Questions on Promised Legislation

There are 25 Members offering and 30 minutes has been allocated to questions on promised legislation. That means there is approximately one minute per question and if Members are succinct we should get through everyone.

The programme for Government contains a commitment to "strengthen our Constitution, rule of law and our justice system for the benefit of everyone". It also commits Government to proposing "updated legislation to effectively deal with sexual offences including stronger sanctions aimed at protecting children from sexual exploitation, child abuse ... and online grooming". The Government is not responsible for lenient sentences passed by the courts but the public is increasingly worried that convicted criminals, in particular in the area of child abuse, seem to get away with very light sentences. When will the proposed legislation be delivered? What are the plans of the Government on the issue and what is the current position?

The legislation on sexual offences will go to pre-legislative scrutiny in this session.

I am advised that at least ten former designated public officials, including two former Fine Gael Senators and four special advisers to Ministers in the previous Government, have been lobbying against the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015. The Bill is hugely important for the health of our society. Some 500 people die each year from alcohol-related cancers, there are three deaths every day due to alcohol and approximately 1,500 hospital beds are occupied as a result of alcohol-related illnesses. Professor Frank Murray recently warned of the enormous lobbying against the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 by the alcohol industry. The alcohol industry should have no role in formulating national alcohol policy. The autumn legislative programme describes the Bill as a priority. When does the Minister intend to introduce it into the Dáil?

I assure the Deputy of my absolute commitment to this legislation, which I published as Minister for Health. This is a free country and people are free to lobby their local Teachtaí Dála and Ministers as they wish but I absolutely guarantee the Deputy that no one has changed my mind on this. The legislation will be reintroduced to the Seanad on 8 November.

Page 71 of the programme for Government notes that the Government intends to introduce legislation for the introduction of a new mobility scheme to assist those with disabilities in meeting their increased mobility costs. As the Taoiseach is aware, four years have passed since the mobility allowance and motorised transport grant scheme closed following concerns raised by the Ombudsman about its legality. As a result, thousands of people with disabilities can no longer get the supports they need to aid their mobility. For months the Minister of State with responsibility for disabilities has answered parliamentary questions indicating that the general scheme of this legislation will go to Government shortly. He has given the same answer since February at least. Why is this delay ongoing, and when will this House have concrete proposals to deal with this long-standing matter?

Discussions involving the Minister of State with responsibility for disabilities, the Minister for Health and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform are under way on the design of the new scheme, how it will be administered and the costs associated with it. We intend to legislate next year to have the new scheme up and running in 2018 and then have it introduced towards the end of next year.

I would like to raise the issue of the way in which drugs to treat rare illnesses such as phenylketonuria, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy are assessed by the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics. There seems to be a bias against people with rare illnesses in this country. Not only are they discriminated against by their condition, which they have not chosen, but they are also punished by not being able to avail of drugs to which they should be entitled.

I am not sure specifically what is the question. All I can say is that the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics is based in St. James's Hospital and is staffed by medical people, pharmacologists and economists. They receive information from the drug companies, assess the claims made by the drug companies as to the efficacy of a medicine, assess whether the cost proposed reflects the efficacy and make a recommendation to the HSE as to whether it should be funded or not. A similar process is run by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in England and the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network. It is a normal system that is used around the world. It is always open to companies to come back with new data. Very often a company will present data stating that a drug does this, that or the other thing and that does not necessarily always stack up. However, new data can come along and the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics is always open to reconsidering applications if new evidence shows a medicine to be effective.

In the programme for Government specific reference is made to the agricultural sector and horticulture. We were all talking about the storm last week and I thank everyone involved in the cleanup and the advice given. In south Tipperary several nurseries were completely wiped out. We have been in touch with the Minister of State, Deputy Andrew Doyle, begging him to come down to visit south Tipperary to see at first hand the damage done to those nurseries. There is a limited number of them and they are very vulnerable, as the Taoiseach knows, when a storm-----

This is questions on promised legislation.

Yes. The programme for Government commits to support the agriculture and horticulture industry. Will the Taoiseach instruct the Minister of State with responsibility for agriculture and horticulture to visit south Tipperary now and see for himself the devastation at first hand? It is eight or nine days on now, the cleanup is under way and the Minister of State must see the devastation. We saw the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran, and the Minister, Deputy Ross, in Donegal hours after the flooding, and rightly so. The Taoiseach must come down to Tipperary and show empathy at least, even if he is not interested in the horticulture industry.

