I call on the rapporteur for the Business Committee, Deputy Brendan Ryan-----
Order of Business
I am now calling Deputy Brendan Ryan to announce the Order of Business for the week.
Today’s business shall be a motion on Standing Order changes re: establishment of a petitions committee, allocation of Ombudsman functions to sectoral committees and technical Standing Order amendment re: Chair of the working group of committee Chairs, without debate.
Government business shall be No. 13, Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2016, Order for Report, Report and Final Stages, and the Private Members’ business shall be No. 73, a motion re: regulation of charities by the Social Democrats-Green Party group.
Tomorrow, Government business shall be No. 13, Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2016, Order for Report, Report and Final Stages, resumed, if not previously concluded; No. 14, Paternity Leave and Benefit Bill 2016, Order for Report, Report and Final Stages, and No. 12a, motion re: citizens' assembly. Private Members’ business shall be No. 23, the Au Pair Placement Bill 2016 by Fianna Fáil.
Thursday’s Government business shall be No. 14, Paternity Leave and Benefit Bill 2016, Order for Report, Report and Final Stages, resumed, if not previously concluded; No. 12a, motion re: citizens' assembly, and No. 6, Electoral (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill 2016, Order for Second Stage, Second and Remaining Stages. No. 16, the report of the Committee on Housing and Homelessness, will resume in the evening slot.
Friday’s Government business shall be No. 17, Committee and Remaining Stages of the Commission of Investigation (Irish Bank Resolution Corporation) Bill 2016, and No. 1, Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Bill 2016 [Seanad] Second Stage.
In relation to today’s business there are two proposals:
(1) No. 12, the motion re: Standing Order changes shall be taken without debate and any division demanded on the motion will be taken immediately; and
(2) There shall be no oral Questions to the Taoiseach today so oral Questions to the Minister for Health will take place immediately after the Order of Business.
In relation to tomorrow’s business, there are two proposals. It is proposed that:
(1) No. 23, the Au Pair Placement Bill 2016, shall be brought to a conclusion (if not previously concluded) after two hours;
(2) No. 12a, motion re: citizens' assembly, shall conclude within 45 minutes, if not previously concluded, and the Minister and the main spokespersons will have five minutes each, there will be a five minute response from the Minister or Minister of State and all Members may share time. Any division demanded shall be taken immediately.
In relation to Thursday’s business, there are five proposals. It is proposed that:
(1) the Dáil shall sit late and adjourn after the resumed debate on No. 16, report of the Committee on Housing and Homelessness;
(2) No. 14, Paternity Leave and Benefit Bill 2016, if not previously concluded, shall be taken immediately after voting time;
(3) No. 12a, motion re citizens' assembly, shall be taken immediately after No. 14, Paternity Leave and Benefit Bill 2016, if not previously concluded, or, if it has previously concluded, immediately after voting time;
(4) Second Stage of No. 6, Electoral (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill 2015, shall be taken immediately after the conclusion of No. 12a, motion re citizens' assembly, or after voting time if the debate on the motion has previously concluded, to conclude within two hours, if not previously concluded, with the Minister or the Minister of State and the main spokespersons having ten minutes each, all other Members having five minutes and a five minute response from the Minister or the Minister of State and all Members being able to share time; Committee and Remaining Stages to be brought to a conclusion within one hour by one question which shall be put from the Chair which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government; and
(5) Question Time shall take place at 5.30 p.m. or at the conclusion of No. 6, Electoral (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2015, whichever is earlier.
In relation to Friday’s business, there are three proposals. It is proposed that:
(1) the Dáil shall sit at 10.30 a.m. and adjourn not later than 7 p.m.;
(2) Committee and Remaining Stages of No. 17, Commission of Investigations (IBRC) Bill 2016, shall be taken; and
(3) Second Stage of No. 1, Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Bill 2016, shall be taken immediately after the conclusion of No. 17, Commission of Investigations (IBRC) Bill 2016, with the Minister or the Minister of State and the main spokespersons having 15 minutes each, all other Members having ten minutes and a ten minute response from the Minister or the Minister of State and all Members being able to share time. Any division demanded shall be taken immediately.
There are four proposals to be put to the House. Are the proposals for the taking of Tuesday's business which are to be decided en bloc agreed to? Agreed. Are the proposals for the taking of business of Wednesday agreed to? Agreed. Are the proposals for the taking of business on Thursday agreed to?
