The Order of Business is No. 1, motion regarding opt-in under a protocol to a measure in the area of the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund, AMFI, referral to committee, to be taken without debate on the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, annual national transition statements, Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, to be taken at 4.45 p.m. and to conclude at 6.15 p.m. The opening round shall comprise statements not exceeding five minutes from seven Ministers or Ministers of State. What am I reading? This is a mistake.
Order of Business
That seems daft. How many Ministers of State will we have?
The second round shall comprise statements not exceeding eight minutes by group spokespersons. A Minister of State shall make a concluding statement, which shall not exceed five minutes. No. 3 is the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 - Committee Stage, to be taken at 6.15 p.m.
I wish to confirm that time can be shared on No. 2, in case Members are keen to do that.
If that is agreed.
Is it ending today?
Yes, No. 2 is concluding today.
I wish to raise the issue of rough sleepers. A count last night showed 156 people were sleeping rough in Dublin, and that included 121 people in the Dublin City Council area. Anthony Flynn, the CEO of the Inner City Helping Homeless charity, alluded to the fact that if those rough sleeping in the suburbs were taken into account, the figure would be as high as 200. I heard him speak on the radio recently about a new phenomenon of people pitching tents on beaches in the Portmarnock and Killiney areas. A total of 9,724 people are living in emergency accommodation.
Many of the emergency hostels opened last year are closing because their leases are running out. I raised this issue last week but it will become critical in the coming days as the weather worsens. Rain, sleet and snow are forecast. What does the Government intend to do to tackle the problem of rough sleepers? It is a problem that is not getting better. It is getting worse, and people are finding themselves in very difficult circumstances.
The second issue I want to raise concerns the Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Act. When will the Government commence the Act? I have been contacted by families in same-sex marriages and unions who are very much in a legal limbo in respect of the civil parentage of their children.
Hear, hear. Well said.
The Minister has alluded to technical difficulties but it is very unfair to leave parents, children and families in a position where they are unclear as to the civil parentage of their children and the way they will be treated by the State, especially in accident and emergency-type situations, which can be very upsetting.
The third issue I want to raise is the backlog of cases at the Office of the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman. There is a very large number of outstanding complaints yet to be dealt with by that office, which is a last port of call for consumers who are having difficulties getting anywhere with various financial institutions. There has been an increase of 40% in those numbers from the beginning of 2018 to the end of October. Many issues regarding unresolved tracker mortgage cases arose last year and have arisen again this year. The Office of the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman needs to be better resourced in order to ensure consumers are not waiting in limbo for their complaint about financial concerns or irregularities to be determined.
I would like to raise a number of matters that have come into the public domain internationally in the past week. In particular, the G20 summit in Buenos Aires featured Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman-----
-----being feted by the other members of the leading economies internationally. We in this House are very much muted in expressing any views on international affairs. When we do express views, such as on the occupied territories legislation, which I hope will be debated and concluded in the House tomorrow, we come under a major push-back from the Department of Foreign Affairs for standing up for even the basic-----
-----human rights of people. I believe we should have a debate on Saudi Arabia-----
-----and the opportunity to express our disgust at the slaughter of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and our revulsion at the fact that the person responsible for that atrocity is still striding the world like a colossus and being greeted by international statespeople.
We should also make time to debate what is happening to the Republic of Ukraine. It is wrong that the Russian Federation should use the fact that it built a bridge from Crimea to the mainland of Russia as a pretext to cut off access to the ports of Ukraine. Somebody in this Legislature should stand up and say those actions are wrong and inform Putin that those standards of behaviour are unacceptable. Unless those comments are made repeatedly, until there are resolutions of this House condemning these actions and until the timidity of Iveagh House disappears and voices are clearly expressed on these types of issues, these thugs internationally take acquiescence as approval. I ask the Deputy Leader to make time available for us to discuss these important issues.
We are not like The Skibbereen Eagle. This is a legislative Chamber in one of the member states of the European Union. As such, we should have the bravery and self-respect to speak our mind on these issues and collectively condemn what requires to be condemned, rather than remain mute and watch these matters as consumers of news and readers of newspapers.
Senator Norris used a particular word to describe the Saudi Crown Prince. Nothing has been proven. The Senator should be a bit more temperate in his language.
I am sorry, but I did not hear what the Cathaoirleach said.
You called somebody a murderer. That is most inappropriate for this Chamber.
Well he is one.
The Senator should reflect on that. I call Senator Conway-Walsh.
You should reflect on it.
