As the business which was listed for today has already been brought to a conclusion, it is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the sitting shall be suspended immediately after the Order of Business until 2 p.m. and that Topical Issues shall be taken at that time. Friday's fortnightly business shall be No. 72, High Pay and Wealth Commission Bill 2014, and No. 73, Thirty-Fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Peace and Neutrality) Bill 2014.
Order of Business
There is one proposal to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with the suspension of the sitting agreed to? Agreed.
On the industrial relations (amendment) Bill, the Tánaiste will be aware that next week thousands of workers employed by Dunnes Stores will engage in industrial action as a consequence of the proliferation of zero-hour contracts. Does she agree that, in the context of any employment relationship, no one's efforts are worth zero? Will she condemn the wholesale intimidation which it is suggested has taken place in respect of the mainly female workers involved? Will the Tánaiste confirm whether the line Minister with responsibility in this area has intervened with the employer, Dunnes Stores, and asked it to recognise the authority of the Labour Relations Commission and to engage in discussions with its workers in the interests of reaching a cohesive settlement with them? Does she agree that employees of Dunnes Stores, particularly those on zero-hour contracts, are entitled to better conditions and that rates of pay should be banded? Will she make a statement to the effect that the relevant Minister has contacted the employer in order to ensure that it involves itself in a wholesome and real engagement with the Labour Relations Commission?
As I am sure the Deputy is aware, two industrial relations Bills are due to come before the Dáil this session and the Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Nash, has prioritised both.
The Deputy referred to the intimidation of workers. If such intimidation has taken place, then he should report it because I do not know whether what is involved constitutes a criminal offence. Perhaps he might pursue the matter further with the relevant authorities.
If the Tánaiste still spoke to the trade unions, she would know what is involved.
Has she stopped doing so?
If a criminal offence was involved, then the Deputy should report the matter to An Garda Síochána.
In the context of the potential dispute at Dunnes Stores, I certainly hope it will be possible to reach a settlement. I have asked the Minister of State, Deputy Nash, to undertake an examination of zero-hour contracts, particularly as they can lead to people having a very low number of hours of work and correspondingly low pay while needing to remain available to their employers at all times. I hope it will be possible to settle the dispute in a way which is satisfactory to the workers at Dunnes Stores, as well as to the management of the company, in order that the employment and the enterprise might move forward successfully.
Tá trí cheist agam. The first involves the water services Bill and the matter which we debated on Leaders' Questions but in respect of which clarity was not forthcoming. Will the Tánaiste indicate when we might expect the legislation in question to be introduced?
The second question I wish to pose relates to the Construction Contracts Act. It is 18 months since this legislation was signed into law by the President and we are still awaiting a commencement date in respect of it. The legislation in question was originally introduced five years ago and the process relating to it has been extremely drawn out. The Tánaiste is familiar with the consequences experienced by contractors and subcontractors when the construction bubble burst and with the fact that so many SMEs went out of business at that time. The legislation makes provision for dispute resolution mechanisms and protections in respect of the people to whom I refer. Perhaps the Tánaiste will indicate when it is likely to come into effect.
My final question relates to the fact that the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg announced in recent days that it will hear a collective complaint about the appalling state of local authority housing in 20 local authority areas across the State. The estates involved include O'Devaney Gardens, Croke Villas, Dolphin House, Balgaddy-----
There is no need for the Deputy to provide all of the details involved on the Order of Business.
Local authorities have a case to answer but, ultimately, the buck stops with central government. I remind the Tánaiste that this Administration has cut council housing budgets by 25% since it took office. In light of the seriousness of the issues raised in the complaint to which I refer, will the Tánaiste facilitate a Dáil debate on the matter? More importantly, will she indicate when the funds local authorities need to address the chronic damp and disrepair that are all too common in our public housing stock will be released?
I understand that proposals relating to the water services Bill are due to come before the Cabinet in a short period.
The construction contracts legislation to which the Deputy refers has already been enacted. Certain parts of the Act are awaiting the provision of a ministerial order in the context of an implementation date. The relevant Minister has been contacted in respect of this matter.
The complaint that has been made to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of housing is a matter for that body. In the context of renovating and renewing houses, apartments or flats that are in poor condition, the Deputy will be aware that we recently announced the largest housing investment budget in the history of the State which will cover the period up to 2020.
The Tánaiste will not be here at that stage.
All local authorities have been involved in detailed discussions with the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government with a view to drawing down the appropriate allocations.
However, they are still awaiting their allocations.
