It is proposed to take No. 18, statements re Minister for Finance's announcement on banking of 30 September 2010 (resumed) and No. 4, Education (Amendment) Bill 2010 — Second Stage (resumed).
Order of Business
There are no proposals to be put to the House today. I call Deputy Reilly.
I wish to raise two issues. The Tánaiste told the country on 27 January that there would be a loan scheme for small businesses. Her successor, the Minister, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, told the country in June that there would be such a scheme and again in September he told the Small Firms Association that the plans were well advanced. Many Fianna Fáil backbenchers could not wait to spread the good news.
However, yesterday we got a very confused answer from the Taoiseach. Where is the legislation to enable this to happen? This is an important issue for business. There are 80,000 businesses in this sector and 800,000 people employed in it. Similar schemes have operated across the Europe and elsewhere, including in Chile and Taiwan, where I visited during the summer. They have been extraordinarily successful and have not been a burden on the exchequer of those respective states.
We are on the Order of Business.
On the Order of Business, where is the legislation on this issue and where are the heads of a Bill?
I would like to raise another issue concerning legislation but I will let the Tánaiste answer that question first.
Is there promised legislation in this area?
On the issue of the loan guarantee scheme, work was done by my former Department and continued by the Minister, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, with Forfás and the Department of Finance to examine the feasibility of having a loan guarantee scheme. Work has been ongoing on that and the matter is being considered by the Cabinet sub-committee on economic renewal. Whether legislation will be required will be a matter for consideration by the Cabinet.
The Taoiseach did not think that yesterday.
With respect, while this work is ongoing——
The Deputy cannot prolong the debate on this matter.
——450,000 people are out of work——
The Deputy raised the matter and got a reply.
——and more people are going out of business.
We must move on.
With due respect, a Ceann Comhairle——
Has the Deputy a different question on promised legislation?
——this issue has been on the board, as it were, for ten months.
We cannot have a debate on this matter now.
It is now October and people are going out of business.
The Deputy raised the issue, he was allowed expand somewhat on the point——
I have not got an answer as to when the legislation will be forthcoming.
——and the Tánaiste has given her answer. We are moving on.
So there will be no legislation on it. That is fine.
The Deputy is looking for an answer on this.
That is fine, a Cheann Comhairle.
The Tánaiste has no answer.
The answer is clear to Deputies on this side. Legislation is not planned because a loan scheme will not be made available to business.
If I may, I will inquire about a second area of legislation. As we enter the busiest time of year in terms of demand on our hospitals and health services, we learn that the Health Service Executive will close 28 beds in Our Lady's Hospital in Navan from next Monday. One ward with 15 beds is closing, as is a surgical ward with 13 beds. At the same time, the HSE has announced the cancellation until next Friday at the earliest of outpatient clinics and non-emergency operations in Cavan General Hospital. It was also confirmed yesterday that three patients are being treated for the potentially fatally Clostridium difficile at Our Lady's Hospital in Drogheda. This has clearly arisen as a result of overcrowding. The hospital system in Dublin North and Dublin North-East cannot cope with these additional closures.
The matters raised are not appropriate on the Order of Business. The Deputy must raise them at other times.
I am coming to the legislation. Why is the Government so tough on the sick and vulnerable who use local hospitals rather than on large drug companies?
The Deputy is provoking response and debate.
Where is the reference pricing for drugs Bill which could deliver savings of €200 million and pre-empt the closure of the facilities to which I refer for people who badly need them?
The legislation will be published next year.
What about the hospital wards that are closing down?
I wish to raise three matters with the Tánaiste, the first of which relates to a newspaper report this week that the former chief executive of the Irish Nationwide Building Society received €450,000 in holiday pay as part of an exit deal in addition to the bonus he was paid. The House was informed——
As a long-time Member of the House, the Deputy is aware that a parliamentary question would be the best way to pursue this matter, which is inappropriate on the Order of Business.
——that the Minister for Finance had asked for a report to be compiled dealing with what he described as "legacy issues" in the building society in question. Has he received the report and when will it be laid before the House?
