Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 21 Sep 2017

Vol. 959 No. 2

Questions on Promised Legislation

We have only 15 minutes for Questions on Promised Legislation and I will not be able to accommodate all Members who wish to speak. Perhaps the Business Committee could examine timing at a later stage. I ask Members to confine themselves to short, focused questions on promised legislation or the programme for Government.

The programme for Government, the supply and confidence agreement and A Vision for Change all refer to improving 24 hour service support and liaison teams for mental health in primary and emergency care. Last year the HR director of the HSE wrote to all nursing graduates to say that permanent contracts would be put in place. However, mental health nurse graduates are not being recruited on permanent contracts. I ask that the Tánaiste consider this in the context of the commitment in the programme for Government to ensuring there is adequate support and services for mental health nurses in primary care teams and emergency care teams.

There is a focus on mental health and ensuring that there are teams all over the country. There are now 64 teams in place under the CAMHS service which indicates that recruitment is successfully taking place. I will raise the point made by Deputy Kelleher with the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris.

I wish to mention the consolidated domestic violence legislation which I have raised consistently in the House.

This Government and the previous one made repeated commitments to bring forward such legislation.

Can the Tánaiste give us a specific date for when the heads of Bill for the criminal justice (Istanbul Convention) Bill will be ready for pre-legislative scrutiny?

The domestic violence consolidated legislation the Deputy mentioned is in the Seanad and I would like to see it go through that House as quickly as possible. I was very pleased to introduce that important Bill.

The Government is working closely with the Departments of Justice and Equality and of Health to deal with one issue that has arisen in respect of signing the convention. It is intended to sign the convention by the end of this year. The legislation should be available soon.

For almost 18 months, the Technological Universities Bill 2015 has been stalled and the merger of the institutions towards technological university status has also been impeded considerably. Announcements have been made about amendments. When will the amendments be published and when will the Bill be back in committee?

The amendments for the Technological Universities Bill 2015 are being drafted and I am hoping to have them soon and to deal with that legislation before the end of the year.

When will the Garda Síochána Bill be ready relating to complaints and investigations by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission? I raise this in light of the news last night that all charges have been dropped against future Jobstown defendants.

On promised legislation only.

I named the legislation already.

The Deputy is now eating into everybody else's time. It is just selfish.

Does this not now warrant independent investigation into why this fiasco began and went as far as it did, in respect of money and the resources of the Garda, and given that the evidence of the gardaí is not now considered fit for a jury? Is the Tánaiste concerned that the only person now convicted in respect of that event is a minor? He now has a criminal conviction hanging over him for the rest of his life. That conviction must now be overturned.

The Deputy should deal with the legislation.

All the people have been vindicated and that young man should not have this hanging over him.

Work is under way on that Bill. Decisions taken by the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, are a matter for the DPP. It is an independent office and that is absolutely in keeping with our system of justice, the separation of powers and the due process approach to criminal justice.

I am sure the Tánaiste is aware that a young man from Donegal, Timothy Jackson, is on his fourth day of hunger strike outside the House.

The Deputy should ask about promised legislation.

It is the health (amendment) Bill. He has written to the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health asking them to view a short video of a situation regarding the eighth amendment. He wants the Taoiseach to ask the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution to view this video as part of its deliberations on any repeal or otherwise. It can be viewed at whiteflag.ie.

I think they should watch it.

Any decision about the work of the committee is a matter for the committee of which the Deputy is a member.

Of course. I have written to the Taoiseach.

Work is under way on the health (amendment) Bill.

The commercial rates Bill appears to be very low in the list of priorities on the legislative programme with no pre-legislative scrutiny date determined. When does the Government expect to see this advanced? Many towns outside Dublin are trying to share in the recovery experienced in the capital. I see this particularly in my home town, Navan, where the archaic system is thwarting any entrepreneurs trying to grow their businesses. When will it be considered and advanced? Does the Tánaiste think it right that in the past year business contributions to the running of local councils have increased to €1.5 billion, 36% of the income up from 29% in 2010 because councils are forced to increase rates due to rising costs.

This is an important Bill to modernise and consolidate the approach to commercial rates and it is expected that the Bill will go before the committee for pre-legislative scrutiny soon.

The programme for Government contains a commitment to support people living in rural areas. On 28 August every local authority in the State was advised to accept applications to participate in a local improvement scheme, a scheme under which people make a contribution where there are more than two people living on a road. The closing date was 14 September and I understand works have to be completed by 24 November. To date, the local authority in Sligo has received 250 applications, the local authority in County Leitrim has received 210, while the local authority in County Donegal has also received 250.

