Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 7a, motion re membership of committees; No. 7b, motion re referral of papers to Joint Committee on Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture; No. 7c, motion re proposal that Dáil Eireann notes the report of the Joint Committee on Investigations, Oversight and Petitions, entitled Report on Revised Orders of Reference for the Joint Committee, and referral of the report to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges; No. 15, Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2011 [Seanad] - Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage; and No. 16, statements on intercountry adoption.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 7a, 7b and 7c , shall be decided without debate, and the proceedings in relation to No. 16 shall be taken today at 1.30 p.m. and the following arrangements shall apply: the opening statements shall be made by a Minister or Minister of State and by the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, and shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, the statements of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, and Members may share time.

There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 7a, 7b and 7c, agreed to? Agreed.

Is the proposal for dealing with No.16, agreed to?

It is not agreed. This is a time motion setting out the Order of Business for today. The Water Services (Amendment) Bill is being guillotined today. Given that the House has only managed to deal with two amendments on Report Stage thus far, I suggest an amendment to the Order of Business-----

This was discussed yesterday. The Deputy is mistaken; the guillotine was decided upon yesterday. We are dealing with the proposal for No. 16, statements on intercountry adoptions.

Exactly, and if the Leas-Cheann Comhairle allows me one moment, I ask that the Order of Business be amended to change that guillotine to allow for greater debate. This was agreed yesterday but the House can change the Order of Business. I suggest that No. 16 commence at a different stage, either later today or tomorrow and so allow sufficient time for debate of the Water Services (Amendment) Bill and for the Minister to give clarification and to answer the questions. I suggest that No. 16 could be deferred until next week because I know the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Fitzgerald, is happy enough to adjourn the discussion on intercountry adoptions to allow greater time for it. There is sufficient time next week and the following week because it has been indicated there is not a significant amount of legislation available to be discussed next week. It might be more suitable to discuss No. 16 next week and in that way comply with the timeframe within which the Minister has said the Water Services (Amendment) Bill must be passed by the House. I suggest that we sit later today, that the guillotine proposal is changed and that we sit tomorrow if needs be.

I would prefer much more time for dealing with the Water Services (Amendment) Bill and I hope the Tánaiste will allow more time. However, if this time is not forthcoming, we should get on with our business as speedily as possible this morning to give us the maximum time between now and 1.30 p.m. to debate this Bill because it is one of great importance. I ask the Tánaiste to consider giving extra time but if this is not done, I suggest we get on with the business and use the time we have to the maximum effect.

The variation should be agreed by the Government. What is being proposed for the Water Services (Amendment) Bill is a mockery of what one would imagine a legislative process to be. Fine Gael and the Labour Party, the parties currently in power, railed for years against the indiscriminate use of the guillotine by their predecessors. Was it all bluster? Did they mean it or did they not? Here is an example of an issue that is causing serious concern, that needs to be teased out. There were answers that the Tánaiste did not give this morning with regard to whether there would be public investment to assist people in rural areas with their water and sewerage remediation programmes in the same way as the urban areas were given assistance from central taxation. We need more time for the Deputies who are fronting the debate on this legislation.

I do not intend to accept any change in the arrangements we have made for today. The arrangement for the conclusion of the Water Services (Amendment) Bill was agreed yesterday. There has been a considerable amount of time provided for this Bill-----

-----and we have already had 35 hours of debate on this legislation.

And still no answers to the questions.

As I mentioned earlier, three further hours were available on Committee Stage-----

----- if the Deputies required them but they did not use them. Five hours was spent on one amendment yesterday. Deputies cannot come in here on a Wednesday and engage in a parliamentary filibuster and then come in on Thursday and say they want more time to debate the Bill as they have not had enough time already.

I do not intend to change the arrangements, as has been requested, for statements on intercountry adoption as this is an issue that concerns many people in the country and many sensitivities are involved. We have seen what has been happening in Mexico recently and there are also issues with regard to Vietnam. The time should be allowed for in the House today and I do not intend to change those arrangements.

Question, "That the proposal for dealing with No. 16 be agreed to," put and declared carried.

