Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 10, motion re Orders of Reference of Committee; No. 11, motion re Referral to Joint Committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Fisheries (Commercial Fishing Licences) (Alteration of Duties and Fees) Order 2010; No. 12, motion re Sitting of the Joint Committee on the Constitution; and No. 1, Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2009 [Seanad] — Second Stage.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 10, 11 and 12 shall be decided without debate. Private Members' Business shall be No. 76, motion re national response to the recent weather crisis.

There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 10, 11 and 12, motions re orders of reference of committee, referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Fisheries (Commercial Fishing Licences) (Alteration of Duties and Fees) Order 2010 and sitting of the Joint Committee on the Constitution without debate agreed to? Agreed.

I thank the Government Whip for making arrangements for time to discuss the interim task force report on the situation facing the mid-west. Following that, will time be made available for a discussion on the lost at sea report? That is already agreed in principle. We have not had an opportunity to have a debate on Northern Ireland in the House for some time. Will the Tánaiste convey to the Whip that we should have a discussion on Northern Ireland? I hope the talks taking place currently come to a successful conclusion.

I raise with the Tánaiste an issue I raised with her last Thursday. Under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 the Government is entitled to lay before the House recommendations to set up a commission of investigation. However, the Government has decided to have a secret inquiry into the banks where no evidence will be given in public. The comments of a former Supreme Court judge today suggest it is very difficult for people to have any kind of trust or faith in secret hearings. Under the Act, persons are fully entitled to give their evidence to such commissions of investigation in public if they so wish. As the Tánaiste is aware, there is no constitutional impediment nor no legal obstacle in the matter of questions of policy being discussed before the commission of investigation in public. I hope the Taoiseach and his predecessor will make a direction that their hearings be in public as they are matters of policy which, I contend, were partly responsible for the economic crash.

The Taoiseach said last week that the Oireachtas would be involved at every step in the process of arriving at the terms of reference for the commission of investigation. However, when one examines the Act, it is the Government that sets the terms of reference and the Governor of the Central Bank and the other person to be appointed will place the reports before the Oireachtas and the Oireachtas will be "briefed". As far as I can see, in the secondary legislation that is required, the Oireachtas has no function in determining the terms of reference. There should, at the least, be discussion with the Opposition parties about the terms of reference, because the principal Act refers only to Government and to Government laying its terms of reference in report before the Oireachtas. However, the secondary legislation that will be required to give evidence to what the Taoiseach said last week, namely, that the Oireachtas would be involved at every step, will mean that amendments must be made to allow for that to happen. Will the Government discuss its views in respect of the appropriate terms of reference for the investigation with the Opposition parties? Will it make amendments to allow for that to happen to give effect to the words of the Taoiseach in the House last week, so that this is not seen to be, what I believe it is, a secret inquiry held behind closed doors?

The lost at sea report will be debated in the House next week by agreement. On the question of a debate on Northern Ireland, if there is a satisfactory outcome today or tomorrow to the ongoing talks, it would be an opportune time for the House to discuss the situation. We will await the outcome of the deliberations and the Whips can discuss the question of a debate at their meeting this week.

On the issue of Oireachtas involvement in the commission of investigation, the Taoiseach has indicated his availability for any inquiry taking place. The Governor and the international expert, when appointed, will be available to the Oireachtas prior to the scoping study. The scoping report will also be debated by the Oireachtas and the views and perspectives of all Members, Opposition or otherwise, can be brought to the attention of the Minister for Finance. Therefore, in that context there will be involvement of Members of the Oireachtas. With regard to the terms of reference, the Act does not make a clear determination of the terms of reference and that will be a matter for the Minister for Finance. However, he gave an undertaking that he will take into consideration the views of all Members. With regard to whether he will meet Members of the Opposition in this regard, I will put that to him. He has never been found wanting with regard to working with Members of the Opposition or with regard to briefing them on any matter.

I support the request made by Deputy Kenny for a debate on Northern Ireland. There should be a debate. Regardless of the outcome of the talks under way in Belfast, which I hope sincerely are successful, we should have the debate in the House.

With regard to the banking issue, will the Tánaiste clarify a few points on the toothless secret investigation the Government is offering as an excuse for an inquiry? Will the Government be making a proposal to the House on this? It proposed an amendment to the Labour Party motion last week and had it accepted. It set out its alternative in a very general, vague way. Will the Government be bringing specific proposals to the House with regard to the establishment of an inquiry? If so, when? Will it bring its proposal to have an investigator or expert before the House for approval? Will the terms of reference of any investigation be brought to the House for its approval? Has the Government made any decision in respect of any aspect of the investigation it is offering as a replacement for a proper inquiry? We debated this last week and the Government professed itself to be very anxious to get on with it.