On a second matter, the Taoiseach wrote to me yesterday evening inviting me to meet with him after the Opposition parties have been briefed about budgetary matters. I will reply to his letter later today. On the information that is being provided to the Opposition parties, what arrangements will be made for departmental Estimates to be made available to the Opposition parties? It used to be the practice that the Estimates were published in advance of the budget — at one stage they were published a couple of months in advance. The Government changed this practice and for the past two or three years the Estimates have been published on budget day as an appendix to the Budget Statement. Will the departmental expenditure Estimates be published in advance of the budget this year? If not, what arrangements are being made to make the details of the Estimates available to the Opposition parties?
The third matter, which is not unrelated to the previous issue, is the environment (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, which is on the list to be published this session. Its purpose is to extend the landfill levy to include incineration. Is it the Government's intention to have the Bill enacted prior to the budget? Will revenues arising from the extension of the landfill levy to incinerators be included in the 2011 budgetary figures? What is the Government's estimate of the revenue that will arise from the levy for the purposes of the four year budget plan?
According to a report in one of today's newspapers, if the landfill levies are extended to incinerators, the operator of the Ringsend incinerator——
The Deputy is anticipating a debate on the matter.
——will pull out. I understand there is a cost associated with such a decision. What advice does the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government have with regard to the cost to the Exchequer should the operator of the incinerator pull out?
I ask the Tánaiste to reply on the legislation.
On the legislation, as the Deputy correctly stated, it is proposed that the Bill will be published in this session. The details will be a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
On the briefing to be made available to the Opposition leaders, I welcome the public announcement by both leaders of their acceptance of the invitation to participate in the discussions, the formalities of which will be dealt with later. Officials from the Department of Finance will provide the briefing to the Opposition Members with a view to having a meeting afterwards for further discussion and deliberation with the Taoiseach.
On the issue of departmental Estimates, as the Deputy will be aware, we now have a different scenario in which the four year plan will have to be discussed and produced in the middle of November. Although the Estimates have not been finalised, I expect they will be published in the same manner as in the past two years.
On the legacy issues raised, I am not aware when the report in question will be made available to the Minister but I will revert directly to the Deputy.
On the Estimates, I understand——
The Deputy has been given a reply to his query and may not pursue the matter.
The Government is making decisions on a budget without knowing what it will spend.
Deputy Barret is anticipating matters.
The Tánaiste indicated that the expenditure Estimates will not be published until the day of the budget. What arrangements will be made to make the Estimates available to Opposition parties? If we are to be involved in some kind of discussions on budgetary matters, we will need information as to what Government Departments intend to spend next year. When and how will the details of departmental Estimates be made available to the Opposition parties?
The Government is in discussions with regard to the spending Estimates and the preparation of the four year plan. As to the involvement of the Opposition in the context of that four year plan and the overarching framework, if we can work within the broad parameters of the four year plan, all of the matters will have to be discussed. What I indicated to the Deputy was that we are working on our Estimates in preparation for the budget and the four year plan. No decision has been made on a format or when and how the Estimates will be published. I can only anticipate the method by which this will take place as the matter has not been decided.
I thought the Ceann Comhairle would have called me first this morning given that Sinn Féin is the only remaining Opposition party in the House.
The Deputy is having notions.
The normal procedure is that the largest Opposition party starts off the engagement with the Taoiseach or Tánaiste. For the information of the pro-Lisbon, pro-slash and burn until 2014 parties, there is an Opposition party in this House which has not been included in any engagement.
Deputy Ó Caoláin is against everything and for nothing.
The Minister can keep the old guff to himself. It is not only Sinn Féin which has been excluded; independent voices who have a right to be heard have also been excluded. It is not only the Government which has excluded; Fine Gael and the Labour Party will be complicit in this exclusion if they continue to give this process their blessing.
The Deputy is pursuing a line of debate that is inappropriate on the Order of Business.
We have heard references to "Opposition parties" this morning. Let us be clear, the term does not refer to all Opposition parties. Opposition voices here should be willing and prepared to make that distinction and should not allow the Government off with its policy of exclusion, which is an absolute disgrace.
