It is proposed to take No. 18, Fiscal Responsibility Bill 2012 - Report Stage (resumed); and No.19, Credit Union Bill 2012 - Second Stage (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. and shall adjourn not later than 10 p.m.; and the resumed Report and Final Stages of No. 18 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Finance. Private Members’ business shall be No. 73, motion re education funding.
Order of Business
There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 18 agreed to? Agreed.
I refer to the Government's initiative for a fundamental review of hospital services in the south-east region and in particular to review the status of Waterford Regional Hospital with a view to downgrading it from category four to category three. Will the Taoiseach allow time for a debate on that issue? Government Deputies are due to meet the Secretary General of the Department of Health. Deputies on all sides of the House would welcome the opportunity to have a debate on that specific issue and on the general review.
And on the Cork situation.
Do not forget Loughlinstown.
These matters are relevant to the country as a whole because there would be increased demand on other regions such as Dublin, Cork and elsewhere. I do not think it is a tenable or sustainable proposition but it is a large-scale proposal. A meeting was held in the audiovisual room this morning with a group from Waterford who came to lobby Deputies. Given that many thousands of people marched, I think we should have a debate. I ask the Taoiseach if he could arrange a debate in Government time-----
I am sorry, Deputy, I wish to advise the House that the Deputies for Waterford have been granted a Topical Issue debate on that matter.
It is broader than that. The Taoiseach should allocate Government time to allow a debate.
Perhaps the Whips could discuss it.
Does Deputy Martin not want to see enhanced services in Cork?
Please, we must return to the Order of Business.
We have them and they are in huge demand. People are under time and access pressure. They have a lot to cope with.
I ask the Taoiseach when is the health (amendment) (No. 2) Bill due before the House.
It will be introduced next year. The decision on the matter of hospital groups will be taken by the Government in the next couple of weeks and there will be an opportunity for a full debate in the House. Some of what I have heard around the country about this issue has been nothing short of outrageous misinformation-----
The Taoiseach should talk to his own backbenchers.
It would be appropriate in the interests of the people that we should base our discussions and our arguments on the facts. As Deputy Martin is aware, medical politics are far more Machiavellian than political politics. We should have a rational discussion-----
-----in the House-----
This matter is totally out of order on the Order of Business.
-----in a couple of weeks time when the decision is made. For the information of the House, the Government today considered the health strategy from now to 2015. I expect the Minister for Health and the Ministers of State will deal with that matter on Thursday. The discussion and debate on the decisions made in respect of hospital groups will be held probably in three weeks time.
I repeat that the Deputies for Waterford have been granted permission to raise a Topical Issue matter on the potential impact on Waterford Regional Hospital of the proposed reconfiguration of hospital services.
Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur faoi reachtaíocht atá fógartha. I ask the Taoiseach for an update on a different aspect of the health (amendment) (No. 2) Bill, which is free GP services. If I understood his reply correctly he stated the Bill would be published next year. In the meantime will the Government provide free GP care for claimants under the long-term illness scheme before the end of the year? What is the reason for the delay in bringing forward this legislation?
The GP service legislation will be published this session. Deputy Martin's question was about the health (amendment) (No. 2) Bill which will be published next year.
When does the Taoiseach expect the Bill on the regulation of lobbying to be before the House? I also wish to ask a question about the format of the budget statement. Is it intended to have two budget statements this year? Will the Minister responsible for the Bill on the regulation of lobbying, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, make a statement on the Tuesday? While I am on my feet, I wish to congratulate the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, for the successful passage of the amendment of the Constitution.
I thank Deputy Broughan for his co-operation in this matter. There is no date as yet for the publication of the Bill on the regulation of lobbying. No decision has been taken as yet on the format of the budget; it will be announced in advance.
I refer to the Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill. Will the Taoiseach support the request by the family of the late Fr. Niall Molloy, in particular by his nephew, Bill Maher, for a commission of investigation into the murder of his uncle?
That is not in order on the Order of Business.
The family is very concerned that major corruption-----
Please recognise the Chair, Deputy. You are out of order.
I am asking with reference to the Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill.
The Deputy should ask about the legislation.
