Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 16 Nov 2006

Vol. 627 No. 5

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 1, Europol (Amendment) Bill 2006[Seanad] — Second Stage; and No. 4, Industrial Development Bill 2006 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

There are no proposals to put to the House on the Order of Business.

Yesterday, the Tánaiste viewed with disbelief the information provided by Opposition Members on the closing down of nursing homes. It seems the Government is terrified of the truth of these matters emerging. I understand the HSE announced this morning that no patients should be accepted by four further nursing homes.

Does Deputy Kenny have a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

When these are added to the exposé by Deputy O'Dowd last night of a further case, which made a mockery of the Minister's statement yesterday, it appears this matter is very serious.

We cannot have a debate on the matter. As the Deputy knows, it was discussed for three hours over the last two nights and was the subject of Leaders' Questions on Tuesday and Wednesday. There is no provision for Leader's Questions on Thursday.

It is a sad day when the Opposition as distinct from the Government has to deal with this. When will the legislation governing the independent nursing homes inspections be introduced?

Over the past few weekends Deputy O'Donnell and Senator Minihan have been far more active than the Tánaiste in respect of his tax policy on stamp duty. Does the Tánaiste still believe the Government does not require €2.5 billion in stamp duty revenue?

We will give the Government a shopping list.

I suggest Deputy Kenny submits a question to the line Minister. There is no provision for Leaders' Questions on Thursday.

The Tánaiste has spoken publicly on it.

Is the Tánaiste proposing to include this in the Finance Bill next year? When will the Údarás na Gaeltachta Bill be published? It was promised in 2004 and is on the list of promised legislation.

Regarding the health Bill, the Taoiseach has indicated three times over the past few days that it is being drafted. It was the subject of extensive consultation, the heads of the Bill were published last March and it will be dealt with when the Dáil resumes in the new year. The extensive consultation process elicited a large number of public submissions on the draft heads of the Bill. While I appreciate that the Deputies opposite have other things to do, no input was received from any political party in the course of the valuable public consultation.

We are the representatives here.

In respect of the Údarás na Gaeltachta Bill——


——it is expected next year.

We were not asked. This is the forum we must use because of the secret way the Government does business.

Deputy Kenny was caught out.

The Tánaiste has opinions on everything.

The Tánaiste is now taking on the Taoiseach's practice of blaming the Opposition. We are Members of this House and legislators. The Government embarked on a lengthy consultation process. As a result there is no legislation in place to protect the elderly from institutional abuse. That is the legacy of the Government for which the Tánaiste must take responsibility.

Whose fault is that?

Sorry, Deputy, we cannot have a debate on it.

I have not finished.

Deputy McManus is out of order.

I am not order of order.

The Chair has ruled. We cannot have an omnibus question time, nor can we have Second Stage speeches.

I am not out of order. I have two questions on promised legislation and I intend to ask them. We were promised the health Bill in 2006 to protect elderly people from institutional abuse. Will that legislation not appear until 2007? In the meantime, can we not have a short emergency Bill to at least give the authority that is in place, HIQA, some power to protect elderly residents of nursing homes? The Tánaiste might remember that the House was recalled to pass emergency legislation to bail out Mr. Larry Goodman. Are we not in a position to protect our elderly by introducing emergency legislation?

Hear, hear.

Does the Cabinet have the courage to deal with patient safety in respect of fertility clinics? The High Court decision has opened a door that enables the Government to introduce promised legislation to regulate assisted human reproduction, in vitro fertilisation. There are no regulations, protections or safeguards at present, which is a most serious lacuna in our legislation. Will the Tánaiste assure us that promised legislation will be fast-tracked so that the Bill will be published in early 2007?

The legislation I mentioned will be published this session and debated as soon as the Dáil resumes after Christmas. It is not a good idea to put aside this Bill and pass emergency legislation.

I am not saying that.

The Tánaiste can do two things at once.

When Deputy McManus's party was in power, no progress was made.


These parties have been ten years in government.

Which party was that? Deputy McManus was in many parties, including the Workers Party, Democratic Left, New Agenda and now the Labour Party.

The Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, should not forget about the trees in north Dublin.

The Tánaiste was in Fine Gael then.

On the High Court decision on frozen embryos, the Tánaiste has instructed officials in her Department to commence——

You are the Tánaiste.


Sorry, the former Tánaiste.

The Tánaiste is having a bad hair day. His memory serves him correctly.

I am glad that my innate humility comes out yet again on this occasion.

The Tánaiste should stop before he puts both feet in it.

The Minister for Health and Children has instructed her officials to commence drafting the legislation to deal with this matter. A commission examined the matter, as did an Oireachtas committee, a sub-committee of which produced a draft report. Legislation will be put in place. It is not a question of political cowardice, this is a delicate issue in which there are a variety of interests. Many people will be dissatisfied with the outcome of whatever legislation is put in place.