Ar chlár an Rialtais, tá gealladh go mbéadh Bille ann le leasú a dhéanamh ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003. De réir mar a thuigim, tá dul i gcomhairle oifigiúil ar bun ag an Roinn i láthair na huaire, ach ní fheicim an Bille ar aon liosta reachtaíochta, idir liosta A, B, C nó aon cheann eile. B'fhéidir go míneodh an Tánaiste cén fáth nach bhfuil sé liostáilte.

Tá aiféal orm go raibh torann sa Teach agus nár chuala mé an cheist san iomlán. An faoin mBille aistriúcháin a cuireadh an cheist?

Ní hea. Sin ceist eile. Bhí Bille le leasú a dhéanamh ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla geallta ar an gclár Rialtais, agus de réir mar a thuigim tá dul i gcomhairle poiblí ar siúl i láthair na huaire, ach níl sé ar aon liosta reachtaíochta de chuid an Rialtais.

Geobhaidh mé freagra agus seolfaidh mé chuig an Teachta é.

The Tánaiste did not answer on the septic tank charge issue so perhaps we will do a little better on this one, which relates to the household charge. Before Christmas the Minister for Justice and Equality indicated that either new or amending legislation would be brought forward to enable fines to be deducted from citizens' wages or welfare payments. Is such legislation or amending legislation envisaged and if it is, will it be brought forward? It would be an extremely coercive action that would try to force people to pay what is a very unfair and regressive charge. The Minister, Deputy Shatter, indicated at Christmas that this was his intention so will the Tánaiste inform us whether it will happen?

What about the local charges in the North?

Legislation along the lines described by Deputy McDonald has not been promised or considered by the Government, and there is no proposed legislation of that nature in the programme.

There are 180,000 small businesses in the State, many of which are grinding to a halt because of the glacial credit flow into the country. Some 1,600 businesses or companies crashed last year, which is not to mention sole traders. Since March last year the European Progress microfinance facility has made available €500 million in microfinance, with 11 countries in the EU drawing down funding. Yesterday I asked the Minister of State responsible for small business, Deputy Perry, how much had been drawn down by Ireland. We have drawn down none of the money.

We have heard lofty rhetoric from the Tánaiste to the effect that creating jobs is the main priority of the Government. There are 180,000 small businesses which cannot get credit and yet the Government will not draw down funds from available cash in the European Progress microfinance facility. Do not believe the rhetoric.

Is legislation promised?

When will the microfinance legislation come through so we can draw down this funding?

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has already published a microfinancing plan. I agree that the issue of finance available to small companies and start-up firms in particular should be addressed by the Government. A plan relating to microfinancing has already been published.

With regard to the European microfinancing funding, the Government is doing whatever is possible to maximise our draw-down. The Deputy might advise his party colleagues that if they keep rattling on about defaulting on payments, it will be increasingly difficult to attract that kind of funding.

The money is there but is not being drawn down.

I compliment the Government for bringing forward proposed legislation in a construction contracts Bill. This ties in with the comments of the last speaker. There is a fundamental anomaly.

We cannot discuss the detail of the Bill.

It is vital to include a provision to cover suppliers of primary products, such as concrete and steel companies. Those products are not covered by legislation and they cannot be repossessed if they are in the ground and cannot be removed. They are a vital part in the foundations of buildings. I know there is pressure from officials in this regard but I do not know why. I compliment Senator Quinn for doing much work on the Bill, which we all support, but it must be right. Bad legislation is no good to anybody.

That Bill is on Second Stage and when it reaches Committee Stage, any proposals like those mentioned by Deputy McGrath can be considered.

Another fuel laundering plant, capable of turning over 12 million litres of diesel a year, at a cost to the State of €6 million in revenue, was discovered in County Louth last night. There is also toxic waste that would be dumped, causing damage to the environment. In the past 12 months, we have paid over €1 million to remove toxic waste in Louth. The punishment for this type of crime-----

Is legislation promised?

Punishment for this type of crime is €5,000 but does the penalty suit the crime? What can be done to stop this type of activity?

