Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 12, statements on intercountry adoption (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, or the Order of the Dáil of 26 January 2012, that the proceedings of No. 12 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7.30 p.m. and the following arrangements shall apply: the statement of each Member shall not exceed ten minutes; Members may share time; a Minister or Minister of State shall take questions for a period not exceeding 15 minutes; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called on to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes. Private Members' business shall be No. 40, motion re health services.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 12 agreed? Agreed.

This week we learned that waiting times for operations have increased by more than 47% for people waiting longer than six months, dramatically so within the past nine months. The related legislation is the health governance Bill which is intended to replace the governance of the HSE. This is urgently required because as things stand nobody knows who is in charge of the health service. Morale is at a very low ebb. The Taoiseach might clarify whether the special delivery unit is currently acting ultra vires in regard to whom it reports to. My understanding is it reports directly to the Minister. There is a definitive legislative framework governing health since the enactment of the HSE Bill. The Minister caused the dismissal of the HSE board, so to speak, but the essential legal governance structure is still in place. There is an urgent need for clarity which the publication of this Bill would provide in respect of the direct line of who is in charge and who is responsible and accountable to whom.

Given the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Fitzgerald, is present in the Chamber, when does the Taoiseach expect to publish the Bill on the amendment of the Constitution, known as the children's referendum Bill? Is there a timetable?

I answered that question before. We do not yet have a timetable. The Minister is working on it

I understood the Minister made an announcement on it during the week.

We do not have a firm timetable for the Deputy. The HSE governance Bill is expected during this session. The special delivery unit has already made an impact for good in respect of the way waiting lists-----

The situation is worse.

-----are being managed in a number of hospitals. It has looked at competency and improved the situation and will continue to do so.

The Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, informs me the adoption Bill is being prepared and that legislation is required in order to deal with other child protection issues. She is working actively on the matter.

Tá ceist agam faoi reachtaíocht atá fógartha. The Government committed to the highest standards of transparency in the operation of NAMA, to reducing the costs associated with the operation of that organisation and to ensuring that its decision-making process does not delay the restoration of the Irish property market. Where is the legislation in respect of these commitments?

The Minister for Finance received a number of propositions from an expert who looked at the structure of NAMA and he is actively pursuing that matter. We need to consider this issue carefully. NAMA must be able to fulfill its remit and to that end a three-person group is considering the situation. The Minister will report to the House when he has heard the group's deliberations.

Did the Taoiseach state there was a three-person group? Will he tell us who are the members?

The Minister received propositions from a competent person who did in the region of 90 hours' work looking at the structure of NAMA and he is anxious to bring in a number of recommendations as to how the situation might be moved forward. I do not have a timeline for the Deputy as to what proposals, legislative or otherwise, he will introduce.

I am just trying to understand this. Did the Taoiseach state a three-person group was looking at this?

Yes, led by a person of considerable competence who did 90 hours' work looking at the structure of NAMA. The Minister will return with that person's recommendations in due course. I made the point already that it is very difficult in a country of this size to find persons to look at NAMA. The property portfolio is so large that it is difficult to find people who are not connected to it in some way or other, whether with a developer, a project or with other associated persons. That is part of the problem.

I call Deputy Pringle.

Is it not appropriate that the Dáil should be told the names of the three persons?

That is a matter for a parliamentary question, not on the Order of Business. I am sorry.

On 2 February the treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism was quietly signed in Brussels by the 27 members of the European Community. When will legislation to enact this treaty be brought before the Dáil?

It is on the A list for this session. I cannot give the Deputy the exact date.

I hope the Ceann Comhairle will be patient with me.

If the question is connected to promised legislation I have plenty of patience.

I am Dundalk born and bred.

I congratulate IDA Ireland and PayPal for choosing Dundalk as the location of its operations. The announcement will have a huge impact on the lives of those who are unemployed in County Louth. Ireland has an excellent reputation for producing skilled workers and I am delighted that PayPal has chosen to set up a new operation in Dundalk. This positive announcement will impact greatly on those living in County Louth who are unemployed.