No legislation is promised on that matter-----

The programme for Government.

-----but I am aware that the Minister, Deputy Creed, is aware of this issue, and both he and the Minister of State, Deputy Doyle, will examine it.

On the same issue as that raised by Deputy Howlin, more than 30 parliamentary questions have been asked in this House regarding what is now called the new transport support scheme in the past 12 months. Deputies Charlie McConalogue, Robert Troy and Dara Calleary were given the same answer on each occasion a question was asked. The same answer, that it is at an advanced stage, is being trotted out. That is what we have been hearing for the past 12 months. I want the Taoiseach to indicate to this House not that legislation will come in next year but to indicate when this new scheme will be up and running. There is a serious concern in this House that progress is not being made on it and that we are being fobbed off on the issue.

Our intention is to have the new scheme up and running in 2018, but the timeline is obviously not solely determined by the Government. Once the legislation is produced, it will have to go through the Dáil and Seanad-----

Is there an allocation of funding for next year?

-----and then be funded.

I wrote to the Taoiseach on 14 July as Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality and I have not received a substantive reply in the over three months since. I was bringing to his attention a number of Private Members' Bills that are queued for address in the justice and equality committee. This is a very serious matter because it is having an impact on the effectiveness of the committee system and, I believe, the structures of our parliamentary institutions in Leinster House. I instanced a number of Bills and I only received some days later an acknowledgement from the assistant private secretary stating that my correspondence would be brought to the Taoiseach's attention. Has it been brought to his attention? This concerns not only the Bills I itemised in the correspondence from the justice committee, but also, from questions I have posed, I have established that there are 18 Private Members' Bills queued, awaiting money messages.

I thank the Deputy.

If I may conclude on this point, a Cheann Comhairle, I believe that this money message requirement is being used to undermine the passage of Private Members' Bills that have already gone through Second Stage in this Chamber and that it is a very serious matter that is having a most deleterious impact on the workings of this institution and on the public understanding of the work-----

The Deputy needs to conclude.

-----that has been entrusted to us. Will the Taoiseach look into this matter? Will he either ensure that the money message is delivered or at least have the courtesy of providing the advice that it is not to be delivered and the reasons therefor?

Before I call Deputy Brady, who has a question on the same matter, I wish to point out that when a party leader asks a question, we do not take a question from someone else of the same party. However, when we move on to other Members, a Member raising the same matter can be called. Is Deputy Brady's question on this matter?

It is on the same matter. The Taoiseach will know that I brought forward legislation in February to abolish the mandatory retirement age. It received cross-party support on Second Stage in this Chamber. It ended up in the justice committee and went through pre-committee scrutiny. That is seven months ago. I have written twice to the Minister, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, and likewise have not received any response. We are waiting for a money message. My Bill is one of 18 pieces of opposition legislation stacked up there and, for whatever reason, no response or money message has been received. I do not know whether this is a deliberate attempt to bury these critically important pieces of legislation, particularly this one, which received cross-party support. We need a response. The people out there who are being forced to retire against their will need a response on this, they need a money message and it needs to be progressed immediately.

Legislation that requires expending public money, that is, taxpayers' money, requires a money message from the Government. Under our Constitution, that is the prerogative of the Government, not a decision of the Oireachtas. However, I will take a look at Deputy Ó Caoláin's correspondence. I do recall seeing it. My office is somewhat inundated at present by-----

-----correspondence from Sinn Féin Deputies. It seems to be their new strategy-----

Excuse me, the correspondence is from the justice and equality committee-----

It is from the Chairman of the committee.

-----to write to me about almost everything.

-----and surely that structure is entitled to the courtesy of a prompt reply.

The Taoiseach does not understand courtesy.

I will make sure that the Deputy receives a reply.

This Government and the Minister, Deputy Ross, brought in legislation allowing for MOT testing of tractors capable of doing speeds of over 40 km/h which travel more than 25 km from the owner's yard. The Taoiseach may not be aware of this, but farmers where I come from have cattle in for over a month.

They will have to draw silage, hay and straw from distances of much farther than 25 km-----

That is a real problem but it has nothing to do with promised legislation.

It is legislation they are after bringing in and it is affecting so many farmers-----

This is about promised legislation, not legislation that has already been enacted.