I do not know if there is particular legislation dealing specifically with the type of difficulty referred to by Deputy Fitzpatrick. The criminal aspect can be pursued with the Minister for Justice and Equality. The other aspect can be pursued with the Minister for Finance.

The Deputy can also table a parliamentary question.

Like other speakers I congratulate the Government on the proposed personal insolvency legislation. As it is promised legislation and as a result of the wide implications and importance of it, I ask that Committee Stage take place in plenary session of the House. That is notwithstanding the preliminary discussions by the relevant committee. It will affect a great many people. Another issue that will affect many people is the housing Bill proposed to rationalise the housing agencies and change some of the systems that have or have not been in operation for the past number of years.

We are putting the heads of the personal insolvency legislation before the committee to maximise the opportunity for consultation with Members of the House and to give an opportunity to those outside the House with an interest in the area to make some suggestions. We hope the consideration of the heads of the Bill by the Oireachtas committee might facilitate earlier passage of the legislation and it may not be necessary to have a very protracted Committee Stage if the heads of the Bill have already been considered by the committee. We are anxious to get it enacted and we should bear that in mind. I will factor in the request to have Committee Stage in the Chamber. The housing legislation will be later this year.

On behalf of 23,300 people participating in 1,143 community employment schemes, I ask the Tánaiste what type of assurance he will give to participants that this Government will ensure the schemes will remain up and running. Participants cost the State only an extra €20 on what they would get on the dole.

The Deputy should ask a parliamentary question on that as it does not pertain to legislation.

Does the Government realise what is happening because of the high cost of fuel and the detrimental effect it has on householders, hauliers and contractors? By tomorrow night the cost of diesel and petrol will exceed €1.60 in the majority of cases.

That is not a matter for the Order of Business. I will ask the Tánaiste if any legislation is promised.

Will the Government do anything about it? This is unprecedented. Tomorrow night at midnight it will be more than €1.60 a litre for petrol and diesel in the majority of cases. The Government will have to do something about it.

As I, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Social Protection stated previously, the Government is not closing down community employment schemes. The total budget being provided for labour activation, including community employment, has increased this year. The Government is very much aware of the high cost of fuel.

Some months ago I raised with the Tánaiste the question of the Antarctic treaty. More than 40 countries have currently ratified that important treaty. Someone was to revert to me on the Government's position on whether to ratify the treaty. That has not happened. Perhaps the Tánaiste would let me know the position.

The matter is under consideration. When we have completed consideration we will bring the decision to the House.

I wish to clarify what the Tánaiste said in reply to Deputy McDonald on attachment orders. He said there is no such legislation. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice and Equality previously said there would be a new fines Bill and that attachment orders would be part of it. Is the Tánaiste now saying that the fines Bill is off the table or that the attachment orders will not form part of a new fines Bill on which the Department is working?

The fines Bill is on the legislative list. It it intended to introduce a fines Bill but the legislation as described by Deputy McDonald is not part of the proposal.

The Tánaiste received due acclaim and cross-party acknowledgment for the personal insolvency Bill this morning. That is right and proper. In the same vein, could he reciprocate on the registration of lobbyists Bill which my party published this week? Will he consider accepting and expediting the Bill? The reason we published it this week was the mood music coming from Government on the proposed sale of State assets. We will have a debate and formulate a policy direction in that regard and it is opportune that we have a comprehensive register of lobbyists in advance of any disposal of State assets.

The registration of lobbyists is part of the programme for Government. It is part of the legislative change the Government will introduce on political reform. My colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, has already published some of the legislative reform. The registration of lobbyists will be part of the entire apparatus of political reform.

The Minister of State, Deputy Sean Sherlock, indicated this morning on the radio in regard to the European copyright directive and what is called Ireland's SOPA that the wording of a statutory instrument would be published today and that there would be a debate on the matter today in the Dáil. What is the position in that regard? Did I misunderstand it?

Statutory instruments are always laid before the Dáil. I understand that the question of having the statutory instrument discussed in the Dáil is to be considered by the Whips next week.