As a result of the budget cuts in rent allowance, it is becoming apparent that sick, mentally ill and vulnerable persons who have been told to negotiate lower rents with their landlords are being refused such reductions or being threatened with homelessness, while fraudulent form filling is also an issue. This is widespread. A housing Bill proposed by the Government is supposed to deal with the mess that is the provision of social housing and supports for those in receipt of rent allowance, but it is unclear when it will be introduced. This is a major issue. Will the legislation be brought forward soon in order that we can discuss the vitally important issue of housing? Does the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government have any proposals to prevent the increase in the level of fraud and the number of vulnerable persons being pushed out of rented accommodation because of cuts in rent allowance?

It is clear that rent allowance in excess of the market rate is being paid in some areas. The Minister is looking to ensure a system of fair rents and a saving of up to 5% on a spend of more than €500 million. I am as concerned about fraudulent activity as the Deputy.

The Government should introduce rent controls.

I would not like to see people with mental disabilities to whom the Deputy referred having to deal with landlords.

I am not sure how many cases are involved, but the Minister for Social Protection is focused on ensuring a fair rent system. If the Deputy is aware of specific cases, I advise him to bring them to the attention of the Minister.

What is the status of the housing Bill mentioned?

It will be taken this year. However, I do not have a date for the Deputy.

At 10.27 a.m. on Friday, 17 February, the executive director of Amnesty International, Mr. Colm O'Gorman, e-mailed the Taoiseach to ask him to raise specific cases with the Chinese Prime Minister and Vice President-----

I ask the Deputy to resume his seat. We are on the Order of Business, as he is well aware. He had an opportunity during Leaders' Questions to raise these issues. I do not want to get into a conflict with him, but he should, please, respect the Chair.

Does the Deputy have a question on promised legislation?

The Taoiseach told me during Leaders' Questions that he had not had any contact with Amnesty International when he had. He must correct this statement.

I call Deputy Timmy Dooley.

I did not speak to Amnesty International.

I asked if the Taoiseach had had contact with its representatives and he said he had not. He must correct that statement.

Will Deputy Timmy Dooley, please, proceed?

If reports in today's newspapers are to be believed, the Government is about to embark on a process of closing tourism offices throughout the country. I hope the reports are misguided.

To which legislation is the Deputy referring?

I seek information on the legislation that will underpin the closure of the offices mentioned.

Has legislation been promised?

If the reports are to be believed, they undermine the policy about which the Taoiseach has talked in recognising that tourism will be very much part of the State's recovery in bringing people here from abroad and assisting them while they are here.

Is there legislation in place to close offices?

Will the Taoiseach publish whatever details he has available? I assume this will not be done by sleight of hand and that the Taoiseach will bring forward proposals to the House if that is what he seeks to do, unlike many of the other measures he has sought to slip in that did not appear in the budget.

The Deputy should resume his seat. I call Deputy Michael Healy Rae.

The Deputy has a brass neck.

May I ask the Taoiseach-----

Am I not getting a response to my question?

We do not deal with such business on the Order of Business. The Deputy knows that as well as I do.

I have asked the Taoiseach if he intends to bring forward legislation to close tourism offices throughout the country.

That question is not related to promised legislation.

I am asking if legislation has been promised in this regard.

Is the Deputy seeking legislation on making the best use of public buildings?

That is a separate issue. Will Deputy Timmy Dooley, please, resume his seat?

I will be happy to resume my seat if the Ceann Comhairle gives the Taoiseach the opportunity to respond.

No, I will not because the Taoiseach will be out of order if he does.

On a point of order, is it the Chair's decision as to whether legislation has been promised in a particular area?

No legislation has been promised.

I have asked the Taoiseach if there is.

I have asked the Taoiseach and he has indicated there is no legislation promised.

