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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 11 Nov 2015

Vol. 896 No. 1

Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 17, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the economic partnership agreements; No. 17a, motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; No. 1, Children First Bill 2014 - amendments from the Seanad; No. 9, Horse Racing Ireland Bill 2015 - Second Stage (resumed); and No. 46, Garda Síochána (Policing Authority and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2015 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages.

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. and shall adjourn on the conclusion of Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 216, motion re Health Service Executive emergency departments (resumed), and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes; Nos. 17 and 17a shall be decided without debate; and that No. 1 shall be taken immediately after the Order of Business and the suspension of sitting under Standing Order 23 (1) shall take place on the conclusion of No. 1.

Tomorrow’s business after Oral Questions shall be No. 46, Garda Síochána (Policing Authority and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2015 - Report and Final Stages (resumed); No. 47 - Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill 2015 - Second Stage (resumed); and No. 10 - Health Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2015 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

There are three proposals to be put to the House. No. 1 is the proposal for dealing with the late sitting. Is that agreed to?

Not agreed. This motion, which proposes approval without discussion, has to do with economic partnership agreements with states in the Caribbean and others with the west African states-----

That is the second proposal.

It is the first one.

The late sitting is the first one.

No, the terms of economic partnership agreements-----

No, no. I am putting the question as to whether the proposal for dealing with the late sitting is agreed to.

Okay. Can I come back on this one when you get to it?

Yes, of course. Is the proposal for dealing with the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 17 and 17a, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the economic partnership agreements; and motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions, agreed to?

This is about referring to committee.

I understand that. I am looking for the Taoiseach to give a commitment to have full Oireachtas oversight when it comes out of the committee and to have a debate here, because this will have a huge effect on jobs. It will undermine development goals, including the recent sustainable development goals. We will not vote against it going into the committee, but we are looking for a debate when it comes out of the committee.

I do not object to this. It is a fair point. I agree that we can have a short debate when it comes back from the select committee.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Taoiseach.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 1, Children First Bill 2014 - Amendments from the Seanad, agreed to? Agreed. On the Order of Business, Deputy Micheál Martin.

The Minister, Deputy Howlin, told Deputy Kelleher in a parliamentary question that the published forecast outturn for 2015 gross current health expenditure includes provision for a Supplementary Estimate of €600 million. There is a lack of clarity about the final figure in a reply on 4 November and the Minister said the final figure would need to reflect the latest view of HSE year-end performance and that it is too early at this stage to assess accurately the projected overall deficit for 2015. That was earlier this month. I did raise with the Taoiseach yesterday that hospitals around the country are still waiting for news of the Supplementary Estimate in so far as how it affects their acute hospitals and whether the deficits they currently have or are projecting will be met in total out of the €600 million. It is a very serious issue going into next year, because the EU fiscal rules do not allow for over-expenditure or Supplementary Estimates. When will we have the presentation of the health Supplementary Estimate to the Dáil and will a debate be facilitated when that is produced? I also want to seek clarity on the legislative programme as regards the one-year bankruptcy issue and the legislation that was produced by Deputy Penrose and accepted.

Yesterday, in his reply, the Taoiseach stated that the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, had proposals to bring to the Dáil arising out of the Oireachtas committee's report. I am seeking to ascertain the status of the Bill that is already on the Order Paper to provide for a one-year bankruptcy law. Is the Government favourably disposed to that and is it of a mind to allow that Bill to be passed through the Oireachtas before the end of this legislative session? I would appreciate it if the Taoiseach could address the specifics of the Bill produced by Deputy Penrose - the Minister may have separate plans - and provide clarity on it in terms of the legislative programme and the Government's legislative intentions in that regard.

The Minister has already outlined this. She got the report from the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality in July last and she instructed her officials to examine in detail the substantial issues that are raised by the committee in it. As indicated to Deputy Martin yesterday, I expect the Minister to bring her analysis of that report to Cabinet in the next couple of weeks.

The Minister also pointed out that priority had been given to the passage through the Oireachtas of the important reforms contained in the Personal Insolvency (Amendment) Act 2015, to the implementing measures and court rules necessary to bring that into effect, and to the development and implementation of a range of measures to strengthen support for those in mortgage arrears on their homes, as was announced by the Government in May last. I must provide an update to the House from the Minister in respect of whether we can get this through in this session or not. My intention would be that it could happen. There are a number of pieces of legislation which are on the stocks to move through, and if it is possible to put this through I certainly will be strongly in support of it.

