Senator O'Brien asked for clarification on the mortgage arrears implementation strategy. I am glad to inform him that the Government is moving forward as a matter of urgency with the strategy. It is launching two mortgage-to-rent schemes on a pilot basis initially to test how they will operate ahead of a wider roll-out. One of the pilot schemes will cover a broad range of 500 households. The Minister for Justice and Equality has begun extensive work on the heads of a personal insolvency Bill, while the Department of Finance is speaking with the banks to ensure implementation of the measures in the Keane report and the Central Bank has asked all mortgage lenders to produce detailed mortgage arrears resolution strategies and implementation plans for submission by the end of November. There is a speedy move on this issue, but the Minister for Finance wanted to ensure Deputies, Senators and other groups had the opportunity to make known their views and he will formally put proposals to the Government following conclusion of the Dáil debate on the next steps, including an implementation mechanism. Progress is being made but I will follow up the Senator's query to ascertain when the strategy will be published.
Senators O'Brien and Norris also raised the issue of the rejection by the European Parliament committee of the appointment of Mr. Kevin Cardiff. As I said previously, I would very much welcome a debate on appointments to the European Court of Auditors and similar appointments. Like other Senators, I am concerned about the lack of transparency surrounding such appointments generally.
Senators Mullins, Conway, Cullinane and Noone referred to the issue of media standards, RTE and the fallout from the Fr. Reynolds case and the "Prime Time Investigates" documentary. They mentioned the commentary in some newspapers and I agree it would be helpful to have such a debate. I called for a debate some time ago in response to theNews of the World crisis and will speak with the Leader about arranging one. Senator Mullins sought clarification on the remit of the inquiry that is being set up. The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has arranged for the establishment of an independent inquiry. The terms have not been set. The Senator sought an expansion of the terms but it is important that they are focused to ensure a speedy report.
Senator Norris called for clarification on the issue of privacy. I will check the matter for him.
Senators Landy, Bradford, Conway, Cullinane, Ó Domhnaill and Wilson sought debates with the Minister for Health on the centralisation of the processing of medical card applications and the delays in issuing same, hospital and nursing home closures. I understand the Minister will appear before the Joint Committee on Health and Children this morning. It would be helpful to have him back in the House. He was present for a comprehensive debate recently but we should invite him to return early in the year, about which I will speak to the Leader. I appreciate that the delay in the renewal of medical cards is causing immense suffering. I am grateful to Senators, such as Senator Landy, for raising individual cases. Of course, some issues might be suitable to be raised with the Minister as matters on the Adjournment, as well as having a broader debate.
Many Senators also requested a debate on buying Irish, the retail sector and the issue of self-reliance. I am grateful to Senator Ó Murchú for raising the issue, which was supported by Senators Quinn, Conway and Cullinane. It would be very useful to have that debate and I agree with Senator Ó Murchú that it would be non-contentious and could bring forward creative ideas on the growth of the retail sector. The RDS crafts fair will take place early in December, which is a good opportunity for people to support local, quality Irish produce. The report of the small business forum established by the Taoiseach and chaired by the Minister of State, Deputy Perry, was published this week. We might have a debate focusing on it, while also bringing in the broader issues of e-tendering and the retail sector generally.
The final issue raised by many Senators was that of the closure of the embassies. It was raised by Senators Walsh, Ó Domhnaill, Paul Coghlan and Mooney, and an amendment to the Order of Business has been proposed. I ask the Senators not to press the amendment today given the very heavy schedule we already have and given that today is an important day in terms of reform of standard procedures to allow a guest speaker and public consultation to take place. The Leader and I have both been actively pursuing the Tánaiste and his office to have him come in and deal with not just the issues the Senators have raised on the closure of embassies but also a number of other foreign policy issues that Senators, including me, have been raising in recent weeks. Yesterday I finally got a response from the Tánaiste's private secretary indicating that he will come here on a date early in January. I had sought and hoped to get a date in December, but given the budget date that seems unlikely. I am still hopeful that we might be able to get him here in the last sitting week — the week after the budget. It may be impossible to get him here next week or in budget week, but I will get back to him again today following the calls from Senators this morning to ask that he come in before the end of this session, which would be——