He is not here to defend himself.
As yesterday was International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I will focus on two separate issues relating to people with disabilities.
On the provision of personal assistants, there was an excellent presentation in the AV room earlier hosted by Deputy Ó Caoláin, whom I commend on all of his work, as Chair of the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality, for people with disabilities. I also commend the speakers who attended, particularly James Cawley and Shelly Gaynor. They talked about the importance of the personal assistance, PA, scheme that is in operation, how it must be implemented as part of the ratification of optional protocol, how important it is to differentiate between home care or home help hours and the PA system that needs to be in operation, and that we need 500,000 more hours to be able to do what needs to be done for the PA programme. They described the PA system as an extension of themselves and about the decision-making being left to them. I remembered Michael Corbett, who was a great advocate for the PA system, when he spoke about how the only true experts on disability are those people who have disabilities. The PA system allows people to live a full life and make their own decisions about where they want to go and what they want to do within society, which is important.
James and Shelly also discussed the transition from education to employment and the importance of having a PA system or PA supports in place for that. We need to legislate and invest in standardisation of the PA system. It resonated with me when Ms Gaynor stated that the PA system has been eroded over the years and, instead of people being given full-time PAs to enable them to get the best out of their lives, make their own decisions and implement those decisions, they are given 42 or 45 minutes a day, which is of no use whatsoever. Shelly asked what it is possible to do in 42 minutes and answered the question by saying, "Feck all". I have to agree with her on that. It is important to get that system up in place and provide the extra hours. It is also important that the Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is put in place because it will deal with some of the issues I have raised.
I strongly support Senator Ardagh in what she said about gay parents and their rights. The Bill is not yet fully implemented. I have received a large number of inquiries about this from distressed parents and I wrote to the Minister about it earlier. I strongly support the Senator and I thank her for raising the matter.
A regime was recently adopted for visitors entering Leinster House. It is a nonsense. Computer terminals and machines have been erected and people must enter all of their information, etc. It is not secure. In the old days, we used to sign people in personally, but this is a lack of security. It takes forever, it creates bad-tempered crowds, the staff agrees it is a complete and utter nonsense, and it is all part of the growing bureaucracy under which Leinster House is being strangled.
Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend the forthcoming debate on the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.
I have been given a brief by IALPA and I am sure my colleagues, whom I see nodding, have been given the same. I hope they will take up the issues raised by the airline pilots, in particular the crucial element of bogus self-employment used by employers to do employees out of their rights.
God bless Ryanair.
The security matter the Senator has raised is more a matter for the commission than for the Acting Leader. Perhaps he should send a note to the commission asking it to consider the method being adopted at the moment.
The commission loves bureaucracy.
The Acting Leader is probably not in a position to answer that, but I will leave her deal with it.
I wish to raise an issue that arose yesterday and has arisen on several occasions in recent years, which is the closure of English language schools. I lay the blame firmly at the door of the Departments of Justice and Equality, and Education and Skills. Both Departments have failed to regulate English language schools resulting in a number of such schools becoming visa factories. When I heard yesterday that one of the students paid €1,000 for his course in an English language school, it confirmed that this school simply distributes visas. It also suggests that the school was bound to fail because the fees being charged would not allow it to survive.
There is a failure to inspect these schools and a failure to verify the type of education going on there. There is a failure in proper regulation, particularly on the part of the Department of Justice and Equality, which issues visas to students coming to Ireland based on the fact that schools are registered with it. They may have no qualified teachers or anyone competent enough to run the school, yet they allow students to come in, provide them with visas and allow them to work at low cost. It is driving the industry down in that it is allowing teachers to be paid low salaries as a result of these visa factories.
There are a number of good English language schools. This country has a good reputation for education but this situation is ruining that reputation. Some schools want to be regulated so that they can partake in the proper education of students coming to Ireland and not these visa factory schools.
I wish to raise an issue with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government. Something is very broken in the system when between 15,000 and 20,000 protesters lined the streets last weekend to protest the Government's policies on housing. We are all working hard but there is no joined-up thinking. People are overspending on rent and the State is not building the houses that are needed with the kind of living spaces people want and in places they want to live and work affordably.
We have a beautiful accessible island but everything is concentrated in Dublin. Irrespective of what the Acting Leader says in reply, this is borne out by last week's Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, SCSI, report. We cannot become an island that stands on one city alone. We would topple, not only because we would be off balance but because it goes against who we are and what and where we come from. The Government has led a sustained destruction of rural Ireland. It has closed post offices, stalled broadband provision, allowed large companies to see the benefits of Dublin and, but for a few, hold on to those benefits while the rest of the country suffers. We rarely get visits in rural Ireland from IDA Ireland.