The problem arises from an apparent dispute between two Ministers, Deputies Shane Ross and Michael Ring, over who will fund the scheme. The work must be completed within the next three to four weeks, but the local authorities have not been informed of funding.

Who is paying for it? Where is the money?

It was announced today.

Is the figure €282,000 for the local authority in Sligo? I am glad to hear it.

Who is taking the credit? Is it the Minister, Deputy Shane Ross, or the Minister, Deputy Michael Ring?

There is funding for the local authority in County Donegal.

It is over €800,000, but I had better not make a comment from the Chair.

Deputy Eamon Scanlon has got his funding, on which I congratulate him.

The Market and Financial Instruments Bill is important legislation. Has the relevant Minister considered the potential implications of the European Commission's proposals announced yesterday relating to reforming the European supervisory authority and specifically the proposal to amend the MiFID II directive? What is the anticipated impact on the transposition in Ireland of the MiFID II directive? Will the Tánaiste consult the relevant Minister on the Market and Financial Instruments Bill which is priority legislation?

I do not think the relevant Minister is in the House. Prelegislative scrutiny of the Bill will take place shortly and there will be full publication in the course of this term.

I call on Deputy John Brady to ask a focused question.

On housing and particularly homelessness, in Bray in my constituency of Wicklow a homeless man aged 41 years was found dead in a tent on Saturday morning. It was a tragedy. I listened to the Tánaiste's empty rhetoric. Joseph, the man who passed away, was not the only homeless person in Bray. While we sit here, there are homeless persons sleeping in tents on the top of Bray Head. There are people sleeping in tents under footbridges along the N11. The Tánaiste's empty rhetoric does nothing for them.

Questions on promised legislation, please.

While there has been much talk about providing 200 emergency beds for homeless persons in coming months, none of it caters for my constituency. There are homeless families, women and families, being put up in women's refuges-----

The Deputy is depriving his colleagues of their time. He cannot circumvent the rules.

What is the Government doing to address the homeless crisis in my constituency?

If the question is related to promised legislation, the Tánaiste may answer.

This is not Second Stage.

It is included in the programme for Government.

Is it promised legislation?

I am asking what will be included in it to address what is a serious problem.

The Deputy is depriving his colleagues of their time. We cannot circumvent the rules. Does the Tánaiste wish to answer?

Like everyone in the House, I express my deepest sympathy to the family of the man in question. Everyone in the House shares the concern about the situation in which he found himself. I have outlined the initiatives being taken to deal with the very serious issue of homelessness, including the increased number of emergency beds, to ensure people will have access to better facilities than those outlined by the Deputy.

Will the Tánaiste give a specific date for the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities?

The Tánaiste must excuse my cynicism, because exactly this time last year I asked for a date and we were told it would be before the end of the year. The Taoiseach has stated the Government is using a different approach to other European countries, and this is certainly true because I find its approach very hands-off and I would like a more specific date, please.

The Department of Health and the Department Justice and Equality are working together on finalising the amendments for the Bill, particularly on the issue of deprivation of liberty, which is a very complex issue. We intend to sign the convention by the end of this year and bring the relevant legislation to the House before then. The point the Taoiseach was making is that some countries signed before they did all of the work or developed the services for those with a disability. We have taken the approach that we want to make sure everything is in place before we sign it. That is actually more constructive approach. It means better services for people with disabilities.

Is it possible to get a date for when the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill, which passed through the House on the final day before the summer recess, will be taken in the Seanad?

A date for the Seanad.

We completed all Stages in the Dáil and it has gone to the Seanad. It is a matter for the Seanad to decide on the exact timetable for it. I am sure if the Deputy makes inquiries there he will be told.

In the programme for Government, special consideration is given to the creation of new jobs in many rural areas throughout the country. The Tánaiste is aware the Border region, of which counties Sligo, Leitrim and south Donegal are part, has, unfortunately, witnessed the lowest level of job growth than any other region.

On this basis, will the Tánaiste please advise the House on the efforts the Government is making to rebalance this job creation growth, particularly given Brexit and weakening sterling, which have already resulted in job losses in the region?

I ask the Tánaiste to reply if legislation is involved.

This will primarily be affected by continued economic development and the Action Plan for Jobs, and I assure the Deputy the Regional Action Plan for Jobs will make absolutely sure every area in the country benefits from the job creation we see, as it has already in terms of the percentage of jobs last year. There was growth in Dublin but there was also growth in all regions. The area about which the Deputy is speaking is an area that does need focus and attention.