No. 12a, motion re citizens' assembly, deals with a very important issue. Only 45 minutes has been allocated to discuss this new initiative to deliberate on the eight amendment and also, it seems, three other items, but it is not clear whether they will be discussed at the same time, in other words, simultaneously, or one after the other. The allocation of time with five minutes per group to discuss such an important issue is completely outrageous. I ask the Tánaiste, in particular, to agree to extend the time allocated to debate this matter.
On a point of information, that is not a matter for the Tánaiste as the proposal has already been agreed to by the Business Committee.
It was not agreed to as opposition was voiced to it at the meeting.
Yes, of course, it was.
May I make my point?
Opposition was voiced at the meeting and I am bringing the matter to the Dáil because we were ignored at the meeting, as it seems we were in a minority. I am asking the House - I will put it to a vote - to extend the time allocated to debate this topic.
Excuse me, but the Deputy is wrong. It is fundamentally wrong for her to say anyone was ignored at the Business Committee; no one is ever ignored.
Okay. Are we in a position, for example, to bring forward amendments to the motion? Very important amendments need to be made to it. For example, it is not clear whether voters in local elections, non-citizens, will be included in the citizens' assembly. It is also not clear whether any account will be taken of issues being discussed? For example, if the issue is the eight amendment, will there be any weighting on the basis of gender, or if the issue is a matter which concerns the elderly, will the membership comprise members of the elderly population? This initiative represents a complete outsourcing of decisions on key issues that should be made in the Dáil.
This is a farce. If the House does not agree to extend the debating time, it will be clear that it is just a ruse to get the Government off the hook about taking a decision on the eighth amendment and to delay it further down the road.
The Deputy has made her point.
I am asking for much more time. We want to put down amendments and to have time to hear them. Will they be heard?
Does the Tánaiste want to make any brief response?
This is an issue for the Business Committee.
It was discussed at the Business Committee. Legislation has to go through in regard to selecting the citizens who will be part of the assembly. It follows the methodology for the selection of citizens for the first convention that was held. That is the primary purpose of the discussion on Thursday. I am in the Ceann Comhairle's hands as to further time if the House decides to have it.
It does not look like the Water Services (Amendment) Bill will take up all of the allotted time because all the amendments have been ruled out of order bar one. Dealing with the technicalities of the electoral commission may not take up that time either. I ask that we extend the actual motion time to allow amendments to be put and debated.
That will have to be considered by the committee.
This could come up tomorrow night.
That is a matter for the Business Committee.
It can be considered by the Business Committee.
When will it be considered? The committee will not meet until Thursday, but this could come up tomorrow night.
We can consider it before Thursday. I will have to put the question because we cannot be going over and over this.
I am going to put it to a vote then.
Can those in favour of the proposal-----
If the Ceann Comhairle is saying the Business Committee can meet to discuss this and if there is time available in the Dáil for further discussion where other legislation takes less time, I am sure there would be no disagreement about extending the time to have a fuller discussion of the motion if the time is too short.
It has to be the Business Committee that decides it.
The Business Committee decides, yes.
The Business Committee can review this tomorrow, but I cannot tell the Deputy what the outcome of the review will be. We will review it tomorrow, however.
The point, surely-----
Here is Brendan to save the day for us.
There is a fair point to be made about time. If there is time available, let us consider that. However, we are supposed to do this in a collective way.
Surely, the point is that if we call a vote now, that will decide the matter and pre-empt any possibility of additional time.
That is impeccable logic from Deputy Howlin.
I will leave it up to the good judgment of the Business Committee to recognise that a lot of people are watching this.
We do not need a speech on it now.
The Ceann Comhairle has told us this is the only show in town. Give us time.
Is the proposal for Thursday agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for Friday's sitting agreed to?
Out of mischief I ask if, perhaps, the Tánaiste could confirm that calm has broken out on the western front. If not, I ask mischievously, given that Friday's activity is Government business and things are getting hectic in the last two weeks, if the Business Committee has come to any conclusion as to when the summer recess is to come upon us. It may be an important catalyst to bring calm among all concerned. In particular, it could be very important in terms of bringing calm to the trenches.
We will bring the Deputy's concerns to the committee. Is the proposal for Friday's sitting agreed to? Agreed. I call Deputy Micheál Martin on the Order of Business for one question on one piece of promised legislation.
Yes, for one minute.
According to responses to freedom of information requests which Deputy Barry Cowen submitted to each local authority, there are still 2,751 vacant units in local authority ownership nationally. It seems incomprehensible given the fact that so many families are still in hotels with their children and that there is so much homelessness nationally that there could be 2,751 vacant units. Has the sense of urgency or emergency not seized people so that they might ensure this would not be the case? There are 600 vacant units in Cork alone between the city and the county. There are 372 vacant housing units in Dublin City Council, where there are lots of families.