Has the Government made a decision yet on the proposal by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to have a directly elected mayor of Dublin and to have the election conducted this year? Is it possible to have an election for this position this summer considering that no legislation has yet been presented? Nobody, apart from the Minister, Deputy Gormley, knows what the office will entail and how it will relate to the rest of the local government system in Dublin.

It is the intention of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to introduce the legislation establishing the role of directly elected mayor to the city of Dublin this year and to have the election this year.

With regard to the inquiry and other questions that have been raised on a number of occasions, contrary to what members of the Opposition are saying about the inquiry it is being set up by the Government to ensure that findings, recommendations and facts will be established and that these will be published, considered and debated. This is what everyone wants to see. It will be time efficient and cost effective. Other issues must be borne in mind.

This inquiry is being set up to underpin confidence, not to undermine it. It is on that basis that we will be working with Members of the Oireachtas in considering issues raised by them. There are disparate views on both sides of the House as to how this will happen, the reasons the inquiry should be established and how it should be set up.

The appointment of the international expert will be a matter for the Government. The terms of reference will be set down after the scoping report is debated by the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Minister will consider the views expressed by Members on what the terms of reference should be. Clearly, it will be a matter for the Government, including the Minister for Finance, to make the final determination on the terms of reference.

I have two questions on Bills listed on the legislative programme. I understand that the programme we are given when we return after the Christmas recess sets out an indicative timeframe. The legislative programme for the autumn session stated the forestry Bill would be available in mid-2010 but the legislative programme for this session states it is not possible to indicate at this stage when publication is expected.

I am very surprised about the status of the Bill to provide for the establishment of a statutory body to manage the Curragh, with the exception of the military establishment of the Defence Forces' training centre, and to update the existing Curragh of Kildare Act. As far as I can remember, the legislation was on various legislative programmes for the past five years. Before Christmas, publication was expected late in 2010 but now the Bill has disappeared altogether from the legislative programme. What is the position? Is it no longer a priority for the Government? Has it been forgotten about?

That is right. It has been forgotten about.

Galloping off into the sunset.

Some people know where he went.

I do not actually know where that poor horse is.

On the question on forestry legislation, a forestry Bill has been passed by the House. It has not been finally determined as to when the new forestry Bill will be before the House.

The Curragh of Kildare (amendment) Bill has been withdrawn by the Minister arising from difficulties in making progress on the matter.

Another U-turn.

I wish to refer to three promised and threatened Bills. The first is related to Deputy Charles Flanagan's request to adjourn the House under Standing Order 32. Three Bills, the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Bill, the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill were passed in the past ten months. Have all three been enacted fully? Has the Minister issued directions or regulations in regard to any aspect of any of the three Acts? Are they fully operational in accordance with the wishes of the House?

On the enactment of the legislation, I am sure the Minister will revert to the Deputy. There may be some legislation that has not yet been enacted but I will revert to the Deputy thereon.

I suggest respectfully that if I were the Minister, I would be enacting them fairly quickly before the criminal gangs take over this country.

I am sure the Deputy will take the opportunity to ask the Minister later.

I thank the Tánaiste.

The Company Law Consolidation and Reform Bill is to bring greater clarification and simplification to the companies code and to modernise Irish company law through the consolidation of the existing 13 Company Law Acts, other regulations and case law. There is no indicative date for this legislation. I would have believed it was urgent, as I often stated in the House. It is the kind of legislation that will have to be relied upon. Will the Tánaiste indicate when it will be before the House?

The Company Law Consolidation and Reform Bill is being worked on by me and the Department and we hope to have it available for consideration this year. It is a huge Bill and will take considerable time to deal with. Having spoken to the Chairman of the Select Committee on Finance and the Public Service, I know he is very anxious to facilitate a new means of considering it given that there are over 1,000 sections. It is very important legislation. The chairman has been more than forthcoming in supporting this position.

Has the Deputy a final query?

I have and it pertains to promised legislation. The Ceann Comhairle will like the point I am about to make. The legislative programme states the financial services regulation Bill is to consolidate and modernise financial services legislation in accordance with the Government's Better Regulation agenda but that it is not possible to indicate at this stage when it will be laid before the House. Does this mean the Government has abandoned the Better Regulation agenda and that there is some dispute over it? Alternatively, is there ongoing progress on foot of which we can expect the Bill to come before the House in the near future?

