An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

The business this week shall be as set out in the first revised report of the Business Committee, dated 22 October 2019.

In relation to today's business, it is proposed that the Dáil shall sit later than 10 p.m. and adjourn at the conclusion of Private Members’ Business which shall be taken for two hours at the conclusion of statements on developments in Spain. No. 37, statements on an acknowledgement and apology to the women and families affected by the CervicalCheck debacle, shall commence immediately after the Order of Business and be followed by Taoiseach’s Questions and shall conclude within 85 minutes, if not previously concluded. Statements shall be confined to a single round for the Taoiseach and leaders or the main spokespersons of parties and groups, or a member nominated in their stead, and shall not exceed ten minutes each, with a five minute response from a Minister or a Minister of State, and all Members may share time. No 38, statements on developments in Spain, shall be brought to a conclusion after 45 minutes, if not previously concluded. The sttatements of a Minister or a Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups, or a member nominated in their stead, shall not exceed five minutes each, with a five minute response from a Minister or a Minister of State, and all Members may share time.

In relation to Wednesday’s business, it is proposed that the Dáil shall sit at 9.30 a.m. to take No. 39, financial motions by the Minister for Finance [2019] (motion No. 9, resumed). If there are no speakers offering, the motion shall be adjourned and the sitting shall be suspended until 10.30 a.m. The Dáil shall sit later than 10.15 p.m. and adjourn not later than 11 p.m.. No. 40, statements on post-European Council meeting of 17–18 October, pursuant to Standing Order 111, shall commence immediately after Taoiseach’s Questions and be followed by the suspension of the sitting under Standing Order 25(1) for one hour and shall conclude within 1 hour and 45 minutes, if not previously concluded. The statements of a Minister or a Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups, or a member nominated in their stead, shall not exceed ten minutes each; a Minister or a Minister of State shall take questions for a period not exceeding 20 minutes, with a five minute response from a Minister or a Minister of State, and all Members may share time. No. 1, Industrial Development (Amendment) Bill 2019 [Seanad] - all Stages, shall conclude within three hours. The proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after two hours and any division demanded at the conclusion of Second Stage shall be taken immediately; speeches on Second Stage shall not exceed ten minutes each, with a five minute response from the Minister or a Minister of State, and all Members may share time. The proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall be taken at the conclusion of Second Stage for the remainder of the three hours and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion by one question which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

In relation to Thursday’s business, it is proposed that the Dáil shall sit at 9.30 a.m. to resume Second Stage of No. 12, Finance Bill 2019, if not previously concluded. If Second Stage concludes before 10.30 a.m., the sitting shall be suspended until 10.30 a.m.

The Dáil shall sit later than 8.03 p.m. and shall adjourn on the conclusion of Topical Issues, which shall be taken on the conclusion of proceedings on all Stages of the Industrial Development (Amendment) Bill 2019 [Seanad]. On No. a17, motion regarding financial resolutions of the Finance Bill 2019, the financial resolutions for the Finance Bill 2019 shall be moved together and decided without debate by one question. No. 40a, statements on matters in respect of the report of the Committee on Procedure on Dáil divisions, shall be taken following the suspension of the sitting for not more than 40 minutes. Statements shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups or a Member nominated in their stead and shall not exceed five minutes each. The statements shall be followed by any personal explanations permitted by the Ceann Comhairle under Standing Order 46. The order shall resume thereafter. No. 12 is the Finance Bill 2019 and any division demanded on the Second Stage motion after the weekly divisions have taken place shall be taken immediately. No Private Members’ Bill shall be taken under Standing Order 140A and no committee report shall be taken under Standing Order 91(2). The Dáil on its rising shall adjourn until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 5 November 2019.

I thank Deputy Shortall. There are three proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with today's business agreed to?

I understand and find it absolutely correct that we need to make time on Thursday to address the issue of people voting when they were not present and the investigation that is being undertaken. I accept the need to debate that this week. However, I also think that this critical discussion which has to happen this week to restore the integrity of the voting system should not overshadow another issue, which I mentioned at the Business Committee and which has to be discussed as a matter of urgency. I refer to the revelations around the national children's hospital and the suggestions that we are facing yet another overrun on a project that has overrun massively, and to the resignation of somebody who is in charge of public procurement across all Departments from the board of the national children's hospital. This is a serious matter of public interest that needs to be debated this week.

I support Deputy Boyd Barrett. I raised the matter in Leaders' Questions earlier. The cost of this project has escalated beyond any reasonable expectation at the beginning. The resignation of the State procurement officer has all the appearances of a serious decision. There is reluctance on the part of Government to talk to the person, particularly the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, who must be very concerned about the runaway costs of this project. The minutes of the August meeting and the July and June meetings must give cause for concern. One gets a sense that the situation is not under control and that there are significant health and safety issues, on which I would like to have a transparent presentation. I support Deputy Boyd Barrett's call for an urgent debate on that issue.

I too support that request. There are a number of issues I would have liked to raise with the Taoiseach regarding the ongoing, spiralling cost of the national children's hospital. Bluntly, the reaction of the Taoiseach today, almost to say that it was none of his business, is not an acceptable view. We need to have great clarity about the biggest construction project in the State sector that is under way right now.

I want to raise a matter in respect of No. 40a for Thursday, namely, the statements that will be taken on the report from the Committee on Procedure. I know we are dealing with Tuesday but I ask the Ceann Comhairle to bear with me for a second. There may well be a vote called on the Order of Business for Tuesday's sitting. If that is the case, it does eat into time and we may not get to making our points about Thursday's sitting.