There are 100,000 in mortgages distress and €10 billion in capital in the banks.

I want the Minister to come back to Cabinet in the next couple of weeks with her considered views arising from the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. I will update the House as that comes through.

We will deal with the leaders first.

I want to ask the Taoiseach about the Supplementary Estimates.

They get great chances.

They get great chances. What about the rest of us? They have a chance.

They get wonderful chances.

There are 22 minutes left. We are all right.

We will get 30 seconds each.

Deputy Martin asked me about Supplementary Estimates. The intention is to bring them here on 19 November. Obviously, there will be an opportunity to have some words about them then.

We are still not clear if and when the Taoiseach will allow a debate on the one-year bankruptcy law, and I would like clarity on that. I have two other ceisteanna, on the health (transport support) Bill and the international protection Bill, respectively. The health (transport support) Bill is intended to provide for a scheme to make individual payments towards transport costs for citizens with severe disabilities. As the Taoiseach will be aware, the Government scrapped the motorised transport grant and the mobility allowance, and any citizen who was not in a scheme at that time has not had access to any transport scheme since then.

The Deputy is repeating this.

I have raised this issue with the Taoiseach on at least half a dozen occasions. A new scheme is promised in section C of the Government's legislative programme. It is a scandal that severely disabled citizens have been denied assistance since 2013. Is there a date for the publication of the health (transport support) Bill?

On the proposed international protection Bill, the Minister for Justice and Equality brought in a proposal to the Cabinet yesterday for legislation on new powers to arrest and deport non-nationals who have not complied with deportations. There are reports that the proposed Bill will include a provision limiting the period for which immigrants have to reside in direct provision centres. While that may be-----

We cannot discuss the details on the Order of Business.

Okay. It would be welcome if there were any measure to reduce the period over which people must stay in these provision centres. I have to say the arbitrary treatment of non-nationals in the past has caused-----

We cannot debate it on the Order of Business.

I have to be fair to everybody.

I know that-----

Ten minutes are gone already.

And equally unfair.

-----and that includes me.

I am being very fair to Deputy Adams, but the rules apply to him just as they do to everybody else when it comes to matters on the Order of Business, which is about promised legislation.

I understand that. Can I ask my question?

We do not debate the matters.

Can I ask the question?

Deputy Adams will get used to it. I got used to it.

Of course Deputy Adams may ask his question.

When will the international protection Bill be published?

In answer to Deputy Adams's first question, he will be aware that the proposed health (transport support) Bill was quite a complex legal process. The Government decided that all those who were in receipt of the assistance would remain so. The challenge here is to devise a new system for potential new entrants. That will be published early next year.

The international protection Bill was approved and passed by Government yesterday. That will mean one central point for assessment of persons who come here, which should shorten the timescale and provide a much clearer and more effective way to provide facilities and deal with those who come through the system. That Bill will be taken in the Seanad before it comes here. I expect it is a matter for the Seanad to make arrangements to deal with the international protection Bill, which was cleared and approved yesterday.

I lend my voice to those calling for action on the one-year-----

I have forgotten the word.

Just a second. Is this promised legislation?

Ask Deputy Mathews.

The one-year bankruptcy Bill.

Okay. We went through it all yesterday.

It will save lives. Suicides are taking place in the Taoiseach's constituency.

Would Deputy Mathews mind staying quiet?

I get letters that should be directed to the Taoiseach. A suicide took place in his constituency due to bank pressure.

I ask Deputy Mathews to calm down and not upset himself.

I am calm. I am just trying to make my voice heard. I have no microphone.

Deputy Mathews will be leaving the Chamber if he is not careful. Deputy Ó Fearghaíl is in possession.

An early bath.

The importance of the Bill in this area is accepted by all Members and it has been accepted by the Taoiseach. We look forward to seeing action on it.

I would also like to ask the Taoiseach about the proposed gambling control Bill. We hear a lot of talk in this country about dependency on alcohol and the negative impact of this, but lives and families are being destroyed by gambling addictions. Currently, there are no controls in place. Does the Taoiseach see himself being in a position to bring forward this promised legislation before the Dáil ends?

It will not happen in this session. That will be next year.

I ask the Taoiseach to give us an update on the adoption (tracing and information) Bill. There are thousands of people in this country, including myself, who are anxious to see progress on this Bill and would like to ensure that it goes through all Stages before the spring.