There was no interaction and he totally ignored the IFA and other farming bodies by bringing in this legislation. He agreed he would not do this and this is what he has done. Fine Gael is facilitating the Minister, Deputy Ross, and hurting many farmers who are hurt badly enough as it is with the inclement weather of the last two to three months.

I do not think any legislation has been brought in on this but I shall endeavour to check it out and will write to the Deputy about it.

I want to raise the issue of rural transport. There is a commitment on page 50 of the programme for Government that a report on rural transport will be made available within six months. The issues to be examined are, for example, the sustainability and accessibility of existing routes, in addition to the potential of new routes. This is a huge issue in rural communities, as the Taoiseach knows. I was very disappointed to learn the report will not be available until 2018 because the work simply has not been carried out. What that is saying to rural communities is: "Put up and shut up". We will not put up and we certainly will not shut up either. We want action on this. We want basic services and transport in our communities. This issue has been raised a number of times and I certainly will be raising it again until it is resolved.

I will ask the Minister, Deputy Ross, to correspond with the Deputy about the matter. I am not familiar with the details of the particular report in question but there is absolutely no need for the Deputy to either put up or shut up. I can assure her we are very committed to expanding rural transport routes and, indeed, the number of rural transport routes this year is 1,300, whereas only two years ago it was just over 1,000. While we might not be producing enough reports to satisfy the Deputy, we are certainly increasing the number of routes and services.

I refer to promised legislation in the area of IVF. I understand this is just one part of a number of legal reforms that need to be made in regard to good governance. As we know, one in six couples are having trouble conceiving. For all of them, it brings with it a great emotional toll, as well as financial hardship, and every month that passes is causing more emotional and financial hardship. When will this be available for the women who need it? I also want an assurance that it will be for all, regardless of income.

The heads of the assisted human reproduction Bill were agreed by Cabinet in the last few weeks and we expect it to go to committee for pre-legislative scrutiny as soon as possible. It is a complicated area. Legislating for and regulating assisted human reproduction is not straightforward but plenty of other countries do it and we should do it, although we are well behind others in that regard. Once that legislation is through, it will facilitate us to bring in a scheme of financial support for this treatment. While the detail of that has not been worked out, the Deputy will be aware the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, has done a study which sets out some of the options. Some financial support is already available in that IVF and other treatments are tax deductible and one can claim 20% back in tax and the medicines associated with it are covered under the drugs payment scheme. Nonetheless, it is the strong view of the Government that we should be doing much better. Many couples who have difficulties with fertility borrow a lot of money and even re-mortgage their houses on occasion to pay for this treatment. We need to do better by them. Before we can put in place a scheme of financial support to do that or treat it as a normal medical treatment, as we should, we first must make sure we legislate for it and regulate it.

Last year's Finance Bill made specific reference to GP care for those under 12 . We saw a number of reports in the newspapers at the weekend in this regard. Can the Taoiseach advise as to when it will be introduced?

As that is subject to negotiations with the Irish Medical Organisation, it will depend on the success of those negotiations.

Last year's Finance Bill made a specific commitment with regard to the introduction of new dental treatments for PRSI contributors. However, many people have contacted my office for the up-to-date position on when these new benefits will be introduced. Can the Taoiseach advise as to when persons with relevant PRSI contributions will be entitled to avail of the reintroduction of free dental scale and polish treatment?

That was actually the Social Welfare Bill, which I introduced last year. I can confirm that the changes to the dental benefit scheme will come into effect from 28 October, that is, in a few days' time. From that date, dental benefit will provide for a payment towards either a scale or polish, or, if clinically necessary, protracted periodontal treatment, in addition to an existing free dental exam. If the normal fee charged by the individual dental clinic for a scale or polish is €42 or less, the treatment will be free to the customer. However, if the normal fee is over €42, the customer will pay the balance up to a maximum co-payment of €15. The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection will make a payment of €42 in regard to protracted periodontal treatment, with the customer responsible for the balance of any fee over this amount.

The dental examination and treatments outlined will be available once per calendar year and, for the first time, will be extended to farmers and the self-employed who pay PRSI at class S. This is the restoration of the free scale and polish with the maximum co-payment of €15. It is very much part of the Government's policy of expanding social insurance and making work pay.

