Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 22 Jun 2011

Vol. 736 No. 2

Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 15, motion re presentation and circulation of Revised Estimates 2011; No. 18, statements on pre-European Council meeting on 23 and 24 June; and No. 6, Finance (No. 3) Bill 2011 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. and business shall be interrupted not later than 10 p.m.; No. 15 shall be decided without debate and any division demanded thereon shall be taken forthwith; the proceedings on No. 18 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 65 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the statements shall be confined to the Taoiseach and the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share their time which shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, and a Minister or a Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; and the proceedings on Second Stage of No. 6 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10 p.m. Private Members' business shall be No. 27, motion re remuneration (resumed), to conclude at 8.30 p.m., if not previously concluded.

There are four proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 15, motion re presentation and circulation of Revised Estimates 2011, without debate agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 18, statements on pre-European Council meeting on 23 and 24 June, agreed to?

I note that there will be statements on the forthcoming European Council meeting. Can time be provided next week for a full report on the meeting, including for a debate on the outcome?

That would be the normal practice.

The Deputy is new.

May we seek confirmation?

It is a matter for the Whips to agree on it.

We are looking to the Taoiseach to provide confirmation.

This is the first occasion on which any Government has provided an opportunity for Members to have their say before the holding of such a Council meeting. I know the time before the meeting is relatively short, but it is important. We are committed to providing such an opportunity and I want to see it happen. As is normal, there will be an opportunity for Deputy Gerry Adams and others to contribute next week when we discuss the outcome of this week's Council meeting.

Go raibh maith agat.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 6, Finance (No. 3) Bill 2011, agreed to?

No, it is not agreed.

Every single week there are one or two proposals which involve the discussion on Bills being guillotined. This is from parties which promised that there would not be a repetition of what previous Dáileanna had to endure at the hands of a Fianna Fáil-led Government. This a non-controversial measure. The vast majority of Members will support the Bill and welcome what it contains, but I object to the use of a guillotine. What will happen when there is more pressure in dealing with other legislation and issues which will need far more time to be debated? I am signalling my objection to this approach.

Sinn Féin agrees with Deputy Joe Higgins. We also object to the use of the guillotine.

There is no objection to this short Bill. It is a tidying up measure which extends the same tax and pension rights to those in civil partnerships. I am not sure what Deputies will gain by continuing to talk about it when everybody agrees it should be done. That is all that is involved. The Bill is straightforward.

We want to deliver it.

It is non-contentious. Perhaps the Deputy might say whether he objects to it.

Question, "That the proposal for dealing with No. 6, Finance (No. 3) Bill 2011, be agreed to," put and declared carried.

We now proceed to legislative items on the Order of Business.

Three weeks ago the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan, outlined his legislative proposals in respect of political donations. When the Fianna Fáil Bill was voted down by the Government parties in April——

This is unbelievable.

——the Taoiseach said the Government's Bill would be published within weeks and enacted before the recess. It is now absolutely clear that it will not be enacted in the next few weeks. Perhaps, therefore, the Taoiseach might clarify the matter. He said legislation to restrict personal donations and place a ban on corporate donations would be in force for all candidates and in respect of all fund-raising activities by parties for the presidential election. Will he confirm that this commitment is no more and that the existing donation rules will operate in respect of the Presidential election?

We are not dealing with the contents of legislation.

When will the legislation be brought before the House?

That question is in order, but not the one dealing with the contents of the legislation.

It will be very expensive.

I am sure the Taoiseach wants to help the House.

The Minister is working on the legislation and we expect him to bring it forward very soon.

The Taoiseach said it one month ago and also said it the month before that.

I do not want to refer to the record of the Government of which the Deputy was a member on corporate donations.

They were in office for 14 years.

There was no reform for 14 years. The Minister, Deputy Phil Hogan, is dealing with the matter as a priority. He will bring forward the legislation in a couple of weeks at which time we will get on with discussing and passing it through the House.

If you did not stop John Gormley, it might have been enacted by now.

There is a measure on the Order Paper that could be implemented quickly if the Government agreed to debate in Government time.

If he did not do it in 14 years——

He took the money instead.