That begs its own question.
The programme for Government is very strong. It is clear that the housing and homelessness issue is one of its centrepieces. Can the Tánaiste indicate to me when the strategy is going to be announced? Can she give me a timeline in that regard? Can she refer this to the Minister to ensure that the vacant unit issue is to the fore? A disastrous decision was taken to cut the refurbishment funding available to local authorities in the last 12 months. That should not have happened. We now have the results.
As the Deputy knows, the Department has placed a high priority on supporting local authorities in returning vacant units to productive use. Between 2014 and 2015, some 5,000 units were made available to those on the social housing list through funding provided under the refitting programme, which is financed by the Exchequer and the European Regional Development Fund, ERDF. Between 2014 and 2015, funding of more than €60 million was made available. There is a high priority on returning units to use and giving funding to local authorities to do that. That prioritisation will continue. The Minister will announce the programme in the next week or so.
Last year, the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, announced a major package of patient safety reforms, including plans to simplify the complaints procedure, enhance the powers of the Ombudsman and the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, and introduce a tranche of patient safety legislation. A part of that package was the patient safety (licensing of healthcare facilities) Bill, which is to provide for a mandatory system of licensing for public and private health care facilities. The legislative programme states that the heads of the Bill are expected at the end of the year.
Patient and resident safety should be at the heart of the health service. While progress is being made in some respects, there have been high-profile closures and incidents recently. This week and next, the Health (Amendment) Bill will be before the Houses to deal with the extension of the timeframe for HIQA inspections, but when will we see more action on patient safety, particularly in light of what happened at autism centres recently?
The last heads on that legislation were agreed in November. Pre-legislative scrutiny will take place in the autumn.
Extraordinarily, yesterday marked six months since the House last enacted a Bill. I cannot think of any other occasion in our history when there was such a hiatus in enacting legislation.
I wish to ask the Tánaiste about legislation within her own purview. In April, the High Court declared the part of the law that allowed courts to reactivate suspended sentences unconstitutional. Every day, courts across the country find people getting off suspended sentences that, before now, would have been activated. Lawyers are bringing cases on a daily basis.
Is the Tánaiste aware of the number of people who have benefited from this decision to date? More importantly, when will we see a solution, be it through appeal of the process or amending legislation?
Another part of that legislation is being used successfully to defend cases.
There have been some cases, but very few. Only in a tiny proportion has anyone got the benefit of the judgment, as another part of the legislation is being used successfully in court to defend cases. We have been examining the legislation. It is close to finalisation and will be introduced in the autumn. In the meantime, an appropriate element of legislation is being used to avoid the situation that the Deputy describes.
The Cassells report was published yesterday. The Government secretly hoped that it would resolve the question or provide a basis for a resolution to that question by recommending the Government's preferred option of student loans. Despite spin to the contrary, the report did not recommend that of the three options. That option would have saddled students with debt, discouraging working class participation in third level education even further.
What is the Government's proposed timeline for dealing with this question? If a space opens up, this is an opportunity for the student movement in particular to put pressure on all of the political parties and demand a commitment from them all - not one like the written commitment signed by Ruairí Quinn - to free fees and to properly funded third level education.
As the Deputy is aware, there is a funding challenge at third level that needs to be addressed. We now have the very comprehensive report produced under the chairmanship of Mr. Peter Cassells. It outlines a number of funding options and has been referred to the education committee. It is work such that will occur in the first instance. Following this, the Minister will consider the options and make a decision, as he said. Clearly, the precise timeframe depends on how long it will take the committee to carry out its examination. The matter is urgent, as the Minister said.
I wish to raise with the Tánaiste and especially the Minister for Health the provision of orthodontic services for young schoolchildren in County Kerry. It has become apparent that there is a four to five-year waiting list. This is not on, especially for young girls and boys who are embarrassed to go out and meet their friends. They may not even have teeth when they finally receive orthodontic treatment. It is not fair. How will the Minister address this problem which has been ongoing for a long time? It is not acceptable that young girls and boys in County Kerry must wait for four or five years for orthodontic treatment.
Is this a commitment in the programme for Government?
It is included under the heading of health. I want an honest response.
