Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 17, motion re referral to select sub-committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Finance Act 2004 (Section 91) (Deferred Surrender to the Central Fund) Order 2015, and No. 9, Children and Family Relationships Bill 2015 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and shall adjourn on the adjournment of Private Members' business, which shall be No. 186, motion re income and living conditions, and shall take place at 7.30 p.m. tonight or on the conclusion of the opening speeches of No. 9, whichever is the later, and shall adjourn after 90 minutes; and No. 17 shall be decided without debate. Tomorrow's business after Oral Questions shall be No. 9, Children and Family Relationships Bill 2015 - Second Stage (resumed).

There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with the late sitting agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 17 agreed to? Agreed.

In the programme for Government, there is a commitment to establish a tenancy protection scheme to put an end to disputes regarding the return of deposits. Could the Taoiseach outline to the House the position on this commitment? When can we expect the legislation on it?

With regard to paid paternity leave, the Minister of State with responsibility for equality, Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, stated on 21 January, "I am as confident as I can be at this stage that there will be two weeks' paid paternity leave in that [family leave] legislation". It was suggested that this would not be very expensive, with a figure of €10 million mooted. In response to a parliamentary question, the Tánaiste indicated the introduction of paid paternity leave would have significant cost implications for employers, the Exchequer and the Social Insurance Fund. That seems to indicate the costings have not been done. Can the Taoiseach indicate when paid paternity leave is to be introduced? The Minister of State, who is in the Taoiseach's Government, made a solemn commitment. Perhaps the Government makes it up as it goes along; I do not know. The Taoiseach might confirm whether the Minister of State's statement was made up as he went along.

On the issue of a tax relief for landlords who agree not to increase rent, the Government made a commitment, apparently through the Irish Independent, that it would introduce this.

The third matter I want to mention is the free second year of child care and tax relief. When is it proposed to introduce that?

The Deputy has a lot of information on that phone.

Hold on. This is the Order of Business.

These are all Government commitments.

What is that on the Deputy's phone?

This is the Order of Business.

It is extracts from the commitments made by the Taoiseach's Ministers. It is very impressive. The Government says it will reduce or abolish the public sector pension levy: "The public sector pension levy is "likely" to be reduced significantly or abolished ahead of the general election, senior Government sources have told the Irish Independent."

We will shift back to the Order of Business.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, has made a comment that an annual report will be provided to the Dáil.

Do not mind comments from Ministers or anything else.

Phone a friend.

The Tánaiste has promised the introduction of a living wage. When will that be?

That sounds like the subject of a parliamentary question.

These points are on legislation promised by Ministers.

Phone a friend.

Yes. They promised this. There is obviously some incoherence at the heart of the Government-----

A Deputy

Someone is winding up the Deputy.

Either the Government side is winding up the Irish Independent or both are winding up the nation; work it out.

The last item is the commitment in the programme for Government on rural areas. Can the Taoiseach allow Government time for debate in the House on that issue, given Bus Éireann's decision yesterday to cut vital services to people in towns, particularly across the south east? Approximately 100 rural bus routes are to be cut by the company. This seems to be in direct contradiction of the commitment in the programme for Government. I would appreciate it if the Taoiseach allocated Government time to debate this issue.

Yes. In due course, there will be no problem at all. We will wait until the rural development programme is officially confirmed by the European Commission in the coming weeks. We will be able to discuss the change in retention figures for small schools and have a debate here.

I am talking about transport.

Rural transport, of course, will be part of that.

With regard to the living wage, the low pay commission has its first meeting this week. Obviously it will report before the summer and the Government will act accordingly in respect of that and employers. The Deputy will recall that the first thing we were able to do with what is now termed "the institution" - the troika - was to reverse the cut to the minimum wage brought in by a previous Administration.

The living wage.

The question of the second year of child care is a matter for consideration in advance of the budget. I will have to revert to the Deputy on the return of deposits legislation and the tax relief for landlords.

The Government has not considered the comments made by the Minister of State on paid paternity leave.

Did he make it up, so?

I am just saying the Government has not considered anything to do with that.

He said, "I am as confident as I can be."

There is a lot of business to be done today.

I actually believed, when Deputy Martin was reading from his mobile phone, that he was going to tell us when he was going to produce the Fianna Fáil policy on the health system.

He said, "I am as confident as I can be at this stage."

Deputy Adams wants to ask a question.

What policy has the Taoiseach on health?

Deputy Adams, please.

The Dutch model?

We know how Deputy Martin left it.

Since when was Deputy Durkan called on?

I am sorry, a Cheann Comhairle.

I have called Deputy Adams and he is on his feet. There is an old tradition in this House that when a Deputy is on his feet, you stay quiet.

Tá trí cheist agam. Baineann ceann amháin acu leis an education (admission to schools) Bill, ceann eile leis an Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill agus an ceann deireanach leis an Health Act 2007. Maidir leis an gcéad cheist, the Taoiseach may have picked up that today, the Supreme Court, on a split decision, upheld the decision of a Clonmel school to deny a school place to a child from the Traveller community. The court ruled that insufficient evidence had been put before previous hearings at the Equality Tribunal and at the Circuit Court. It was not possible, therefore, to carry out a proper analysis. The education (admission to schools) Bill changes the provisions for admissions to school and should prevent this from happening again. When will that Bill be published?

