Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 12, motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; and No. 1, Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences)(Amendment) Bill 2014 [Seanad] - Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 12 shall be decided without debate, and that Private Members' business, which shall be No. 187, motion re the sale of Siteserv, shall take place at 6 p.m. and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 9 p.m.

Tomorrow’s business after oral questions shall be No. 34, statements on challenges facing the European Union. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the following arrangements shall apply: the statement of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, and such Members may share their time, the statement of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, and such Members may share their time, and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes.

There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 12, motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions, without debate agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 34, statements on challenges facing the European Union, tomorrow agreed to? Agreed.

The HSE's financial deficit more than doubled in February to €56 million. It is now predicted that there will be an overrun of hundreds of millions of euro by the end of the year. It looks like the first-quarter financial deficit - that is, the deficit built up by the end of March - will be €100 million. The Minister told a Cabinet sub-committee last week that the HSE will exceed its allocation before the end of the year, or alternatively will have to face introducing cuts to patient services. He also said it was drawing up measures to punish hospitals that have exceeded their allocations. The House has long accepted the fraudulent presentation of financial figures in relation to health. Over €500 million was produced at the end of last year. The same thing happened the year before. Will the Taoiseach confirm honestly that there will be a significant Supplementary Estimate this year to cover the undoubted overruns that will occur in the health sector because of the fraudulent set of figures that were provided, yet again, in last year's budget for the health services? If one travels out of this House and goes into the hospitals, one will see that morale is at an all-time low in the health services. Staff are fed up with the lack of leadership and direction from the Government. They do not know whether they are coming or going. It seems this House does not know what the financial situation is in relation to health. Can the Taoiseach confirm that a Supplementary Estimate for health will be brought before the House?

The Minister for Health and the Government are very much aware of the situation in the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive, HSE. The claim for demand-led schemes is unknown.

It is known. It is only one third; it is only €18 million of the €56 million.

The Minister reported on the expenditure flow for the first two months of the year and is very conscious of that and has already made his comments about management and everybody concerned dealing with expenditure effectively in the patients’ interests. I will not comment on any requirement that might or might not be necessary later in the year but I will confirm that the HSE, the Department, the Minister and the Government are very much aware of the requirement for the effective operation of the health system. The Government made €500 million available last year to cover a shortfall there and added a modest amount to that for 2015. That is being closely monitored at the moment.

Does that mean the Taoiseach is not ruling out a Supplementary Estimate?

We cannot have a debate about it now.

The Minister has already said there will be one.

Is the Taoiseach saying there has to be one?

That is what Deputy Martin is saying.

What is the Taoiseach saying?

I am saying the Minister will monitor the situation.

Can he monitor it?

He will monitor it very carefully.

The Minister told us already that there would be one.

We are not having a chat across the Chamber. This is the Order of Business.

We might as well at this stage.

We are trying to get some clarity.

Early last year, the Taoiseach volunteered to bring forward an all-party Oireachtas motion in support of the Ballymurphy families and although we did not ask for this, I very much welcomed it. When I asked him about it some months later, because it had not been brought forward, on 1 July, he said the Government was working on a comprehensive motion which would be discussed with Deputies Martin and Adams shortly. Again, time passed but níor tharla rud ar bith ó shin. In February of this year, he said he would have it in March. It is now May and we still do not have this. I would like a debate on the North.

On 24 March of this year, the Taoiseach agreed to hold a debate on the North. As he should know, in recent weeks there has been a sustained and concerted attack on Sinn Féin representatives. There have been four attacks on the homes and property of Sinn Féin councillors and members. There have been seven death threats. The cars belonging to two Derry Sinn Féin councillors were destroyed last night outside their homes and the car of another activist, Sean McMonagle, was burned. The Taoiseach knows that Frank McCabe junior, son of a Sinn Féin member, Frank McCabe in south Armagh, was blinded in one eye by a booby trap bomb on the family property. The home of the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, was paint-bombed last week. There were death threats yesterday and bomb alerts at the homes of Martina Anderson MEP, and Raymond McCartney, MLA. This morning, when I was on my way to the 1916 commemoration at Arbour Hill, there was a bomb alert at my home. I got word that police sniffer dogs were there and they were checking out the precincts of the house.

We need to discuss all of these matters, particularly in the light of tomorrow’s election and its likely repercussions if the Tories get in because of their commitment to leave the EU but also their adherence to austerity and so on. Will the Taoiseach set a date for the debate as soon as possible so that we can discuss all of these very important issues? The silence on these attacks from the Government and others in this Chamber, who are sometimes very loud in making one-sided remarks about the North, is deafening. Will the Taoiseach let us know the Government’s position on these threats and attacks?

