It is proposed to take No. a10, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Companies Act 2014 (Section 1313) Regulations 2015; No. b10, motion re referral to select sub-committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the Statute of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA); and No. 35, statements on the implementation of the national dementia strategy (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. a10 and b10 shall be decided without debate; and in the event No. 35 concludes before 2 p.m., Topical Issues shall be taken at 2 p.m.
Order of Business
There are two proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. a10, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Companies Act 2014 (Section 1313) Regulations 2015 and No. b10, motion re referral to select sub-committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the Statute of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) without debate agreed to? Agreed.
Is the proposal for dealing with Topical Issues today agreed to? Agreed.
I call Deputy Dooley on the Order of Business.
What is happening about next week?
I have nothing here before me.
Normally on Thursday we find out. The rumour is that we will only be here for one day.
I have called Deputy Dooley.
Can we get some clarification?
We will deal with the Order of Business now and we will come back.
The House collapsed yesterday. The House has collapsed for hours three times in the past three weeks.
Does the Deputy wish to be called?
With the committee and other work, we have no Dáil here for three or four hours every week. It is a farce. Now we are getting rumours that there is nothing happening next week.
Was the Deputy here yesterday?
I was here.
I have called Deputy Dooley. I will call Deputy Mattie McGrath if he wishes to be called.
What is happening next week? I ask for clarification. It could fall apart again.
The Government needs to get its fingers out.
At least we do not get gangs after people.
Can we have order please. I call Deputy Dooley.
I do not know what the Minister of State is insinuating about gangs after people. I ask the Leas-Cheann Comhairle to have him withdraw it, please. I do not know what you are insinuating about gangs after me or getting gangs after everyone.
Will he withdraw that remark, please?
I cannot hear everything.
Will he withdraw that remark, please?
I heard no remark. I have called Deputy Dooley.
I am sure the Clerk heard it. We all heard it. I want him to withdraw it.
I am trying to listen to Deputy Dooley.
On a point of order, I want the remark about getting gangs after people withdrawn.
I do not know what was said.
I was never involved in any such activity. He might have been with the Blueshirts.
Okay. All right.
No, it is not all right.
I call Deputy Dooley.
No. I want it withdrawn, please.
I have not-----
You can check with the Clerk later.
We all heard it.
If there is disorder in the House I cannot hear what is going on. There was disorder-----
There were clear remarks. A very serious insinuation was made against my character.
I will listen to the tape and we will go back to the Deputy on that. I call Deputy Dooley.
I had expected that we would hear about next week's order, but obviously that will be raised on Tuesday and we will deal with it in the normal course.
On the public sector standards Bill, a Bill from the Department of Finance, is the Tánaiste aware of a submission on the national minimum wage made by Department of Finance officials to the Low Pay Commission, which is due to deliberate shortly? As she is aware, the Department of Finance has warned that there are serious risks surrounding the increase in the national minimum wage. The submission stated:
The combination of a too-high cost base and a collapse in global demand had severe consequences for Ireland from 2008 on ... this suggests the need for a ‘competitiveness buffer’ to allow the economy absorb potential adverse shocks with as little impact on employment as possible.
The Department calls for a system to allow the minimum wage to be reduced in the future. Did the Tánaiste have sight of that report before it went to the commission? Was it discussed at the Economic Management Council, which generally now steers all matters relating to the economy through the Cabinet? On its submission, does it have the Tánaiste's full support?
I am a bit shocked that Deputy Dooley seems to be so resoundingly in favour of the caution expressed by the Department of Finance about improving the minimum wage. I know Fianna Fáil reduced the minimum wage previously but I thought it might have changed its policy to recognise that as the economy progressed, low-paid workers should be in a position to benefit. That is why I have championed it. The proposal for the Low Pay Commission originated from my involvement in the election campaign for the leadership of the Labour Party.
So the Tánaiste does not support this recommendation.
I am surprised at the Deputy's tone-----
I am just asking.
-----in praising the Department of Finance proposing to cut the minimum wage. I am shocked that Fianna Fáil would propose that.
