Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 6, Public Sector Standards Bill 2015 - Second Stage (Resumed); No. 16, Horse Racing Ireland Bill 2015 - motion to instruct the committee; and No. 45, Horse Racing Ireland Bill 2015 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that in the event that a division is in progress at the time fixed for taking Private Members’ business, the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and shall adjourn on the conclusion of Private Members’ business which shall be No. 227 – motion re confidence in the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (resumed) and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes; No. 16 shall be taken at 4.30 p.m. today and the proceedings thereon 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; followed immediately by No. 45, Horse Racing Ireland Bill 2015.

Tomorrow’s business after Oral Questions shall be No. 45, Horse Racing Ireland Bill 2015 - Report and Final Stages (resumed); No. 6, Public Sector Standards Bill 2015 - Second Stage (resumed); and No. 7, National Tourism Development (Amendment) Bill 2015 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

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. 16, Horse Racing Ireland Bill 2015 - motion to instruct the committee agreed to? Agreed.

Tonight's Private Members motion, and I agree with the timing the Taoiseach has allowed for it, concerns a fundamental issue about Government appointments. I ask the Taoiseach to make sure he can clarify before tonight's debate the reappointment of a member to the board of the ESB by the Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Alex White, announced yesterday? The reappointment of a ministerial nominee to the board will take effect from 28 June 2016. This is an extraordinary development where the Government seems to be-----

The Deputy will have to find some other way to raise that issue.

-----in a rush to make appointments not only in advance of a general election but further out, six months hence-----

A Deputy

It is crooked and post-dated.

-----and to make appointments of this kind.

Deputy, you know these-----

Perhaps the Taoiseach might be in a position to bring clarity to that in the course of tonight's debate, but also-----


This is one of Taoiseach's Ministers. He should ask him to explain that.

There are many issues around State appointments at the moment which have led to the motion that has been tabled this evening. The press release by the Minister, Deputy White, is to the effect that he is now reappointing ministerial nominees-----

Will the Deputy speak to matters that are in order on the Order of the Business, please?

-----six months before the actual appointment is up and that the Government has approved this.

That raises all kinds of questions which have legislative implications as well because the resumption of Second Stage of the Public Sector Standards Bill is on today's Order Paper.

There is a bad smell off it.

I ask the Taoiseach if he might defer taking that Second Stage until we have the full the implications of this move by the Minister and the Government in regard to this appointment.

With regard to the Garda Síochána (Amendment) Act 2014 and the GSOC issue, yesterday the Taoiseach was very quick to dismiss the comments that were attributed to him in yesterday's newspapers in respect of GSOC. I indicated that Deputy Niall Collins was bringing forward legislation to bring in judicial oversight in terms of GSOC's capacity to monitor telephone records. Will the Taoiseach give Government time to allow us to take Deputy Niall Collins's Bill in that regard? It would require GSOC to apply to the High Court before it would monitor any telephones. That would protect press freedom and it would strike a reasonable balance in this situation.

In respect of the issue the Deputy raised concerning the Minister, Deputy White, that is an appointment to the board of the ESB which requires particular expertise. NewERA supports that appointment. The position is that-----

It is not really a matter for the Order of Business.

-----if a replacement is due, one must give notice six months in advance of whether the intention is to make a reappointment for a person with specialist services or not.

Notice to whom?

That is why that matter came before Government yesterday for the reappointment of a person to the board of the ESB with particular expertise and requirements.

When was that provided for?

NewERA, which has an involvement in State boards of this nature in terms of the qualifications required, supports that position.

I did not ask about NewERA.

One must give notification six months in advance.

The Minister must bring it to Cabinet six months in advance-----

No, he does not.

-----if an appointment of that nature is to be made. That is why that person was reappointed because of a specialist-----

Under what Act is that provided for?

Ministers are getting appointments made now for six months hence.

Hold on, this is not in order on the Order of Business. There are other ways to raise this matter.

-----knowledge that the person brings to the board. It is an appointment-----

-----that requires particular expertise, which this person has.

I do not know the individual----

One must give notice six months notice in advance, which is what the Minister did and the Government accepted that.

I call Deputy Adams.

In respect of-----

The Taoiseach might clarify under what Act that was done?

Under what legislation does that come?

No. We are not having a debate on this. I have called Deputy Adams.

Will the Taoiseach come back to us on the other one?