The programme for Government pledges to increase capital investment in infrastructure. Obviously, this is very good news for the construction industry but it is not so much good news for workers on low pay who are trapped in bogus subcontracts. Both in March and July of this year I asked during Questions on Promised Legislation for the then Taoiseach to give us an update on the report that was being led by the Department of Finance and which formally involved his own Department. Three months on, we have no update. Today, I received an anonymised letter from a construction worker in my constituency who is working on a site in Clondalkin and is being paid below the statutory wage. Because he has been forced into a bogus subcontract, he is not able to benefit from proper PRSI contributions. My question is simple. When will that report be published and, crucially, when will the Government introduce the necessary legislation to protect workers and taxpayers and abolish bogus subcontracting in the construction industry?

I understand from the Minister, Deputy Regina Doherty, that the report will be published in the near future although I do not have an exact date for it. It indicates that bogus self-employment is a real issue but perhaps not on the scale that people may have previously thought. That, of course, is evidenced by the fact the number of people in self-employment has not increased dramatically but has increased in line with general employment, so the view that a huge number of people are being pushed into self-employment is not supported by the statistics. That is not to say it does not happen on occasion.

To respond to something else the Deputy said, I do not agree with him that an increase in capital investment is solely good for the construction industry. Let us not forget what that increase in capital investment is - it is more schools for kids to go to, more hospitals for patients to use and more roads to get us to work and to home. I am disappointed that a Deputy of this House should be pejorative about capital investment in that way.

I was not being pejorative.

For more than a year a state-of-the-art centre for children with autism has been lying idle in Ballyseedy, Tralee, County Kerry. It cost over €1 million but is still lying idle, much to the pain of the parents of autistic children. When will the Taoiseach commit to opening this centre and will he make the funding available for it?

There is no legislation promised on the matter but I will ask the Minister for Health to respond.

I want to raise the issue of the appointment of special advisers by the Government, particularly by the Taoiseach, who signs all of these orders. Under the Public Service Management Act 1997, the lawful power to appoint special advisers exists in section 11. It has to be done on foot of a Government order and that order takes the form of a statutory instrument which the Taoiseach signs. The issue that arises is that in more than two dozen of those cases, not only did the Taoiseach appoint the special advisers but he backdated their appointment, in some cases by 12 weeks. In the case of all six of his own special advisers, he backdated their appointment.

Where is the lawful power to backdate the appointment of a special adviser?

When the finance committee raised this issue, on my insistence, with the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, the private secretary replied and said that the Department was seeking advice from the Attorney General's office on whether the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2007 granted the power to make such orders with retrospective effect.

Time is up, Deputy. I am sorry.

Was the Taoiseach sure that he had the lawful power to appoint those two dozen special advisers retrospectively? Did they have access to confidential information? Did they sign the Official Secrets Act?

Deputy, please. The time is up.

Did they draw down wages during that period?

I do not know the details of the law in this area, but I can assure the Deputy that whatever procedures have been followed for the past ten or 20 years were followed in these cases as well. What happens is that, when a Minister moves from one Department to another, technically his or her special adviser becomes unemployed as a result of the fact-----

Not "technically". Legally.

Legally, almost all of his or her staff become unemployed because the Minister has been moved to another Department. It is the normal process that those people are not just told to be unemployed. They are treated as people should be treated and moved into the next Department with the Minister. Arrangements are made within a few weeks to normalise that.

On page 66 of the programme for Government, the Government committed to increasing funding for mental health services, but we have once again only seen €15 million in additional funding this year, with €20 million carried over from last year. My question is simple: will the Government commit to spending and providing extra money for mental health services?

The short answer is "Yes", but I will give the Deputy the figures, which I have here.

There was €35 million-----

I will give the Deputy the figures for the total mental health funding over the past number of years: 2012, some €711 million; 2013, some €737 million; 2014, some €766 million; 2015, some €791.8 million; 2016, some €826.6 million; and 2017, some €853.1 million. For next year, it goes up to €912 million. Those are the facts. In the past six years, that is an increase of €200 million, which is a 25% increase in six years. That will continue.

Section E on page 134 of the programme for Government commits to public transport infrastructure and the provision of adequate capacity on service lines. Last week, I raised the issue of bus services being heavily disrupted in north Kildare-south Meath. Over the weekend, we learned that Irish Rail strikes were planned for the coming months. I believe that six dates have been announced. From dealings with the National Transport Authority, I am aware that not only are service disruptions becoming the norm, but planned service improvements have been deferred, for example, the ten-minute DART and extra services from Kildare through the Phoenix Park tunnel into the city centre. These improvements have been deferred, rescheduled or postponed indefinitely due to what appears to be ongoing industrial unrest, but that is not clear in some cases. What actions is the Government taking on these issues?

