Dáil debates

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

4:00 pm

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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It is proposed to take No. 11, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the reports by the Minister for Defence regarding service by the Defence Forces with the United Nations in 2007 and 2008; No. 12, motion re Orders of Reference of Committee; No. 5, Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Bill 2009 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 10.30 p.m.; and Nos. 11 and 12 shall be decided without debate. Private Members' Business shall be No. 96, motion re social welfare cuts.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is the proposal that the Dáil sit later than 8.30 p.m. agreed to?

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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It is not agreed.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I have here the calendar of Dáil sessions for 2009-10. Before we get into this Order of Business, I ask the Taoiseach to confirm that the rumours I hear that the Dáil is not due back until 19 January are untrue and that, in accordance with this circulated calendar of sessions, the Dáil will return here on 13 January.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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The Labour Party will not agree the Order of Business today because of the manner in which the Government is rail-roading measures through the Dáil. I refer to the cuts in social welfare, which it rail-roaded through on Friday last using a guillotine, and this proposal to rail-road through the cuts in pay, again by the use of a guillotine.

All of this is part of a piece of clever pre-Christmas choreography by the Government, first, to have the budget a week late limiting the amount of time there would be for a budget debate and then to have two pieces of legislation giving effect to the unfair measures contained in the budget, both of which it plans to have rammed through before the Christmas in the hope that people will put it behind them over Christmas and it will minimise the amount of grief that they get for it. This approach is not acceptable to the Labour Party and for that reason, the Labour Party will not agree to the Order of Business.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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This proposition on two hours' additional time sitting this evening is to accommodate the Second Stage debate of the so-called Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Bill 2009. The Government wants to rush through this legislation, with a guillotine on all Stages tomorrow. That is the situation we face.

The purpose of the Bill is to implement the budget cuts in pay to public service workers, as announced here last week. This is an outrageous proposition that we vehemently oppose. It is an attack on the lowest to middle-income workers within the public service who are seen daily running all of the important services, not only those on which we depend in health, education and public transport, but even this institution itself - the people who do a great deal of the work here in the Houses of the Oireachtas are all affected.

Make no mistake, the announcement of these cuts was followed quickly by employers' demands for a cut in the minimum wage. For what is signalled as applying to public service workers, private sector workers can be the next target. Those, in IBEC or in any of the other employer organisations, are only feasting on the opportunity presented. We have no assurances from the Government that the minimum wage will not be cut, as these employer voices so demand.

This legislation is vexatious. It is a travesty. Already, this sector has, with the introduction of the public service pension levy, borne the brunt of the single largest contribution to addressing the difficulties we are currently facing as an economy.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy is anticipating the debate.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Those are the facts of the matter. It is not just about time; it is what the time is for. It is to accommodate the passage of this legislation, and we oppose it.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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This Bill, like the social welfare Bill last week, is being brought forward because of the need for the Government to implement the measures as announced in the budget so that they are in law and ready for the beginning of the next financial year, on 1 January. They will have full-year effect.

The purpose of the Bill proposed to be taken today, Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Bill 2009, is to reduce the remuneration of public servants as a financial emergency measure in the public interest. The Bill is introduced in the context of the priority being given to the stabilisation of the public finances, including the need to achieve an adjustment of over €1 billion in the public service pay and pensions bill in 2010, quite apart from other measures that will also have a beneficial effect.

The Bill, as drafted, closely follows the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009, which implemented the pension levy reduction for public servants in March 2009. The scope of the proposed legislation will mirror that for the pension levy-----

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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That is not true.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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-----by covering the public servants.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Taoiseach without interruption please.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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Stop interrupting.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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On a point of order, what the Taoiseach is saying is incorrect. The last emergency measure applied to people who had public service pensions and this Bill does not.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is not a point of order. Will Deputy Burton resume her seat?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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As for the pension levy, 22 public service bodies and their subsidiaries listed in the Schedule to the Bill will also be exempt due largely to the commercial nature of their remit.

We will apply a graduated and progressive pay cut to salaries up to the levels below the senior public servants covered by the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector. As I stated in my response to Leaders' Questions from Deputy Gilmore, for persons in the occupations to which he referred the cut will be 5% on income - whatever that would work out at - up to €30,000, 7.5% on the next €40,000 and 10% on the next €55,000 of salary. It produces reductions in salaries ranging from 5% to 8% in the case of salaries up to €125,000.

