Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 9 Apr 2014

Vol. 837 No. 2

Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 4, Central Bank Bill 2014 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. Private Members' business shall be No. 45, Wind Turbine Regulation Bill 2014 - Second Stage (Resumed), to conclude at 9 p.m. tonight, if not previously concluded.

Tomorrow's business after Oral Questions shall be No. a1, Fines (Payment and Recovery) Bill 2013 - Amendments from the Seanad; No. 3, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Bill 2014 - Second Stage (Resumed); and No. 4a, Electoral (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2014 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

There are no proposals to be put to the House.

The Government's proposals vis-à-vis the introduction of universal health insurance are causing considerable concern out there in terms of the implications of such an initiative on people's incomes, additional taxes that will emanate from it and also the lack of detail in terms of the pricing arrangements and the actual packages under which people will be covered. I ask the Minister, in terms of the allocation of Government time for debate, when it is proposed there will be a Dáil debate on this, and to help along the Dáil debate itself, and the public consultations that may ensue, would the Government be open to allowing the views of the Minister for Finance and of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, and the memorandums that they prepared on this issue, to be published to give people the broadest and most diverse set of perspectives on this policy issue? Given the enormity of the issue, and its importance, that would be a welcome development if the various perspectives of the ministries could be put into the open to facilitate that debate.

In terms of the Government's legislative commitment to the introduction of free GP care for the under sixes, I am sure the Minister will be aware that GPs are up in arms, metaphorically speaking.

They are very angry at the way they are being treated and undermined. Serious issues are emanating from it. Will the Government indicate when the legislation will be introduced? Is the Government aware of the anger among GPs at what they perceive as the undermining of primary care and the undermining of discretionary medical cards and their removal from needy and sick people?

I understand the Whips are meeting this afternoon and the item on universal health insurance is one of the items to be discussed. The likelihood is arrangements will be made to have a discussion next week.

Regarding free GP care for those under six years of age, legislation is coming to Cabinet in the coming weeks and will provide a statutory basis for this.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, and I have the same attitude to universal health insurance as to all legislation. We want to make sure costs are controlled but that is our general position across all legislation and policy brought before the Government. Under the new fiscal arrangements, we are operating under expenditure ceilings and it is our job to ensure the expenditure ceilings are not breached in any way. We scrutinise all measures on that basis but we are fully in support of the initiative. No one suggests that we can continue with the health service we have and everyone agrees it needs to be reformed.

Will the Government publish the memos?

We do not want to go back to the way it was when Deputy Noonan was the Minister for Health.

The Deputy beside Deputy Dooley was also the Minister for Health and Children.

Yesterday, the terms of reference for the commission of investigation into the recording of telephone calls in Garda stations were released and I am interested to know when they will be debated in the House for its approval. In the context of that debate, can the Minister for Finance confirm whether there is a system in place in any other Department or State agency, particularly the Revenue Commissioners, that records phone calls from members of the public without their knowledge, whether the Minister for Finance is aware of that and whether it is in compliance with data protection laws?

The second issue concerns the crisis in primary care in the GP sector. I have attended meetings with general practitioners who gave a summary of the 38% cuts, which started under the Fianna Fáil Administration. Legislation on the Order Paper, No. 115, emanated from Deputy Emmet Stagg. It amends the Competition Act and allows GPs to bargain collectively, along with other organisations funded by the State purse. Is it the intention of the Government to allow that legislation to progress, as was committed to in the first Croke Park Agreement?

The debate on the terms of reference of the Justice Fennelly inquiry will take place next week. The terms of reference will be presented in the House by way of a motion because the terms of reference need the approval of the House.

I have no information that anyone in the State agencies which report to me is involved in the kind of malpractice Deputy Doherty describes. If it is illegal, it is illegal and I have no information to that effect.

With regard to GP care, legislation will come before Government and will be debated in the Houses in the normal way.

My question was not about the GP legislation the Government is introducing but specifically No. 115, an amendment to the Competition Act.

