Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 10, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council framework decision on accreditation of forensic service providers carrying out laboratory activities and a Council framework decision on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings, and protecting victims, repealing framework decision 2002/629/JHA; No. 11, motion re membership of committee; No. 26, Defence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 27, Public Transport Regulation Bill 2009 [Seanad] — Second Stage (resumed).

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) Nos. 10 and 11 shall be decided without debate and (2) parliamentary questions next for answer by the Taoiseach on EU matters shall be taken on the same day as the Statements on EU Council meeting in Brussels, scheduled to be taken on Wednesday, 11 November 2009, and shall be moved to be taken first as ordinary Oral Questions to the Taoiseach on that day.

Private Members' business shall be No. 75, motion re accountability of Government agencies and companies.

There are two proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 10 and 11 without debate agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with parliamentary questions next for answer by An Taoiseach on EU matters agreed to? Agreed.

I hope the Ceann Comhairle will find it within his capacity during his term to allow a Standing Order 32 debate. It would be good for the record.

Deputy Bannon is trying hard.

The Ceann Comhairle has quickly fallen into the rut of not seeing these issues as important.

In respect of the Road Traffic Bill 2009, I understand from reports that the equipment used for measuring the alcohol level in people brought to Garda stations must be recalibrated at a significant cost. When is it proposed to take the Bill in the House? Will it be taken next year or will it be contingent on the equipment being replaced because it is apparently impossible to recalibrate?

It is becoming common in European countries when nominees are appointed to the European Commission for them to go before committees in their national Parliaments to reassure them that they have the wherewithal to do a good job in respect of Europe, although they are not appointed as national Commissioners. Is it the intention when the Taoiseach makes his announcement about the person to be nominated as Ireland's Commissioner that following his or her appearance before the European Parliament, he or she would present himself or herself to the appropriate Oireachtas committee?

The Road Traffic Bill can be taken in due course and made subject to a commencement order in the normal way in respect of any technical issues that have to be dealt with thereafter.

With regard to the Deputy's second question, it is a matter for the European Parliament to decide the competence of the nominees put forward by member states.

Following the budget on 9 December, when will the social welfare Bill be published and when will it come before the House?

If there are changes to be introduced before the beginning of the year it will have to be before the House before Christmas.

The arrangement for the budget is already very tight. It will be presented on 9 December, leaving only one sitting day in that week and one further week before the House rises for the Christmas. Given the likely controversial nature of the social welfare Bill's contents, is it the Government's intention to dispose of the budget and also enact the social welfare Bill before Christmas? It would not be acceptable to the Labour Party to have the budget and the social welfare Bill concertinaed together and dealt with before Christmas. I hope the Government's thinking in this regard will be changed. If it is not, we will have a very unChristmas-like atmosphere in the period immediately after the budget.

I simply make the point that if the Bill includes changes which come into place on a certain date the legislation must be enacted before that date. This is obvious. If Deputy Gilmore is suggesting that issues of the scale facing us can be dealt with without reference to the €21 billion budget, I do not think that is fair either.

Committee Stage of the Communications Regulation (Premium Rates Services) Bill 2009, will be debated tomorrow by the Select Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. The Minister added a section in the explanatory memorandum dealing with the opening of ducts in roads for telephone companies, telcos. The Minister did not make provision for this in the Bill and he told the select committee that he would propose an amendment to this effect. He sent us a copy of the amendment. It emerged that he did not have Cabinet approval for the amendment. To facilitate the progress of Committee Stage, Deputy Coveney and I have tabled the amendment in our names. Did the amendment receive sanction at today's Cabinet meeting so that we can proceed tomorrow, because ironically our amendment has been ruled out of order as not germane to the Bill?

The Deputy is being a little previous. I understand that during the debate on Committee Stage, the Minister will indicate his intention to bring forward an amendment on Report Stage.

I know the amendment will be proposed on Report Stage. I am asking if it has received Cabinet approval or must it go to another Cabinet meeting?

