the subject of robust discussion because one would not wish to saddle the country from 2020 onwards with-----

-----exorbitant fines which are the consequence of a false methodology. That is an issue of concern for everybody. For instance, agriculture is an important sector for us. The target should been +4 instead of -20, an extraordinary difference based on a flawed methodology.

I refer to three issues regarding legislation. First, does the Minister for Finance intend to make regulations under a statutory instrument relating to the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012? Section 20(6) permits the Minister to make regulations to allow local authorities to reduce or increase the local property tax by a 15% margin. Will he make such a regulation in order that local authorities can carry this out and notify Revenue of the change before the deadline at the end of September?

Second, agreement on a direct recapitalisation instrument at European level was announced yesterday. Member states will have to give effect to their own national procedures. What is proposed for Ireland? Must the Government introduce legislation to allow for the bailing out of banks when they fall into trouble and provide for the use of the direct recapitalisation instrument? Given that the instrument has been agreed at that level, have negotiations formally started on its retroactive application in order that we can get our money back?

The third issue is political reform. As a member of the banking inquiry team, I am deeply disappointed by what is happening in the Seanad. It will put the inquiry back by a number of months. An intervention is needed to stop the squabbling and bickering. Sinn Féin is excluded from all of the committees which are dealing with the issue, including the Committee of Selection and the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. The public wants this to stop and the committee to be up and running as quickly as possible.

On political reform, it was announced when the Government took office that it would facilitate the answering of parliamentary questions during the recess. This is probably more important now, given that we have moved to a budgetary cycle in line with the European semester when the budget is announced in October. Members and political parties try to prepare for the budget and usually need the summer months, particularly August and early September, to do so, but during these months they cannot receive answers from the Government. Will the Government give effect during its lifetime to this commitment to answer parliamentary questions?

We have had that discussion during the years and I assume the Deputy is referring to written replies. Replies are given practically until the end of July. If the House is not sitting, Ministers cannot be present. In fairness to the public service which goes to extraordinary lengths on occasion, it is effectively reduced in number for the month of August. Written replies are provided up to the end of July and from September. We will look at the issue.

In respect of the property tax, the legislation provides for an increase or a reduction of 15%. This measure has to be in place. Whether it requires regulations to be introduced by the Minister is something on which he will comment, but that is the intent of the law and what it means. It might not be as easy for people to fulfil all of the promises they made when the issue comes before them.

The issue of direct recapitalisation has been driven by Ireland and the €60 billion left is specifically due to Ireland's commitment to it. It is welcome that agreement was reached in the past two days on another aspect of the issue. Obviously, it means that countries such as Ireland which wish to make a claim for direct recapitalisation can do so at the end of November. Clearly, it has been an intention of Ireland to keep this issue very much in focus for the past couple of years and I am glad that agreement was reached in Brussels in the past two days.

I want the banking inquiry to happen quickly. The matter that has been a cause of some controversy in the Seanad will be dealt with very shortly.

On direct recapitalisation, does the requirement to implement national procedures necessitate legislation? Is it the intention that legislation will be introduced to give effect to this measure?

I am not sure if it requires formal legislation because we may have to react to the agreement being put in place at European level by lodging an application to be considered for direct recapitalisation. I will advise the Deputy on whether it requires regulations or legislation.

I was reading through the programme for Government again in the past few days. One might question my motivation for doing so.

I wonder why.

It is rapidly becoming a fictional document, if it was ever factual in the first place. However, it contains a commitment regarding State board appointments and other appointments made by Ministers whereby all such appointees would appear before various Oireachtas committees to be scrutinised.

That was a key area to be addressed in the democratic revolution that was promised by this Government. It has not happened in my area - health - or broadly across all areas of the Government and State. Does that commitment still exist? Does it require legislation or changes in Standing Orders? What is the reason for the delay? Is it just that the political will has evaporated into the ether?

I am very glad Deputy Kelleher continues to read the programme for Government. That is good. I know he has it with him in his car. I hope he does not read it when he is stopped at the traffic lights but only reads it in his spare time.

The requirement is for the chairpersons of bodies to appear before the committees. If any chairperson of an important body has not appeared before a committee, we should look into that. The commitment still stands and, to my knowledge, a number of the chairpersons have appeared before committees to discuss their experience, their expertise and what they bring to the different bodies to which they have been appointed.