Questions on Promised Legislation

Eighteen Deputies have already indicated. I will start with Deputy Kelleher.

The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has announced a number of measures to tackle sexual harassment and abuse of power in the workplace in the arts and cultural sector because of recent pronouncements. The organisations only recently co-signed a statement condemning sexual harassment and abuses of power in theatres. To say the least, it is bizarre that it took so long for them to come to heel in that respect.

Regarding the boards of the national cultural institutions, agencies will now only be asked to attend governance workshops. Given the broader remit of the Government in funding State agencies, will the Government conduct a trawl of those that are directly or indirectly funding other entities to ensure that they have proper governance structures and anti-bullying and anti-sexual harassment protocols in place?

I thank the Deputy, but we only have one minute for questions and answers.

I welcome the fact that a statement has been signed by the cultural institutions. They are already bound by strong governance protocols. The key point is to ensure that those are implemented. As I told Deputy Howlin, ongoing monitoring and reporting mechanisms are necessary. We have strong rules on board membership and the role of directors and the new Charities Regulator will ensure that there is proper governance in the NGO sector. Governance issues have emerged in the charity sector and State agencies in recent times. The rules are there, but their implementation and monitoring require focus.

Section 5 of A Programme for a Partnership Government reads: "Resources will be set aside each year to reduce waiting lists with the funding targeted, in particular, at those most urgent cases and those whose who have been waiting longest." The latest National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, figures show that overall national waiting list numbers are increasing. Some doctors predict that the figure could exceed 100,000 by the end of the year. Will the Government implement a single integrated waiting list management system nationally? The Minister, Deputy Harris, will be aware that this has been done in the RCSI hospital group on a pilot basis and has worked fairly well. Hospitals in the group have started sharing resources and lists.

Sinn Féin has a plan for a single integrated waiting list management system called "Comhliosta". I have offered the Minister the name. In any event, will consideration be given to replicating nationally what has been shown to work locally?

I will ask the Minister to answer.

Waiting lists are not increasing nationally; they have fallen for the third month in a row. Of course, patients on a pre-planned list, which is where a doctor wants to see the patient in another six months and the date for that appointment is set, are not counted as waiting. When the patient visits the doctor, is told that he or she is clinically not well enough for a procedure and is sent home, the patient is on the suspended list and is not waiting. Let us compare apples and apples and not confuse people on purpose. Waiting list numbers have reduced for three months in a row, but we have much more to do.

I agree with the Deputy on the issue of an integrated system. I have outlined to her how we have asked Trinity College Dublin to undertake a body of work, which will conclude in the first quarter of 2018, examining how other countries manage waiting lists. No other country counts them as we do. We are also asking eHealth Ireland to consider the Deputy's suggestion, which has merit. We might even call it "Comhliosta".

The Tánaiste knows well that the cost of motor insurance remains a critical issue for many people across the country, particularly in communities with inadequate or, oftentimes, no public transport. She knows that, in January, the report of the cost of insurance working group made a number of recommendations and she announced the Personal Injuries Assessment Board amendment Bill in June. A number of specific measures to be addressed in that Bill would make insurance more affordable. When will the Bill advance so that we can have the recommendations of the working group impact on people who cannot afford to pay for car insurance?

This is priority legislation. My understanding is that there was some discussion at the committee yesterday as to whether it required pre-legislative scrutiny. I will communicate directly with the Deputy on that matter, but I am keen to have the Bill before the House as soon as possible. Progress has been made.

Before the summer break, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Naughten, published the national mitigation plan on climate action. He is present today. I have read the plan. It is a voluminous publication and a complete work of fiction. It lets down the country in terms of dealing with climate change.

This weekend, our delegation will attend the COP23 in Bonn and examine our contribution towards mitigating climate change and our adherence to the Paris Agreement targets. Disgracefully, we are miles behind what we should be achieving. Hand on heart, I will be mortified to go to Bonn as part of the Irish delegation. We have much to answer for.

Not once has there been a Dáil discussion on the important issue of the national mitigation plan, yet it affects everything we do. Even in the current rail strike, the question of climate change features centrally.

Time is up, Deputy, please.

If we funded public transport properly, we would be reducing our CO2 emissions. I will raise this matter with the Business Committee, but can we please take climate change seriously and have a proper discussion on the work of fiction called the "National Mitigation Plan"?

I am surprised by the Deputy's comments because criticisms of the mitigation plan have been that it clearly sets out the current position. I am disappointed by her comments on COP23. The reason I actively encouraged Members of the Oireachtas to attend was that many good innovative ideas were being discussed and parliamentarians from across the globe who could assist us in meeting our global targets would attend. We could learn from this. The annual transition statement will be released later this month or early next month. I am available at any time, within travel constraints, to come to the House to discuss the mitigation plan or climate change in general.

Hurricane Ophelia occurred a number of weeks ago and a lot of damage was done to nurseries in south Tipperary and east Cork.

On promised legislation, please.

Of course, it is. Apples are exported all over the world. The nurseries affected have contracts to fill. The Minister of State, Deputy Andrew Doyle, indicated that he would visit the ones affected but then refused to do so. I have also raised the matter with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Michael Creed, but nothing has been done for the nurseries affected

I think it is the subject of a Topical Issue.

I will submit one also. The nurseries affected employ significant numbers of people. This has been the second knock for them within a couple of years. They need some support and empathy, at least, if nothing else.

