Thursday, 16 November 2006
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 1, Europol (Amendment) Bill 2006 [Seanad] — Second Stage; and No. 4, Industrial Development Bill 2006 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
Yesterday, the Tánaiste viewed with disbelief the information provided by Opposition Members on the closing down of nursing homes. It seems the Government is terrified of the truth of these matters emerging. I understand the HSE announced this morning that no patients should be accepted by four further nursing homes.
When these are added to the exposé by Deputy O'Dowd last night of a further case, which made a mockery of the Minister's statement yesterday, it appears this matter is very serious.
We cannot have a debate on the matter. As the Deputy knows, it was discussed for three hours over the last two nights and was the subject of Leaders' Questions on Tuesday and Wednesday. There is no provision for Leader's Questions on Thursday.
It is a sad day when the Opposition as distinct from the Government has to deal with this. When will the legislation governing the independent nursing homes inspections be introduced?
Over the past few weekends Deputy O'Donnell and Senator Minihan have been far more active than the Tánaiste in respect of his tax policy on stamp duty. Does the Tánaiste still believe the Government does not require €2.5 billion in stamp duty revenue?
Is the Tánaiste proposing to include this in the Finance Bill next year? When will the Údarás na Gaeltachta Bill be published? It was promised in 2004 and is on the list of promised legislation.
Regarding the health Bill, the Taoiseach has indicated three times over the past few days that it is being drafted. It was the subject of extensive consultation, the heads of the Bill were published last March and it will be dealt with when the Dáil resumes in the new year. The extensive consultation process elicited a large number of public submissions on the draft heads of the Bill. While I appreciate that the Deputies opposite have other things to do, no input was received from any political party in the course of the valuable public consultation.
The Tánaiste is now taking on the Taoiseach's practice of blaming the Opposition. We are Members of this House and legislators. The Government embarked on a lengthy consultation process. As a result there is no legislation in place to protect the elderly from institutional abuse. That is the legacy of the Government for which the Tánaiste must take responsibility.
I am not out of order. I have two questions on promised legislation and I intend to ask them. We were promised the health Bill in 2006 to protect elderly people from institutional abuse. Will that legislation not appear until 2007? In the meantime, can we not have a short emergency Bill to at least give the authority that is in place, HIQA, some power to protect elderly residents of nursing homes? The Tánaiste might remember that the House was recalled to pass emergency legislation to bail out Mr. Larry Goodman. Are we not in a position to protect our elderly by introducing emergency legislation?
Does the Cabinet have the courage to deal with patient safety in respect of fertility clinics? The High Court decision has opened a door that enables the Government to introduce promised legislation to regulate assisted human reproduction, in vitro fertilisation. There are no regulations, protections or safeguards at present, which is a most serious lacuna in our legislation. Will the Tánaiste assure us that promised legislation will be fast-tracked so that the Bill will be published in early 2007?
The legislation I mentioned will be published this session and debated as soon as the Dáil resumes after Christmas. It is not a good idea to put aside this Bill and pass emergency legislation.
The Minister for Health and Children has instructed her officials to commence drafting the legislation to deal with this matter. A commission examined the matter, as did an Oireachtas committee, a sub-committee of which produced a draft report. Legislation will be put in place. It is not a question of political cowardice, this is a delicate issue in which there are a variety of interests. Many people will be dissatisfied with the outcome of whatever legislation is put in place.
——a committee of this House prepared a report on the issue and legislation will be published. I do not see the problem Deputies have with this matter.
Given the horrific problems in our nursing homes, does the Tánaiste intend to reconsider legislation in respect of tax relief for the owners of nursing homes? It is the Government's profit before people philosophy that is the root cause of this.
As the Chair has pointed out, this matter was discussed for three hours over the past two nights and it was the subject of Leaders' Questions. There is no provision for Leaders' Questions on Thursday. Tánaiste, is legislation promised?
Legislation is not required because the public and private sectors are putting unprecedented resources into nursing homes, and anything that encourages more money to be invested is a good thing, not a bad thing.
The Tánaiste is aware that traffic conditions around the city are deteriorating at present. The metro Bill was promised last year for publication this year. Although it was to streamline procedures and reduce costs, it appears to have disappeared from the agenda. Is it to be published or will it ever be dealt with? It was to be published this year, but 2006 is now drawing to a close.
The Dublin transportation authority legislation is due for publication this session. The Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006 overtook the particular Bill to which the Deputy referred.
Although Ruhama and the Tánaiste's Department have highlighted the incidence of trafficking of human beings across Europe and from other quarters, there is no legislation on the Statute Book here. Moreover, the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, agreed by the Council of Europe two years ago, has not been signed off by the Tánaiste's Department. Is Ireland likely to sign that convention? Is the Tánaiste likely to induce the Government to sign it? This has been waiting for signature for two years. Is the Tánaiste likely to introduce legislation that would deal with and combat trafficking in human beings?
The legislation in question is at an advanced stage of drafting and will be introduced early next year. This will enable Ireland to sign all the relevant conventions.
Given that the Government is embarking on one of the most far-reaching developments ever in the health service, namely, the co-location of ten private hospitals at public hospital sites, and that there is no mandate or legislation for this——
On promised legislation, is the Tánaiste aware of the difficulties being experienced by many pharmacists because of the delayed introduction of the pharmacy Bill? Some non-Irish trained pharmacists are having their rights of supply and contracts with the Health Service Executive withdrawn because of the Government's delay in introducing the Bill. Will it be introduced this session?
In view of the absence from the Order Paper of the postal services Bill, is it intended to re-introduce the Bill? Perhaps the Tánaiste will share his vision for the future development of the postal services. He usually shares his views on most matters.
Had the Tánaiste any input into the advice given? This was another gaffe by the Minister for Defence, Deputy O'Dea. He suggested a different approach to the taxi drivers of Limerick than would apply in Dublin. Perhaps he takes different approaches to launching books in Limerick and Dublin.
On the road safety Bill, Deputies are contacted on a daily basis in respect of road safety outside schools, particularly those on major roads. This is a serious issue. Will the Government consider handing the matter over to the Road Safety Authority, to ensure that our children, both inside and outside schools, will be safe?
I refer to a number of court cases taken by people seeking to buy local authority accommodation and apartments in particular, most recently including some of the Tánaiste's own constituents in Ringsend. What priority is being given to the proposed housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill? Will the Government present the Bill before the House rises next year?
At the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis, the Taoiseach promised a constitutional referendum to enshrine the rights of the child in clear form in the Constitution. Since the Taoiseach set a deadline of March, when will the enabling legislation be introduced? What consultation process is envisaged between now and then regarding the amendment's wording?
He will also engage in a widespread process of consultation. His commitment to address this issue was welcomed by all parties, including that of the Deputy.
To clarify, there was a wide welcome for the Taoiseach's proposal. A qualification has now been introduced by the Tánaiste. Does the Government intend and has the Government decided to introduce legislation to enable a referendum to take place to enshrine the rights of the child?
While the Taoiseach has indicated he is prepared to amend the Constitution, he wishes to engage in a process of consultation. On a matter of constitutional importance, one does not simply state that something will be put into the constitution, no matter——
No, one does not. He stated he would engage in a process of consultation. If, having welcomed his announcement, the Deputies opposite have some input on this matter, the Government would be glad to have it.
In last year's budget, the Minister for Finance abolished the levy on bank profits and instead promised Members the development of a social fund for social capital. Nothing has been heard about this, although the Minister has promised action on it——