Wednesday, 7 November 2007
Order of Business.
It is proposed to take No. 7, Supplementary Estimate for Public Services — Vote 6, back from committee; No. 11a , statements regarding cancer services and the implementation of the HSE national cancer control programme; No. 12, Charities Bill 2007 — Second Stage (resumed); and No. 1, Copyright and Related Rights (Amendment) Bill 2007 [Seanad] Second Stage.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) No. 7 shall be decided without debate and any division demanded thereon shall be taken forthwith; (2) the proceedings on No. 11a shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 80 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the statements shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and to the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who shall be called upon in that order, who may share their time and shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case and (ii) immediately following the statements, a Minister or Minister of State, shall take questions for a period not exceeding 20 minutes; and (3) the suspension of sitting under Standing Order 23(1) shall take place at 1.30 p.m, or on the conclusion of No. 11a, whichever is the later, until 2.30 p.m. Private Members' business shall be No. 22, motion re Irish emigrants in the USA (resumed), to conclude at 8.30 p.m. if not previously concluded.
There are a number of important issues on the agenda but nothing is as important as life. As I said earlier, the Government has had first and second chances on a number of occasions. Women who have been misdiagnosed are being asked to take a chance with their health and their lives. I regard this matter of statements on cancer services as absolutely critical and mná na hÉireann deserve more than 80 minutes of our time.
I propose an amendment to the Order of the Business that these statements be taken until 6 p.m. followed by one hour's question time before Private Members' business resumes because I have been approached by Members on all sides who have genuine questions to ask about the divergence in standards and the confusion that exists about the roles of the Minister for Health and Children, the HSE, the Department of Health and Children and, in regard to cancer services, the role and responsibilities of Professor Keane, who will be appointed shortly. This matter should not be confined by a Whips' instruction that we have 80 minutes discussion. I propose in all earnestness that the debate should enable everybody to have their say until 6 p.m. followed by an hour's question time so that Members can put questions to the Minister for Health and Children in the hope they can get straight answers.
We have just debated reform of the Dáil and making it relevant. If there is any subject to which sufficient time should be devoted, it is cancer services. Everybody is talking about this issue and there is a huge crisis of confidence. Women all over the country who have had mammographies or other tests are concerned that their hospital could be the next one in the news.
Only four speaking slots are assigned in the debate and we cannot accept so little time for such an enormous issue, especially given that the Taoiseach reneged on all responsibility for it earlier and threw it back on the HSE. Somebody has to take responsibility, take the lead and tell us what will happen in the meantime to services while the centres of excellence are established. How will they be resourced? When will they be in place? Who will take responsibility for providing the funding to make them happen? What will happen in the meantime? The Labour Party fully supports the proposal by the leader of Fine Gael. We absolutely must have more time to debate this pressing issue if this Chamber and this Parliament is to have any relevance to the people of Ireland.
I too support fully the call by Deputy Kenny for an increase in the time allocation for statements on this important issue. We have to view the proposition in the context of the Minister continually referring the bulk of parliamentary questions to her to the HSE. Up to six in every ten questions are virtually kicked to touch and Members are denied access to the information flow that was ordinarily the experience in the House in previous years. We have only one opportunity in the month to table Priority and Oral Questions. No appropriate forum is provided in the Chamber for engagement on a raft of issues of concern to the populace in the health area. It is incumbent, therefore, on Government, in light of all the information and the critical news breaking daily about women's suffering in this area, that the request be accommodated in a real and substantive way. The request placed to Government by the collective Opposition voice is reasonable and must be acceded to.
I would like to clarify that I am being asked that the debate would start following the Order of Business, run until 1.30 p.m., resume following Question Time until 6 p.m. and be followed by questions between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Is the proposal on No. 11a, as amended, that the debate start following the Order of Business, run until 1.30 p.m., resume following Question Time until 6 p.m. and be followed by questions between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., agreed to? Agreed.
I thank the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health and Children for their agreement. It will give Members an opportunity to ask questions they consider very relevant and I hope the debate is progressive.