An advisory forum has been set up by the Department to complete the process whereby the legislation will be brought forward.

Níl a fhios agam go fóill.

Last week, when we debated the Labour Party's Private Members' motion on having a full and open bank inquiry, the Minister for Finance told the House he was ready to announce to it and to the public the expert wise man or wise woman who would carry out the second review as part of the banking inquiry. A week has passed and we have heard no announcement of who this expert is to be. From next Monday, there will be four months left for this expert to carry out the review. Has the Government been advised of a nominated expert by the Minister for Finance? Has the Government made a decision on the expert? If not, when does the Minister for Finance and the Government expect to reach a decision and when will it be announced to the House? As the Tánaiste indicated earlier, the Minister promised there would be some discussion with the House on the matter. When will this happen because the four months will run out rapidly? I have a second question too.

Maybe it will have to do with legislation as the first question did not.

The first question was not in order.

I am following the lead set by my colleagues.

A person has been asked to consider the position and the Minister is awaiting their decision.

It will be autumn 2012.

No, I am not sure what day that will happen but I am sure the Minister will take the opportunity to let the Deputy know in due course.

The Minister said it would be at the end of last week but nothing has happened yet.

When the announcements about the Central Bank Bill were made, it was indicated the consumer part of the regulator's function would go to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the proposed body after the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency merge. Has there been a change on this decision with consumer affairs to be dealt with by the Central Bank? Has the Government a timeframe on when we might see a White Paper or legislation published in this regard?

My Department is working with the Central Bank and other organisations in question on the transfer of the consumer role of the bank and it will be part of new legislation which I will introduce this year. This will include the transfer of resources from the Central Bank to my Department to allow the consumer affairs aspect of banking to be part of the new organisation that will be set up by the amalgamation of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency.

The Minister will be seeking Government approval for the heads of the first Central Bank Bill and it will be introduced prior to Easter. There will also be a second Bill on financial regulatory matters. If possible it will consolidate all Central Bank legislation into a single statute in 2010.

The Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs indicated at a conference in the midlands today that the Government is or will be considering legislation to control head shops. Has that issue come to Cabinet yet? It is important to have effective legislation. There are several proposals as to how that might be done either by licensing, amendments to planning laws or the listing of various substances. What consideration has been given to the issue?

The Minister of State indicated some issues of concern have been brought to his attention. It is his intention, along with the Minister for Health and Children, to deal with these. Some action has been taken with regard to specific substances that have been banned. The introduction of regulation is being considered by the Minister of State, Deputy Curran, and the Minister for Health and Children.

Will the Tánaiste give a timeframe for this as there is much public concern about the substances in question and that little is known of them?

Could the Deputy pursue it through a parliamentary question or as a matter on the Adjournment?

There is no date as to when legislation or regulation will be introduced.

I wish to raise the education (patronage) Bill, the George Mitchell scholarship fund (Amendment) Bill and the qualification (education and training) Bill. The Minister for Education and Science recently announced unilaterally his intention to dissolve the National University of Ireland and that some of its functions would be carried out by the proposed body in the latter Bill while others would be carried out by the Seanad. When will the legislation for the reform of the Seanad, including a referendum to alter the Constitution, be brought before the House? Will it be a general package or come in stages? When will the other Bills be introduced?

The education patronage Bill will be taken in this session. The George Mitchell scholarship Bill was approved by the Cabinet last week and we hope to have it in the House in the next several weeks. The Minister for Education and Science would like the qualification (education and training) Bill to be before the House before the summer.

I am pleased the Minister for Transport is in the Chamber. I tabled a parliamentary question asking him about the charges set by him for a driver's licence and a driving test. The question was disallowed by you, a Cheann Comhairle, on the basis that the Minister has no official responsibility to Dáil Éireann for this matter and it is one for the Road Safety Authority.

We are ruled by quangos.

The Minister has no responsibility.

