Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 21, Freedom of Information Bill 2013 - Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage; and No. 22, Forestry Bill 2013 - Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that in the event that a division is in progress at the time fixed for taking Private Members' business, the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and Private Members' business, which shall be No. 154, motion re people with disabilities (resumed), shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes.

Tomorrow's business after oral questions shall be No. a1, Competition and Consumer Protection Bill 2014 - amendment from the Seanad; No. b1, Health (General Practitioner Service) Bill 2014 - amendment from the Seanad; and No. 23, Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages.

There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' business agreed to? Agreed?

It was great to see the Minister in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last Sunday. He was very gracious in the aftermath of the match, which was a great occasion, as I am sure he will confirm. I have no doubt Cork and Limerick will meet again in Croke Park towards the latter part of the summer.

We are not out of it yet.

On the medical reform Bill, the Government did a U-turn on discretionary medical cards and the Taoiseach, speaking on the Order of Business last week, indicated that the Government would provide general practitioner visit cards to everybody aged over 70 years. Approximately 50,000 people aged over 70 do not have a GP visit card or medical card. I understand legislation will be required to provide this group with GP visit cards. When can we expect the relevant legislation? Will it provide for those aged over 70 years who have lost their medical cards, particularly those with serious illnesses who cannot apply for a discretionary medical card using the over 70s income thresholds and must do so using the under 70s income thresholds? This anomaly is catching many seriously ill older people. I dealt with some horrific cases last week. What is the position regarding the medical reform Bill?

On the medical practitioners (medical indemnity insurance) Bill, the purpose of which is to ensure all medical practitioners have adequate medical indemnity insurance, the Minister may be aware that there is a crisis in indemnity, particularly for consultants in private hospitals. Premiums have increased by 50%, with the Medical Protection Society charging premiums of €90,000 for consultants in the orthopaedic and spinal areas. Many Deputies have been contacted about this serious issue. When can we expect the legislation given the urgency of the situation and the crisis in cover for key specialties in the private hospital sector?

I thank Deputy Martin for his warm welcome to Páirc Uí Chaoimh. The Barry's Tea at half-time was as good as ever.

The Order of Business covers all Dáil business until the adjournment for the summer recess. Any further legislation is for the next session. The medical card legislation to which the Deputy refers is for the next session, subject to the policy advice of the new Minister for Health. The health insurance Bill to which the Deputy refers is for discussion in Cabinet next Tuesday or Wednesday, as the case may be.

Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur maidir leis an nGarda Síochána (Amendment) Bill 2014. The House has discussed a number of scandals recently.

There are a number of measures that the Minister intends to introduce in the forthcoming Garda Síochána (amendment) Bill. The Cabinet agreed the heads of that Bill on 1 July. Is it intended to put that before the committee in the pre-legislative stage or, due to the amount of debate that has already been held on it, is it intended to publish it and encourage the Dáil to start work on it as quickly as possible to try to help rebuild morale within An Garda Síochána and those institutions that have been caught in much of the scandal and debate so far?

The second issue concerns the referendum on Article 41.2.1o, as proposed by the Constitutional Convention which discussed this matter in February 2013. This is to try to make the Constitution gender neutral as regards what is called the "woman in the home" clause. Is it intended, as has been said, to have the proposed referendum dealing with this issue at the same time, next spring, as the Government is hoping to have the referendum on marriage equality?

No date has yet been fixed for that particular referendum. I understand that the heads of the Garda Síochána (amendment) Bill were cleared in July. If the timeline permitted, we would like it to go to a pre-legislative stage but, as the Deputy's question suggests, it is a matter of urgency. If time is available, we would like to enact it in the next session, preferably after a pre-legislative stage.

The previous Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, laid guidelines before the Oireachtas Library on procedures for local authorities to reduce or increase property tax. Will the Government afford the House an opportunity to discuss those guidelines? It seems to me that by virtue of the existing procedures, it will be highly unlikely or impractical for the same councils to honour the commitments given by the Labour Party before the local elections.