On the question of when the recess will be, that will be decided on Thursday. It would be our intention to return on a date sooner than any of those over the past 15 years.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with the late sitting be agreed to."

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 76 (Bertie Ahern, Dermot Ahern, Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Chris Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Bobby Aylward, Áine Brady, Cyprian Brady, Johnny Brady, John Browne, Thomas Byrne, Dara Calleary, Pat Carey, Niall Collins, Margaret Conlon, Seán Connick, Mary Coughlan, Brian Cowen, John Cregan, Martin Cullen, John Curran, Noel Dempsey, Jimmy Devins, Timmy Dooley, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Michael Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Beverley Flynn, Paul Gogarty, Noel Grealish, Mary Harney, Seán Haughey, Jackie Healy-Rae, Máire Hoctor, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Brendan Kenneally, Michael Kennedy, Michael Kitt, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Michael Lowry, Tom McEllistrim, Mattie McGrath, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, Martin Mansergh, John Moloney, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Darragh O'Brien, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, John O'Donoghue, Noel O'Flynn, Rory O'Hanlon, Batt O'Keeffe, Ned O'Keeffe, Mary O'Rourke, Christy O'Sullivan, Peter Power, Seán Power, Dick Roche, Eamon Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Eamon Scanlon, Noel Treacy, Mary Wallace, Mary White, Michael Woods)

Against the motion: 72 (James Bannon, Seán Barrett, Joe Behan, Pat Breen, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Ulick Burke, Joan Burton, Catherine Byrne, Joe Carey, Deirdre Clune, Paul Connaughton, Noel Coonan, Joe Costello, Seymour Crawford, Michael Creed, Lucinda Creighton, Michael D'Arcy, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Frank Feighan, Martin Ferris, Charles Flanagan, Terence Flanagan, Eamon Gilmore, Brian Hayes, Tom Hayes, Michael D Higgins, Phil Hogan, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Enda Kenny, George Lee, Ciarán Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, Pádraic McCormack, Shane McEntee, Finian McGrath, Olivia Mitchell, Arthur Morgan, Denis Naughten, Dan Neville, Michael Noonan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Kieran O'Donnell, Jim O'Keeffe, John O'Mahony, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, John Perry, Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, James Reilly, Michael Ring, Alan Shatter, Tom Sheahan, P J Sheehan, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Joanna Tuffy, Mary Upton, Leo Varadkar, Jack Wall)

Tellers:Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.

Question declared carried.

5:00 pm

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 11 and 12 agreed to?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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On behalf of the Labour Party, I say we do not accept these items. We were informed the Government is preparing amendments to the emergency measures Bill which will decrease the deduction for the highest paid civil servants in the public service, bringing their deduction levels down while at the same time the Bill will provide for Ministers of State to get a 2% advantage. I understand the Government is considering that and there may be an amendment before the House which we have not seen. We are being asked to discuss a Bill which will contain important amendments and have had no advice from the Minister-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy is anticipating the debate on the Bill.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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-----with regard to that. This House is not a dictatorship. We need the information. Is the Government planning a sweetheart deal with the Ministers of State?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy-----

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Will the Government reduce the deductions for the highest level of Secretaries General?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask Deputy Burton to resume her seat.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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On a point of information-----

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Is that true?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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No, as usual, it is not.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Will those amendments go into the Bill?

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Minister of State with special responsibility for Trade and Commerce, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Wrong again.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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One speaker at a time.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I would like to inform the House, if not the Deputy, as she is not prepared to listen, that the cuts she mentioned to salaries of senior civil servants and Ministers of State will be greater than the figure recommended.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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We will see if their 10% cut is the same as the previous cut.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Burton must resume her seat.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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The proposal is that the House should accept these reports without debate, including that of the Minister for Defence regarding the involvement of the Defence Forces with the United Nations in 2007 and 2008. We do not agree to the taking of this proposition without debate in the Chamber. The reason is very simple. At the most recent meeting of the European Council the Taoiseach appended his name to a declaration that clearly welcomes the recent decision by the United States to send thousands of extra troops to Afghanistan to escalate the conflict in that country. That is totally and absolutely opposed by the overwhelming majority of Irish people who do not accept the legitimacy of the war in Afghanistan. As long as there is a small Irish contingent they should not be involved in the so-called international security assistance force, ISAF, operation, which is only a figleaf for what is now-----

(Interruptions).