The least I would expect is that he would get to his feet to address the matter.

What is at issue is making the best use of public space which I am sure the Deputy supports. I am also sure he is glad that pictures of the glorious Cliffs of Moher have been seen by people all over China in the past few days.

No legislation has been promised. I thank the Taoiseach.

This is take 2. Health reform legislation has been promised in the programme for Government. When and how will the 7,719 people awaiting a decision on their application for carer's allowance be dealt with? What proposals are to be made in the legislation promised to ensure applicants will not face such extraordinary delays in the future?

To which legislation is the Deputy referring?

I am referring to what has been proposed in the programme for Government. I appreciate that the Minister for Social Protection has acknowledged that she is not happy with the delays. Almost 8,000 people are waiting for approval to receive carer's allowance. What will the Government do about this? It is a simple question.

The simple answer is that legislation is not needed. The Minister is providing new technology to speed up the assessment of applications.

If that happens, I will welcome it.

With respect to the forthcoming European Communities Act 1972 (Amendment) Bill, does the Government intend to include in the treaty on stability, co-ordination and governance an expanded definition of EU treaties covered by the Act? When will the Bill be brought before the House? Does the Taoiseach agree this is being done by sleight of hand to deny the people their right to vote on these matters?

The Bill is due this session.

The Taoiseach will be aware of the difficulties being experienced by a number of subcontractors in getting paid. The issue has been discussed in the House on many occasions. The Construction Contracts Bill 2010 which was passed by the Seanad is included in section D of the Government's legislative programme. Does it intend to introduce that Bill in the House or will it bring forward its own legislation?

The Deputy has mentioned his important Bill on a number of occasions. The Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has completed work on it and it is now a matter of introducing it in the House. I am sure the Chief Whip will advise the Deputy when it will be brought before the House.

In view of the activities of criminal gangs and the ongoing disregard for life, will the bail Bill be brought before the House as a matter of urgency? It has been promised for a long time. When Fianna Fáil was in government, it promised to introduce the Bill for approximately ten years. It is important that it be brought before the House as a matter of urgency.

To avoid a repeat of what happened last week when a criminal who had broken into a house was compensated in the courts which is extraordinary-----

Does the Deputy have a question on promised legislation?

I have just been presented with the legislative programme and have not had time to go through it, but I am sure if the legislation is not included it, it will be presented to the House as a matter urgency.

Deputy Bernard Durkan should move down two steps.

The Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Bill 2010 was enacted last December. The draft heads of the bail Bill are at an advanced stage, but I cannot give the Deputy a date on when they will be brought to the Cabinet.

I am aware of the Bill passed last December, but following its passage this latest incident occurred. Will criminals, injured while committing a crime, going to court to seek compensation become a regular occurrence?

That matter is sub judice.

There is an issue. Will it become a regular occurrence for criminals to go to court to seek compensation if they get injured in the course of committing a crime?

If the Deputy submits that as a Topical Issue matter, I will consider it.

I thank the Cheann Comhairle for that.

The Deputy is sorry he did make it to being a junior Minister.

I am as near to it as is the Deputy.

I call Deputy O'Donovan.

What is the timeframe for when the Tribunals of Inquiry Bill 2005 might be back before the House? Will there be an opportunity to table further amendments to it given some recommendations that may be contained in an upcoming tribunal report due to be published?

That Bill is awaiting Report Stage; it is just a matter of finding time to bring it to House and deal with Report Stage. If the Deputy were to discuss the matter with his party Whip, I am sure he would find an opportunity to allow it to go forward to Report Stage.

Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a ghabháil leis an Taoiseach as an obair mhaith a rinne sé Dé Domhnaigh agus inné. In case he is of the view that all of us on this side of the House are anti his work at the weekend, we are not.