Those matters can be discussed in this House in due course. I am sure a discussion between the Whips at the start of the next session will give the Deputy an opportunity to discuss any matters relevant to the funding of local authorities.

There will be no increase or decrease in prospect this year then.

The programme for Government contains a commitment to reform the way the Government is run. For the past two weeks, Deputies, ushers and other staff have been facing late night sittings, potentially to 11 p.m. and midnight. Those sittings were changed back to 9 p.m., however. When we come to the end of term before recesses in future, will the Government consider properly planning the legislation it wants to introduce?

That is a matter for your Whip.

If so, we would not have to sit until these late times. Sittings could even be extended by some days or an extra week to deal with such issues. It is scandalous that people cannot organise their days due to these work practices.

I understand the Deputy's points have been noted by the Government, but it is a matter for the Whips.

I wish to ask about the proposed landlord and tenant Bill. There is a need to address deficiencies that exist between landlords and tenants, including deficiencies with the Private Residential Tenancies Board. In south Kildare currently, a private tenant is renting from a landlord who does not live in the area. There are also serious anti-social behaviour issues. Neighbours who have been greatly impacted upon by this are not party to the tenancy and do not seem to have any form of redress.

There is no date fixed for the landlord and tenant legislation. Anti-social behaviour is something that all Deputies come across from time to time in their constituencies. A report to the Garda is the first port of call. In addition, the Residential Registration Board takes complaints.

Huntington's disease is a particularly cruel affliction. Could the proposed cut be dealt with under the health care initiative legislation to try to assist those affected? A small amount of money is involved, so I ask the Minister to restore it as a matter of urgency.

When is the health care (amendment) Bill due?

There is no date for publication.

For over a month, 70 workers have been on strike at Greyhound over plans to cut their wages arbitrarily by one third. These workers and their families are on the breadline and some have serious mortgage issues.

We have already dealt with that.

We are seeing a race to the bottom when it comes to workers' rights.

The Deputy cannot make a statement on the Order of Business. The matter has already been dealt with.

I am talking about two Bills.

Put a question on the Bills, please.

These issues could be addressed under the workplace relations Bill and the industrial relations (amendment) (no. 2) Bill, if there was a will to do so. When will these Bills be brought forward and proper legislation enacted to protect workers from the excesses and arrogance of employers such as this?

The workplace relations Bill was cleared by Cabinet on 8 July and will be published next week. The industrial relations (amendment) (no. 2) Bill will be published in the next session.

D'éirigh an Coimisinéir Teanga as a phost i mí Feabhra i mbliana. Bhí sé mar dhualgas ag an gcoimisinéir monatóireacht a dhéanamh ar eagrais Stáit agus a chinntiú de go bhfuil siad ag comhlíonadh a gcuid dualgas faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla. Ar maidin, chuir mé ceist ar an Aire agus ar an Aire Stáit mar gheall ar chúrsaí Gaeltachta.

We have dealt with that issue already.

Theip orthu iad a fhreagairt. Tá sé dochreidte nach raibh siad in ann na ceisteanna a thuiscint nó a fhreagairt. Cathain a thiocfaidh Bille na dteangacha oifigiúla (leasú) 2014 os comhair na Dála?

Tá súil agam go bhfoilseofar an Bille i rith an tseisiúin seo chugainn.

Throughout the country there are hundreds, if not thousands, of empty shop units on every main street. Section 2 of the Local Government (Rates) (No. 2) Act 1970 permits local authorities to grant rate waivers or reductions for new entrants, particularly where it adds to a deficiency in the retail mix on a main street. When will that provision be enacted to facilitate local authorities in incentivising new businesses to become established on main streets where a deficiency has been identified in a particular town?

The Taoiseach commissioned Deputy Heydon to produce a report on flooding in the Shannon basin. When will that report be published?

I will have to get back to the Deputy on both questions.

I wish to raise with the Minister for Finance the issue of funding for Muintir na Tíre, a national organisation whose funding has been cut.