The Minister said the Government is introducing legislation.

No, it is a separate issue, allowing for collective bargaining.

I will get back to the Deputy. There is no Bill No. 115 on the Government legislative programme.

When will the State airports (Shannon group) Bill be enacted? It is important legislation and the final part of the jigsaw that will see the restructuring of Shannon. The Minister has a special interest in it, coming from the midwest.

The deputy Chief Whip also has a good interest in it.

That Bill is well advanced and will be going to Government shortly. Then, it will be brought to the House.

I welcome the Minister taking Leaders' Questions and the Order-----

We are not taking Leaders' Questions, we are taking the Order of Business. I want to clarify it for the Deputy's sake in case he is getting mixed up.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle. I appreciate the reorientation course. I have just been at a funeral and I came in late. The Government's intention to hold a banking inquiry seems to have got clogged in a swamp and does not seem to be getting anywhere. Yesterday, today and tomorrow, the banks' chief executives and senior management teams are appearing before the committee to explain where they are in terms of meeting the mortgage crisis, with 180,000 families in deep distress. On my way in and on his way out, I met the chief executive of Permanent TSB on the steps, he recognised me immediately and he said to me-----

Deputy, this is the Order of Business and we are talking about legislation.

This is very much the Order of Business.

We are talking about promised legislation.

We have a promised banking inquiry under promised legislation.

Okay, the Deputy can ask a question on the banking inquiry.

No, I want to know this about it.

The Deputy cannot make a speech about it.

I am not making a speech.

We are dying to find out what happened.

There has been a seeming inability to understand that the banking boards of banks, for seven years leading up to 2008-----

A Cheann Comhairle, please-----

No, there is no please about it. I must be fair to everybody. The Order of Business is the Order of Business and it is not for people to stand up and make speeches on issues that they have deep concern about, which I fully understand. If the Deputy wants to ask the Minister when the banking inquiry will commence, that is in order within the Order of Business but not about who the Deputy met on the steps.

I have sat in that chair-----

Now, Deputy-----

-----and I have never caused people to laugh at a Member.

Resume your seat, please.

I will in a moment.

The Deputy will do it now, when I ask him to do so.

I will do it in a moment.

The Deputy will not do it in a moment, he will do it now. Please switch off the microphones.

I do not need a microphone.

The Deputy cannot abuse the Order of Business. Please resume your seat. The query was about the banking inquiry and I asked the Minister to respond. We are not having speeches.

It is a matter of fact that, on average, of the asset price collapse in this country the banks caused-----

Will the Deputy resume his seat for goodness sake and stop being out of order?

People are paying for that. The faster the inquiry gets going, the better for 180,000 people.

The Deputy should resume his seat. I will not ask him again.

That was an unfortunate episode. Thank you.

Deputy Mathews should not be surprised at how well known he is.

That is a wonderful joke.

The banking inquiry is at an advanced planning stage and is making progress.

Will it beat the statute of limitations?

With regard to the housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, Threshold published a report last week showing only 147 properties available to rent in Galway city. I presume that is repeated in other cities. It is causing a major problem for the people on the housing waiting list. Rental prices are increasing.

Where are we going?

Will this be dealt with under the housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill? This is having a major effect on inward investment in Galway because soon there will be no properties to let. Can the issue be addressed under the Bill?

The heads of the housing Bill were cleared in December and publication is expected in May.

In recent times, increased activity in the housing market has given a new impetus and importance to the taking in charge of estates. The Planning and Development Act 2000 places full responsibility on the local authority for the taking in charge of all services but the Water Services Act 2013 transfers water services to Irish Water. I understand the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government will bring forward some sort of protocol to address this anomaly which, in many instances, may give rise to the sale of houses being prevented from taking place.

It will create a situation where the taking in charge of estates will be much more difficult. Will a protocol be introduced by the Department or will the matter be addressed in the context of the planning Bill which is promised at No. 86 on the legislative list?