Photo of John MoloneyJohn Moloney (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Ask Micheál.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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If the Ceann Comhairle would ask the hecklers in the Front Benches of the Government parties to desist I will be able to explain why I believe these reports should not be taken without debate. The fact is this is only a figleaf for what quite clearly is now a NATO-led operation with the United States and Britain in Afghanistan. We need a full debate on these reports on the floor of the Dáil. Make no mistake, we are talking here about Irish neutrality.

Photo of Martin ManserghMartin Mansergh (Minister of State with special responsibility for the Arts, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Minister of State with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Department of Finance; Tipperary South, Fianna Fail)
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Sinn Féin is never neutral.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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It does not matter to me whether it involves seven members of our Defence Forces or 700, it is fundamentally wrong. In a reply I received only last week-----

Deputies:

What about the members of the army council?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy is holding up proceedings.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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-----to a parliamentary question-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask Deputy Ó Caoláin to resume his seat.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Allow me to finish the point, Ceann Comhairle.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Very briefly.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I established through a response to a parliamentary question last week that 243,000 US forces passed through Shannon Airport this year alone. That is a disgraceful situation-----

Deputies:

Take the American shilling.

Photo of Pat BreenPat Breen (Clare, Fine Gael)
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We want more of them coming through.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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-----and is a matter that needs to be properly debated on the floor of this House.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask the Deputy to resume his seat.

Question, "That the proposal for dealing with Nos. 11 and 12 be agreed to," put.

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 76 (Bertie Ahern, Dermot Ahern, Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Chris Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Bobby Aylward, Áine Brady, Cyprian Brady, Johnny Brady, John Browne, Thomas Byrne, Dara Calleary, Pat Carey, Niall Collins, Margaret Conlon, Seán Connick, Mary Coughlan, Brian Cowen, John Cregan, Martin Cullen, John Curran, Noel Dempsey, Jimmy Devins, Timmy Dooley, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Michael Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Beverley Flynn, Paul Gogarty, Noel Grealish, Mary Harney, Seán Haughey, Jackie Healy-Rae, Máire Hoctor, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Brendan Kenneally, Michael Kennedy, Michael Kitt, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Michael Lowry, Tom McEllistrim, Mattie McGrath, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, Martin Mansergh, John Moloney, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Darragh O'Brien, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, John O'Donoghue, Noel O'Flynn, Rory O'Hanlon, Batt O'Keeffe, Ned O'Keeffe, Mary O'Rourke, Christy O'Sullivan, Peter Power, Seán Power, Dick Roche, Eamon Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Eamon Scanlon, Noel Treacy, Mary Wallace, Mary White, Michael Woods)

Against the motion: 70 (James Bannon, Seán Barrett, Joe Behan, Pat Breen, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Ulick Burke, Joan Burton, Catherine Byrne, Joe Carey, Deirdre Clune, Paul Connaughton, Noel Coonan, Joe Costello, Seymour Crawford, Michael Creed, Lucinda Creighton, Michael D'Arcy, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Frank Feighan, Martin Ferris, Charles Flanagan, Terence Flanagan, Eamon Gilmore, Brian Hayes, Tom Hayes, Michael D Higgins, Phil Hogan, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Enda Kenny, George Lee, Ciarán Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, Pádraic McCormack, Shane McEntee, Finian McGrath, Olivia Mitchell, Arthur Morgan, Denis Naughten, Dan Neville, Michael Noonan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Kieran O'Donnell, Jim O'Keeffe, John O'Mahony, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, John Perry, Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, James Reilly, Michael Ring, Tom Sheahan, P J Sheehan, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Joanna Tuffy, Mary Upton, Leo Varadkar)

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.

Question declared carried.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Has the Taoiseach considered the implications of the report published by the Ombudsman in respect of the lost at sea scheme? As he will be aware, that scheme was introduced by the former Minister, Deputy Frank Fahey. The report states, in the words of the Ombudsman, that the case is unusual in that it embraces both the actions of a Minister and his officials. The Taoiseach will be aware of the generality of the scheme which was to introduce capacity in the Irish fishing fleet for lost tonnage at sea. The issue arose because of the inability of some people to qualify or apply for the scheme in the way it was advertised and presented.