The Deputy is not raising it on the Order of Business.

No. I am raising it under the consumer protection Bill because Muintir na Tíre has served lots of consumers.

It has nothing to do with the consumer protection Bill.

Of course it has.

Funding for Muintir na Tire?

All the people who support it are consumers.

The Deputy is out of order and should resume his seat.

It was founded by Canon Hayes who was a Limerick man, so I appeal to the Minister for Finance to talk to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government about this please.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Bill is going through the other House and we are expecting amendments back from the Seanad tomorrow.

That question has already been answered. I call Deputy Broughan.

Given the ongoing appalling performance by the Government concerning social housing and the fact a family becomes homeless every single day in Dublin - the numbers are probably similar in the Minister's own city - does yesterday's Government decision require legislation for new housing structures? Will it lead to any deliverable social housing this year?

The Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is currently going through the Seanad. In addition, the new Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government will be outlining his housing policy by way of a statement.

Will the decision at Cabinet be included in that?

The decision at Cabinet will be partly covered by the Bill that is proceeding through the Seanad.

The report by the national review panel into deaths or serious incidents involving children in care is due to be published later today. This report highlights serious failings of the State in the past. It also highlights how as a State we continue to fail vulnerable children. In that context, when will two critical pieces of legislation be enacted - the Children First guidelines and legislation for the provision of aftercare? The Children First guidelines formed a key piece of legislation promised by the Government when it assumed office. Three and a half years later, we have only got to Second Stage and still await the remaining Stages in the Dáil. As a result of this, vulnerable children have been left in vulnerable situations.

The first Bill has passed Second Stage in the House and is due for Committee Stage. The second Bill will be published next session.

The geothermal energy development Bill is promised legislation on an important issue. Has the legislation been progressed to any extent, have the heads been discussed by the Cabinet and when is it likely to come before the House? The gambling control Bill is promised legislation to control gambling and betting, which is of considerable interest country wide. Has that Bill been discussed by the Cabinet, have the heads been cleared and when is it likely to come before the House?

The heads of the first Bill have been cleared and are being drafted by the Office of the Attorney General. The second Bill is expected to be introduced next session.

The Minister will recall that when the Personal Insolvency Bill 2012 was introduced, a commitment was given that if the system did not work properly the Government would be prepared to change it. Are there any plans for changing in view of the fact that it is clearly not working?

I am afraid that is a separate issue and is not for the Order of Business.

We are dealing with promised legislation.

Legislation was promised on the floor of the House to amend the 2012 Bill if it did not work properly. All the evidence indicates it is not working.

On what basis is the Deputy making this claim?

On the basis of a commitment given on the floor of the House by the then Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter.

Is there a commitment to amend the Bill?

It is too early to say that the personal insolvency legislation is not working. It is certainly effective in terms of the number of people who are now applying for bankruptcy. In regard to restructuring loans, it does not yet seem to be dealing with a large quantum of impaired loans but we are in the early days of its operation. I suggest that in the first instance the appropriate committee of the House to examine progress may be the Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform. I am sure the Minister for Justice and Equality is open to suggestions from that committee on amendments which might improve the efficacy of the legislation.

The legislation promoted by the Government in respect of the property tax provided an option for local authorities to vary the tax up or down by 15%. However, the statutory instrument to which my colleague, Deputy Cowen, referred was published on 5 February without fanfare. It was not even accompanied by the usual press release. The effect of the statutory instrument is to make it virtually impossible for local authorities to vary the property tax in the current year. Was that a deliberate decision on the part of the then Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government?

That is a policy issue.

Was it the intention that the property tax should not be varied this year, as provided for in the legislation initially adopted?

I understand that certain local authorities have already decided to vary the property tax in the current year provided, for logistical reasons, the Revenue Commissioners are notified by the local authority of the new rate. Revenue has made local authorities aware of this.

Sitting suspended at 12.55 p.m. and resumed at 1.55 p.m.