In the context of the urgent need for more social housing, some of the larger voluntary housing associations have been making a very strong case that if they could show they were regulated they could borrow money to build substantial numbers of social houses. It is a year and a half since there was pre-legislative scrutiny on the Bill to regulate the voluntary housing sector and the approved housing bodies. It is on the list. When will the legislation be published?

It is a priority for this term and the Minister will ensure it will be before the House this term.

I wish to ask the Tánaiste about the status of the health (transport support) Bill. When will it come before the House?

It will be this session.

In the programme for Government six key issues were laid out on improving mental health services, and we all subscribe to this. The Tánaiste is aware that recently a review of mental health services in County Roscommon was published. This review had been ongoing since 2015. It referred to a culture of blame, secrecy and negativity in Roscommon mental health services.

Promised legislation.

It is with regard to the programme for Government. I will not delay on this and I will not fire Scuds left, right and centre, but this is very revealing. In 2012, €4.57 million was returned to the HSE from County Roscommon. In 2013, a sum of €6.9 million was returned to the HSE and in 2014 a sum of €6.19 million was returned. This amounts to more than €17 million. The report revealed that people died in the county. There are heartbroken families. Recently, a woman sat in my clinic and cried.

Promised legislation.

Yes, it is in the programme for Government. On three occasions this woman spoke to psychiatrists and each time it was a different psychiatrist. She has had to tell her story over and over again.

The Taoiseach was Minister for Health for part of the time in question. Will the €17.2 million be returned to the mental health services in County Roscommon, which are in deep crisis? None of us wants more tragedy.

The Tánaiste should focus on promised legislation.

The work is being done on the legislation on mental health.

I am trying to accommodate all.

With regard to the point the Deputy makes, very often the explanation is the difficulty in recruiting staff, but that is obviously an issue on which the HSE needs to focus to ensure that where the money is available, the services will be developed and delivered in the types of circumstances described by the Deputy.

In the programme for Government, there is a commitment to both urban and rural regeneration and rejuvenation. Could the Tánaiste tell us specifically when the sports capital grant for this year will be issued? When will the village renewal programme be announced? It is normally announced at this time of year. I am led to believe it has been postponed until October. Perhaps Deputy McLoughlin knows the answer.

The question was not on legislation.

It is not on promised legislation.

It is in the programme for Government.

Under the programme for Government, this has been a very important capital initiative to help local communities to develop sports services. That is being prioritised again this year. The Minister, Deputy Shane Ross, and the Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, will be making announcements before the of the year in regard to it.

The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (amendment) Bill has been promised for some time. Pre-legislative scrutiny took place on 27 June last. When is it likely to come before the House given its importance?

It is listed for this session.

I raise again the long-awaited scheme to replace the mobility and motorised transport grants. I heard the Tánaiste's earlier response but I have been told on numerous occasions that the heads of the Bill would be presented shortly. We do not even have the heads of the Bill, yet the Tánaiste is saying she expects the legislation will be enacted before the end of the year. Is that really realistic? What is the delay? When can we expect the heads of the Bill so we can have a Parliament, with all its elements, really addressing the long-awaited replacement scheme?

My information is that it is intended that the Bill will be published this term.

I have a technical question. The Maritime Area and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill is on the long list. The Government had given some indication that it would legislate for the prohibition of micro-plastics in that Bill. I would like the Government to clarify when it will legislate for that. I have a Bill that is due before committee. The ten-week window has long since passed. I had said to the Government that I was willing to wait for the publication of its legislation and that I will be happy to withdraw mine if it passes muster. That still has not happened. What is the status of the Government's proposed Bill?

The advice of the Parliamentary Counsel has been sought on that Bill. We have to await that advice. I will ask the Minister to liaise directly on the detail as to how that might be included.

In the programme for Government, there is a commitment to improving oversight and accountability in policing. In the context of that and the resignation of the Garda Commissioner, will the Government, including the Minister for Justice and Equality, consider meeting all Opposition parties regarding the process for the replacement of the Garda Commissioner to ensure full political buy-in concerning that appointment?

Responsibility for that recruitment lies with the Policing Authority and the Public Appointments Service.

I have asked about the status of the assisted human reproduction legislation. I was assured by the Minister for Health in the last term that it was a priority. It has not managed to make it onto the priority list. Can the Tánaiste give us an idea when the general scheme will be available? I ask simply because many people want to know when they will get that assistance.

It is important legislation. The Minister, Deputy Harris, spoke about it recently and recognised it as such. Consultation is underway with stakeholders and some legal advice is being sought. He is anxious to publish a Bill as soon as possible. It is not down as a priority for this term because of the ongoing background work. I am sure the Deputy will receive further information in the House in the period ahead.

I remind the House that most people were focused. I thank them. We have overrun by a few minutes.