I will ask the Tánaiste about two matters, one of which I raised with the Taoiseach yesterday. Will the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, facilitate an opportunity for a statement on the national children's hospital issue and all that is involved therein? I have asked for time to be made available this week or next week and I ask the Tánaiste whether she has further news on that matter or if she will undertake to ensure that such facilitation will be provided to the House——
As this debate has not been promised, the Deputy should bring up the matter with the Whips.
——as this issue is being discussed in every possible media outlet and in wider society but has yet to be addressed in this House by a Minister who refuses to make herself available on the issue.
The Deputy should bring the matter up at the Whips' meeting.
On a second matter, Deputy Reilly indicated his awareness, and full marks to him, of the disgraceful happenings once again within the hospital sites within the north east region regarding the loss of further beds——
This is completely out of order for the Order of Business. As I also told Deputy Reilly, there are other times.
——the closure of wards in Navan, the cessation of activities in Cavan General Hospital——
This is completely inappropriate.
——and the serious outbreak at our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda. One should make no mistake about it but these all are consequences of the Government's policy pursuits in the health care area.
The Deputy must find a different way to raise these matters. While they are legitimate, the Deputy must find a different way in which to raise them.
The Ceann Comhairle should settle down. He lives in the north east himself and would not wish to be dependent on one of the hospital sites at present for any difficulties that presented in respect of his own health.
The Deputy is out of order.
He should keep it calm.
When will the Government bring forward the licensing of health facilities Bill, which is important to those institutions that currently pass as public hospital sites in the north-eastern region courtesy of the Government? With all respect, this is not good enough.
The Deputy must find a different way to pursue this matter.
No, I will not.
The Deputy is completely out of order on the Order of Business.
There is no other way and I intend to use this opportunity.
It is completely out of order. There is the Adjournment——
Not at all. A Fine Gael Member has just left the Chamber now. Its deputy leader should note it seems to be a very effective ploy.
——a parliamentary question or a special notice question.
They are falling down. I specifically ask when this legislation will be brought forward. With respect to Deputy Reilly's points earlier, there is no point in complaining about these things and then being a party to further cuts that will only compound the already outlined difficulties that are taking place at such hospital sites.
Sinn Féin is as economically illiterate as the Government——
Wait until I tell the Deputy. That is the rubbish——
——so they should both get together.
——we have heard from those who have got us into——
Deputies Ó Caoláin and Shatter, please.
——these difficulties. The economic illiterates are not on the Sinn Féin bench but are over there on the Government side——
I ask Deputy Ó Caoláin to resume his seat.
——and are below me.
They all live in an economic fantasy land.
The Tánaiste, briefly.
On the licensing of health facilities Bill, it has not been determined whether there is a necessity for public consultation and on that basis I am not in a position to indicate when the legislation will be published.
Will the Minister for Health and Children come before the House on the issue of the national children's hospital?
That is a matter for the Whips.
That matter is out of order.
Yesterday, legislation was published on climate change by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security. The Bill has been laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas and a request has been made by the joint committee's members and its Chairman, Deputy McGinley, for an early debate in both Houses. I ask the Tánaiste to ensure that an early debate takes place and that it is facilitated by the Government Whip.
Yes, that matter can be considered.
When can Members expect the publication of the heritage fund (amendment) Bill? I acknowledge some progress has been made in respect of the monuments Bill but the former legislation is also important and I seek its publication and introduction to the Dáil as soon as possible.
It has not been decided when that legislation will be brought forward.
Will the Government bring forward the eligibility for health and personal social services Bill? In common with all the other health spokespersons, I am very worried about what will happen over the winter months in respect of people's eligibility for hospital services. I refer in particular to people living in the environs of Navan and Cavan hospitals, as well as in the west, where people are losing their home helps. There is great concern that as the winter approaches, people who might be eligible for health services will not get them and that the entire system is breaking down. A debate on this issue is needed in this House and I suggest that were the Government to introduce the eligibility for health and personal social services Bill, Members would be able to debate such issues. Moreover, it must be debated before the introduction of the next budget because if the health budget is slashed again, the health services will not be able to operate.
We will inquire about the legislation.
Will the Tánaiste take the opportunity to provide an update on the cystic fibrosis unit in St. Vincent's Hospital about which I understand an announcement will be made today? I raised this matter on the Adjournment last week but received a very woolly answer from the Government's representative. Does the Government know whether this project is going ahead and what will be its timeframe? It will be good news if an answer is forthcoming.