I am sorry, but I am not familiar with the commitment from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government to bring forward such a protocol. I will get back to the Deputy with the details.

As the Minister is aware, the volume of receiverships among private individuals and corporate entities has risen sharply in recent years as a result of the property crash. It is having an impact on many organisations, not least of which are the banks but also the Revenue Commissioners. The Minister initiated-----

Where is the Deputy going with this question?

I wish to ask about consultation and legislation. The Minister initiated a consultation process-----

I am sorry, but the Deputy should ask a question about legislation.

What is the status of the process and will measures be included in the next finance Bill to deal with the problem?

That question is not in order on the Order of Business.

It relates to future legislation.

It is not future legislation.

Is the finance Bill not future legislation?

What I am trying to get across is that one cannot discuss the content of Bills on the Order of Business. Parliamentary questions are designed for that purpose.

The high incidence of receiverships has been a very serious issue, arising, as Deputy Brian Walsh outlined, from the collapse in the economy. If the Deputy has specific measures in mind, he should communicate with me and I will have his proposals assessed in the context of the forthcoming finance Bill.

The Government has promised legislation to deal with the admission of patients with mental health issues. We have a huge crisis in hospitals where clients in need of admission are being turned away at accident and emergency services owing to the lack of beds. I have first-hand experience and knowledge of people who are a danger to themselves and others being turned away, purely because there are no beds available in hospitals across the city.

To which Bill is the Deputy referring?

I refer to the mental health capacity Bill which has been promised. When will it be delivered? It is clear that many people are dying or self-harming who are being let out of hospital. It is an absolute scandal.

The first Bill is on its way to the committee. It has been before the House for some time now. A second Bill is promised and we should see it in about one month.

Local authority tenants have been waiting years for the resumption of the right-to-buy scheme. The number of households involved in the shared ownership scheme who are in mortgage arrears continues to be a problem. When will the housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill be brought before the House and will it make provision for a building programme to compensate for units sold under an agreed right-to-buy scheme and a solution for the growing number of shared ownership homeowners who have slipped into mortgage arrears?

The Bill will be brought before the House in May.

When is the proceeds of crime Bill expected to be published to strengthen the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau in terms of the forfeiting of the proceeds of crime? I thank the Minister for Finance for his work through Revenue to close off the illegal forecourt selling of laundered diesel.

Consultation is ongoing with the Criminal Assets Bureau on the exact formation of the Bill. We do not yet have a publication date.

What progress has been made in the preparation of a Bill on the control of lobbying? Has the Bill been discussed? Have the heads been approved and when is the Bill likely to be brought before the House? Similarly, as I would like to keep to the fore, if possible, old friend of mine - the bail Bill - I ask again if it is intended to have it ready to bring it before the House at an early date.

The Bill in question is at an advanced stage of preparation and the intention is to have it before the House in this session, meaning the session that will end in July.

I thank the Minister.

I wish to ask the Minister about a couple of items of proposed legislation. In the light of the recent establishment of the independent panel to review and analyse the underground option for 400 kV lines as part of the GridLink project, will the Minister update us on the EirGrid Bill? Following the establishment of Irish Water and the transfer of staff from local authorities to it, will the Minister provide an update on the progression of both the planning Bill and the water services (No. 3) Bill?

There is no publication date for the planning Bill. The water services Bill will be published this year and the EirGrid Bill next year.

There is a commitment in the programme for Government to review the provision for people with disabilities. It states specifically that as part of the review the Government will move a proportion of public spending to a personal budget model in order that people with disabilities and their families will have the flexibility to make choices that best suit their needs. I agree with the proposal which is a very good one, but we are now three years down the line. When might it become a reality?

I have no information on that matter today. We will revert to the Deputy on it.

The programme for Government provides for a policy on mental health to incorporate the recommendations of A Vision for Change. I would be grateful if the Minister confirmed that it was still a Government priority to honour the commitments set out in A Vision for Change. We were promised a review of the Mental Health Act. It was a human rights approach to providing for mental health patients.