The report contains a number of observations of the Ombudsman where it states clearly that the distinction had to be drawn between the actions of officials and the actions of the Minister. In fairness, it goes on to state that the Minister never denied that the scheme was his and that he introduced a number of changes to protect the scheme, but the outcome from the Ombudsman's perspective is that it was badly drafted, badly presented, badly advertised, exclusive to a confined category of members and was subject to a time constraint.

This is an issue that should be discussed here. At the conclusion of her opening remarks, the Ombudsman states: "I respectfully ask the Houses to consider my report and to take whatever action they deem appropriate in the circumstances." This is a matter of public importance and, to give everybody an opportunity to be able to speak about this matter freely, I recommend that we have a discussion in the House about it in the new year. If the House decides to refer it to the appropriate Dáil committee for deeper analysis, let all those involved in this report say their piece and answer questions as appropriate. We should take into account the Ombudsman's statement that the Houses should consider the report and I respectfully suggest to the Taoiseach that, at an appropriate time in the new year, the Whips might agree that there be a discussion on the loss at sea scheme report here in the Dáil and that it be referred to a committee for deeper analysis and consideration.

Also, is it intended at any time in 2010 to give consideration to legislation in the area of human reproduction? The Taoiseach is aware of two cases before the courts recently dealing with this area. I know it is complex and not an easy subject to legislate for, but it is an issue that will arise from a moral and ethical point of view in an increasing number of instances in the future. The Taoiseach might respond as to whether the Government intends to consider that in terms of appropriate legislation in the future.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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A Cheann Comhairle, can I ask about that issue?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Very briefly. A number of issues were raised by Deputy Kenny.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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I know some preparatory work in regard to legislation has been done already because of the report of the commission and it was indicated to me by way of parliamentary question last week that it was awaiting the outcome of the Supreme Court judgment, which has now been delivered. Can the Taoiseach give us some indication as to when that legislation will be ready for publication?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The judgment was handed down today. Obviously, it will be examined by the Attorney General and the Minister will be advised accordingly. This is a complex area and one on which all sides of the House should try to work together to see if it is possible to come forward with proposals which would meet with the support of the House. As has been said, it is a highly complex area. There are legal, social and ethical issues involved. Some 40 recommendations were made by a commission on assisted human reproduction which reported some years ago and it is important that the House and the relevant committee work in a collegiate way, if at all possible, to try to see where we go from here in regard to it. This is a service that has benefited many Irish couples. It must be properly regulated, putting patient safety first, and give patients the assurance that effective standards of care and governance are in place. It is a challenge for the House and the committee and I ask that everyone would seek to address it in a responsible way.

Obviously the Government and the relevant Minister, the Minister for Health and Children, will consider the implications of the judgment as it has been handed down on advice.

As for the other matter raised by Deputy Kenny, this is a matter for the Houses to decide on. It will be referred to the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for discussion, as that is the obvious thing to do. I note clearly there is an acceptance that the granting of replacement tonnage under the scheme was not a compensatory scheme in any way but simply dealt with the possibility of people having the opportunity to fish again if they lost their tonnage through ships being lost at sea or whatever and that the handling of that scheme was dealt with appropriately in the Department itself.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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First, on the Ombudsman's report, the issue is that the Department concerned has rejected the Ombudsman's findings and recommendations. As she pointed out in her report, this is only the second time in 25 years that this has happened, which is the reason she has laid a report before the Houses of the Oireachtas. It is important that the House should address this matter in whatever form is agreed.

I refer to an earlier matter that was raised by Deputy Kenny, namely, the date for the return of the Dáil after Christmas. Perhaps I missed it while the Taoiseach replied to Deputy Kenny, but I did not catch the date on which he indicated the House would return after the Christmas break. Perhaps he might clarify this for Members.

Third, I wish to raise the Defamation Act, which was passed by the Houses last July and which awaits commencement by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I asked the Taoiseach about this issue approximately one month ago and he told me that commencement was imminent. When will the Act be commenced?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I must revert to the Deputy as to when it is envisaged the Act will be commenced as unfortunately, I do not have that information to hand. As for the other matter, I stated that the date for rising will be fixed on Thursday and that the intention is that Members should come back on a date prior to those on which they have returned over the past ten or 15 years. It probably will be in the third week of September or rather, the third week of January.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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There is a lot of merit in the latter.