My information is that the signing of contracts for the cystic fibrosis facility at St. Vincent's Hospital is expected within the next 24 hours. As for the eligibility for health and personal social services Bill, the review has taken much longer than anticipated for a number of reasons. However, I have been advised by the Minister that she proposes to bring proposals to the Cabinet committee on health during the autumn with a view to bringing forward the legislation.
It would be useful to have sight of the Bill before the budget because the chaos in the hospitals must be clarified before another cut is imposed on the health services.
The Deputy has made her point.
Ba mhaith lliom ceist a chur maidir leis An Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge and conas an Ghaeilge a tharrtháíl. An bhfuil aon reachtaíocht de dhíth de thairbhe na straitéise seo agus an mbeidh deis againn sa Dáil díospóireacht a dhéanamh ar an straitéis agus ar an tuairisc atá tar éis teacht chun cinn ón Chomhchoiste Um Ghnóthaí Ealaíon, Spóirt, Turasóireachta, Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta. Tá an tuairisc sin ar fáíl faoi láthair agus tá an comhchoiste ag iarraidh go mbeadh plé uirthi sa Dáil agus sa Seanad sular gcuirfear éifeacht ceart leis An Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge.
Sílim go raibh plé inné ag na Whips ar ghnó díospóireachta. Táimid ag súil le ócáid a thabhairt le haghaidh díospóireacht sa Dáil. Is ceist fé leith í don Seanad, ach tá mé dóchasach go mbeimid ábalta é a dhéanamh.
First, in light of the possibility or almost certain probability of the introduction of water charges, when will a water services Bill be introduced or is there other legislation to deal with it? Second, in light of the closing of psychiatric services in St. Davnet's Hospital, when will the mental health Bill be introduced to provide Members an opportunity to discuss the major problems this is causing?
Third and most importantly, for years I have been trying to get information regarding when the health information Bill will come before the House. This constitutes an emergency because people cannot get truthful information on when their services will be provided.
Deputy, we will make inquiries about your queries regarding legislation.
Structures are being closed down and people's lives are being put at risk. Although another problem has arisen in our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda in respect of Clostridium difficile, yet more beds in Navan are being closed.
Deputy, we will make inquiries about the legislation.
That is all right but this is an extremely serious matter and proper information is needed.
Yes, I know.
The first two items of legislation will be published next year. On the health information Bill——
Is the Tánaiste referring to legislation pertaining to water charges?
Yes, the Deputy raised two legislative items, one pertaining to the environment and the other to health and both are due next year. As for the health information Bill, although it was to be published towards the middle of next year, the Government expects that this legislation can be brought forward.
I wish to inquire about two items of legislation, the first of which is the industrial development (science foundation Ireland) (amendment) Bill. Second, I welcome the decision on the cystic fibrosis project in St Vincent's Hospital and hope it takes place as promised. My query pertains to two areas that might fall within the ambit of the human tissue Bill, namely, organ transplantation, which also is of huge importance to cystic fibrosis patients, and stem cell research, about which a legislative vacuum exists in Ireland at present.
The human tissue Bill is a considerable legislative undertaking and I understand it is proposed to have 87 heads in the Bill. It is not possible to indicate when the legislation will be brought forward. The legislation pertaining to Science Foundation Ireland will be introduced next year.
We were told that the criminal justice (female genital mutilation) Bill would be introduced in this session. Will the Tánaiste indicate when it will be published?
I do not have a specific date but it will be published in this session. I will try to get more information for the Deputy.
I have two issues to raise. Under the Croke Park agreement, it was envisaged that various reforms would be introduced in the public service. From reports in the media it seems some Departments have brought forward a programme of suggested reforms as of the end of September but others have not. Is it intended to lay before the House the proposals from each Department so that they can be considered in the context of the budgetary process and debated in the House? Will the Tánaiste indicate how many Departments so far have completed the work envisaged and which Departments are outstanding in that regard? Will the information provided by the Departments whose work has been completed thus far be made available to the individual parties in the context of the discussions that are to take place with regard to budgetary matters?