The older person without a smartphone and a monthly commuter ticket is the one who loses. They are alone and isolated. When I visit them - I visit as many of them as I can - they tell me they feel forgotten. For an older person to go collect his or her pension, he or she needs a car to get to the nearest large town because the local post office is closed. He or she needs a bank account to lodge it because nobody carries that amount around but he or she has to be there before a certain time otherwise the counter will be closed. He or she will have to find the nearest supermarket because the post office is closed and so is the corner shop attached to it. If we do this to one older person, what are we doing to our younger people? We are an island for all of us. This is a serious issue and I am looking for Ministers to come to the House and address it.
I join Senators Ardagh and Murnane O'Connor in expressing serious concern at the ever-increasing numbers of people sleeping rough in Dublin. While recent press coverage talks about the city, people are sleeping rough throughout the county.
I believe that the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive showed that recently. I note from the Taoiseach's commentary earlier that he was disappointed with the latest figures. When one couples this with the thousands of people who protested last weekend about housing - they are not all wrong - we have to sit up and listen. If we have to change direction, then so be it. At this stage we have to take on board that people are genuinely concerned. People are priced out of homes, be they to purchase or to rent; it is a crisis situation. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government can exercise special powers under special circumstances. If a national emergency on housing is declared, I am advised that he could use some of these powers. We have a crisis situation in every local authority, but especially in the four Dublin local authorities. They are at breaking point with staff totally frustrated at having to turn people away day after day. We should have another discussion on what direction the Government is going.
On more positive news, as a result of our Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill, which is now the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018, I am happy to say that the regulations to scrap planning fees for elected members of councils were signed by the Minister on Friday. I have a copy in front of me. The Minister also authorised councillors to seek a report on a variation to a proposed county development plan change by the elected members. Some 900 councillors lobbied strongly on those two issues. They are welcome changes and are now embedded. These are two issues that some Senators got over the line, despite significant opposition from the Government of the day and other Senators. I am glad that local authority members are delighted with that.
A lot done and a lot to do.
I welcome the good news that "Nightflyers", a series made in Troy Studios in Limerick, was released yesterday in the US. The Irish embassy in the US tweeted and congratulated the film-makers on the premiere, which was shown on 2 December. It is a series of ten films made in Limerick. It is important to acknowledge the number of people involved in the apprenticeship and training scheme during the making of the series. Troy Studios said that if the series was a success the producers might come back to make the next production there as well. The important aspect is that people have been trained and have gone through the apprenticeships and skills side of the process. They now have the skills so if the producers come back to Troy Studios, they will be available for employment. The series is to be released on Netflix and I encourage people to watch it because it is not too often we have a science fiction series made in a local film studio. I wish to congratulate all involved.
The Seanad reform implementation group first met on 9 May. On Tuesday next, I hope, the group will sign off on a report and a Bill. During Taoiseach's questions earlier in the Dáil, the long running saga in Irish politics that is Seanad reform was discussed by all of the group leaders. Some suggested that there are Members in this House who do not believe that we will ever see reform in this regard. However, there are many people who never wish to see Seanad reform. The Taoiseach suggested that some people may be confused by registering to vote on a number of panels. I believe that he should give the people more credit. He also raised cost as an issue and that he is interested in seeing the cost of any election. We had that conversation when Fine Gael told the people that we could save money. He also alluded to a third constituency to be retained in the form of the University of Dublin, Trinity College. He also said that the Leader keeps him abreast of these issues in private. I ask the Leader to explain what is the plan following the presentation of this report to An Taoiseach and when will we see the legislation before this House.
I wish to raise my concern about the state of health of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, GMIT, headquarters and campus in Galway. Ordinarily and over the past years I have received calls to raise issues about the GMIT campus in Castlebar, but I recently received disturbing information from a solid source that there are serious financial, management and governance problems there.
Some of this is manifested in the decline of certain programmes in which it should be a national leader, such as in hotel and catering management. Furthermore, the problems GMIT headquarters is grappling with will present a significant impediment to the delivery of a technological university for the west. The GMIT Galway campus, and GMIT in general, represents a weak link in the Connacht-Ulster alliance for the delivery of such a technological university. This is terrible because if we cannot deliver a technological university in a timely fashion it means rural areas will be lagging behind on a much-needed and valuable third level institute.
