Senator Darragh O'Brien has rightly raised the issue of pyrite again. I understand his frustration. He has raised the matter on several occasions on the Order of Business. I understand the frustration of those who are affected by this problem. The latest information I have on the matter is that the pyrite report will be brought to the Government shortly and will be published before the summer recess. I hope it will be published before the summer recess. It would not be before time. It has been delayed for a number of months. I hope it will be published before the recess, which will begin in a couple of weeks.
Senator O'Brien and others spoke about the overruns in the HSE. The HSE has outlined several possible means of addressing its financial situation, including a reduction in the use of agency staff and the implementation of reforms under the Croke Park agreement to achieve more cost-effective use of human resources. The HSE has also submitted its mid-year cost containment proposals, which are being assessed by the Department at present. The Department of Health has indicated that approximately 70% of the HSE's €13 billion budget is spent on pay. Some 18% of this is classified as non-core pay, including overtime, premium payments and allowances paid to staff. Given that the health service operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it is imperative that we find ways of addressing the growing deficit through looking at non-core expenditure and working hours. That is the position. It will not be easy. It is a difficult situation. Plans are in place to address the matter.
Senator Bacik said that Senators should be allowed to make pre-budget statements. I have given an undertaking that we will have such statements. I hope they can start when we return for our next session.
Senators Bacik and Mullen raised the question of the proposed merger of the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority in the context of a report that has been drawn up by the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. I will try to arrange a debate on the committee's report about this important matter.
A number of Senators, including Senators Mullen, Jim D'Arcy, Moran and Clune, spoke about the National Competitiveness Council's report on mathematics in education. It is right and proper that we debate the report in the presence of the Minister. I will try to arrange such a discussion because the matter has been raised by five or six Members on the Order of Business this morning.
Senator MacSharry proposed an amendment to the Order of Business to allow a Bill, No. 11 on the Order Paper, to be published. I will accede to his request. I have no objection to it. I will accept the amendment to the Order of Business on that basis.
Senator Mullins called for a debate on the results of the census. Perhaps we will discuss this broad area in the autumn. I have noted some of the statistics that were quoted by Senator Mullins this morning.
Senators Reilly and Kelly raised the question of youth unemployment. I am endeavouring to bring the Minister to the House to discuss that matter and the issue of emigration. I have made a request to that effect.
Senator Reilly also expressed concern about the ability of gardaí to access patrol cars in the context of recent events in County Donegal. I am aware that the condition of the Garda fleet needs to be addressed by the Government. A number of cars are approaching the 300,000 km limit. For insurance purposes, that is the maximum number of kilometres they can have travelled. Some money will have to be found to address the problems in this regard, including the lack of patrol cars throughout the country.
Senator Colm Burke spoke about absenteeism in the HSE. It is obvious that we have a problem with absenteeism in the public service. I will endeavour to bring the Minister, Deputy Howlin, to the House to discuss the issue of sick pay costs, which has been raised by a number of Members. The Croke Park agreement will have to be honoured and pushed on if problems like sick pay and sickness costs are to be addressed. I hope the Minister, Deputy Howlin, will come here to speak about such matters.
I suggest that the question raised by Senator Landy with regard to housing was addressed and answered by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, when he was in this House yesterday afternoon.
Senator Ó Domhnaill raised the question of sick pay and mentioned the proposed increases in PRSI and tax, etc. These matters will be discussed by the Cabinet in the context of the forthcoming budget. They certainly will not be addressed anywhere else.
Senators Brennan and Eamonn Coghlan spoke about the sports capital grants. Approximately €250 million in grants is being sought, but we can offer just €30 million. It is good that we are in a position to award some grants to sporting organisations. They have not been made available for the last year or two. It is good that some grants will be made available to sporting organisations. Senator Coghlan also referred to the importance of physical education in primary and secondary schools. I will take that matter up on behalf of the Senator.
Senator Quinn spoke about small businesses. The Government has taken a number of initiatives to assist small business. However, I agree with Senator Quinn that anything that adds to the cost of small businesses and affects their competitiveness must be addressed by Government.
Senator Moran referred to public meetings on the subject of symphysiotomy, a matter she has raised on many occasions.
Senator Gilroy spoke about the smart economy, the tendering processes for services and the amount of money required by businesses to qualify. We will invite the Minister of State, Deputy Sherlock, to address the House on that matter.
Senators Sheahan, Jim D'Arcy and Keane referred to the need to eliminate waste and excess in the public service.
I referred Senator Norris's correspondence about Mrs. Nurit Modai to the Tánaiste. I have not received a response on the matter.