I condemn unreservedly these threats to members of all political parties where a number of people on the Government benches have received threats of one sort or another and several offices have been bombed, graffitied or damaged and, of course, in respect of the cases the Deputy mentioned. I deplore the paint-bombing of the home of the Deputy First Minister a couple of days ago, which I heard and read comment about, no more than the outrageous murder yesterday of a community worker on the streets of Belfast. These are not matters that should be carried out where politics is concerned. People can argue and have differences of opinion but democracy means that they can discuss these things and the electorate makes its decision. That is the Government’s position: we condemn these things unreservedly.

In respect of Ballymurphy, I spoke to the Deputy about this before and he will recall that I wanted to meet the people there and the relatives of those who were shot dead in order that I would hear their views of a potential all-party motion. The text is ready and I will circulate it to the party leaders for their consideration. If they agree with that, or can agree on changes to an all-party motion in respect of Ballymurphy, I will be happy to go with it. As soon as that is done we can arrange for a debate on Northern Ireland and the very serious issues arising from what is happening, and has happened in recent past there. Nobody wants to see a return to that sort of an era. There is a lot of opportunity and optimism opening up for Northern Ireland. Who knows what the outcome of the election will be tomorrow and, in respect of those elected from Northern Ireland, what place or position they may have following the outcome of the election. If the Deputy can work with us on the all-party motion, we can arrange with the Whips for a decent debate on Northern Ireland and all the issues that affect us North and South.

When I raised the long-promised proposal to introduce a deposit protection scheme recently, the Taoiseach very kindly got the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Coffey, to reply to me and to say the legislation would be back here within weeks and the intention was to have it passed before the summer. I was surprised to hear media reports this morning to the effect that the Government was going to introduce legislation to allow landlords withhold outstanding water charges from a deposit. Is there a change in that plan or does the Government still intend to introduce the deposit protection scheme?

A second matter relating to that legislation is the need for some kind of controls on rents. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government has spoken about the need for rent certainty. Others would say there is an absolutely urgent need for rent controls. Is it intended to provide for such rent controls in that upcoming Bill, which is due back from the Seanad very shortly?

The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2012 is still going through the Seanad and will make its way here. On the question about landlords and tenants and water charges, that is a matter the Government is considering as part of the overall options in regard to compliance with the water charges. Landlords are required to register and to give details of their tenancies.

The Government does not intend to legislate for rent control. In respect of rent subsidy, where tenants are notified of an intention to have them removed from private tenancies the opportunity is there under the existing scheme to have that subsidy increased on a case-by-case basis so that the tenancy can be extended in order that housing can be provided for those tenants under a different scheme.

Does the Taoiseach intend to go ahead with the deposit protection scheme, as the Minister of State, Deputy Coffey, said last week?

He did not say that.

In that event, the issue of landlords retaining money for outstanding water charges would not arise.

We cannot have a debate on this issue.

What is the intention in respect of the deposit protection scheme?

I do not want to give any detail of what has not yet been decided by the Government. The Bill is making its way through the Seanad. The Minister will deal with a number of issues relating to water compliance and they will be announced shortly.

Will the Taoiseach outline whether the Government will allow an exemption for one-off houses and building extensions from the new building regulations as they are having a very negative effect on the construction industry? I believe the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government made some sort of rumblings about this earlier this week but could the Taoiseach-----

Is there promised legislation here?

Yes, there is. It is the planning and development (No. 1) Bill, whose purpose is to support actions in the construction industry. If our construction industry is to flourish, one-off buildings and extensions should be exempt from these building regulations because they impose a very large additional cost on these builds.

The urban regeneration and housing Bill is due this session. The building regulations referred to by the Deputy are out for public consultation and review by the Minister and the Minister of State, Deputy Coffey. I think the closing date for that consultation is 15 May 2015.

The Taoiseach accepts that we are all political practitioners here and go about our election campaigns without fear or favour. We were promised an electoral commission Bill. I have a dossier here about posters being taken down from Donegal to Tipperary by the "Yes" campaign in the marriage referendum campaign. Will gardaí take any action or are they tied up? The Garda has always looked after elections without fear or favour. This is terrible behaviour.

It is not on the Order of Business.

Will the Taoiseach ask the Minister for Justice and Equality to talk to the Garda-----

(Interruptions).

It is not on the Order of Business.

There are pictures of people on Facebook who think they can act with impunity after the intervention of the Garda Representative Association. It is disgraceful.

It may be disgraceful. It is not on the Order of Business.

I am asking about this legislation. We will hardly get it before the referendum.

What legislation?

It is the electoral commission legislation. Will the Taoiseach ask the Minister for Justice and Equality to talk to the Garda?