Dublin City Council has been given a significant allocation in order that it might deal with the issue of boarded up and voided apartments. We want the practice of boarding up or voiding dwellings to be brought to an end. Obviously, however, this is a matter for local authority members. Local authorities have received significant amounts of funding in recent years to assist them in dealing with these issues. Local authorities and the elected members thereof must get on with it and ensure that the money which has been allocated will be drawn down and spent. It can take a disappointingly long time for the latter to happen. A number of the people sitting opposite formerly served as members of local authorities. Some local authorities have received funding and we want them to take action in the context of using it as quickly as possible.
Does the Tánaiste have an opinion on the Minister for Justice and Equality attending the launch of a document by the Irish Family Planning Association on Tuesday evening last?
I do not believe that is relevant to the Order of Business.
In 2012 the organisation in question was found to be disseminating life-endangering information to women with crisis pregnancies. A proper investigation was not carried out into that matter.
There is no legislation promised in respect of that issue.
I am raising this matter in the context of the health information Bill. Does the Tánaiste approve of the Minister's attendance at the event to which I refer?
Does the Tánaiste wish to comment?
That matter will be dealt with in the context of the health information Bill, for which we do not yet have a publication date.
Mar is eol don Tánaiste, tá sé ceithre bliana anois ó foilsíodh clár reachtaíochta an Rialtais, the Government's legislative programme. Sa chlár reachtaíochta sin, bhí geallúint tugtha go dtabharfaí isteach Bille le leasú a dhéanamh ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003. Fuaireamar geallúintí go leor sa Dáil le bliain nó dhó anuas go mbeadh an Bille seo ag teacht isteach. Táimid ag druidim le deireadh téarma eile Dála an tseachtain seo chugainn. An bhféadfadh an Tánaiste insint dom agus don Teach cén uair gur féidir linn a bheith ag súil go dtabharfar isteach an Bille seo is é sin leasú ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla?
Beidh an Bille os comhair na Dála an seisiún seo.
I welcome the progress made to date in the removal of children from the prison system. I ask about No. 126 in the legislative programme, St. Patrick's Institution (closing) Bill. When will the Bill be published and when is it expected to be brought before the House?
I do not have a date as yet.
Another couple of tonnes of diesel sludge was dumped on a roadside in County Louth the other night, costing the taxpayer and the local authority hundreds of thousands of euro to clean up. When is it expected to publish a Bill to strengthen the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau in forfeiting the proceeds of crime? I refer to No. 124, proceeds of crime (amendment) Bill.
The consultation process on the Bill is under way with the Criminal Assets Bureau. Therefore, I do not yet have a date.
As a result of bad planning decisions and Fianna Fáil being in cahoots with big builders and developers during the boom-----
Members of the Deputy's party zoned all of the land, with the Labour Party.
Deputy James Bannon has the floor.
They zoned the land in local authority areas.
I ask the Deputy to put a question about legislation.
We all remember-----
They zoned all of the land.
They all visited the Galway tent. That is what tarnished them. They were part of the Galway tent regime.
The Deputy cannot handle the truth.
That element of Fianna Fáil has not yet left this House and the people have reflected this in every opinion poll for several years.
The Deputy does not know what he is speaking about.
Deputy James Bannon should put his question.
When are we going to have-----
The Labour Party zoned the land, with Fine Gael.
The way Fianna Fáil wrecked the country hurts its Deputies every time they mention it.
No, it does not.
I know from contacts in County Longford that the new leader of Fianna Fáil skirted around the Galway tent in his younger days. I know that for a fact.
Please, speak through the Chair.
I will when I get my chance. Please control the Deputies opposite. They are out of control.
The Deputy's colleagues were involved in rezoning for many years.
I ask the Tánaiste when we will have the building control Bill to place the construction industry on a proper footing. This is very important.
That did not go so well.
The Oireachtas Library has all of the reports of the tribunals.
Including the Moriarty report.
My recollection is that Fianna Fáil had a starring role in all of them.
What about the telephone licences?
The Deputies opposite can read their own history whenever they feel like doing so, as well as that of other parties.
Deputy James Bannon asked a question.
Tell us about the Moriarty tribunal.
Not on the Order of Business.
In regard to the legislation-----
The Deputies opposite were very quiet about that report when it was published.
The mental health services are under huge strain and Ireland has one of the highest rates of suicide in Europe. People are still being turned away from accident and emergency departments and last year's reports on the recruitment of nurses revealed that only one third of the numbers required had been recruited from the funds provided by the Minister for Health. A Vision for Change which was part of the programme for Government promised a new beginning. Hundreds of nurses are about to retire, the majority from mental health services. We have received warnings from senior personnel in mental health services that a huge problem is coming down the road. It is even bigger than the problems we are dealing with. Will the Tánaiste seek to address this issue, as promised in the programme for Government?
