Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 11, motion re membership of committees; No. 12, motion re Statement of Estimates for the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission; No. 36, Civil Debt (Procedures) Bill 2015 - Second Stage, resumed; and No. 37, Urban Regeneration and Housing Bill 2015 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages.

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. 74, Central Bank (Variable Rate Mortgages) Bill 2015 – Second Stage, which shall take place at 8.30 p.m. or in the event a division is in progress at that time, immediately thereafter, and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes on Wednesday, 8 July 2015; No. 11 shall be decided without debate; the proceedings in relation to No. 12 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 20 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the speech 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 five minutes in each case, and such Members may share their time; and the resumed Second Stage of No. 36 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 6.30 p.m. tonight.

Tomorrow's business after Oral Questions shall be as follows: No. 37, Urban Regeneration and Housing Bill 2015 - Report and Final Stages, resumed; No. 12a, National Minimum Wage (Low Pay Commission) Bill 2015 – motion to instruct the committee; No. 38, National Minimum Wage (Low Pay Commission) Bill 2015 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 1, Statute Law Revision Bill 2015 - amendments from the Seanad.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings in relation to No. 12a shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after one hour and the following arrangements shall apply: the speech 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 15 minutes in each case; and such members may share their time.

There are five 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. 11, motion re membership of committees, without debate, agreed to?

It is not agreed. My understanding is that this motion relates to removing Deputy McNamara from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children and from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

This is due to his voting against the Government on an issue. Four years ago, the Government spoke about a democratic revolution, giving Parliament more independence and having more respect for it. One would have assumed that once Deputies were appointed to committees and given their commitment and involvement therein, they would be allowed to continue making their contributions in the autumn of this Dáil.

At least we have a party whip. Deputy Martin is afraid of it.

The Deputy is afraid to enforce his party whip.

The Government is bouncing members off committees.

Deputy Martin wants to play both sides.

It is a form of jackbootism. It is dictatorial.

Have you ever heard such rubbish?

Please. I ask the Minister of State not to interrupt.

The Minister of State can never resist his impulses to demonstrate how tough he is and-----

He is a great man for bouncing people.

At least we have a party whip. Deputy Martin is afraid to enforce it.

-----how such a man of steel can kick people off committees at will-----

Please get on with it.

Deputy Martin cannot be accused of being a man of steel.

Will the Minister of State stay quiet, please?

-----so that the remainder of his backbenchers will be forever in fear of him-----

The Minister of State must refrain. Perhaps the man beside him might refrain.

-----and what he might do to them if they should ever have the temerity to do something that would be adverse to the Government's position and fortunes. In terms of parliamentary reform and the Parliament's future, this is more a relic of the past than anything we should be doing today or in the future. I disagree fundamentally with what the Government is doing in removing Deputy McNamara from these committees simply because he took a different position from the Government.

Deputies can vote against Fianna Fáil at any time they want.

They have a licence from now on.

Deputies, please.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Martin is entitled to make-----

I am amused by Deputy Deasy, who has from time to time-----

No. Does Deputy Adams agree to this proposal?

(Interruptions).

The new anarchists.

Through the Chair, I know that the Chief Whip must be concerned, but Deputy Deasy always celebrated his own contrarian and independent streak as a distinctive trademark-----

Thanks very much for all of that.

I do not know what kind of streak Deputy Martin is celebrating.

-----that distinguished him from other members of the mainstream Government parties-----

Deputy Deasy always respected the Whip.

He still has the-----

Deputy Martin has made his point.

-----and has managed to stay on the right side of the Fine Gael law. I oppose this proposal and we will vote against it.

I have no objection.

Even Sinn Féin would not lower itself to Fianna Fáil's standards.

No, but it would lower itself to Fine Gael's.

Deputy Martin, who has been in the House for a long time, knows that-----

Fine Gael and Sinn Féin would be good partners.

-----the membership of committees reflects the parties' strength within the Parliament. It is only fair that people who are on a committee represent the party that appointed them. This is in accordance with long-established procedures.

No. The Government has given up.

Question, "That the proposal for dealing with No. 11 be agreed to," put and declared carried.

The Deputies are quiet.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 12 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 36 agreed to?