The heads of the Bill were approved in June. It has been sent to the committee for further consideration but has not yet been returned to the Government.
I congratulate the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on the successful passing of the referendum. I ask the Taoiseach about the progress on the child and family support agency Bill which will establish the agency for the delivery of child welfare and protection services. It is imperative that the agency is established and that funding is available from the HSE.
I thank Deputy Heydon for his comment and support for the referendum.
The heads of the child and family support agency Bill were cleared by the Government last week. I expect it will be published before Christmas and we will proceed to implementing it as quickly as possible thereafter.
Like Deputy Heydon, I welcome the result of the referendum at the weekend. I believed it was envisaged that the agency would be up and running from the beginning of January. Does the relevant legislation, the heads of which will not be published until the period before Christmas, not need to be enacted to have it up and running in January? Will the Government continue to prioritise this?
The heads of the Children First Bill have been published for six or seven months. When will this legislation come before the Oireachtas? Bearing in mind the passage of the referendum, when does the Taoiseach hope to bring legislation on adoption and the best interests and voice of the child before the Oireachtas?
The adoption Bill was published in tandem with the referendum Bill. It is a case of finding time in the calendar year to debate it. The Children First Bill will be taken very early in the new year. The Attorney General and her staff are working exceptionally hard on the child and family support agency Bill and we expect to process it very quickly. Obviously, we have set out a timeline for this and I hope we can adhere to it.
I congratulate the Government and our diplomats on the successful election of Ireland to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Children's rights obviously comprise an important part of human rights. In this regard, I congratulate the Minister for Children, Deputy Fitzgerald, and all those involved in the "Yes" campaign, including the NGOs, on the successful passage of the referendum. Another aspect of human rights, however, concerns how our State and legal system interact with vulnerable people; I refer to the mental capacity legislation. I hope that on foot of our successful election to the United Nations Human Rights Council, this will be speeded up. Can the Taoiseach state when he expects the legislation to be published and debated in the House?
I know Deputy Harris has a particular interest in this matter. I thank him for his support for the referendum. The legislation is complex. It is listed to be published this session but I am not actually sure whether this can be achieved. It has proven to be complex; suffice it to say that there is a great deal of work being done thereon. I cannot give the Deputy absolute confirmation that the legislation will be ready in this session.
When will the civil partnership Bill be before the House?
Is there legislation promised?
That legislation is already in operation, as the Deputy will be aware.
With regard to promised legislation, could the Taoiseach indicate the progress to date in bringing before the House the legislation to provide for an all-Ireland gas market, particularly in the context of North-South co-operation? Have the heads of the Bill been discussed by the Cabinet? When is it expected to bring the legislation before the House?
The heads have not come to the Cabinet yet. Clearly, moving towards a European grid is a matter of considerable importance. The Deputy will be aware of the recent opening of the interconnector at Batterstown. This is a matter that the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has very much in hand. It will be next year before the Bill is published.
Some 7,000 commonages will be adversely affected by changes to maximum and minimum stocking rates under the animal health and welfare legislation. This is causing great upset and worry among the farming community. What is proposed will adversely affect the welfare of animals because in some instances farmers are being told to put an unrealistic number of stock up on the hills, while in others the prescribed densities for hills are too low.
It is in the Dáil.
The Bill has been to the Seanad and is awaiting Committee Stage in this House.
That does not answer my question.
In fairness, it is well down the conveyor belt.
It is important.
Will a debate be allowed with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Children on the misleading information that was given out during the referendum campaign? The Supreme Court-----
Not on the Order of Business. I ask the Deputy to resume his seat.
I refer to the Bill. Misleading information was given out by the Government. We have an independent commission and it should be allowed-----
The Ceann Comhairle did not allow a Topical Issue debate or a private notice question. Therefore, I ask-----
Will the Deputy, please, resume his seat?
-----whether we are to have a debate.
Are we going to have a debate?
Will the Deputy, please, resume his seat?
I will, but the Ceann Comhairle should note I asked him for a Topical Issue debate.
Ask Noel Davern.
The Ceann Comhairle is not being fair.
It is not relevant to the Order of Business.
Deputy Kehoe should ask Michael Fingleton about his house loan.
Ask Noel Davern.