These are very important matters, and probably matters that would be better answered by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport than me. I am very encouraged by the fact that we are seeing a significant increase in the number of people using public transport this year and last year, and a lot of that is down to the improvements in the economy and the fact that there are more people working. I am looking forward in a few weeks' time to opening the Luas cross-city with the Minister, Deputy Ross, which is a project that I signed the order on seven years ago. I remember well at the time that, when my officials told me that it would take seven years, I thought, "Sure, I never know where I will be then".

Look at the Taoiseach now.

Sure, that is no place.

It is good to see those improvements happening but, on a more serious point, I certainly would share the Deputy's concerns that any industrial dispute or any strike in Irish Rail would impact very seriously on taxpayers, passengers, and working people. Strikes, unfortunately, in the transport sector happen too often. They are always resolved in the normal way with the engagement of the Workplace Relations Commission and sometimes the Labour Court. I would really express my wish on behalf of the Government and people and passengers that the deal that they are inevitably going to come to anyway they come to without unnecessary strikes.

Regarding the family court Bill, as the Taoiseach knows, family court can be harrowing. The Bill will establish it as a separate division within the existing court structures. I believe that the pre-legislative scrutiny stage is still to be determined, so I would like an update on it, please.

I am advised that the heads of this Bill will be published in this session.

On page 55 in A Programme for a Partnership Government, there is a commitment to providing additional medical education tutors to the nationwide network of GP tutors. This network provides an opportunity for GPs to engage in continuing professional development and medical education. As the Taoiseach knows, medicine is changing all the time and it is important that GPs keep up to date. Will the Taoiseach give me a commitment on when these tutors will be appointed and the funding will be provided?

Does Deputy Ellis wish to speak on the same matter?

I cannot give Deputy Harty any such commitment, but I am meeting the Minister, Deputy Harris, tomorrow, so I will certainly raise it with him and ask him to respond to the Deputy directly.

The Central Bank consolidation Bill has been promised for a considerable time. Would it be possible to lay it before the House with some urgency, given the need to introduce a new code of conduct affecting third party bankers who have taken over many of the banks' distressed loans and are putting extraordinary pressure on borrowers, including through the repossession of family homes?

We do not have a timeline for that legislation at present, but I will come back to the Deputy in writing as soon as I can.

I thank the Taoiseach.

As the Taoiseach knows, the programme for Government committed to a second cath lab at University Hospital Waterford, subject to an independent review. That review took place. Unfortunately, it was not favourable. Just before the summer recess, all of the Waterford Oireachtas Members met the Minister for Health, who committed to a national review. He also stated that he would expedite that review, that it would be underpinned by an international independent person of standing and have other members as well, and that he would revert to us with a timeframe and clear terms of reference. That has not happened.

I do not know whether the Taoiseach has this information at his disposal, but will he confirm when the review will take place, whether the terms of reference are in place and has the work on finding someone of international standing who can carry out this review been done? Will the Taoiseach outline to the House the timeframe? This is an important issue to people in the south east who are without emergency cardiac care on a 23-7 basis.

Again, I think that this question would be better answered by the Minister for Health because I may not have the most up-to-date information. I understand that a mobile cath lab is now in place in Waterford. I will be interested to see in the coming months the impact that that has on wait times for patients. If it has reduced wait times for patients, I think that strengthens the case for having a permanent second cath lab in the hospital.

I will take the few remaining Deputies if they are brief.

I will be brief. In terms of the programme for Government, Deputy Gino Kenny raised the issue of the provision of orphan drugs and drugs for rare diseases. In the Taoiseach's reply, he referred to establishing the efficacy of such drugs, but I remind him that, in some circumstances, there are only three, four or five patients affected by the disease in question. As such, establishing that type of information is next to impossible. We need to consider separately drugs for rare diseases, which affect approximately 0.05% of the population, and ultra rare diseases, which affect less than 0.02% of the population. If we do not, we will never get drugs that are badly needed for a very small population group.