We are not accepting this proposal because it represents a guillotining of debate on a very important Bill. As I have stated consistently in recent months, the way in which the business of the Dáil is being organised is shoddy. There was a valley for months during which little was discussed and few Bills were laid before us, only for us now to be running over ourselves in the last two weeks with Bills, committal orders instructing the Dáil, as will be the case tomorrow in respect of another Bill, and the ramming through of legislation without proper consideration of the issues. This Bill will have significant consequences for many citizens in terms of attachment orders, bills, debt payments and so on. We oppose its guillotining.

I noted that the Chief Whip stated of Fianna Fáil: "Even Sinn Féin would not lower itself to Fianna Fáil's standards." If only the same could be said of Fine Gael. This proposal is a mark of doing Dáil business in a Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil way.

Deputy Adams is handy enough with the guillotines himself.

The guillotine is being used to rush this Bill through the Dáil as quickly as possible. It is regressive legislation that targets the low-paid and people on benefits. Its guillotining raises a number of serious questions, particularly about good governance and whether democracy is functioning in terms of the Government's narrow remit to push its agenda with no consideration for other voices in the Dáil. Conversely, the Government claims that it cannot introduce legislation to stop additional top-ups to the pensions of former Ministers and Taoisigh. The full resources of the Government are being used to guillotine the Second Stage debate of the Civil Debt (Procedures) Bill. Will the Minister consider what the Government is doing? The Bill was published only last month. Its handling is contrary to all of the conventions of the Dáil, as there are supposed to be two weeks between each Stage, yet this has not happened. We object strongly to what is being undertaken.

I am informed that, on Second Stage, six hours of debate were devoted to this Bill. It has been well ventilated in the House. Indeed, towards the end of that debate, there was difficulty getting speakers-----

Not from Sinn Féin.

-----and quorums were being called to continue it. A Government must govern. If parties decide to try to block legislation, the Government must eventually make a decision. The subject matter of the Bill came from the Law Reform Commission and there is broad support for ending the imprisonment of people for debts of this nature. It is sensible legislation and should progress to Committee Stage, having had a good debate on Second Stage. Committee Stage will be provided for.

4 o'clock
Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 36 be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 66; Níl, 47.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, John.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg; Níl, Deputies Seán Ó Fearghaíl and Aengus Ó Snodaigh.
Question declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 12a tomorrow, National Minimum Wage (Low Pay Commission) Bill 2015 - motion to instruct the committee, agreed to? Agreed.

The Minister for Health, Deputy Varadkar, was on the radio in the past number of days essentially stating that the universal health insurance policy, as per the programme for Government, is at an end. Meanwhile, the crisis facing the health service continues. In particular, overcrowding in emergency departments is at an all-time high since records began. The number of people waiting on trolleys in St. Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin is up 332% on the June 2014 figure at 484. In Waterford, the figure is up 178% on the June 2014 figure, a marked increase in the level of overcrowding. The number at Beaumont Hospital is up 150% at 757. The Minister, Deputy Bruton, should know that well. In Limerick, the figure is up 80%; in Galway, it is up 59%; in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, it is up 42%; and it is up 36% in Connolly Hospital. The Minister talks about universal care now instead of a universal insurance system.

Liam Doran, general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, INMO, says that the level of deterioration, the resulting compromising of patient care and excessive workloads on working staff contained in these figures is truly shocking. He says that what has been done to date has failed to address the problem, which continues to grow, and that it is the worst June in terms of overcrowding since the INMO began counting trolleys in 2004.

I listened with great attention to the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, last Saturday when he again spoke like a detached commentator, which has become synonymous with his term in office as Minister for Health. The programme for Government outlines an extensive list of proposed legislation relating to the hospital system and particularly the application of universal health insurance to that system. Is that legislation now shelved? Are all the legislative commitments in the programme for Government relating to health shelved in light of the Minister's comments? When will we see legislation on patient safety, particularly patients who are ending up on trolleys in such large numbers in the middle of summer?

To be fair, we are seeing a progressive improvement in the way the health service is being managed.

The Minister must be joking.

The Minister should go to Beaumont Hospital.