Myself and Senators Paddy Burke and O'Mahony fought very hard for a recovery and sustainable plan for the GMIT Castlebar campus. We secured €3.75 million in ring-fenced funding to be spent over five years. I want to welcome the appointment of a new vice president of GMIT, Professor Neville McClenaghan, who will be based in and will look after Castlebar's interests and who will take up his post in the spring. It has a good academic plan for recovery.
We do not want all this to go down the tubes. The future is bright but for this and we all understand the umbrella organisation in Galway can bring the whole ship down. I ask that the Minister be invited in to discuss progress on the delivery of technological universities, to outline the state of health and of play in relation to GMIT headquarters in Galway and to address all the significant and serious issues I have raised today. It is an urgent matter. We cannot afford to be left behind in this regard.
Before I raise an issue, I want the Members to join with me in welcoming two members of Galway City Council, Councillor Ollie Crowe, a member for the city centre area, and Councillor Peter Keane, a member for Galway city west. Both were nominated last night to contest the council elections next May. The convention was chaired by Deputy Scanlon. I wish both of them every success in the election. Galway is very lucky to have such councillors. All the members of the city council, including the mayor, are excellent and I really hope that council will be retained. The work it is doing for the west, Galway city and the year of culture is second to none. I wish the councillors every success for the future and thank them, on behalf of Fianna Fáil, for their commitment and their work for their constituents in Galway.
I refer to No. 45 on the Order Paper, the Registration of Wills Bill 2016, which was promoted by myself and Senators Ardagh and Clifford-Lee. This Bill is on Committee Stage and over the years, I have been attempting to get it passed but without much help from the Law Society of Ireland. I discussed this matter with Mr. Peter Keane, a prominent solicitor who is in the Visitors Gallery, before the Order of Business. This arises from an article by Mr. Charlie Weston in the Sunday Independent of 2 December 2018. Mr. Weston outlined the exact plan of the Bill I proposed, which is now being sought throughout Europe. I think Malta and Ireland are the two countries in Europe that do not have such a scheme. In the article, which is worth reading, he pinned down exactly what is happening in this regard. The Royal London insurance company asked the Minister and the Government to bring this Bill forward. The article stated that while probate delays are a product of a complex process with insufficient resources, the lack of a centralised wills register is compounding the issue.
This Bill could be passed by the House quickly and I will seek Government time in this regard. I will not go through the detail of the Bill again because Second Stage was passed with the co-operation of all the parties.
For some reason, Deputy Joan Burton, came in as Minister and turned it down completely. She gave it no consideration and the great and progressive Labour Party turned out not to be so progressive as far as that issue was concerned. It is causing great distress to solicitors and those who are deprived of their inheritance where a will cannot be found. Unfortunately, there are many situations now where will books in the offices of solicitors who go out of business for one reason or another, including retirements, are lost forever. The House would do a good day's work if the Deputy Leader looked into the matter. It is now the responsibility of the Department of Health rather than of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and I ask the Deputy Leader to contact the Minister. I will also contact him to see if we can progress the Bill to Final Stage and pass it on to the Dáil.
I welcome Councillors Ollie Crowe and Peter Keane to the Gallery. Given my position, I must refrain from the political analysis provided by my good colleague, Senator Leyden. I hope the councillors have an enjoyable day in Leinster House. I call Senator Craughwell.
I call for a debate in the House on the gross abuse of public money to defend indefensible cases. PDFORRA, the Defence Forces' representative body, has taken seven cases to date on the Working Time Directive and won each of them. The latest case cost the State €200,000 in legal fees and there was a five figure settlement for the claimant. This is nonsense. If the State is fully aware of its obligations under the directive, why is it spending money to defend indefensible litigation? Is it because the Department has such deep pockets into which it never has to put its own money that it can take on these cases to create some kind of delay? This is an outrageous abuse of public money. Earlier, Members were talking about people sleeping rough yet €200,000 was spent here. There are 35 more cases laid before the High Court relating to the directive and the Defence Forces and there will be another 35 in a week or two. I am sure there will be 35 more the week after that. Will the Government keep throwing money at this rather than fix the problem? As such, I would like a debate in the House on the abuse of public money.