I wish to ask about the drug Respreeza, which we have discussed many times in the Chamber. The company has agreed to supply it for the next six months free of charge, but the HSE is now in a battle with the company about who will pay for the drug's distribution over those months. The H3N2 virus, or the so-called Aussie flu, is out there. If it comes to these shores, the Respreeza patient group will be extremely vulnerable. We need to get this issue resolved. I call on the Taoiseach to intervene with the HSE.

It is a matter that would best be answered by way of reply to a parliamentary question to the Department of Health rather than by me as I do not have the up-to-date information.

It would be a good Topical Issue to table.

The Deputy makes a valid point on orphan drugs and ultra-rare diseases and I recognise his expertise in this matter. No matter what we do with orphan drugs or ultra-rare diseases, we need some mechanism to establish whether the medicine is effective and what represents a fair price as we need to ensure that patients receive drugs which are effective and which taxpayers can afford.

The Minister of State, Deputy English, set up a working group to address vacancies in urban areas in both residential and commercial premises with the intention of bringing currently-vacant units into productive use. It was also a commitment in the programme for Government. Has the working group concluded its deliberations and, if so, when will we see its report? What positive actions will come from this initiative given that thousands of premises are lying needlessly idle during a housing crisis the length and breadth of the country?

I do not know specifically what the position is in relation to that report. Perhaps a written question to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government would receive a detailed response for the Deputy. As to voids being returned to use, funding is available next year to bring 7,900 social houses into use. That includes funding for 600 voids to be returned to habitable condition.

Following the Taoiseach's meeting with President Macron yesterday and the European Council meeting during the week, I ask for an update in the context of the programme for Government commitment to protect farm incomes on the beef offer under the Mercosur trade discussions. Can the Taoiseach update the House as to why the Government permitted that 70,000 tonne beef offer to be made if it is opposed to it, given that the final agreement will have to be accepted by all countries? Is it the case that neither the Taoiseach nor President Macron put up any resistance to that at the European Council meeting or that they did not discuss it in any serious way at yesterday's meeting?

That is not really promised legislation.

Not really, but I am happy to answer briefly. President Macron and I are very much aligned on this issue. We both support Mercosur because free trade is, on balance, a good thing for the Irish economy, creating jobs and revenue. This deal will potentially be eight times bigger than the deal with Canada and, as such, it is something we should be positive about. We have a particular interest and concern, however, in respect of the beef sector, which could be adversely affected by this at the same time that it might also be adversely affected by Brexit. As such, President Macron and I agreed yesterday that France and Ireland would work closely together on this to ensure that we do not see our beef industry and farmers subjected to unfair competition and that environmental, welfare and other standards are at the highest level. As the Deputy is aware, international trade is a European competence under the treaties. It is part of what one signs up to when one becomes a member state that international trade is a competence of the European Union, not of national governments.

The first line of the health section in the programme for Government refers to access to timely care, which is laughable in a context of waiting lists exceeding 680,000. In my constituency of Mayo, we are in the bizarre position that children cannot even get on to the waiting list for children's physiotherapy services itself. We have 662 children who quality for paediatric physiotherapy, of whom 270 are currently getting services, with waiting times of up to 137 weeks for treatment. I am quoting from the response I received on this. There are 392 children wait-listed due to staffing deficits while a further 97 children cannot even get onto the waiting list. I was told that any capacity available on the part of the remaining 2.8 whole-time equivalent staff is devoted to those caseloads left open by vacancies and that it is not possible to estimate waiting times for new referrals. We have the bizarre situation that we do not even have a waiting time for 97 children in one county. If we cannot even get to grips with the waiting lists we have, what are the Taoiseach's plans and those of his Minister for Health to deal with those children who cannot even get on to a waiting list?

I will ask the Minister for Health to respond to the Deputy in detail.

I raise the urgent need for the gambling control Bill to come before the House to overhaul radically how we control the gambling sector, in particular in respect of advertising. Gambling is a blight on our society and we need to protect younger people in particular who are vulnerable to the online sector. I seek an update on the Bill.

I am glad to report that the courts and civil law (miscellaneous provisions) Bill is being drafted. The Bill will update and modernise the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 and the Betting Act 1931. The gambling control Bill itself is also being progressed following a great deal of research and detailed work and I hope to have both Bills before the House in the next session.

That concludes questions on promised legislation. When we return after the recess, our new procedures for dealing with questions on promised legislation will be in place and we will not be running over time any more.