Under promised legislation, work to provide for Uisce na hÉireann, Irish Water, is under way and I ask if more time could be allowed for consultation on this. Tipperary South County Council only discussed this matter at its meeting yesterday and submissions have to be in by Dé hAoine, this Friday. That is a very short time. This is a major issue in terms of Irish water services. Could more time be allowed for consultation on this as it is badly needed in terms of members of the public and elected representatives.

Thank you, Deputy.

Tá feabhas ag teacht ar Ghaeilge an Teachta an t-am ar fad. Gabhaim comhghairdeas leis ina thaobh. Cuirfidh mé an cheist a chur an Teachta orm in iúl don Aire. Is dócha go mbeidh an Aire i dteagmháil leis go díreach.

A Cheann Comhairle-----

The Deputy did not indicate.

I have indicated four or five times.

No, the Deputy's colleague indicated but the Deputy did not but he can proceed.

I will try to be more fanfarish the next time.

He does not need to do that generally.

The Deputy is normally not as quiet.

I was trying the subtle approach this time.

Following on from a question raised by Deputy Mac Lochlainn, the Taoiseach mentioned that the European Communities Act 1972 (Amendment) Bill is to be before the Dáil this term. It is No. 12 on the legislative programme. Can the Taoiseach confirm if the fiscal compact treaty or, to give it its correct title, the treaty on stability, co-ordination and governance in the expanded definition of EU treaties, will be included in that Bill or will that be stand-alone legislation? Can the Taoiseach inform the House when the 1926 census will be published and when the legislation to allow its publication will be before the House, given that this is a major part of the initiatives the Government have undertaken in terms of The Gathering in 2013?

My final question relates to the ordering of business and I can be guided on this. We will be dealing with Committee Stage of the Finance Bill next week and we must have our amendments submitted by 11 a.m. tomorrow, yet despite numerous requests for a briefing on the Bill and briefings on particular aspects of it, and the Taoiseach will agree this is a very technical Bill, Department of Finance officials have refused point blank to give a briefing to Opposition finance spokespersons at this point. A briefing will be given at some stage but it will be after amendments to the Bill have been submitted. It is appalling in terms of how we do our business-----

-----that we in the Opposition, although I can only speak for myself, are asked to provide amendments to a Bill, which I will provide, which Department officials have refused to brief us on. It is uncommon for them to do so. The Department of Finance and the Minister for Finance have always been very forthcoming, as I have said previously, in providing information by way of parliamentary questions and on other occasions. It is appalling that in the case of this important legislation, which will implement the cuts the Government has imposed on the people of Ireland-----

The Deputy has made his point.

-----that a briefing would not be given prior to Committee Stage amendment deadlines.

The fiscal responsibility Bill is separate legislation. I do not have information about the 1926 census.

On a point of order, the Bill I am asking about is not the fiscal responsibility Bill but the Bill that will give effect to the fiscal compact treaty. It is separate legislation. It is on the treaty on stability, co-ordination and governance - that is what it is called - it is the fiscal compact Bill not the fiscal responsibility Bill.

Obviously, we have asked a number of questions of the Attorney General in respect of the fiscal compact and we are awaiting the Attorney General's advice on that.

I do not have information for the Deputy in respect of the 1926 census but I will ask the Minister to respond to the Deputy.

I will mention to the Minister for Finance directly the question of a briefing for the Deputy

On a point of order, the Taoiseach has been asked this question twice.

If the Taoiseach-----

He has clearly blatantly refused to answer a question twice - not once but twice.

-----does not have the information at hand, he said he would get it for the Deputy. That is very common.

That was not on this issue. He said he would get information on a different issue.

If there is some misunderstanding, he will get the information for the Deputy.

Will the fiscal or austerity treaty be included in the European Communities Act 1972 (Amendment) Bill? That Bill includes the ESM and measures related to the European Parliament. The question is simple. If the Taoiseach does not have the information now, can he give it to us?

I have answered that for the Deputy already though he does not want to accept the answer.

I am awaiting the advice back from the Attorney General in respect of the fiscal compact.

So the answer is that it may be included.