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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Talk about the 12 days.

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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It might not be a bad idea.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Hope springs eternal.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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There is no need to greet it by acclamation or anything.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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It must feel like that sometimes. I do not blame the Taoiseach.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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As for the other matter regarding the report, I point out that on the issue of compensation arising in respect of one of the parties, there is an acknowledgement that this is not about compensation but is about restoring lost tonnage. I understand it is pointed out in the report that the family concerned indicated that they did receive a full insurance payment in respect of the sinking of the particular boat concerned. The issue really is about lost tonnage.

Photo of Michael CreedMichael Creed (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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On a point of order, the Taoiseach might address in that respect that the recommendation of the Ombudsman now is to pay a financial compensation to those who feel aggrieved by the manner in which the scheme was administered. The issue arises as to what-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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This is not a point of order Deputy.

Photo of Michael CreedMichael Creed (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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-----the other liabilities may be for the taxpayer-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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This is not a point of order. The Deputy is piggybacking on something else.

Photo of Michael CreedMichael Creed (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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-----as a result of others who might come forward. This is the issue in respect of financial compensation.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The main thing is that the Department is considering the report and its recommendations. Obviously however, there is a concern about that aspect of the report and it is a matter for the Department to respond to and deal with. However, it is important to point out that it was not for the purpose of compensation-----

Photo of Michael CreedMichael Creed (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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I accept that but the maladministration-----

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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-----and at the time-----

Photo of Michael CreedMichael Creed (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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-----has given rise to financial liability.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, please.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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At the time, there was much public comment and public statement by others to the effect that it was about a compensation scheme or that moneys were passed when in fact no moneys were involved at all.

Photo of Michael CreedMichael Creed (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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On a point of order, the Taoiseach might-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, please. I know it is not a point of order.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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But anyway, the report speaks for itself Deputy Creed.

Photo of Michael CreedMichael Creed (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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-----deliberately or otherwise misinterpret what is at issue now.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, please.

Photo of Michael CreedMichael Creed (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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What is at issue now is whether the taxpayer is exposed to a greater liability because of the manner in which the scheme was implemented.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Creed, please resume your seat.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Last week's budget imposed prescription charges for medical cardholders, which will work out at up to €10 per month being imposed on people who already are at the very bottom of the income ladder. Will this measure require legislation and if this is to be legislated for, when does the Taoiseach expect that such legislation will be presented? I understand from the Minister's comments that this measure is to be introduced on 1 April, which is April fool's day. Sadly, while I do not know who is the fool in this instance, it certainly will be an inauspicious day for many people. The Taoiseach should indicate when such legislation, if it is to be introduced, will be presented. Will there be parallel legislation in respect of the pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors regarding the overcharging they exercise with regard to the manufacture and distribution of drugs and medicines?

Second, many communities nationwide are recovering at present from the dreadful flooding experiences that extended over large swathes of the island of Ireland.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, we are on the Order of Business now.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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This pertains to promised legislation. Against the background of the significant cuts in public service workers and emergency service pay, the Government also announced in last week's budget a 10% cut in local authority funding for fire and emergency services. How can this be justified against a backdrop of what people already have experienced in the latter part of this year and with no certainty that the winter months still before us will not see a repetition of those dreadful circumstances? How can the Government justify-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, is legislation promised in this area?

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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-----a 10% cut in the allocation for fire and emergency services? Will this also require legislation or will the Government consider withdrawing this outrageous proposition that could have serious untold consequences for entire communities throughout the length and breadth of this island?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy must find another way to raise the matter. The Taoiseach, very briefly.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Allocations to the fire service do not arise on the Order of Business. As for the question regarding the issue of the timing of the introduction of payments, I can get the technical details for the Deputy in this regard.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Is it the case that no legislation is required?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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As I stated, I will acquire accurate information for the Deputy and will convey it to him.

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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Approximately one month ago, the Labour Party proposed a national home mortgage service during Private Members' time. During that debate, the Government stated that it has a code of practice in place with which it was satisfied and which would be reviewed. Subsequently, in last week's budget it again was stated that this code of practice would be reviewed once more.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy must find an alternative way of raising this matter. We are on the Order of Business.