I did not praise; I asked the Tánaiste if it had her support.
There was a glowing approving tone in his voice. He just said that its recommendation was his recommendation.
No I did not.
I am shocked. There will be Fianna Fáil people throughout the country desperately shocked at this.
The Tánaiste should look at the transcript.
When I was appointed Minister-----
Is the Tánaiste on the Economic Management Council?
-----I made it my first job to reinstate the minimum wage. Fianna Fáil cut €1 an hour off it. Not since Ernest Blythe have we heard of anything as cruel done to very poor people as was done by Fianna Fáil on the minimum wage.
The Tánaiste did not share the cruelty.
I hear the Deputy now declaiming for the Department of Finance. Not a lot in politics surprises me, but this does. It was with regret that I heard it.
I thank the Tánaiste. Was there another issue?
Leave Timmy alone.
Let me say-----
He cannot ask that now.
Let me say-----
He does not have a supplementary.
Let me say that the Low Pay Commission has been established to receive submissions from parties that wish to make submissions.
This submission was from the Department of Finance.
The Deputy obviously supports the submission of the Department of Finance-----
I am asking the Tánaiste whether she supports it.
Sorry, another nine Deputies have to ask questions.
Does the Tánaiste support it?
I repeat that if the Low Pay Commission makes a recommendation to increase low pay and the current minimum wage, I will be giving that recommendation my support.
Does the Tánaiste support the Department of Finance?
I hope to see it implemented. The Department of Finance's submission is a matter for it-----
Was it approved by the Economic Management Council?
We are not having a debate.
If she answered the question, we would not have-----
The Department of Finance is entitled to have a view and express that view; we are not living in a dictatorship. Had the Deputy sought its views during the bank crash, when I believe it got a lot of things wrong-----
Did the Tánaiste support some of those?
I have to call the next speaker.
It is entitled to its views.
I call Deputy Ó Caoláin.
I hope Deputy Dooley will support an increase in-----
Our submission already does. I am just concerned about the Government's. Times change, as the Tánaiste knows.
I want an update on two promised Bills, the Health Act 2007 (amendment) Bill, which is to extend HIQA's remit in a number of areas, including the setting and monitoring of standards of private and independent health care providers. The second is the patient safety (licensing) Bill, to provide for the mandatory system of licensing for public and private health care facilities.
I do not have a date for either of those important Bills.
Is there an update on their preparation?
There is a lot of work ongoing but I do not have an update. That would really be a question for the line Minister.
Yesterday afternoon I was privileged to meet at an Oireachtas Members briefing a number of representatives from the Heritage Council. At the event, I was asked on a number of occasions about the new regulations that are being proposed for national archaeological heritage. In this regard, when can we expect the new national monuments Bill to be brought before the House for debate?
I anticipate that it will be later this year.
The Government has promised to introduce, as soon as possible, some legislative measures following on from the Stormont House Agreement. As the Tánaiste is aware, the Conservative Party, in its manifesto before the UK election, promised that if re-elected to government, it would scrap the Human Rights Act. If such a development takes place, it would break the formal link between the British courts and European Court of Human Rights, and it would have very serious negative consequences for the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. As we all know, the Good Friday Agreement was endorsed in referenda in both the North and South in May 1998 and it was ratified by the British Parliament. It is an international treaty lodged with the United Nations and both the Irish and British Governments are co-guarantors of it. In the section of the Agreement guaranteeing the rights of minorities, the British Government specifically committed to "complete incorporation into Northern Ireland law of the European Convention on Human Rights [...], with direct access to the courts, and remedies for breach of the Convention, including power for the courts to overrule Assembly legislation on grounds of inconsistency". Can the Tánaiste assure us that the Government will convey to the British Government in very strong terms that we will not tolerate any diminution in the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and that the Irish people and, I am sure, the British want to see the full implementation of it, the St. Andrews Agreement and other relevant agreements that followed on from it? Our Parliament and Government need to convey a very strong message to the British Government that there can be no unpicking of the Good Friday Agreement.