Yes. It cannot even go to the committee without Cabinet approval. Of course it has.

It has today. That is progress.

Those advisers must have slipped up.

Committee Stage of the Multi-Units Development Bill 2009 is being debated in the Seanad. When will it return to this House, with the possibility of addressing the issue of estate management companies to which large arrears are owed by residents in the affected estates?

The consumer and competition Bill, like most Bills on the Order Paper, is promised for 2010. Will it be introduced with any degree of urgency, with a view to ensuring that consumers receive maximum protection and that Members of the House have an opportunity of discussing those issues?

There is no change to the second Bill. It will come forward next year. The Multi-Units Development Bill is in the Seanad. It gives rise to a number of issues. The Office of the Attorney General, the Parliamentary Counsel and other Departments are discussing ways and means of preparing and drafting Committee Stage amendments when it returns to the Dáil.

Given that it is ten years since the Labour Party introduced a registration of lobbyists Bill and that such legislation is promised in the original and renegotiated programmes for Government, will the Government allow the Green Party to introduce this legislation? We will be supporting the Government in this matter.

The greens are in the Government.

That is merely confirmation of the existence of the coalition. What about the legislation?

I call Deputy Joe Carey.

Deputy Costello asked a valid question about legislation. He is entitled to an answer.

It might be raised on the Adjournment. Deputy Costello might even raise it himself.

Perhaps Deputy Gormley would raise it on the Adjournment.

What about the oul' Bill?

The €10 travel tax was introduced in last year's Finance Act. Can the Tánaiste clarify a statement she made in Limerick last week that the tax would be renegotiated and that discussions to that effect would take place with Ryanair? This measure could kill Shannon Airport and the Shannon region. If the tax is not abolished in the forthcoming budget, 75% of Ryanair's business will be removed from Shannon.

Are you raising promised legislation Deputy Carey?

The measure will be in the finance Bill.

I am not aware of promised legislation in this area.

When the Minister replied to questions last week he said there was not promised legislation. However, the Tánaiste seemed to suggest that there was. Can we encourage the Government to go with the Tánaiste and abolish the €10 tax?

Deputy O'Sullivan was not there when I spoke in Limerick.

Come fly with me.

May I ask about two pieces of secondary legislation? First, in July 2008, the Oireachtas passed an Intoxicating Liquor Act. On a number of occasions I have asked the Taoiseach about secondary legislation required to ban below-cost selling of alcohol. At the time, the Minister required approval from the EU Commission and that permission was granted approximately 12 months ago. When will the required secondary legislation be enacted?

Second, the habitats directive requires an amendment to current secondary legislation to implement a ban on turf cutting on 32 designated bogs from 1 January 2010. Will that legislation be introduced before Christmas?

I will have to revert to the Deputy on the second matter. With regard to the first matter, the Minister has met his counterpart in Northern Ireland, Ms Margaret Ritchie. He believes this matter could be dealt with on an all-Ireland basis.

Is legislation imminent?

It is not imminent. Discussions are taking place.

Legislation is in process with regard to management companies. I am sure Ministers and Government Deputies are aware of the chaos which has arisen from the lack of legislation to control management companies.

Can we deduce therefore that there is no promised legislation in this area?

There is loads of it. That is the problem.

Two Bills are before the Seanad. They are stuck because the two Ministers responsible for the legislation have not produced their Committee Stage amendments. When I raised the matter last week, the Taoiseach, kindly, offered to make inquiries and to see if the matter could be progressed. Has he received any response to his inquiries?

I also wish to raise the renegotiated programme for Government. I went through it and failed to find anything about our policy on nuclear energy and Sellafield.

The Deputy will have to find an alternative way to raise that. There are so many other ways to raise that.

I accept it is an important issue.

I am entitled to ask about the programme for Government on the Order of Business. That is the rule of the House. That is what I am doing. If the Ceann Comhairle does not interrupt me, I will finish fairly quickly.