On the issue of GSOC, I commend Deputy Niall Collins on the introduction of his Bill. That is his right as a Member of the House. We have generously facilitated the opportunity for many Deputies to introduce Bills. The Government decided that the matter should be reviewed by the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who will look at the balance that is required. I expect the former Chief Justice will make his report public in three months' time. It is a sensitive issue.

On a point of order, under what legislation do we have to give six months notice?

Under the public employment services-----

What legislation is it?

There is no point of order in this regard. I call Deputy Adams.

The Taoiseach said there is legislation. What is it?

What legislation is it? I have not come across it.

We are not having a debate on this issue. I call Deputy Adams.

It is very important to have a debate.

Deputy Martin should resume his seat. I have called Deputy Adams.

This debate is on in the House right now, a Cheann Comhairle.

Deputy Martin should resume his seat. I have called Deputy Adams. The matter is out of order on the Order of Business.

The House will debate the issue this evening.

Deputy Martin will have plenty of other ways of raising this issue. I call Deputy Adams.

We now find there is a requirement regarding six months.

Will Deputy Martin resume his seat. He is out of order.

I am seeking clarification on the matter.

I will send Deputy Martin the name of it.

I call Deputy Adams. The Taoiseach should please not respond.

Deputy Martin was good at filling boards himself.

I just want to get the information.

Deputy Adams should be allowed to speak without interruption. Members should stay quiet.

There is a lot of giddiness about.

There is. I think there might be an election in the air.

I think it is called an election.

Tá trí cheist agam, ceist faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill and the health information Bill.

Tá Bille a bhaineann le leasú ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla ar liosta A, ach an ngeallann an Taoiseach go mbeidh sé foilsithe go luath agus roimh an toghchán? I mo bharúil, theip ar an Rialtas an Ghaeilge a chosaint agus theip air Sráid Uí Mhórdha a chosaint fosta. Anois, i 2016, beidh toghchán againn roimh i bhfad, ach níl an tAcht againn. Cén lá, seachtain nó mí an mbeidh an Bille foilsithe.

The Taoiseach is aware that the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill is about protecting children and vulnerable citizens against sexual exploitation. It seeks to make it a criminal offence for those who try to buy sexual services. It is very important legislation. Legislation already exists in the North which decriminalises people involved in prostitution. This is important legislation which the Taoiseach told Teachta Pádraig Mac Lochlainn in December was a priority but he gave no information on when the Bill will be in the Dáil. The Bill is currently in the Seanad. When will it be introduced in the Dáil? Will the Taoiseach commit to having the Bill enacted before the election?

The heads of the health information Bill were cleared last November. It is part of the Taoiseach's ill-fated, infamous five-point plan, which has spectacularly failed with awful consequences. The Minister said no more than 70 patients a day should be on trolleys. Yesterday, there were 522 patients on trolleys and today there are 536, which is a shame and a huge indictment of the Government. The Government has created chaos instead of stability.

We are not having a speech now.

Maith go leor. The health information Bill has faced significant delays. We have still not seen the Bill. Could the Taoiseach tell us when the Bill will be published?

I suppose Deputy Adams does not want any one of the 135,000 new jobs that have been created-----

Why does the Taoiseach not answer the question for once?

-----which was a significant element of success to the country and the people who gained employment.

Deputy Adams did not ask a question. He made a speech.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill is before Seanad Éireann. Deputy Adams is aware of that. The Deputy does not expect me to go to the Seanad to tell it to close up, as it wants to debate the Bill.

The Taoiseach tried that before.

I did, and the people said "No."

They will say "No" again.

Deputy Adams was against the Seanad too.

The Senators are perfectly entitled to express their opinion in the same way as Deputy Adams is in this House so I cannot tell him when the Bill will finish in the Seanad; therefore, I cannot answer the question for him.

So the Taoiseach does not know.

I do not know because there might be lengthy contributions from the esteemed Members of the Seanad, which they are fully entitled to make.

Ó thaobh na Gaeilge de, tá a fhios ag an Teachta go bhfuil an straitéis leagtha amach. Tá tuilleadh airgid tugtha don údarás agus tá neamhspleáchas tugtha don Choimisinéir agus tuilleadh oibrithe tugtha dó freisin. Cinnte, tá deacrachtaí ann maidir le labhairt na Gaeilge agus an méid daoine atá ag labhairt na Gaeilge faoi láthair. Tá sé mar phríomh aidhm ag an Rialtas go mbeadh i bhfad níos mó ag labhairt na Gaeilge agus go mbeadh dhátheangachas mar phríomh aidhm chomh maith.