On the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill, I commend the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on refusing to be intimidated by Japan Tobacco International and the Imperial Tobacco Group. As a former smoker, I know that tobacco smoking is a major cause of death and ill-health and costs this State hundreds of millions of euro each year in health care costs. Is the Taoiseach satisfied that the proposed legislation is not in breach of the EU tobacco product directive or any World Trade Organization agreement? When does he expect that Report and Final Stages of the Bill will be completed?

The last question has to do with promised legislation and the Health Act. Last month, the Minister for Health set out patient safety as one of his five priorities. He said he would give more power to the Health Information Quality Authority, HIQA, and extend its remit, and in correspondence to me he said that he intends amending the Health Act 2007 to allow that to happen. The Taoiseach will know that HIQA has already put on record that many of its recommendations have not been implemented so when will the legislation to allow the Minister's proposed reform be published? Also, when will the action plan being prepared by the emergency Department task force be published?

The admissions Bill will be this session. That has already been announced and cleared.

Is that the education (admission to schools) Bill?

Yes, the admission to schools Bill. The Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill is on Report Stage. It will be back before this House very shortly. I do not want to give the Deputy a date but it is very close; it is just a matter of business. As far as I am aware, both Ministers are very happy that the legislation complies fully with the requirements of the directive. They are not afraid of any tobacco companies, whatever pressure they may exert.

On the patient safety Bill, the Minister has not yet come forward with his authorisation for clearance for the changes in the safety regulations. I will advise the House when that is cleared.

Ta cúpla ceisteanna agam. In view of the Taoiseach welcoming route 7 earlier, I want clarification, under the public transport Bill, that in respect of the commitment given last night by the same official from Bus Éireann-----

We cannot debate the issue.

Will that include the rest of route 7 from Castlecomer down to Clonmel and on to the Cork county boundaries?

That is not on the Order of Business.

The Taoiseach might answer that question in view of the fact that he welcomed the extension of the first half of it.

On the Consumer Protection (Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) Bill, a man was freed from jail last week. I visited him last week. He was illegally held for 14 hours. Seven court appearances had to be made to get him out.

Sorry, Deputy, what Bill are you talking about?

The Consumer Protection (Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) Bill. They falsely brought a man to court and incarcerated him. It took seven visits to the Supreme Court, the High Court and the Court of Appeal but he is now free, thank God. He is a County Wicklow man. What these firms are doing is reckless. They are misleading the courts and bringing people to court illegally.

The heads of the transport Bill were cleared a number of weeks ago by Cabinet. That will be sent for pre-legislative hearing and so on.

In respect of the consumer credit Bill, that is awaiting Committee Stage in the Dáil.

On promised legislation, the geothermal energy development Bill has been promised for some time. I understood it had been progressing but it seems to have stalled. Can I ask the Taoiseach when it is likely to move forward again?

Similarly, on the national children's hospital development board Bill, which will have implications for the provision of the new children's hospital, can I ask the Taoiseach if progress can be reported in respect of that matter in so far as bringing it before the House at an early date is concerned?

I do not have a date for the second one but I can advise Deputy Durkan of the progress made. I will inform the Deputy of that.

In respect of the geothermal Bill, that is later in the year but it will be preceded by the minerals Bill. They have to follow in sequence, so it will be later in the year.

Will the Taoiseach indicate when the Inland Fisheries (Modernisation and Consolidation) Bill will come before the House? The Bill will modernise and consolidate existing provisions.

It is not as easy as it looks. A lot of work is going on in that regard. I do not have a date for the Deputy. It is a complicated Bill. I will advise Deputy Feighan.

Can the Taoiseach tell us what is happening in regard to the apprenticeship Bill that has been promised for some time? It is to deal with new governance arrangements relating to the area of apprenticeships, which is particularly important at present.

It is a matter of direct interest to the Minister of State. He is awaiting proposals from the Apprenticeship Council and others by the end of March, and he will put it together then. He is very active in respect of the changed nature of apprenticeships that are required for new industries.

I wish to raise two matters. First, to follow up on Deputy Adams's question on the tobacco packaging Bill, the threat by Japan Tobacco Group to sue Ministers and the Government for the loss of revenues and the infringement of its intellectual property is totally out of order. I suggest that the Taoiseach and the Cabinet might counter sue it for the 5,200 deaths from diseases, the costs to the health service and so on, just to put some manners on it.

What is your second item, Deputy?

The second matter is the gambling control Bill. We had a question on that last Thursday but the Bunsen burner flame needs to go up on this as it is becoming urgent.

In respect of the gambling control Bill, Deputy Adams, it was raised here last week. Gabh mo leithscéal, Deputy Mathews. How could I mix you up with Deputy Adams?

It is very easy.

I note what the Deputy says in respect of the tobacco packaging Bill.

I had intended asking about the gambling control Bill as well, which is urgent. I got the answer.