As the Deputy knows, approximately 12,000 staff left the health service during the very difficult economic period we experienced. Some 6,000 staff have now been recruited back into the service. Services are improving and waiting times should diminish with the additional resources that have been put in place, including the figure of €500 million. I will ask the Minister to respond directly to the Deputy on the issue he has raised.
Will the mediation Bill be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny any time soon? I firmly believe litigation should be the last port of call and that all disputants should try mediation. The Bill will place a statutory obligation on barristers to advise on mediation. I would like it to be considered in the House as soon as possible.
I agree with the Deputy's points on mediation. A family mediation Bill is being worked on and I certainly hope we will be in a position to have it proceed to pre-legislative scrutiny stage in the autumn. Great progress has been made on the Bill and the staff of the Office of the Attorney General have been working on it. I hope we will be in a position to publish it very soon.
In the programme for Government commitments were given on certain capital infrastructural projects. In particular, a commitment was given prior to the general election to build the Macroom bypass. Deputy Brendan Griffin put up a big poster on that road-----
Supporting the Taoiseach.
-----welcoming the announcement that the bypass was to be built under the 2017-21 programme. In yesterday's presentation to Cork County Council an official from Transport Infrastructure Ireland informed the meeting that the project would not go ahead until 2022, at the earliest. I want the Tánaiste to comment on this. I hope the official was not in a position to break a Government promise made in the first few days of this Dáil. I cannot stress enough the importance of this project to the people of counties Kerry and Cork. I hope it will go ahead in the timeframe originally promised.
I note the Deputy's concern about the project. There is to be a mid-term review of the capital programme next year. In the meantime, I will ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to liaise directly with the Deputy.
The programme for Government states that, as part of a review, the Government will launch a pilot scheme to reopen six Garda stations, both urban and rural, to determine possible positive impacts that such openings would have on criminal activity, with special emphasis on burglaries, theft and public order. This review was to be initiated within two months. Is it under way and, if so, when will it be completed and its findings published?
That is an operational matter for the Garda Commissioner who is considering the issue. Some weeks ago, the Cabinet discussed some of the criteria that could apply following the commitment given in this regard in the programme for Government. The process agreed in the programme for Government has been initiated and is being considered by the Garda Commissioner. It is an operational matter for the Commissioner at this point.
I seek an update on the Road Traffic Bill 2016 published earlier this year, which relates to randomised roadside drug testing. Will the Tánaiste provide a timeline for the Bill's progress through the House.
I understand the Bill in question is being discussed on Second Stage and it will probably be the autumn before the debate resumes.
What is the status of the Garda Síochána (compensation for malicious injuries) Bill, which has been on the list for a considerable period? Is it intended that the Bill will be the subject of pre-legislative scrutiny? Is the Bill likely to come before the House before the end of this session or in the next session and when is it likely to be passed into law?
Legal advice on the Bill in question is being considered. I do not have an exact timeframe for the legislation as it will depend on the analysis of the legal advice. It will not be taken in this term, however.
Much concern has been expressed about a possible loss of funding, particularly in the Border region, as a result of Britain's decision to leave the European Union. The programme for a partnership Government features a commitment on the Narrow Water bridge project. The Government has undertaken to work with the Northern Ireland Executive and undertake a review of the project. Will the Tánaiste confirm that the review will proceed, notwithstanding Brexit, and all parties, North and South, will commit to securing the necessary funding for the project?
I confirm that we stand by the commitments made in the Fresh Start agreement. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, will shortly meet his counterpart in the North to hold further discussions on this matter. The various projects were also discussed at the North-South Ministerial Council meeting held a few days ago. The Government stands by the commitments made in the Fresh Start agreement.
The matter I raise relates to the programme for Government and the health system. Last week, a family in my constituency received a telephone call at 4.30 a.m. asking that they remove from a hospital a 98 year old lady who had suffered an attack and been admitted to hospital the previous day. It is appalling that such circumstances continue in the health system. Will the Government ensure that no family receives a telephone call at 4.30 a.m. asking that they remove a family member from hospital? As bad as this experience was for the family, it is even worse for the patient. This appalling practice should be outlawed and eliminated. It is a case of trying to improve bed management figures and it is not good enough. I hope this issue, which has been raised previously by other Deputies, will be addressed and will no longer occur. While I do not propose to name the hospital involved, I will provide the Tánaiste with details of the case.
The details of the case outlined by the Deputy are extraordinary. It is certainly outside normal hospital practice to telephone a family and ask them to take a 98 year old woman home from hospital. If the Deputy provides details of the case to the Minister for Health, he will certainly follow up on the matter and give it his personal attention.