I understand a mental health Bill due to be brought before the Oireachtas in the next few weeks will address some of the issues raised by the Deputy.
In view of the disastrous decision by European Union Communications Ministers to defer abolition of mobile phone roaming charges, will the Government pursue urgently at European Council level implementation of the decision to abolish roaming charges this year? It has been deferred until an assessment is carried out in 2018. Mobile phone roaming charges are a huge issue in the counties I represent in the Border region, both for people in going about their daily activities and for businesses which depend on the mobile network. That European Union's decision has put the needs of major international mobile phone companies ahead of the interest of consumers.
I will ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to address that issue in the context of the European meetings he is attending. It is a very important issue.
The sitting was suspended several times yesterday and will be suspended again today without any business having been transacted. The Tánaiste will be aware that a number of Bills are ready and could be brought before the House. For example, why can we not debate Report and Final Stages of the Spent Convictions Bill 2012 today? It does not make any sense and says a lot about Dáil reform.
On the report on the configuration and development of post-primary schools in Limerick city, Croom and Pallaskenry, there is a farcical situation in the city and its environs. Students who get on a bus in County Clare will pass approximately 15 post-primary schools in Limerick city on their way to their school in Croom, in my constituency. We are still awaiting publication of that report. I thought the Minister for Education and Skills would have remained in the House for this part of our proceedings.
It is not in order.
Can we have a debate on the configuration of post-primary schools in Limerick city and the greater mid-west area? The position is far from satisfactory because many pupils travel past several post-primary schools to attend schools in different counties. It is not acceptable and I think the Tánaiste will agree that we need to debate the issue at the earliest opportunity.
The Deputy should raise it in some other way.
On the business of the day, at the request of the House, a debate was arranged on the significance of the dairy industry, but, unfortunately, there was nobody from Sinn Féin or Fianna Fáil on the Opposition benches. I would have thought these parties had some interest in the future of the dairy industry.
I spoke last week.
On a point of order, Fianna Fáil Members spoke in that debate last week.
They were unable to attend.
If Deputies on the Tánaiste's side of the House were not offering to speak, she should not put the blame on this side.
That is fine. Please allow the Tánaiste to conclude.
She should at least have the decency to get the facts right.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív did not even bother to speak.
On a point of order, the Tánaiste is entitled to her opinion and her own spin, but she is not entitled to her own facts. The fact is that Fianna Fáil contributed to the debate.
We have heard the Deputy's point.
It is a point of order.
It is not a point of order.
Stick to the facts for a change.
The Deputy clarified the issue.
Where was the Deputy yesterday?
When did Deputy Joe Carey ever speak in any debate?
The only fact to which I referred was that, unfortunately, nobody was present. I did not refer to the Deputy. There was nobody from Fianna Fáil or Sinn Féin present. With regard to the proposals on the legislation to which the Deputy referred, amendments are still being drafted. I anticipate that when the drafting of amendments has been completed, the legislation will come back before the House. I will ask the Minister for Education and Skills when the schools report is likely to be published.
I was impressed by the speed and expediency with which the Government had the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2015 passed.
This begs the question as to why the Government cannot address bigger problems we have been discussing here on and off, at Leaders' Questions and at other times, such as the Private Members' Bill put forward by the Tánaiste's colleague, Deputy Penrose, for a one year bankruptcy. This would stop much of the pain being suffered by people in this country. Why does the Government not grasp the ball Deputy Penrose has passed to it and fast-forward his Bill through the Dáil?
The intensity and frequency of advertising for online betting and gambling has increased. This is unacceptable. If the Tánaiste were to go to the Rutland Centre, which is supported by many of her colleagues, she would be told about the existence of a gambling addiction problem, as a result of accessibility through iPhones, iPads, laptops etc. This advertising should be stopped. I call on the Government to fast-forward a Bill to deal with this, as it did with the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill. That Bill provided for the listing of drugs for a technical reason. The Government could do this. It can show brilliance when it wants to.
On the betting legislation, I am happy to tell the Deputy that a Bill dealing with this was enacted on 15 March. Therefore, it is now in the process of implementation. The Deputy's points in respect of the problems associated with gambling in all forms, including online, are well made.
In regard to a reduction in the term of bankruptcy, the Government is currently examining a series of proposals and is awaiting a report on the operation of the Insolvency Service of Ireland. I anticipate we will report to the House on that shortly after Easter.