This is about patient safety.

It is about more than patient safety, it is about ethical issues to deal with embryos, and that is not a patient safety issue alone.

Patients cannot be put at risk because of the Government's irresponsibility, and that is what we are talking about.

We cannot have a debate now. Allow the Tánaiste to continue.

The Minister for Health and Children is determined to deal with the regulation of fertility clinics.

What about the Cabinet? Will the Tánaiste assure us the Cabinet will not delay this?

The entire Cabinet is so determined. There is no political reluctance to deal with this issue.

Why has it not been done before now?

It is very complex.

A commission on assisted reproduction reported——

Why did the Government not do its business?

——a committee of this House prepared a report on the issue and legislation will be published. I do not see the problem Deputies have with this matter.

Does the Tánaiste expect the legislation to be published before the election?

Let us not hold our breath.

Given the horrific problems in our nursing homes, does the Tánaiste intend to reconsider legislation in respect of tax relief for the owners of nursing homes? It is the Government's profit before people philosophy that is the root cause of this.

Is legislation promised? We cannot have a debate on the matter.

People are cutting corners in nursing homes to make money at the expense of the most vulnerable people in Irish society. The philosophy of the Government has led to this problem.

As the Chair has pointed out, this matter was discussed for three hours over the past two nights and it was the subject of Leaders' Questions. There is no provision for Leaders' Questions on Thursday. Tánaiste, is legislation promised?

No legislation is promised. Yet again, ideology is blinding Deputy Gormley to the reality.

Whose ideology? The Tánaiste is sponsoring bad practice.

Your right wing ideology is leading to this problem.

Let me answer. There is no point in behaving like a fascist over there.

If the Tánaiste addresses his remarks through the Chair it might be easier to control the disorderly Deputies.

Legislation is not required because the public and private sectors are putting unprecedented resources into nursing homes, and anything that encourages more money to be invested is a good thing, not a bad thing.

It is taxpayers' money.

Patients are lying in their own urine.

The Tánaiste is aware that traffic conditions around the city are deteriorating at present. The metro Bill was promised last year for publication this year. Although it was to streamline procedures and reduce costs, it appears to have disappeared from the agenda. Is it to be published or will it ever be dealt with? It was to be published this year, but 2006 is now drawing to a close.

The Dublin transportation authority legislation is due for publication this session. The Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006 overtook the particular Bill to which the Deputy referred.

Although Ruhama and the Tánaiste's Department have highlighted the incidence of trafficking of human beings across Europe and from other quarters, there is no legislation on the Statute Book here. Moreover, the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, agreed by the Council of Europe two years ago, has not been signed off by the Tánaiste's Department. Is Ireland likely to sign that convention? Is the Tánaiste likely to induce the Government to sign it? This has been waiting for signature for two years. Is the Tánaiste likely to introduce legislation that would deal with and combat trafficking in human beings?

The legislation in question is at an advanced stage of drafting and will be introduced early next year. This will enable Ireland to sign all the relevant conventions.

Given that the Government is embarking on one of the most far-reaching developments ever in the health service, namely, the co-location of ten private hospitals at public hospital sites, and that there is no mandate or legislation for this——

Does the Deputy have a question on legislation?

Yes. I want——

He should come directly to the question.

Specifically, in respect of this important matter, will the Government facilitate a proper debate in this Chamber?

Is a debate promised?

A debate is not promised on that issue.

If a debate is not promised, it is a matter for the Whips. I call Deputy McCormack.

Will a debate be provided for it? It is of great importance and——

Sorry, Deputy, unless a debate is promised it is not appropriate to raise it on the Order of Business.

——it must be recognised by the Government that this is of such import that it deserves——

I call Deputy McCormack.

——such address in this Chamber.

The Deputy knows how to go about it. I call Deputy McCormack.

On promised legislation, is the Tánaiste aware of the difficulties being experienced by many pharmacists because of the delayed introduction of the pharmacy Bill? Some non-Irish trained pharmacists are having their rights of supply and contracts with the Health Service Executive withdrawn because of the Government's delay in introducing the Bill. Will it be introduced this session?

The answer is "Yes".

In view of the absence from the Order Paper of the postal services Bill, is it intended to re-introduce the Bill? Perhaps the Tánaiste will share his vision for the future development of the postal services. He usually shares his views on most matters.

The Tánaiste, on legislation.

While I would be glad to share my views on this matter with the Deputy, I will do so afterwards.

The Tánaiste should be brave.

No legislation is promised.

I call Deputy Gormley.

I did not indicate.

Perhaps the Ceann Comhairle was referring to me.