The Taoiseach has answered the question.

Statements by the Minister for Health have been consistently requested, with an opportunity to question him on a variety of crises, yet such an opportunity has not been provided. The Government's intended legislative programme has been published, but the list was much reduced. Some important items of legislation that we, including the Minister for Health, have been pursuing for a long time are no longer even in the programme. In the context of everything Deputy Gerry Adams has raised this morning and yesterday, the eligibility for health and social services Bill is one example. Time and again we have noted this matter. In the previous Government's final legislative programme it was stated it was not possible to indicate when it would be introduced. However, it does not even appear in the Government's legislative programme. What is the status of the eligibility for health and social services Bill? Will the Minister and the Department reinstate this promised legislation on the list? It should be expedited, given the level of public concern about so many aspects of the delivery of health services.

Has this legislation been promised?

Late last year the Department of Health completed a review of the health services eligibility framework which is set out in the Health Act 1970. A draft Government memorandum sought approval to prepare the draft heads of a Bill. This was circulated to all Departments for observations in December 2010. This work has been suspended because we need ministerial guidance and clarification on the legislation required to give effect to the new approach to the delivery of health services envisaged in the programme for Government. The Minister for Health will respond to that in due course in dealing with universal health insurance, universal primary care and so on. It will come back but it will be on the basis of the new priorities reflected in the programme for Government as driven by the Minister for Health and his Ministers of State.

What about the people's right to eligibility and entitlement? What is the Taoiseach doing about this?

For instance, when the Deputy says that the Minister did not have the opportunity to speak to the Dáil——

——last evening, the Minister of State responded to the question raised by Deputy Adams about eligibility for services, people's rights and transport and ambulance services on a matter on the Adjournment debate last night.

The Taoiseach certainly did not answer it this morning.

Half of the people in this State believe they were misled by Fine Gael and the Labour Party with their election promises, according to a poll in the Irish Independent this morning.

We are not dealing with polls at the moment. The Deputy should proceed on a matter of promised legislation.

At a time when we also learn that the crucial resource of visiting teachers for Traveller children is being withdrawn, I remind the Taoiseach that the two Government parties' promises were for equity in education and to legislate for that. Will the Taoiseach come before the Dáil shortly with the real programme for this Government and the real cuts rather than the increasingly fictionalised programme for Government, as he bends the knee to bankers in Europe and speculators?

Is there an item of legislation about which the Deputy is concerned?

No, I am asking the Government to come forward with its real programme and let us have a measure of honesty so we know what that is.

That is a different issue. That is not a matter for this item of business.

In the context of the presidential election, I am not sure if the Taoiseach is aware that at least one local authority is refusing to accept the nomination from councillors.

Sorry, the Deputy is out of order.

No, this matter is in regard to proposed legislation. At least one council refuses to accept the nomination for president given that the legal advice is that it is irregular and that it would not have any legal standing.

A local authority cannot run for the presidency.

This is a nomination for the presidency.

I ask the Deputy to address his remarks through the Chair.

When will the regulations be issued to the local authorities? Is legislation required to allow local authorities to vote at this stage in regard to an Independent candidate given that this goes to the very heart of democracy?

A Deputy

This is out of order.

This is on the basis of legal advice and a local authority is refusing to accept the motion.

Is Deputy Doherty running for it?

Is legislation required to regularise this position?

Come on, Bernard, you should throw your name in.

Under the current rules, regulations and legislation, local authorities are entitled, in their deliberations, to give a nomination to a candidate if they so wish. Obviously the matter——

Unless it is the Fine Gael——

Obviously the matter of the presidential election is proceeding. I expect it will be a very vibrant and energetic contest——

——and I hope whoever wins the presidency will go on to represent our people and country——

Who are you backing?

Go on, Taoiseach, who are you backing? It is like the Grand National.

——in a proper and fitting fashion and to the highest standards.

You might put yourself forward.

What is happening on the criminal justice Bill, listed on the Government's legislative programme, which aims to amend criminal law to improve certain procedural matters and strengthen Garda investigative powers in relation to white collar crime?