(Interruptions).

It is not very funny. Deputies would not like it if it happened to them.

It is not very funny but this is the Order of Business.

I asked about the legislation.

I do not have a date for the introduction of the electoral commission Bill. One does not need an electoral commission to know that posters should not be taken down. It is an offence to do so.

When we were on the verge of the water charges bills being sent out a number of weeks ago, the media was full of stories with dramatic headlines giving the impression that water charges would be taken directly from people's wages and social welfare benefits. Over 200,000 bills should have been paid by this stage. Irish Water refuses to give the figures.

Where are we going?

I am asking about legislation. Irish Water is refusing to give the figures. Again, the same stories are emerging from the Government. Is the legislation that is being talked about the long-promised water services Bill or is it another piece of legislation? Can the Taoiseach confirm that contrary to the threats, this is not a revenue tax but rather a utilities bill and any attachment orders will relate to something after a court case? Therefore, we are talking about hundreds of thousands of court cases after the general election.

That is not on the Order of Business.

We are reforming a Victorian-era piece of legislation where people were sent to jail for very small amounts. The details of that will be announced by the Government very shortly.

I also wanted to ask about the forthcoming legislation. When will the Government bring forward the water services Bill to address outstanding issues reflected in the Government's water package in November 2014? It has been six months since that motion was put before us. Deputy after Deputy has asked the Taoiseach about the landlord issue. The Government is obviously having problems with that because it has not been able to come up with something for six months. Today, the newspapers are full of threats against pensioners, lone parents, workers and the unemployed. The threats are that through legislation - it is a lie - the Government will be able to deduct money from their wages and welfare payments and that anything it does will involve-----

We cannot have a debate on the Order of Business.

Can the Taoiseach clarify that any law the Government brings in will involve an individual going in front of a judge and an attachment order being put against them and that the idea of half a million or a million people being brought before a judge and having such orders placed against them is absolute lunacy?

Will the Deputy please adhere to the Chair? We have already dealt with the Bill in question.

Why did the Taoiseach not bring in the same law against the bankers and developers who brought this country to ruin?

Will the Deputy please resume her seat?

Can I have an answer?

The Deputy got the answer the last time. The water services Bill-----

It is about the water services Bill. It is on the list of legislation.

It has already been answered.

There is a difference between those who cannot pay and those who will not pay.

We are not going into that - just the Bill.

It is unfair that those who do pay should be isolated. The Minister will shortly bring forward the compliance measures for dealing with Irish Water.

Will the Taoiseach clarify-----

I call Deputy McLoughlin.

As I am sure the Taoiseach is aware, it is important that the old laws governing both landlords and tenants are reformed and updated by the Government. We have been hearing about this since 2011. When can we expect the landlord and tenant reform Bill to be brought before the House for debate?

I do not have a date but I will advise him of the update in respect of the preparation of the Bill.

It was indicated today that water charges will be included in the new legislation on the non-payment of general debts. When will this legislation come before the House? Do we need separate legislation to look into the issue of tenants who refuse to pay water charges?

I said in response to Deputy Coppinger that the Minister will bring forward the compliance measures for Irish Water very shortly.

Which Minister?

Very shortly.

I raised this issue last Thursday on the Order of Business when the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources was representing the Government. It relates to universal health insurance. I have gone through the legislative programme for this summer session and I cannot find any reference in it to universal health insurance. I know the ESRI has been charged with bringing about a costing model for this but in view of the fact that it is a central plank of Government policy on how it funds health services in the years ahead, when can we expect to see the legislation published so that we can have an informed debate on this issue prior to the general election? Is it ever going to happen? Are we going to pretend here week in and week out that the Government is pursuing a policy that will never see the light of day?

Universal health insurance will not be introduced during the lifetime of this Government. The Minister for Health said that he would bring forward a paper on the costings for that. Universal health insurance will be delivered during the lifetime of the next Government.

The Taoiseach promised this 15 years ago.

The Deputy should not open his mouth about health issues.

(Interruptions).

The road traffic Bill proposes to detect and prevent driving under the influence of drugs. When is it proposed to bring it before the House, have the heads been cleared and will we have it before the end of this session? In respect of the ongoing threats and violence against members of An Garda Síochána and their families by those engaged in illegal activities such as drug barons, is the Garda Síochána (compensation for malicious injuries) Bill likely to come before the House soon to give Members an opportunity to discuss the issue?

The heads of the road traffic Bill were cleared on 10 February 2015 so work is proceeding and it will be taken in the second half of the year. The heads of the Garda Síochána (compensation for malicious injuries) Bill were also cleared and the Bill is due for the latter part of the year.