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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I ask the Ceann Comhairle to bear with me, please.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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There are specific issues that may be raised on the Order of Business and this issue does not fall into that category.

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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There is a lady who is out of her home this evening because of the absence of a legislative framework in Ireland to deal with sub-prime lenders. The company to which I refer was part of the Lehman Brothers corporation and now is taking possession orders of three to four possessions per week. There is no legislative framework with which to deal with such repossessions. The Government has indicated that it is reviewing this situation. However, while it is doing so, a woman who appeared in court yesterday stated she was prepared to offer up €240 per week that she is receiving as a carer's grant to cover a mortgage bill.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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While I have no doubt about this Deputy, there are many other ways to raise it, such as the Adjournment, parliamentary questions or under Standing Order 32.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Ceann Comhairle, there is no other way.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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There are many ways.

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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The Ceann Comhairle is correct that there is a way, which is that the Government should bring forward legislation that underpins the dealings-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, no legislation is promised immediately in this area.

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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-----in court in which sub-prime lenders are screwing people to the wall-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, there is the Adjournment or parliamentary questions.

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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-----to take them out of their homes. The Government's proposal is that there would be a six-month period during which, at best, the cases of such people might be considered.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, please.

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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In that six-month period, they will not find work and will not get the comfort the financial institutions are getting from the Government.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy has made his point and I ask him to resume his seat.

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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They certainly will not receive any measure of assurance that their homes will be over their heads in six months' time.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should resume his seat.

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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This is an issue of national importance. It requires legislation to be introduced by the Government.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Apparently, there is no legislation promised in this area.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Actually, there is.

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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I ask the Taoiseach, on the Order of Business, whether the Government will bring forward legislation or is it still content with a code of conduct that is voluntary in the main and has no legislative penalties for people who fail to abide by it? A family contacted a bank to see if it was in arrears and the bank failed to take any cognisance of it-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, resume your seat. You have made your point.

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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-----took it to court and has taken its home.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, resume your seat. You are holding up proceedings on the Order of Business.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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This is a code of practice under regulation. It is not a voluntary code of practice. It is based on legislation.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Minister promised legislation.

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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My question to the Taoiseach asked if he was happy that a voluntary code was sufficient or if we needed legislation.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, you got your answer. You had a very good innings on this. Resume your seat.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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Further to an earlier question from Deputy Gilmore, there is a requirement under the national anti-poverty strategy for the Minister for Finance to produce a statement setting out the likely impact on the poor of any budget proposal. The standard practice has been to publish such a statement along with the budget document, which has happened for the past 11 years. Did the Minister for Finance, Deputy Lenihan, produce such a statement? Was it presented to the Cabinet along with the budget? The Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Hanafin, said last week that such a statement would be published within days. Has the Cabinet seen that statement? When will it be published and available to all Deputies?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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We are not talking about legislation.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The Department of Social and Family Affairs has done its own analysis, which it will publish.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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I am not talking about that.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Usually in the case where there are tax changes we set out administratively what the situation is and how it affects families with different incomes. The Minister outlined the expenditure effects in the budget. On the social welfare code, the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy Hanafin, outlined the position regarding the effects of cuts.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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No.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Shortall, we are moving on. You will have to find an alternative way to raise this.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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I would like to correct the record. There is a requirement under the national anti-poverty strategy for any major proposal to be accompanied-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, you will have to find an alternative way to raise this issue.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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-----by a statement setting out the impact of that proposal on those at risk of poverty.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Shortall, resume your seat.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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That is the requirement under the national anti-poverty strategy and it is also covered in the Cabinet's handbook.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Shortall, resume your seat.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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It is reasonable-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Shortall, you have had a very good innings. Resume your seat please.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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I have not had a reply. I want the Taoiseach to answer.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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We are not talking about promised legislation. There are many other ways to raise this issue.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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There is a requirement under the national anti-poverty strategy to produce a statement on how the budget will affect the poor or those at risk of poverty. Has the Minister for Finance, Deputy Lenihan, done that? Has he produced such a statement and when are we likely to see it? It is a straightforward question which deserves a straight answer.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, could you table a parliamentary question?