I will bring the concerns raised by the Deputy to the attention of the Minister and the Minister of State and ask them to respond to him directly. Hurricane Ophelia had various impacts. It is important to recognise the point made by the Deputy about the damage done and determine whether anything can be done to address it.

On promised legislation, the Tánaiste recently announced a package of measures to tackle white collar crime, but we first need to find out why the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement's handling of the Fitzpatrick trial was so shambolic. The Tánaiste has had a report on the matter for the past four and half months and received advice from the Attorney General. Why is she continuing to sit on the report? Can she give us a date for when she intends to make it publicly available?

Earlier this year a former Anglo Irish Bank chairman, Mr. Seán Fitzpatrick, was acquitted of all charges in a court case. The judge acquitted him because of the biased investigation conducted by the ODCE into the shredding of documents and the coaching of witnesses.

The Deputy is naming names.

As Chairman of the Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, when can we expect the report to be brought before the committee? This issue has been ongoing for five months and we would like the report to be sent to the committee as soon as possible.

I am having discussions with the Attorney General on the report which raises complex legal issues. Therefore, I am not in a position to confirm when and if I will be in a position to publish it.

On a point of order, yesterday the Tánaiste stated in reply to a parliamentary question that she had received legal advice. She is now discussing the matter with her officials. Will she tell us when she will publish the report?

I am not in a position to say when I will publish it. I have received some legal advice from the Attorney General and will have further conversations with the Attorney General and my officials.

That is not good enough.

There is no provision for a debate on these matters.

On promised legislation, I refer to the Greyhound Industry (Amendment) Bill. The greyhound industry has been through a difficult spell in recent times. It employs over 10,000 people. As such, it is a very important industry for Ireland and we are aware of its future importance. Pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill took place last May and June and it was intended to introduce it before the summer recess. That did not happen and the Bill is not listed on the Order Paper. Will the Tánaiste indicate when it may be introduced?

I understand it will be published next Tuesday.

The Communications Regulation (Amendment) Bill has been promised. In that context, given the implications for the national broadband plan, when is the Bill likely to be brought before the House? Will it happen at an early date?

To what did the Deputy refer?

I referred to the Communications Regulation (Amendment) Bill. It will confer additional powers on the Commission for Communications Regulation in connection with the national broadband plan.

The process is ongoing. The Bill concerns the accessibility of infrastructure and is part of the overall procurement process. It is being fast-tracked within the Department. I understand it is with the Parliamentary Counsel.

I refer to a commitment on page 48 of the programme for Government, namely, that the new Government will act swiftly on the recommendations of the post office business group. It goes on to outline the steps involved, including those involving credit unions, the Sparkasse model of banking in Germany, motor tax and establishing hubs. The idea is to bring business to the post office network. There are mail centres in Portlaoise, Athlone, Cork and Dublin, staff in at least two of which are questioning their future. In excess of 200 workers are employed in the mail centre in Portlaoise.

It is not promised legislation.

We have had the Kerr and McKinsey reports and there is a commitment on page 48 of the programme for Government, but we need to see action which I acknowledge should have been taken by previous Governments. This is something we should have done ten or 15 years ago. We cannot keep dragging our heels. We must move to secure the future of the service.

We are not dragging our heels. As the Deputy knows, within months of being appointed as Minister, I brought a Bill through the House, facilitated by Members of the Oireachtas, to ensure we could retain the five-day a week universal postal service across the country. The Sparkasse model and the financial services aspect are being dealt with by the Minister, Deputy Michael Ring.

On the other issues raised by the Deputy, I expect to bring a memorandum to the Government within the next few weeks. The Government has already had a discussion on motor tax.

It was agreed in the programme for Government that there would be rural-proofing of all Government policies. Where is the rural-proofing of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill and the Road Traffic Bill? If they are passed, they will lead to the closure of many rural supermarkets and public houses and a loss of jobs in rural Ireland.

That is not the case in respect of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. I am delighted that this landmark Bill passed Committee Stage in the Seanad yesterday, having been delayed for many years. Many of the arguments being made are similar to those made when the smoking ban was introduced. In fairness, Deputy Micheál Martin had the courage to stand up to the accusation that the ban would close down rural Ireland. It certainly did not. I have given a commitment to engage with retailers to make sure the legislation will not be an unnecessary burden on small shops. Before I reintroduce Report Stage, I will, having engaged with my party, meet retailers to hear their concerns and make sure they are addressed.

What about rural-proofing?

The Deputy specifically referenced the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. I assure him that it is being rural-proofed by engaging with retailers.

I referred to the Qalifications and Quality Assurance (Amendment) Bill. The Tánaiste will remember that when she was Minister for Justice and Equality, I was Minister for Education and Skills. We did a lot of work together on bogus English language schools, the importance of rooting out the bogus schools and dealing with the exploitation of young people who had come from other countries to learn English in Ireland. The Minister for Education and Skills might want to address this issue. The joint committee has decided not to carry out pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill. When will it be brought before the House?

The heads of the Bill were approved earlier this year and published on 15 May. There was a meeting of the joint committee on 17 July when it was determined that the Bill did not require pre-legislative scrutiny. It has been referred for drafting.

That concludes questions on promised legislation. Our apologies to the six Members who were not reached.