I also raise the need for protections for teachers working for fly-by-night language schools, which my colleague, Senator Lawlor, referred to earlier. These teachers have been abused and treated in the most appalling way. Thankfully, they have some representation now through the trades unions, but they had none in the past. Any school setting up now should have to put aside a bond to ensure the final payment of the teachers working for them. At least two months' wages for each teacher should be provided for. It is not a lot to ask. I agree with Senator Lawlor that many of these smaller schools have become visa factories. There was a case some time ago where the box room of a three-bedroom house was registered as a language school with 1,000 students. It is just outrageous.
I follow the previous speaker's remarks on Grafton College, Portobello, where I attended the protest last night. It is disturbing to see language specialists who teach English as a foreign language being discarded so close to Christmas. They have been put in a position in which they do not know where the next euro will come from. Many of them are owed at least four weeks' salary and some are owed up to eight weeks' salary. I ask the Deputy Leader to support our request for the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, to fast-track in some way any moneys due to employees through the insolvency scheme. It is a practical measure which could be taken. On previous occasions, the Department of Social Protection held special clinics to inform employees in cases like this of their rights and entitlements under its schemes. This practical step could be taken immediately. We did it in the case of Clerys when we met the workers at SIPTU's offices and I am sure Unite would make its building available for the teachers in this case to meet departmental officials to find out exactly what is available to them so close to Christmas.
There is legislation coming forward in the House this week in regard to schools. We may have to amend that Bill to reflect this issue and give some sort of guarantee in regard to earned salary, so it is protected as outlined by the previous speaker. There are two practical elements the Minister could address. First, action could be taken immediately with regard to the insolvency fund. Second, a clinic could be set up by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for those unfortunate people who find themselves in this situation in order to inform them of exactly what their entitlements are. Above all, we need to regulate this sector, whether that is through a bond or a fund that has to be put in place to guarantee that workers get the salaries to which they are entitled and for which they have worked so hard.
I have raised several times with the Minister of State, Deputy English, the issue of the 3,500 housing units that could be provided on the Poolbeg west peninsula. This project has run into constant problems. The last time he was in the House, the Minister of State promised me a note on the progress on the negotiations on the 900 social and affordable units, and I would be grateful if this could be followed up. I have approached the Minister of State about it but, unfortunately, it has not been forthcoming yet.
I ask the Deputy Leader if she has had any report back on the review of councillors' pay and conditions. As the House knows, this report, which is headed by Ms Moorhead, SC, was to be with us before the end of November. I am curious to know if anything has been heard from the Minister. If not, it might be an ideal time to invite the Minister to the House to discuss the report. I am sure he has received it at this stage.
I thank the Senators who raised a variety of issues on the Order of Business. Senator Ardagh raised the issue of rough sleepers, which is obviously a very difficult issue, especially with the weather disimproving. I am certainly feeling the cold more today than I have in recent weeks so I cannot imagine how somebody would feel who does not have a roof over his or her head. The rough sleeper census from last Tuesday found there were 156 individuals sleeping rough on that night. Believe it or not, that is a reduction on this time last year. Budget 2019 provided €60 million for the provision of emergency accommodation which will support the development of facilities for rough sleepers, as well as family hubs. The Minister, Deputy Murphy, has been working closely with the Dublin Region Homeless Executive and the Dublin local authorities on the delivery of additional emergency accommodation. The Dublin Region Homeless Executive is co-ordinating the delivery of 203 permanent beds and 130 contingency beds. On the night of the count, 51 of these beds had been put in place and a further 152 permanent beds will be open before Christmas. That is the up-to-date position on the issue.
On the Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Act, I have also been contacted by a number of people on this issue. I do not have an answer for the Senator but, even while I have been sitting here today, we have communicated with the Department and I am awaiting a response. If the Senator does not see any sign of that in the near future, she could ask the Leader again, perhaps next week. I will ask for her to be informed of when that will be commenced. I would also like to see that happen.
Senator Ardagh also raised the issue of the ombudsman for consumers. There might be a necessity for further funding if what the Senator says is true. It would perhaps be a good matter for a Commencement debate but, failing that, a debate with the Minister for Finance would be very useful.
Senator McDowell raised the issue of foreign affairs in the House. I do not know if there is a new sentiment but I have always found this to be a Chamber, certainly during the last Seanad, where foreign affairs issues were discussed very regularly. In fact, much of the time an issue on a particular country is tabled and only two or three Members turn up in the House to discuss it.
That is the other side of it and there is a balance to be achieved. I agree with the Senator and I am fully in favour of a debate in the House on the events surrounding the death of Mr. Khashoggi and the involvement of Saudi Arabia. As for Ukraine and the Russian influence there, the current events are frightening. The current leader has a popularity rating of under 10% now but he was still able to introduce martial law. Issues involving Russia, Ukraine or Georgia are frightening and it could be very useful to discuss them in the House.