I agree with the statements made during the British general election that potential changes, if implemented by the new British Government, could have significant implications for the Belfast Agreement and other agreements negotiated between the British and Irish Governments. The peace process and how it has developed are important both for the United Kingdom, the Republic and, most of all, the people of Northern Ireland, who have seen a period of peace as a consequence of the Agreement. Therefore, any proposals that would affect key elements of the Agreement have great significance for everybody on this island but also the United Kingdom itself. In that context, contact is ongoing between the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Charlie Flanagan, the Minister of State, Deputy Sean Sherlock, the parties in the North and London, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who has renewed her tenure of office. There is constant contact and there will be contact between the Taoiseach and the newly elected British Prime Minister in the near future. These matters are very important.
The programme for Government included a commitment to introduce new freedom of information legislation, and it was introduced. My understanding is that it also allows for a review of the legislation. I have submitted freedom of information requests to the Department of Finance but must say I am really unhappy with the way the legislation is playing out. I was due to receive responses at about the same time as a journalist received responses to the same questions. Two weeks later, I got the exact same information. I am awaiting other material that is overdue by weeks. I have gone through the appropriate channels, making the complaints, but the information is not being provided to me. I am not being given an explanation. It is completely unsatisfactory. Will the Tánaiste consider strengthening the legislation if there is evidence that it is not working? If there is such evidence, will she carry out a review before the term of this Government has concluded?
We have just strengthened, expanded and restored very significantly the remit of the Freedom of Information Act. I am not aware of the details of what the Deputy is complaining about. I will certainly refer her remarks to the Minister for Finance for comment and a reply.
It is important to have a more open information society in which as much information as possible would be published rather than requiring people to request information solely through the freedom of information legislation. This is reflected in Government policy. I do not know about the specific incident to which the Deputy is referring. As I said, I will refer it to the Minister for Finance for further comment and a reply.
I ask all Members to be brief as many are offering to contribute.
Right across the country, the electoral register continues to cause serious problems, particularly for individuals voting in both elections and referenda. They find that their names are missing on the register although they have lived in an area all their lives. There are incorrect names on the register and people who are deceased for three or four years. This is not good enough.
Is the Deputy asking about legislation?
The establishment of an electoral commission needs to be fast-tracked. This was promised in the programme for Government. The electoral commission Bill, No. 84, is to provide for the establishment of an electoral commission. Can that be fast-tracked?
Let me first refer to the difficulties with the electoral register. If people are denied their vote, it is a very serious issue. The matter has been referred to the environment committee for it to examine it and report as soon as possible.
The Cabinet published a consultation document on the electoral commission proposal. Obviously, that will form part of the preparation of the legislation.
The national disability equality specialist support agency, DESSA, is being forced to close its core services due to the sudden announcement by Tusla that it will no longer fund DESSA to deliver essential front-line services and supports to the families of disabled children nationwide. This is a disgraceful cut which will have a dramatic negative effect on these people. DESSA is calling for a meeting with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy James Reilly, to discuss the immediate reversal of this decision.
The matter does not arise on the Order of Business.
It arises under the child care (amendment) Bill.
Has the Tánaiste a reply on that issue?
I suggest a detailed question such as that is a matter for the line Minister in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
You are the Tánaiste.
In relation to the budget of Tusla which is charged with protecting the welfare, safety and positive development of children, if the Deputy wants to ask detailed questions he should put them to the Minister who is in charge of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
Mar is eol don Tánaiste, tá gealltanas i gclár reachtaíochta an Rialtais go ndéanfar athbhreithniú ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla. An bhféadfadh an Tánaiste a cur in iúl dúinn cén uair an bhfuil sí ag súil go mbeidh an Bille sin á fhoilsiú?
Beidh sé á fhoilsiú sa seisiún seo.
The Government recently published the legislation to enact the dissolution of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. Can the Tánaiste give an indication as to when it will be taken in the House?
The Bill has been published. I would hope it will be taken as soon as possible.
Last week I asked about the Istanbul Convention to prevent violence against women. I also raised the issue of the domestic violence Bill which is promised in the legislative programme. At that time the Tánaiste was not able to tell us what the Government would do in respect of the Istanbul convention and she did not have a timeline for the domestic violence Bill. Has she been able to ascertain what progress has been made on either of those two important issues?