It is awaiting Committee Stage.

The position in so far as the white collar crime legislation is concerned is that it is awaiting Committee Stage. As the Deputy will be aware it was published by the Minister for Justice and Equality a short time ago. It is the first white collar crime Bill published here for very many years,——

It was published again.

——an indication of the Government's seriousness about bringing those who stray outside the law before the law. It is awaiting Committee Stage.

Are the criminal justice (forensic investigations) Bill and the noise pollution Bill being brought forward? The Taoiseach will recall that in the previous Dáil and the Dáil before that there was great determination to bring forward a noise pollution Bill, but that has not happened yet.

Will the Taoiseach consider holding another referendum on the date of the presidential election on the European bailout? It appears that Greek citizens will get an opportunity to give their verdict on the bailout conditions which may apply to Greece from next week onwards. Given that we are facing into another tranche of the bailout, which unfortunately was negotiated disastrously by the previous Government and which continues in place, will the Taoiseach give the people an opportunity to have their say on it?


Hear, hear.

There is no date for the publication of the noise pollution Bill. The DNA data Bill should be ready before the end of the year. As Deputy Broughan will be aware and he is fully acquainted with all the facts, the Government is proceeding to meet the commitments and requirements of the IMF-EU bailout deal and Ireland is heading in the right direction. There are several serious challenges up ahead, which we will meet, arising from the confines of the spending review. As he will also be aware, the meeting in Luxembourg on Monday made a decision which will have a positive implications for all the countries of Europe.

I call Deputy Ellis and I hope his matter is about promised legislation.

Is the Taoiseach aware that many new Tesco express shops are springing up all over the place and many of these have been opened alongside existing businesses? I can give him many examples of such outlets. The existing businesses are well established.

Sorry, Deputy.

I am coming to the question. These businesses are well established and employ many local people and others. Any there plans to deal with such unfair competition? Is legislation being brought forward to deal with unfair competition? When planning applications for such outlets are submitted, is the impact such operations will have on existing businesses taken into account?

Is there promised legislation on this area, Taoiseach?

As Deputy Ellis will be aware, the local authorities accept planning applications and the planning process decides the nature and extent of any business. An Bord Pleanála and the legislation governing the retail size of outlets have their own bearing on that. The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation deals with the Competition Authority and keeps that under pretty constant review. There is not any legislation as far I am aware on the specific issue the Deputy mentioned.

The European stability mechanism requires an amendment to the Lisbon treaty. Does the Taoiseach intend to hold a referendum to put a question to the people on agreeing to that amendment?

The previous Attorney General advised the Government at the time that a referendum was not necessary because of the minor nature of the change involved here in respect of Ireland. The current Attorney General is assessing that position. Our view is that a referendum is not necessary and the matter will be debated in the House in due course.

We will move on to questions to the Taoiseach.

A Cheann Comhairle, I was waving to you.

Sorry, I did not see the Deputy indicating.

I am becoming more and more invisible with the passage of time. It is sad but that is the way it is.


A Ceann Comhairle, the Deputies are very unruly this morning. It is very unfair. On promised legislation——

The presidency Bill.

An important item of promised legislation is to provide a statutory basis for the vetting of applicants for employment and employees, including vetting to identify in particular information relating to the endangerment, sexual exploitation and sexual abuse or risk thereof to children and vulnerable adults. It was deemed to have been urgently required a year or two years ago. The previous Administration attempted to lend certain important——

Thank you very much. I will try to get the Deputy an answer to his question.

I appreciate the Chair's recognition of the issue.

I thank the Deputy for the background on it.

The previous Government failed to introduce this legislation.

It is the national vetting Bill to which the Deputy refers. It is an important Bill and it is quite complex. It is currently being drafted between the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Children. I cannot give the Deputy an accurate date as to when it will be published.

I have one other matter. It is equally important. The Opposition will be delighted to hear about this. I refer to the clamping regulation Bill which is also promised.

Do not put a clamp on Áras an Uachtaráin, Bernard.

We hope to clamp on that by the end of this year.

That will be ready by the end of this year, Deputy.

I would say it will be when you bring in the budget.