We should never be seen as a House only here to rubber-stamp what happens in the Dáil. As Members of the Oireachtas and a European Union legislative Chamber, as the Senator pointed out, we have the opportunity to make our opinions known on matters like this. We have disagreements with the Department on occasion but this is not a reason for us to be deterred in raising matters of serious importance internationally in the House. I fully support the Senator in raising the prospect of those two debates. Perhaps they will happen in the new year. The other side of the matter is that people must turn up for these debates. We ask for them but people do not necessarily attend the House when the debates materialise.
Senator Conway-Walsh mentioned yesterday being International Day of Persons with Disabilities and the presentation in the AV room. I agree with the comments on personal assistance, as the system provides some liberty and independence to disabled people. It is certainly something that could be useful if discussed in this House. Perhaps the relevant Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, would be willing to come here in the new year to discuss the matter.
Senator Norris also raised the family relationships Bill, as well as other matters, but as he is not here I do not see why we should expend time responding to his contribution. Senator Lawlor raised the very important matter of the language school. We all really feel for those individuals and teachers who have been affected by this. As Deputy Humphreys mentioned, there is a Bill coming to the House tomorrow - the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) (Amendment) Bill 2018 - and four Senators have tabled amendments that specifically deal with this matter. It is very timely, although the events are unfortunate. Perhaps the Senator will contribute to the debate on the Bill tomorrow.
Senator Murnane O'Connor raised the matter of housing and rural Ireland. She is not here but I will briefly respond in saying that the Government has made unprecedented investment in rural Ireland. We must acknowledge that some of the indicators show improvements with respect to people locating in towns. However, if we managed to reverse urbanisation as a phenomenon, we would be the first country in the world to do so. We are trying very hard but it is very challenging. A week ago, the first recipients of the Government's ten-year €1 billion rural regeneration and development scheme were announced. These were towns and villages with fewer than 10,000 people. There has been a significant increase in Government investment in towns and villages, especially in the past three years. It is starting to bear fruit. That is as far as I will go to respond as the Senator who raised the matter is not here.
Senator Boyhan spoke about rough sleepers and I have addressed that matter. Senator Maria Byrne mentioned a positive story-----
She is not here either.
Okay, although neither was Senator Murnane O'Connor and I spent a few minutes responding to her contribution. As a rule, I will not respond to Member's contributions if they are not present to hear the response. It is not the proper use of time in the House and sometimes Ministers are waiting outside. Members often just raise the matter but are obviously not that interested in the response. I was very interested to hear about the "Nightflyers" science fiction series and I must watch it.
I do not have a direct answer to Senator Warfield's question but I will come back to him. I know the report is due and it will go to the Taoiseach. I imagine he will act fairly swiftly but I cannot provide precise dates. Senator Mulherin is not here but she raised some matters of concern about Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.
Senator Leyden referred to the legislation on the registration of wills. That is a Private Members' Bill so his party can use its Private Members' time for that. It is also something that could be raised as a Commencement matter in order that further details might be obtained. However, the Senator can definitely use Fianna Fáil's Private Members' time.
I appreciate that but I was asking for Government time. Our Private Members' time might not be available for a considerable period. The time must be shared among other Members.
It is a Private Members' Bill.
Yes, but it could be adopted by the Government.
The Senator can also talk to his colleagues about using their time for it.
I will. I have no difficulty appealing to my colleagues on all sides of the House to accommodate us.
I have no objection to it coming before the House. I am trying to assist the Senator.
The Senator has been extraordinarily helpful.
He can table it for his party's Private Members' time or come to an agreement with the Leader as to another time for which it could be scheduled.
The Senator has given me the very good idea to talk to my Independent colleagues.
It is in the Senator's hands.
Senator Craughwell referred to how public moneys are being spent. I will not comment on the particular case involved. However, this would be suitable for a Commencement debate in order to obtain a specific answer. Failing such a move being successful in the context of gleaning the relevant information, the working time directive could be discussed with the Minister. However, the Senator could get information directly from the Minister. The Senator also referred to language schools, an important issue which I have addressed.
Senator Humphreys is not present. Senator Davitt raised councillors' pay and conditions. The new year would be a good time to invite the Minister back to the House. I am not sure of the status of that report but it is due, at least, so it would be timely to have a discussion on it in January or February, at the latest.