The adoption (tracing and information) Bill underwent its pre-legislative scrutiny session a number of weeks ago. It is expected that the Bill will come to the House here before the end of this session.

I refer to three items of legislation already promised. When is the proposed EirGrid Bill, which is to give statutory effect to EirGrid, likely to come before the House? Have the heads of the Bill been cleared? A Bill is also proposed on the transfer of sentenced persons and the transfer of execution of sentences. Have the heads of the Bill been cleared and when will it be published and brought before the House? Lastly, there is the proposed broadcasting (amendment) Bill, which will examine the allocation of expenditure from the television licence and other matters.

All of these are to be published next year. The heads of the proposed EirGrid Bill have not been cleared. That will be published probably halfway through next year. The proposed transfer of sentenced persons and transfer of execution of sentences Bill will be published early next year. I cannot give the Deputy a date for the proposed broadcasting (amendment) Bill but it will be next year also.

In conjunction with the upcoming bail Bill, does the Taoiseach or the Department of Justice and Equality have any plans to increase the scope for all criminals who are currently out on bail-----

Sorry; we do not deal with the scope of Bills.

-----to be electronically tagged or equipped with electronic devices-----

That is a parliamentary question.

-----in order to track their movements and reduce crime?

That is a matter for a parliamentary question.

There are two Bills dealing with this matter, a Cheann Comhairle, the first of which is the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill 2015, which is currently going through the Houses. The general bail Bill is due for next year. If the Government were to decide in respect of electronic tagging, where conditions would apply, that would be part of the broader bail Bill which will be published early next year.

I merely wish to ask the Taoiseach about the proposed one-year bankruptcy Bill and when he intends to bring something forward on it.

It is hoped in this session.

I endorse Deputy Pringle's question.

There is no need to endorse anything. Just get on with your question.

It is immediate and urgent.

It has been asked and answered.

What is your question?

Hundreds of entrepreneurs are out of business.

I will have to ask you to resume your seat.

I ask the Taoiseach to expedite the matter at a very early date.

The bankruptcy Bill.

Your colleague got an answer two seconds ago.

The Deputy is going to keep asking.

I just wanted to give backup support. This is the point.

It does not change, I can assure you.

I welcome that the Taoiseach has clarified for the first time that bankruptcy will be dealt with.

Do not join the chorus.

We have been asking about it for weeks.

I know. We discussed it yesterday and today.

We have clarity that it is supposed to come in, and we will keep the Government to the commitment. The electoral (amendment) (referendum spending and miscellaneous provisions) Bill will provide for the extension of the spending limit period. It has not been approved by the Government yet and is No. 83 on the list. Will it be approved by the Houses and will the limits be implemented before the general election?

The Seanad electoral (university members) (amendment) Bill will give effect to the 1979 referendum on Seanad university franchise. I was two years of age when the people voted on the issue. When will the legislation come before the House and is it the sum total of the Government's Seanad reform proposals?

I have asked about the Tribunals of Inquiry Bill numerous times. The Bill has been before the House since 2005 and is awaiting Report Stage. It is an insult to the House that it is still on the Order Paper. Let us have the Report Stage debate or drop the Bill. It has been recommitted to the Order Paper after successive general elections. It is time to make a decision on it.

The sea fisheries and maritime jurisdiction (amendment) Bill is to introduce a points system for skippers who infringe the Common Fisheries Policy. The Taoiseach will be aware that the second largest trawler in the world is trawling off Donegal while fishermen who have been banned from fishing their own waters are looking out the window. What type of legislation is the Taoiseach bringing forward to ensure the trawlers are properly inspected and conform with the Common Fisheries Policy?

I expect the authorities will deal with trawlers trawling illegally in Irish waters. The law is very clear and the authorities have been very active during recent years. The Tribunals of Inquiry Bill has been on the Order Paper for a very long time.

Let us see what the best course of action is. I do not want to have to invoke it again. The 1979 legislation probably will not come before us before the end of the session. It is not the sum total of the Government's intention on Seanad reform. A very interesting document was put forward by a number of people who served in the Seanad over the years and who have no vested interest in serving there any longer. I gave Deputy Adams a commitment that we would have a debate on it, and we will when I get the opportunity. I will have to come back to the Deputy about the electoral (amendment) (referendum spending and miscellaneous provisions) Bill. If I were to answer the question, it might answer a second question also.

It would also be the first time the Taoiseach had answered either question.

Do not be like that.

The Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill has stalled somewhere in the process. Could the Taoiseach update me on it? Various Bills on commercial rates have come before the House. Will the Taoiseach examine the Bills and the Supplementary Estimates to assist local authorities to cover their shortfall of €20 million due to the revaluations that have taken place regarding the telecommunications area? There is serious difficulty and small businesses throughout the country will be asked to cough up this €20 million shortfall. Legislation on bankruptcy would help small businesses and those that are in difficulty.

I have spoken about bankruptcy and I hope we can deal with it. Report Stage of the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill should be taken in the next couple of weeks.

What about the commercial rates and the €20 million shortfall?

I will come back to the Deputy on it.

The economic partnership agreements, EPAs, are leading to food insecurity and conflict, which is forcing people to migrate from Africa to Europe. The EPAs are pouring petrol on the migration flame. I thank the Taoiseach for his earlier commitment to have a short debate on No. 17 on the Order Paper. Will all groups in the House have an opportunity to contribute to the debate? Can we have a broader debate on the impact the EPAs are having on migration across Africa into Europe?

There is no reason the committee that deals with the issue could not have a reasonably lengthy debate on a broad range of issues. I would like to think that we could have a suitably arranged debate here. There are many groups in the House and if we were to give them all lengthy opportunities, it could go on for a very long time. As I said, we will debate it when it comes back and we will see who we can facilitate or who is interested. The Deputy's point about migration from Africa is part of the discussions taking place in Valletta today. It is a set-piece arrangement. The camps in the Horn of Africa are in a horrendous state and Ireland has had an interest in the matter for many years from a humanitarian perspective. We will try to facilitate it on the committee, and the group discussion can take place when it comes back.

I raise, in the context of the Courts Service, the fact there is only one arbitrator for the whole country, which is delaying the arbitration processes. When does the Taoiseach expect to have the heads of the courts (consolidation and reform) Bill approved?

I cannot answer. I will have to report progress from the Department of Justice and Equality and I will advise the Deputy.

The Taoiseach is aware that the Margiris, the second largest trawler in the world, has been fishing in Donegal Bay since last weekend.

Hold on a second.

It is accompanied by two super trawlers and is within 50 miles of the Irish shore.

The Deputy knows it is out of order on the Order of Business.

Has the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, SFPA, searched those boats? Is the Taoiseach aware that the Margiris is banned from fishing in Australian waters?

Sorry. If I let you in, I have to let everybody else in. I call Deputy Conway.

Is the Taoiseach also aware that Irish fishermen are denied quota and forbidden from fishing in those waters while super-trawlers from outside the jurisdiction are allowed to come in.

You will have to find another way to raise it. This is the Order of Business regarding promised legislation. It is not about trawlers or anything else.

I am asking a direct question.

You are not getting an answer.

Has the SFPA searched the vessel, the same as it does Irish vessels every day across the coast? Will the Taoiseach confirm this or otherwise? Has the SFPA searched these vessels?

Would you resume your seat, please? Resume your seat.

I am waiting for an answer.

You are not getting an answer. This is the Order of Business.

A number of weeks ago, I raised the issue of the Children and Family Relationships Act which still has not been enacted. Many children are timing out, meaning they are reaching the age of 18 before they become eligible for adoption. It is heartbreaking for families. My colleagues asked about the adoption (tracing and information) Bill, and I understand the two Bills are interlinked. It is imperative that the adoption (tracing and information) Bill come before the House before Christmas.

I have answered on the adoption (tracing and information) Bill. The Children and Family Relationships Act has been enacted. Is the Deputy talking about some commencement order for some element of it?

Only one section, relating to passports, has been commenced. The rest of the Bill has not been commenced.

I will follow that up and advise the Deputy.

What progress is being made with the maritime area and foreshore (amendment) Bill, which has been promised for some time? The Bill in question will streamline planning permissions in ports, which are badly needed to create employment in places like Foynes in County Limerick.

This complicated legislation is being drafted in-house in the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. My understanding is that the Bill will be presented to the House before the end of this session.

Last but not least, I call Deputy McLoughlin.

I would just like to ask the Taoiseach in relation to-----

I had my hand up first.

Sorry, Deputy Mathews.

I was the very first up.

We have had a few late arrivals here.

All right, Peter, we will get you in.

Deputy Anne Ferris and I were the first to indicate after the leaders.

The Deputy has been interrupting throughout, so he has had about four goes.

No, I have been contributing information to help the Government to make better decisions.