The Deputy is looking for detailed information which is not appropriate for the Order of Business.
It is appropriate if it is something to be laid before the House. This is information that should be made available to all Members of this House in the lead-in to what is probably the most important budget in the history of the State. I would like the Tánaiste to clarify the position.
Will the Deputy let his query rest there?
I have a further issue I would like to raise briefly after the Tánaiste has responded to my first query.
The situation in regard to the Croke Park agreement is that there are ongoing discussions and negotiations taking place with the unions. Action plans were requested and have been forwarded. I cannot say for definite whether every Department has brought them forward, but I am led to believe the majority of them have been provided. I do not anticipate that these documents will be made public given that we are in an ongoing negotiation process.
Does the Tánaiste not agree that these so-called departmental actions plans should be transparent——
We cannot have a debate on the matter at this time.
——and should be made available to Members of the House?
I allowed the Deputy to raise the query contrary to proper order on the Order of Business.
This matter should be on the agenda of the House next week.
That is fine but the Deputy must find a different way of getting it on the agenda, but not on the Order of Business.
Action plans to make savings in public expenditure and to reform the public service are being completed by Departments. These should not be secret documents.
We are into detailed debate on the Order of Business which is out of order.
Members of the House should have this information made available to them so that choices can be made as to the way forward.
Deputy Shatter is out of order. Will he resume his seat?
On the one side we have the Taoiseach and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government looking for consensus——
We cannot have a detailed debate on this matter on the Order of Business.
——but on the other side crucial information is not being made available or offered to Members of this House.
Will Deputy Shatter resume his seat?
It is a farce of a procedure.
If the Deputy does not resume his seat I will have to ask him to leave the Chamber.
There is a pretence of seeking to bring about a consensus——
Will the Deputy resume his seat?
——in circumstances in which Members of this House are not being provided with the type of information——
Deputy Shatter, will you leave the House?
——that should be provided in any parliament in any country.
Deputy Shatter will leave the House.
It is outrageous that we have this type of approach. Either the Government is serious in genuinely trying to make information available or it is not.
Business is suspended until Deputy Shatter leaves the House.
We will now proceed with the Order of Business. I call Deputy Broughan.
On a point of order, Deputy Shatter was asked to leave the Chamber for making a point that is very valid and which I would like to address very briefly. The Government is looking for consensus——
We are not going to address it as this point.
If the Ceann Comhairle will allow me, it will only take 30 seconds and I will then resume my seat.
We are not going to address it at this point. Unless we retain order in the House we will not be able to function. I have been quite tolerant of Members on the Order of Business regarding issues they raise but I am afraid that is being played upon and we have serious difficulties as a result.
This is an issue about national consensus.
I do not disagree. I am not minimising the importance of the issue. I am saying we cannot have a full-scale debate on the matter on the Order of Business.
I just want to make a point.
On a point of order——-
I am raising a point of order.
There cannot be two points of order.
May I put this point to Deputy Reilly? I have sat here waiting to put a question to the Tánaiste which is important for my region. I ask Deputy Reilly to give way and allow me to put my question.
I will take only 30 seconds. If we do not have the information from Departments of their plans for the implementation of the Croke Park agreement, we do not have full information in order to have a consensus around the budget. That is all I am trying to say.
That is a very important point.
With regard to a public order and illegal occupations Bill, in my constituency large tracts of land which now belong to NAMA or public authorities are lying derelict. I have tried to ask yourself, a Cheann Comhairle and the Ministers for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Justice and Law Reform if they are considering legislation on the illegal occupation of lands which are now in the NAMA portfolio and which are causing grave distress to residents, mortgage payers and young people who are in negative equity and trying to pay their mortgages. The Garda Síochána seems not to have the requisite legislative authority to end illegal occupations, particularly where there are housing programmes for all citizens in an area. Does the Tánaiste have an opinion on the need to strengthen legislation on the illegal occupation of lands, specifically lands in the NAMA portfolio or former development lands of local authorities? Some people seem to think they can walk in and take them over.
I am not sure if legislation would be necessary for that matter. I will make inquiries on behalf of the Deputy and revert to him directly.