We are missing a reactor or two.

Does this supersede the old programme for Government? Does the small bit about Sellafield and nuclear policy in the old programme still stand or has it been wiped out by this new one?

That is not really promised business.

I am entitled to ask.

Raising the issue in the House is not a problem but alternative ways to raise it are available.

Looking at the renewed programme for Government, there is no change in the policy position in regard to that matter.

They must have been terrified.

They certainly were when Deputy Stagg was in charge as well.

Quivering in their boots.

In regard to the issue Deputy Stagg raised with me last week, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform was able to correspond with him today based on my inquiries on his behalf. As he said, both Bills completed Second Stage in the Seanad before the summer recess but since the publication of the Bills, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has received a large number of submissions from stakeholders and interested parties regarding provisions contained in both Bills. Following receipt of those submissions, it has held consultations with the relevant stakeholders. As I said earlier to Deputy Durkan, it is holding discussions with the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel with a view to preparing and drafting necessary Committee Stage amendments for both Bills.

There are two Bills pending which are both urgently needed to tackle the growing exploitation and abuse of children, albeit from different perspectives, namely, the child care (collection and exchange of information) Bill and the criminal law (sexual offences) Bill. When can we expect publication of those Bills?

I understand it will be next year.

I refer to two Bills, one of which was raised by other Deputies. Given the scope of the proposed cuts being bandied about, the changes to eligibility for various allowances under the social welfare code and the much discussed means testing for child benefit, does the Minister for Social and Family Affairs intend to amalgamate the social welfare Bill with the social welfare lone parents and other low incomes families reform Bill which is to provide for the introduction of a new means tested payment for lone parents and other families on low incomes and will replace the one-parent family payment? The legislative programme states that it is not possible to indicate when that Bill will be taken.

The social welfare Bill will make amendments to the social welfare code. Is it proposed to amalgamate both Bills in order that we can discuss those changes in the context of the budget? It seems the Minister suggested it will be before Christmas.

The normal situation is that the social welfare Bill enacts those aspects of the budget that require legislative change in terms of social welfare announcements in the budget. The Deputy referred to other legislative proposals on the legislative programme which will take their own course. The social welfare Bill relates to the budget but Deputies have an opportunity to speak about social welfare policy generally on Second Stage.

Now that the HSE is charging for bedpans, commodes and other such items which people need, can the eligibility for health and personal social services Bill be brought forward in order that people are eligible for such items? It is absolutely dreadful that those who are elderly or disabled and living in their own homes could be charged for essential items.

I do not believe we are speaking about promised legislation here.

It is promised legislation. I ask that it be brought forward because it is absolutely appalling that people are being charged for these items which were always free if they needed them in their homes.

There is no date for that legislation.

Following the promise of €200,000 in 2007 and €300,000 in 2008, will the Taoiseach use his high office to get somebody in the National Roads Authority to get his or her finger out and get work carried out on Laune Bridge because it has dropped 11 inches since that money was allocated? We do not want what happened in Malahide to happen there.

There is no legislation promised in this area.

The money was promised. We do not want anything to happen to Laune Bridge because it will cut off the whole peninsula of Iveragh. Will the Taoiseach use his high office to contact somebody in the National Roads Authority? There should be no more surveys; let us get some work done on the bridge.

The Taoiseach will know many of the management companies are front companies for developers or are set up by developers. They are going bust in the present climate and many of them are technically insolvent. We, on these benches, started to raise this issue in 2005. The Bill has become bogged down in the Seanad since before the summer recess. In terms of the Taoiseach's answer to Deputy Stagg, I am not clear when exactly we can expect this Bill to be brought into this House.

As I explained, a discussion is taking place between the Attorney General and the Parliamentary Counsel in respect of amendments which were deemed necessary based on the debates which have taken place in these Houses and the consultation which has taken place with stakeholders to meet the policy objective of the Bill. In order to have legislation which is effective and meets the requirements of the situation, those amendments are necessary and are being prepared and discussed at the moment.