Is the Deputy finished? I would like to ask the Taoiseach whether the heads of the road transport Bill have been prepared yet.

Deputy Mathews will have to wait another few minutes.

Well managed, Paul.

What is the timeframe?

The road transport Bill is due for next year.

I would like to raise two issues, the first of which is now a week old. I refer to the disgraceful announcement by Bank of Ireland-----

Sorry, the Deputy should speak about promised legislation.

-----when it told depositors-----

We are not going into the Bank of Ireland.

That bank was insolvent in 2009.

I do not care. It is not in order on the Order of Business.

How dare they tell people how to deposit their funds into their current accounts?

Sorry, would you please resume your seat?

I want the Taoiseach to note that, please, and bring them into shape.

Deputy Mathews is right.

I want it on the record.

Does the Deputy understand that what he wants and what he can get are two different things?

There is a thing called order in the House. These matters should be raised by means of parliamentary questions, Topical Issue matters and a number of other things, but not on the Order of Business. If the Deputy asks about promised legislation, he will be in order.

Okay. The enactment of the promised legislation has got stuck. I am going to ask the Taoiseach a question about that. When he took Leaders' Questions on the IBRC yesterday-----

Hold on please, a Cheann Comhairle.

No, it is not "please". What promised legislation is the Deputy referring to?

The Taoiseach's former colleague, Alan Dukes, said on television yesterday-----

For goodness sake.

-----that as the executive chairperson of IBRC, he is concerned-----

Deputy, please resume your seat or you will be taking a walk.

-----that mortgage loans need to be written down.

Do you hear me, Deputy?

He said that the Governor of the Central Bank needs to do something about it.

He is only looking to be thrown out.

He said that the other banks took €10 billion-----

Deputy, leave the Chamber, please. Just leave the Chamber.

I am in the middle of a sentence and then I will leave.

You are not going to ignore the Chair like this.

They took €10 billion of further capital to prevent suicides.

Deputy, do you want me to name you and we will vote you out?

May I speak to the Taoiseach in private after this session?

Deputy, would you please leave the Chamber?

Would you leave the Chamber?

Savita Halappanavar was one life lost, receiving the best headlines for a year.

Deputy, I will not ask you a second time.

Hundreds of people have committed suicide.

Deputy, would you please leave the Chamber?

Certainly, a Cheann Comhairle.

Out. Thank you.

And would you get a copy of the Standing Orders on the way out and read them for the afternoon?

I do not need them.

I call Deputy Troy.

I did not think I was going to be late until the time expired. I have repeatedly asked the Taoiseach about a statutory instrument from the Department of Justice and Equality. It is very unfair that local authorities throughout the country which are waiting for the statutory instrument to enable them to deal with tenants who persistently engage in anti-social behaviour are being left-----

Where are we going here, Deputy? Does this relate to promised legislation?

Yes, it relates to a statutory instrument from the Department of Justice and Equality.

Which one is it?

I do not know the exact name of the statutory instrument. I am sure the Taoiseach will know which one it is.

How does the Deputy expect the Taoiseach to answer his question if he does not know the name of it?

I am explaining what it relates to. The wind energy guidelines have been repeatedly requested and have been repeatedly promised by the Government.

It is all hot air.

Thousands of submissions have been made in this regard.

The Deputy has made his point.

Residents are petrified that new applications-----

The Deputy can table a Topical Issue matter and I will consider it.

-----will be made in the absence of the new guidelines.

Is the Deputy listening to me?

I have said that he should table a Topical Issue matter.

I want to know from the Taoiseach-----

I will consider it.

I have spent weeks asking the Taoiseach when the new guidelines will be published.

Every time the Taoiseach responds, he says that he will get his office to correspond with me or that he will report back to me at a later stage.

If the Deputy tables a Topical Issue matter, we will get an answer for him.

People are none the wiser on when these guidelines will be published.

The Deputy's time is up.

Perhaps the Taoiseach will make us the wiser this morning.

I will make Deputy Troy the wiser. There is no conclusion to the debate and the discussions on the new wind energy regulations. Rather than writing to the Deputy, I will inform him myself when a conclusion is reached.

In what year will that happen?

What about the statutory instrument?


I do not think too many people in the midlands will find this funny.

We know what the Deputy is playing at.

Will the Deputy go back to his constituency and laugh at them?

The Deputy is playing politics with the local community.

Would the Deputies mind having some respect for the Chamber, please?

Sorry, a Cheann Comhairle, but he just irritates me.