It is another example of Ministers, with the Ceann Comhairle's assistance, abdicating responsibility for their tasks. Unfortunately, it would appear that either the Ceann Comhairle or the Minister's officials who advised him to disallow the question are wrong as I have identified the relevant statutory instruments. SI No. 130/2009, Road Traffic (Licensing Of Drivers) (Amendment) Regulations sets various fees for various driver licences and was signed by the then Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Deputy Noel Ahern. Section 45 of SI No. 203/2009, Road Traffic (Driving Instructor Licensing) (No. 2) Regulations details the charges for driving tests and was signed by the Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey, on 29 May 2009. Will the Ceann Comhairle explain to me why these questions were disallowed when they deal directly with Minister's responsibility? Are Ministers advising the Ceann Comhairle to refuse questions or is it that his office is not aware for what Ministers are responsible?

I do not advise on these matters. If we get some notice about this, we can deal with the query. There are various ways the Deputy can raise it. He can make contact with the office and we can discuss it. We can deal with it that way.

That is what the Deputy did.

It is either in order or not.

With respect a Cheann Comhairle, it is your job and office to ensure parliamentarians are permitted to ask questions which are in order.

The Ceann Comhairle has refused this question on the basis that the Minister is not responsible to Dáil Éireann on the matter. However, there are two statutory instruments, signed under the official seal of the Minister for Transport, which show he has responsibility but the Ceann Comhairle has disallowed them. He may have done so because of an error on his part or bogus advice from the Minister. I believe we have a right to an answer in this matter.

As I said, if the Deputy makes contact with my office, we will discuss the matter concerning the adjudication reached on this matter with him.

I did give you notice, a Cheann Comhairle. I will write to you specifically about it and I will raise it again if I do not get satisfaction.

I also want to raise the matter of S.I. No. 590/2009, Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 (Commencement) Order 2009, which is listed in today's Order Paper. Will the Tánaiste advise us if this will be applied retrospectively? While it appears on the Order Paper today it came into force on 21 January 2010, as appears to be the case in respect of public sector pay cuts. Does the statutory instrument include a mechanism which allowed the Minister for Finance to exempt assistant secretaries from the full force of the pay cuts and, if so, under which mechanism may we challenge it?

The legislation was signed by the President on 20 December 2009 and the commencement order was signed on 21 December 2009.

Is it retrospective and why then is it only appearing on the Order Paper now?

It was not ready.

Why is it only now on the Order Paper, a month later?

It had to be printed.

We do not organise that.

Somebody organises it.

It was signed on 21 December 2009.

When can we expect the road traffic Bill to come before the House? Does the Government intend to bring it before the House in the next couple of weeks? Earlier, the Tánaiste referred to the EU globalisation fund. I understand that on 9 October she made an application to the European Union for the former SRT workers at Dublin Airport. When does she expect a final decision from the European Commission in this regard?

The merchant shipping Bill has been before the House twice. The Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey, has indicated that it is being completely redrafted. Will a new Bill on foot of that already passed be introduced?

The Minister, Deputy Dempsey, has advised me that he wrote to the Deputy on the matter of the merchant shipping Bill. On the road safety legislation, the matter of when it will be brought before the House will need to be considered by the Whips. It is hoped this will be done this session.

On the issue of the globalisation fund application for SRT workers, I wish to advise the Deputy that we have run into difficulties with the Commission in that regard. My officials are working with the Commission to address some of the questions raised by it. I will keep the Deputy apprised of how matters are progressing.

In November 2008, when I asked when the family law Bill, included in the programme of legislation and listed as "publication expected", would be published, I was told it was not then possible to indicate when it would be taken. This important Bill remains in the same category. Perhaps the Tánaiste will indicate when it will be published.

Unfortunately, no date has yet been indicated in regard to when that legislation, which is currently being drafted, will come before the House.

I have checked the record and it is now eight years since I first raised the need for legislation regarding management companies and fees in housing estates. Other Members have raised the issue since. We have received a list of promises from Government in regard to the different types of legislation it proposes to introduce. We first heard three Bills would be introduced and were then told two or one would be introduced. The issue has now returned to the melting pot. In the meantime, young families in new housing estates throughout the country are in a financial mess as a result, some of whom are being grossly exploited and being charged up to €2,500 in management fees while the grass in these estates is not even being cut.

I am speaking in this regard not of apartments but houses. Issues in regard to management companies are arising not alone in respect of apartments but houses.

Is the Deputy asking about promised legislation?

It has been promised on a constant basis for the past eight years.

It is a long-term promise.

It is a long-term promise and a mixture of promises. I am wondering where it stands.

My understanding is that the Bill is in the Seanad.

Not even the tooth fairy has promised as much on management companies as has the Government.

No, it is not in the Seanad. The Ceann Comhairle's information, like the information he had in respect of the question raised by a previous Deputy, is not accurate.