I think the Deputy received a written reply in respect of last week's questions. If not, I will have it resent to the Deputy. In respect of the second item, I do not have a date as yet for the taking of the domestic violence legislation.
I call Deputy Mattie McGrath.
I again ask that you check the records regarding the Whip's comments.
I wish to raise two items. In regard to the electoral commission Bill, I ask the Tánaiste if she is aware, as I am sure she is, that the Labour Party has hundreds of posters up without proper identification.
That issue does not arise now.
It arises under the electoral commission Bill. Somebody has to control this. If there are rules they have to be observed by all people and all practitioners of politics. There is no identification on hundreds of the posters as regards where they are printed or published. Under the Regulation of Lobbying Bill what will the Government do to reign in the outrageous lobbying and funding by Atlantic Philanthropies of groups such as the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, €7 million, Amnesty International Ireland, €5 million-----
There is a Bill on lobbying.
A lobbying Bill has been promised. Tusla, €8 million and GLEN, €7 million, a total of €24 million, which has been pumped into these organisations who are all campaigning for a Yes vote. It is total inference in our democratic system and is unacceptable in any democracy.
We cannot have a debate. What is the position in respect of the lobbying Bill?
The Regulation of Lobbying Bill has been enacted.
Why does the Tánaiste not implement it? Surely the Tánaiste is aware that displaying Labour Party posters without any identification is breaking the law.
Communications has not gone to Tipperary yet.
The higher education Bill proposes to modernise the legislative framework underpinning the governance and functioning of the Higher Education Authority and governance structures of the universities. When is it expected the Bill will come before the House? Have the heads of the Bill been cleared? Will it be in the current year? Has the petroleum, exploration and extraction and safety (amendment) Bill to transpose EU directives on safety of offshore oil and gas exploration been cleared?
In relation to the petroleum legislation, the heads of the Bill were cleared in March, and in respect of the education legislation, the heads of the Bill are being drafted as we speak.
I wish to raise two issues. The Tánaiste is busy.
The Deputy has the floor.
I and quite a number of Members, including Members on the Government benches, are increasingly concerned at an apparent lack of interest and a loss of a sense of urgency on the part of the Government leadership to bring forward the gambling control and regulations Bill, including Internet betting and gambling. It is an extremely serious situation that has been allowed to be ignored. We have got voids in the schedule of business today and next week and if there was a real will to do something about this it could easily be brought forward.
Does the Deputy wish to know when it will be taken?
This is legislation.
Does the Deputy want to know when it will be taken?
In racing parlance it appears that this legislation has been pulled up.
The Deputy has a second item.
I would like to support the Tánaiste's colleague, Deputy Willie Penrose, and ask the Government to take a leaf out of his pragmatic, intelligent approach apropos of proposed legislation that bankruptcy should be all tidied up within a year.
I thank the Deputy.
I explained to the Taoiseach when he said there are credit unions and smaller suppliers to people who are bankrupt and three years is needed to tidy it up, that that is like saying somebody is only a little bit dead. When one is bankrupt, one is bankrupt and it means one tidies it all up faster.
I call on the Tánaiste to respond.
The Tánaiste is a chartered accountant and she should know this.
I am delighted to hear the Deputy has such confidence in chartered accountants and in accountants generally. I am not sure everybody else in the House would have that confidence.
The Tánaiste should speak for herself.
In relation to Deputy Willie Penrose's valuable legislation in respect of the bankruptcy period, that legislation will be examined in some depth by the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform. The Deputy will be aware that in terms of the measures announced yesterday we will shortly have legislation on an examinership process in respect of people who are at risk in terms of their family home and a deal with the bank. Given the Deputy's experience as an accountant of many years' standing he will be aware that the examinership process should be in a position to help couples seriously to reach a sustainable agreement to ensure they can stay in their homes.
And in respect of the gambling legislation?
I do not have a date for the gambling legislation.
That concludes the Order of Business.