We have a call now for a debate on the children's hospital and related matters.

Can we deal with that first and we will return to Deputy Cullinane on his matter then?

Yes. I am saying that if a vote is called, that will not preclude us from being able to put questions in respect of Thursday's sitting.

No, it does not. I call Deputy Shortall, on the same matter.

I support Deputy Boyd Barrett. It is important to have a debate this week on the runaway costs of the children's hospital and on what is the precise role of the chief procurement officer. Has he gone back to continuing in that role? Why did he step down from the hospital board? I supported Deputy Boyd Barrett at the Business Committee in his request for this debate. It is a pity that other representatives from Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party did not do likewise.

We were not given enough notice of this matter.

Before I call on the Taoiseach or the Government Chief Whip, having some knowledge, as many of us here have, of the itinerary for this week, I would love to know where time can be found to have the debate.

Subject to the agreement of the Business Committee, we have no difficulty in having a debate on this on Thursday, but perhaps the Ministers for Health and Public Expenditure and Reform might be allowed to get briefed up on this before the debate on Thursday.

They should be briefed already on this.

Please, can we allow the Taoiseach answer?

If Deputies are interested in genuine accountability, rather than the political circus that happens too often in this House, an Oireachtas joint committee hearing that the head of the procurement board - the people who are actually delivering the project - could also attend might be an alternative.

To restate what I said earlier, the resignation from the board happened three months ago. Last June, the Oireachtas joint committee was told that in any construction project, a contractor can make claims for additional expenditure outside of contract. The figure allocated by the Government of €1.433 billion in December 2018 has not changed.

I ask the Members demanding the vote-----

Can I ask a question, please, on a point of order?

On this issue, a Cheann Comhairle, it is not unusual in this House that requests are made to alter the schedule and that the Business Committee would be asked to reconvene to take on board what has been articulated by some Members here this morning. I, for one, find it incredible that the Taoiseach has said here that he wants his two Ministers, for Public Expenditure and Reform and for Health, to be briefed up on the largest and most expensive project-----

Would they not be briefed if there was no debate?

-----in the history of the State, which is going off the rails.

We are happy to accommodate a debate on Thursday. We are dealing with the Finance Bill, which may conclude Second Stage on Wednesday. We have set aside an extra hour, to start at 9.30 a.m., on Thursday. Hopefully, that will conclude. The IDA Bill is a Brexit-related Bill. We have three hours set aside for that, which based on what happened last week I expect to conclude more quickly than that. I am confident, therefore, that we will find time after those Bills on Thursday.

Can we agree that the Business Committee at its meeting on Thursday morning will reschedule the business to provide for time for this matter? Agreed. I call Deputy Cullinane.

This concerns the Thursday sitting and the 40-minute debate that is being put aside for the report from the Committee on Procedure on the voting record last Thursday. I have a number of questions on this matter for the Ceann Comhairle.

I am not here to answer questions.

I do not believe that 40 minutes is adequate and we will be opposing the Order of Business on this basis. Second, it is not clear where the Taoiseach said that the Deputies involved, namely, Deputies Dooley, Niall Collins and Lisa Chambers, will be present in the Chamber and would be in a position to field questions. That is not clear. Maybe Teachta Micheál Martin would-----

I will make that clear for the Deputy, if he allows me to, please.

-----be able to clarify that for us. I would be grateful if the Ceann Comhairle could, please.

When the Deputy resumes his seat, I will make it clear.

The Business Committee agreed this morning that there would be 40 minutes for statements with five minutes each for each of the groups. This, I believe, was agreed unanimously. There is a further 20 minutes available for Deputies to make personal statements. Whether they make personal statements or not, is a matter for themselves. We cannot direct or force them to make personal statements. I have been surprised to hear reference to questioning of Deputies. The Constitution is very clear. The only questions that are be put in the House are questions to Members of Government. The Government is answerable to the House. There is no structure whereby we can interrogate individual Deputies.

Is the proposal for dealing with today's business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Wednesday's business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Thursday's business agreed to?

It is not agreed.

Question put.

In accordance with Standing Order 72, as the required number of tellers have not been appointed for the Tá side, I declare the question lost. Therefore, the Sinn Féin objection to the Order of Business is carried. It will be necessary, therefore, for the Business Committee to consider alternative plans for Thursday.

Question declared lost.

We now move to questions on promised legislation.

As far back as 2017 the Department of Health announced that a funding model would be presented to the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, for assisted human reproduction. It was announced in January this year that €1 million was to be allocated for an IVF fund. It is particularly cruel to raise expectations for many couples who are finding it extremely difficult financially to afford IVF treatment. I have met many couples who are waiting for clarity on the fund. The idea is that it will essentially be public funding to assist families who are in very difficult circumstances. As we know, many couples remortgage their homes and go to significant lengths to try to afford IVF treatment. Will the Taoiseach indicate when the assisted human reproduction Bill will be brought before the House? The heads of the Bill were approved as far back as 2017, the funds have not yet been drawn down.

The Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, will answer the question in a moment. I am conscious that we were to have the State's apology at 3 p.m. and there are people in the Visitors Gallery and elsewhere. Rather than raising 30 or 40 miscellaneous items, perhaps we might go straight to it and then take questions on promised legislation, if that is agreeable to the House.

I am content to come back to questions on promised legislation if Members want to do so. Is that agreed? Agreed. There are two Bills to be introduced also, to which we will have to revert.