Will the Minister, please, respond to the question on mental health legislation?

In the light of reports over the weekend that psychiatric patients had to wait for up to eight days for appropriate bed treatment-----

We cannot discuss the matter.

-----and suicidal patients were being denied access to beds in this city, when will we see the expedition of the legislation?

Will the Minister, please, respond to the question on the mental health Bill?

The question is associated with the one asked by Deputy Dessie Ellis. A report was due after Christmas, but one of the interested parties looked for an extension of time to enable it to make a submission and the report is now expected within the next month or so.

The Moriarty tribunal's report was debated in the House three years ago. It was also referred to the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Revenue and the Director of Public Prosecutions. Three years on has the Government made inquiries to ascertain whether it will be parked to gather dust or if there is active pursuit on the part of the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Director of Public Prosecutions and Revenue of the findings of the tribunal? Reference has been made to the control of lobbying Bill. If such legislation had been in place a number of years ago, perhaps the Moriarty tribunal might not have been established at all. I am interested to hear when the House will receive some report on progress. That is owed to the House because the tribunal was established by it.

Will the Deputy, please, ask his question?

I would like to know when the House will receive a report from the Government on the progress made on the issues I raised in terms of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Criminal Assets Bureau and Revenue pursuing the findings of the Moriarty tribunal.

Will the Minister answer that question?

The lobbying Bill will be brought before the House before July. On the issues arising from the Moriarty tribunal, I will have to get back to the Deputy or if he tables a question to the appropriate Minister, he might receive a quicker answer.

Deputy Peter Mathews has already contributed, but I will allow him in again provided he is in order and does not make a speech.

Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle. It is appreciated. I like cordiality. I have a little paper the Minister might find helpful as a starting point for the banking inquiry.

It is a total abuse for the Deputy to leave his seat and approach the Minister. He should resume his seat, as he is not allowed to do so. He is totally out of order.

Deputy Peter Mathews should be kicked out.

It is the last time he will be called. It is an abuse of privilege.

I do not think the Minister was very fair in his remark to me. I am helping him on the starting point for the banking inquiry.

The Deputy is abusing privilege. He can see the Minister in the lobby. He does not need to march across the Chamber. It is totally against Standing Orders to do so.

The Minister took advantage of the Chamber to make a joke at me, not with me.

The Deputy should talk to Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly who is his boss.

I am an Independent. Did the Minister of State not notice?

Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly is your boss.

Members should, please, speak through the Chair.

The Whip takes a very bitter approach to these matters.

The Deputy is not to do it. It is totally out of order and against Standing Orders. I will report it to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

As I am new, I am still learning. Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, for pointing it out to me.

The Deputy had better learn faster.

Does the Deputy see others doing it every day?

I wish to ask the Minister about the wind energy Bill that passed Second Stage in the Seanad 18 months ago. In the light of the fact that the Government confirmed that it would not oppose the latest Opposition Bill on the regulation of wind energy generation and given that it has promised guidelines to regulate the wind energy sector - the guidelines will not be published until after 23 May - will it be upfront and frank and indicate a definitive timeframe for when people will know its position on wind energy projects?

When will we have legislation to deal with wind energy? Will it be brought forward before 23 May, the date of the local elections, or after that date when the local elections are over?

Second Stage (resumed) of the Wind Turbine Regulation Bill 2014 is to conclude at 9 p.m. tonight, if not previously concluded. I think the Deputy is referring to a Private Members' Bill. Is that correct, Deputy?

Yes - a Bill in the Seanad, and the wind energy guidelines that-----

Thank you, Deputy.

There is some discussion on that matter to see how it might proceed.

Can the Minister clarify when the mediation Bill will come before the House? Also, when will Report Stage of the Legal Services Regulation Bill commence?

The mediation Bill will be before us later on this year. We have no date for the other Bill the Deputy raised.

Sitting suspended at 12.51 p.m. and resumed at 1.51 p.m.