Cad é an scéal faoin mBille nua?

Ní thiocfaidh an Bille go dtí an Teach roimh dheireadh na Dála seo.

In respect of the health information Bill, there is quite a deal of work being done on it in the Department. It is not, however, listed on the priority listing and it will be a matter for the next Administration to deliver.

So none of those Bills will come forward.

I cannot tell the Deputy what the Seanad will do.

I wish to ask about promised legislation, the financial services Bill. The Government is encouraging young people to come home from abroad and, thankfully, that is now happening but they are being hit with astronomical car insurance quotes. When the Taoiseach meets with the insurance industry again, will he raise this issue with it and ask that it would give recognition where people have a safe driving record abroad-----

This is not a suitable matter for the Order of Business. It sounds like a Topical Issue.

-----when people are provided with quotes.

It sounds like a Topical Issue.

The matter was raised in the meeting with the insurance companies. The Minister has ordered a review into the rising costs of insurance. The Minister will specifically examine some issues that were raised by the insurance companies themselves. The matter raised by Deputy Naughten is a consequence of one of those issues.

I thank the Taoiseach.

The mortgage credit directive is due for transposition into Irish law by 21 March this year. As the Taoiseach might know, the directive is extremely important. It relates to the rights of people buying mortgages. We have seen in the past that the banks have trampled on those rights in this State. The directive has 29 specific areas where the Government can go further than the minimum required under the directive. It is questionable whether secondary legislation will suffice to implement the directive, which contains measures designed to prevent reckless lending, something that is not law in this State and therefore we have the untouchable bankers walking about because what they did was not illegal. When will this statutory instrument come forward and when will we have a proper debate with enough time to deal with this crucially important issue, which has affected so many people across the State? Under the Taoiseach's watch, there are still 100,000 families in mortgage distress five years on from the Government taking office.

I will advise Deputy Doherty about the progress made in respect of the introduction of this statutory instrument and the legislation to which he refers. It is a matter for the Whips to determine the timescale that will be allocated to any remaining debates or legislation taken in the House. I will let the Deputy know.

Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, for allowing me to raise the amendment to the bail laws. I congratulate and thank the Minister and the Government for the amendment that has been introduced. In the event that it is not sufficient to deal with the issues that have come to the fore in recent years, could I ask the Taoiseach if further review of the bail laws might be undertaken with a view to bringing in more stringent legislation?

Could I also ask where that old favourite of mine, the mediation Bill, is residing at the moment? Is there any possibility of bringing it before the House before the end of this session?

Both Bills the Deputy raises are broadly based. Work is ongoing on them in the Department but they will not be introduced before the end of this Dáil session.

I wish to raise three separate issues. The first is the adoption (amendment) Bill to add to the protection of children and youth affairs. When will the Bill be brought before the House? The second matter relates to defence. The Defence Forces (forensic evidence) Bill will allow military police to take and use DNA samples in the future. The final issue is particularly relevant to my constituency of Kerry, namely, the universities (amendment) Bill and relates to university status for the Institute of Technology, Tralee and the Cork Institute of Technology. The Bill has huge implications for the local economy and educational capacity.

The three Bills mentioned by Deputy Spring are all being worked on with a view to having them published before the end of the Dáil session. Each Bill has been give a priority rating of A.

I wish to raise two points in the context of the Irish Aviation Authority (Amendment) Bill in connection with the issuing of permits in the United States to a Norwegian airline for a transatlantic flight out of Cork. I have raised the matter with the Minister in the context of the EU-US Open Skies policy, which is a very important issue in the context of this House. Will the Taoiseach take up the matter with the US authorities on his trip to Davos today in order that we can make every effort at the highest level in the United States because it is a US issue that is blocking the issuing of the permit?

I am sure the Deputy can raise the matter with the Taoiseach after the Order of Business.

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Donohoe, has informed me that he has raised the matter directly with the US Secretary of Transport and the European Commission. The Government is supportive of the service being allowed into Cork. We hope that can become a reality.

Sitting suspended at 12.50 p.m. and resumed at 1.50 p.m.