In the past 12 months, an extra 1,000 people have been employed in the health service and 200 extra beds have been opened. There is an increase in the number of people being treated in our hospitals. Undoubtedly there is pressure on our hospital beds, but there is a response. The waiting times in the hospitals are down on what they were in February, so we are making progress.

They are way up in the past 12 months. Waiting times have gone through the roof.

However, we must be realistic and recognise that part of the change that is necessary for reform is to get better access at primary level. One of the priorities of the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, is to open up access-----

It is to shelve the Government's policy.

-----to primary care to a wider range of people.

What about the 191 reports when the Deputy was Minister?

The Government has abandoned its policy.

From 1 July, children under six years of age and people aged 70 and over have access to primary care and that will take the pressure off hospitals over time. The Minister's legislative priorities are dictated by the approach he has taken. He is starting with primary care and the Deputy will recognise the importance of the next priority, which relates to alcohol-----

I asked about the programme for Government legislation.

Alcohol legislation will be the next legislative measure. He will proceed through his legislative programme on that basis.

He said he is not going to do it.

What about the 191 reports and the €16 million that was wasted?

Tá ceist agam faoin reifreann sa Ghréig. Will the Government allocate time on Wednesday for a debate on the referendum in Greece? It is one of the seismic events in the history of the European Union. A very courageous stance was taken by Greek citizens. The vote rejects austerity and is an endorsement of efforts to secure a debt write-down. Given the consequences for the EU and particularly for citizens of this State, I ask the Government to allocate time to debate it.

The other issue I wish to raise is the Haddington Road agreement. Will the Minister confirm that former Ministers and taoisigh are to get an increase in their pensions under this agreement as part of a side deal agreed by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin? Last week, the Fine Gael and Labour parties voted in favour of taking money out of the pockets of lone parents and today the Dáil will debate the civil debt Bill, which allows money to be taken out of wages, welfare payments and pensions to pay for water charges and other utility bills. Meanwhile, Dublin City Council is facing a shortfall of €18.5 million for tackling the homelessness problem and will run out of money in October. A total of 67 families were made homeless in Dublin in May and 65 were made homeless in June, while there are over 1,000 homeless children. The House should consider this in the context of the new pension agreements for Ministers and former Ministers and taoisigh and the Minister's claim that he cannot prevent it.

Will the Minister accept that significantly increasing pensions for politicians is entirely unacceptable? Has any of this been equality proofed? Will the Government take whatever steps are appropriate to reverse this situation?

On the first question, the Minister for Finance and the Taoiseach are in Brussels today and there will be an opportunity for discussion on the Greek crisis. Following the referendum we know what the Greek public is against, but what we now must know is what the Greek Government is for.

Economic growth.

Having looked at this issue for a long period, we must have a viable strategy to restore growth for the Greek people. The Greek people need to see credible proposals.

Could we have a debate on that?

When the Taoiseach returns following those discussions, I hope there will be an opportunity for a debate on the Greek issue. We wait to hear what the Greek Government will put forward. Both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance are clearly open to hearing proposals. Ireland has a good record in the approach it took. We managed to get debt relief through longer maturities and lower interest rates. That saved the Irish taxpayer a large sum of money and gave us the space to have a growth strategy which has got 100,000 people back to work. There is capacity to manage a deal, but a deal must be agreed with the partners. There must be a strategy with which everybody agrees and I hope today offers an opportunity to make progress on that.

On the second question, there was no side deal in respect of politicians. The Deputy should look at the Government's track record. On every occasion the Minister, Deputy Howlin, and the Government have made decisions to reduce payments to politicians, to reduce pensions and special payments and to give up severance payments that applied to politicians in the past. The approach to this deal has been the same.

Why have pensions been increased?

The significant percentage increases are being provided to people on lower pay and lower pensions. That is the approach.

The package, which relates to legislation introduced under emergency powers, must provide some relief for everyone affected, regardless of their position in the pay schedule.

Change the legislation.

One cannot decide in legislation to remove the pension rights of certain individuals as compared to others.

Disability services can be cut.

Everything must be done in a proportionate manner, one which applies to all equally. That is the approach the Minister has taken and, in doing so, he has insisted that the lowest benefit will be available to the highest paid.

Ministers gain more.

The House should support that approach.