I would like to be helpful as this matter has been raised on so many occasions. I am glad to hear that Members opposite believe in the tooth fairy.

The tooth fairy at least arrives.

I hope they get a pound under their pillows.

We will have to given we cannot get a response on management companies.

They also believe in all sorts of other fairy tales.

On the issue of multi-unit developments, a considerable amount of work has been done by a number of Departments and Ministers with regard to the relevant legislation.

And a whole variety of Ministers

A large volume of submissions was received on this legislation and a number of serious issues were raised by Senators when the matter was before the Seanad. Issues such as whether traditional housing estates, mixed use developments, voting rights, dispute resolution mechanisms, planning and building control legislation should be included in this legislation arose, all of which are currently being worked through——

We raised all of them here.

——with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who has held discussions with the relevant stakeholders and Departments. The Parliamentary Counsel is currently drafting Committee Stage amendments for consideration in the Upper House.

I would like some clarification on this matter. We were told that the Bill was ready to come before the House when the current Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform took up his new office.

The Deputy cannot initiate a Second Stage debate at this point. We are dealing now with the Order of Business.

This matter has been ongoing for some time. We have not raised the issue for some time as we were told it was progressing.

People in managed estates have no water.

I will be brief.

Having regard to the fact that the legislation is before the Seanad——

It is not really before the Seanad.

——initiating a Second Stage debate here is inappropriate.

It cannot be progressed because——

It is very inappropriate.

My understanding is that the only people who made representations about this Bill are management companies who are afraid of being put out of existence.

They are the creatures of the developers.

The Deputy is making a Second Stage speech.

That is what happened.

We have a number of issues to deal with.

The new Minister has decided his predecessor's Bill was no good.

Deputy, please. We must move on.

A whole section of the renewed programme for Government deals with reform of the system of public service appointments. Will this section be removed from the programme for Government in light of the behaviour of the Green Party Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, in terms of his approach to making a very lucrative appointment? I want to make it clear that I have no problem with the particular individual involved.

The Deputy must ask questions relevant to the Order of Business.

What is clearly at issue is the Minister's slippage in standards.

Eamon would not do that.

Deputy McManus will have to find another way of raising this issue.

It must, for the ordinary decent Fianna Fáil Minister, be deeply embarrassing.

Deputy, please. We are on the Order of Business now.


We must move on.

Others might even feel green with envy.

We are on the Order of Business.

The Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey, when in the position now held by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, had the decency to provide a proper selection process to fill a vacant and lucrative post in the energy regulatory body.

The Deputy will have ample opportunity at another time to make her points.

Get rid of the Greens.

We must move on.

The matter being raised is not appropriate to the Order of Business. The Deputy has been give some latitude and allowed to make her point.

I am entitled to ask about the renewed programme for Government. Is an unsolicited phone call to an individual to attend a quiet fireside chat with the Minister in question——

——in regard to a job the way public appointments should be made? I depend on Fianna Fáil on this.

Deputy McManus can raise the matter by way of Adjournment debate tomorrow evening.

I believe they have concerns and would not get away with what the Green Party Minister has gotten away with. Is this section of the renewed programme for Government to be retained and acted upon or will it now be taken out and quietly buried?

Or will Fianna Fáil enforce its own high standards?

The Deputy can raise the matter by way of parliamentary question. I call Deputy Timmins.

Yes, we will.

Keep the Greens clean.

The Greens will bring us all down.

Deputies are entitled to ask about the programme for Government and are entitled to an answer.

They are entitled provided the question relates to promised business.

The programme for Government is all promised business.

It is stated as part of the legislative programme that all promotions will be run by an independent committee.


I am not denying Members their right to raise these matters. However, there is another time which would be more appropriate.

What time would be more appropriate?

The Adjournment debate.

The Minister will not come into the House.

The Minister will send in somebody else to read out script.

Deputies, please. I call Deputy Timmins.

The Minister will be aware that Enterprise Ireland administers the employment subsidy scheme. Perhaps she can inform me how one can make contact with it in view of the fact that it has no landline.

A Deputy

Ring the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Eamon Ryan.

I have tried to make contact with Enterprise Ireland and have been told it has no landline.

I am sure Deputy Timmins can elicit the information some other way.

It is not possible to raise questions with Enterprise Ireland which administers the employment subsidy scheme.

Several thousand applications have been made but if Deputy Timmins has a particular inquiry, I would be more than happy to facilitate it.

Is it correct to state it cannot be contacted by telephone?