Sorry, I call Deputy Gogarty.

Deputy Gormley and I are quite alike. We could be twins.

Will the student support Bill be published before Christmas? If so, in the Tánaiste's estimation, will all Stages of the Bill be passed before next June?

The commitment is to publish the Bill this session so that it can be debated by the House in the coming session.

Before Christmas.

Are there are any guidelines in place to advise Ministers as to the events or launches in which they should participate?

It does not arise on the Order of Business.

Does the Tánaiste have any view on the decision of the Minister for Defence to attend a book launch about the late Seán South——

This does not arise. I call Deputy McEntee.

——from which he withdrew following advice from his officials? Has the Tánaiste any comment?

I call Deputy McEntee. Deputy Timmins must find another way to raise this matter.

Had the Tánaiste any input into the advice given? This was another gaffe by the Minister for Defence, Deputy O'Dea. He suggested a different approach to the taxi drivers of Limerick than would apply in Dublin. Perhaps he takes different approaches to launching books in Limerick and Dublin.

Deputy Timmins is being disorderly. I ask the Deputy to allow his colleague, Deputy McEntee, to speak.

The Tánaiste is raring to go.

He is a multifaceted Minister in a multifaceted Government. Had the Tánaiste an input into the decision to induce him to pull out?

I believe he is a Garryowen man.

We will be obliged to move on to the next business——

Had the Tánaiste no input?

——unless he allows his colleague, Deputy McEntee, to speak.

The Tánaiste is always quick to comment on such matters. Did he advise the Minister for Defence, Deputy O'Dea, to pull out?

Deputy Timmins, please resume your seat.

Did the Tánaiste advise him?

I call Deputy McEntee.

This is the first time I have ever silenced——

The Tánaiste wishes to talk.

He definitely wants to say something.

I call Deputy McEntee.

On the road safety Bill, Deputies are contacted on a daily basis in respect of road safety outside schools, particularly those on major roads. This is a serious issue. Will the Government consider handing the matter over to the Road Safety Authority, to ensure that our children, both inside and outside schools, will be safe?

It does not arise. I suggest the Deputy submits a question to the line Minister. I call Deputy Boyle.

I did. This issue pertains to the road safety Bill.

The Deputy should induce the county councils of which his party has control to do their work.

Children risk their lives on a daily basis.

The question should be raised under the Bill, or raised directly with the line Minister by way of a question.

I refer to a number of court cases taken by people seeking to buy local authority accommodation and apartments in particular, most recently including some of the Tánaiste's own constituents in Ringsend. What priority is being given to the proposed housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill? Will the Government present the Bill before the House rises next year?

That legislation will be published next year.

At the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis, the Taoiseach promised a constitutional referendum to enshrine the rights of the child in clear form in the Constitution. Since the Taoiseach set a deadline of March, when will the enabling legislation be introduced? What consultation process is envisaged between now and then regarding the amendment's wording?

The Taoiseach has indicated his willingness to promote such a referendum, if there is a wording that attracts general support.

He will also engage in a widespread process of consultation. His commitment to address this issue was welcomed by all parties, including that of the Deputy.

To clarify, there was a wide welcome for the Taoiseach's proposal. A qualification has now been introduced by the Tánaiste. Does the Government intend and has the Government decided to introduce legislation to enable a referendum to take place to enshrine the rights of the child?

While the Taoiseach has indicated he is prepared to amend the Constitution, he wishes to engage in a process of consultation. On a matter of constitutional importance, one does not simply state that something will be put into the constitution, no matter——

That is what he said.

No, one does not. He stated he would engage in a process of consultation. If, having welcomed his announcement, the Deputies opposite have some input on this matter, the Government would be glad to have it.

Can Members see details of his proposals?

This is a step backwards.

In last year's budget, the Minister for Finance abolished the levy on bank profits and instead promised Members the development of a social fund for social capital. Nothing has been heard about this, although the Minister has promised action on it——

Is legislation promised?

——on several occasions.

No legislation is promised.

This year, the banks have announced even greater record profits. They received a present last year of an extra €300 million.

Deputy Burton——

What is the Government's position? This was promised.

I suggest Deputy Burton submits a question to the line Minister. We are finished.

I refer to two items of legislation. When will legislation be introduced to establish the national consumer agency on a statutory footing, in light of the recent 34% increase in gas prices?

Is national consumer agency legislation promised?

I refer to the revelation that there will also be an 8% increase in gas supply charges and a 20% increase in electricity charges in the new year.

It does not arise on the Order of Business.

Moreover, there has been much blunder and bluster by the Government in respect of the sale of alcohol to young people and underage drinking. When will the proposed sale of alcohol Bill be introduced?

We are moving on.