We have had no feedback, good, bad or indifferent, from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who is sponsoring the Bill, on these areas of discussion. I am aware of situations where even the sinking fund is being used to do ordinary works. Many citizens are in distress in regard to these management companies across west Dublin, Kildare and several other parts of the country. Whether one agrees with NAMA or not, the Attorney General did a hell of a job burning the midnight oil to produce that Bill. In some cases, people have been prisoners of management companies for three or four years and we cannot get the legislation. We do not have a major argument with the Bill as published.

As I said, this matter requires further amendment and work is ongoing on it. I am aware of the interest Deputies on all sides of the House have had in regard to this legislation and the need to bring it forward as soon as possible. As Deputy Rabbitte said, there has been an unusually heavy workload on the Attorney General's office in respect of the preparation of legislation given the seriousness of some of the issues which had to be dealt with in recent months.

The Seanad had its discussion in the summer. Consultation has taken place and work is ongoing. The finance Bill, the budget, etc., are coming up and all I can do is bring it to the attention of the committee and the Whip who I am sure will take up the matter as to how it can be more expeditiously prepared.

The Seanad is anxious to sit over Christmas.

In the programme for Government and in the renewed programme for Government, there was a commitment to publish the White Paper on Local Government. Has it been presented to Cabinet? It was due to be published at the end of 2008. When will it be published?

Have the heads of the Bill in regard to a directly elected mayor for Dublin been brought to Cabinet? I understand it is not likely to be published until early in the new year. That means it will not be law until March which is quite close to when the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government would like to have the election. What progress is being made on that?

Will the Taoiseach bring forward the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Bill to allow for all State agencies, including the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, to be brought under proper financial remit and accountability?

I do not know the position in regard to any prospective Bill on the last matter Deputy Hogan raised. In regard to the first matter, the White Paper has not been submitted to Government as yet. I hope the Bill on a directly elected mayor will be to hand early in the new year.

Will the Taoiseach arrange for the Minister for Transport to make a statement to the House on the future of Aer Lingus? It is being said by the workforce that the Minister approved the decision to slash 700 jobs in Shannon and Dublin and that he has approved the greenfield plan which will effectively turn Aer Lingus into a UK carrier with conditions, terms of employment and connectivity issues for this country. I ask for a debate on this issue on Thursday.

There is no legislation in this area.

The Taoiseach is the Leader of the House.

It is a matter for the Whips to organise time for debates. The aviation sector in general is facing significant challenges as is Aer Lingus. We hope the consultations taking place based on what management have put forward as a recovery plan will provide the basis for the maintenance of Aer Lingus as a company and for its future prospects.

At the time of the last budget the Minister for Finance announced that a number of agencies would be merged, including the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority. As Christmas approaches, I am concerned that the mark-up on goods imported from England, with the translation from sterling, is enormous. For example, shoes which sell for €99 in chain-stores in Grafton Street, Dublin, cost £65 sterling in the UK. The traders are now removing the UK price tag so that people are unable to make the translation of the extraordinary profit taking on the backs of Irish consumers.

I understood the merger of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency would help to achieve some policy on fair prices for Irish consumers and stop this rip-off which is driving up costs in Ireland. There are many Government task forces dealing with the economic situation. Can the Taoiseach take any action with regard to progressing this legislation to at least ensure sterling and euro price tags are both shown so that people can see when they are being robbed blind by these, for the most part, British-based chain-stores?

The legislation referred to by Deputy Burton is currently being progressed. The Tánaiste and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment have been doing everything possible and are involved with the chain-stores to see how full transparency on pricing can be ensured. This year for the first time ever the cost of living has gone down in many respects in a whole range of areas——

It is not going down enough.

——including 19% for clothing and 7% for food. The agencies with statutory authority must continue to ensure by means of surveys and their interaction with these organisations that price transparency and best value for money is obtained by the Irish consumer.

Did the Tánaiste bring in these guys yet?