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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No. We raised the issue last week.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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There are so many other ways to raise it.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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This is an important matter. For the past 11 years the House has received a statement on the poverty proofing of the budget. Why did we not get one this year? When will we see it?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, submit a parliamentary question.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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The Minister can shrug his shoulders all he likes. He is required to set out a statement-----

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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No, I am not.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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-----on the impact of his budget on those at risk of poverty.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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There are no taxes.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, this matter is not in order at this point.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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It is not just about tax.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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It is not just about tax.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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Does the Minister know anything about the national anti-poverty strategy?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Shortall, resume your seat. The Chair is on its feet. I call Deputy Durkan.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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Ceann Comhairle, on a point of order, Deputy Shortall is in order in raising this question. This is a document-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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It is not in order on the Order of Business.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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Yes.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I have allowed the Deputy considerable latitude.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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It is a document which is laid before the House. As Deputy Shortall said, it is normally laid before the House as part of the budget documentation. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan raised this issue last week. It is clear the Government gave no consideration to the impact of the budget on poor people. It is stated in the Cabinet documents that it is required to indicate the impact of proposals on persons in poverty or at risk of falling into poverty in the budget proposals.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Gilmore, we have given this issue significant airing on the Order of Business.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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We require an answer.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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The Minister is required to make a statement.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Durkan.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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The Taoiseach wants to reply.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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For the purposes of clarity - I know this is not in order on the Order of Business - the Department of Social and Family Affairs published full details on budget day of how the social welfare changes will affect all different groups. A further paper on the welfare changes will be published in the coming days. The Department of Finance usually publishes an assessment of the budget on how the income tax package will affect people on different income levels. As there were no income tax changes in this budget no such statement was published. While the budget was difficult for many people, it was fair.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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On promised legislation, the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Bill is promised for 2010. Given the concerns of legal aid boards around the country and the urgent necessity in the area, can the Taoiseach give some indication to the House on whether some degree of priority has been given to the introduction of the Bill at an early stage?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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We expect it next year.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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We expect Santa Claus to come next year as well, but he might not arrive.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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He comes on 25 December.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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Is the Taoiseach sure of that?

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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He is coming on 25 December, next year.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, let us not go off on a tangent or we will be in trouble.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Turkeys in that year will be delighted to hear that. There is no urgency on that Bill. I draw the attention of the House to another Bill, the legal costs Bill, which has been on the long finger for a considerable period of time. Can the Taoiseach indicate to the House if it will receive any degree of urgent attention and when it is likely to appear mysteriously or miraculously in the House?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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It is hoped it will come before the House next year.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Next year springs eternal. I will be as direct and succinct as I can. No. 60 concerns a Bill to provide for the collection and exchange of information relating to the engagement with and sexual exploitation or sexual abuse, or risk thereof, to children. Like all other legislation, it is promised for 2010. Can the Taoiseach indicate whether any activity has been generated on the urgent need for the production of that Bill? Has it been agreed by Cabinet? What action has taken place in recent weeks? Is it agreed that it is a priority? Will he inform the House of its status?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister of State, Deputy Andrews, has outlined that it is an issue of priority for him and he wishes to proceed with it as quickly as possible. There have been recent reports on child abuse which are a priority for him.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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Is there a problem in the Department of Education and Science regarding the production of legislation? It produced one Bill, which was passed when the former Minister, Deputy Hanafin, was Minister for Education and Science and has now been pulled onto Report Stage where it is stuck in committee for spurious legal reasons. Section A of the pink sheet promises that two relatively simple Bills will be published during this session. Last week the Taoiseach said they would be published before the next session starts, which is some five or six weeks away. Does the Department need extra assistance? Is there a transfer list whereby one could ask people from other Departments to work there? It is a very big Department. Can the Taoiseach carry out research to see where the legislative drafters are and if they need special help? Perhaps a FÁS scheme might help.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I do know if that is a serious comment. They are on the A list and are due for publication before the beginning of the next session. I understand they will be published then.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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Have the heads of the Bill been passed by the Cabinet?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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They have, yes.

Photo of Tom McEllistrimTom McEllistrim (Kerry North, Fianna Fail)
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I understand the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, has promised to produce legislation to reform the Seanad before the end of the year. Will that happen? When will that happen?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I will have to come back to the Deputy.