Thursday, 25 February 2010
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 23, Employment Agency Regulation Bill 2009 - Second Stage (resumed); and No. 24, Road Traffic Bill 2009 - Second Stage (resumed).
The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government published a Bill to establish the post of Dublin mayor by direct election this year. The first draft has been circulated. There is no budget, no power, no role and no election date.
It is a consultative process. Does the Tánaiste accept this is another toothless quango that is not necessary? Will the Tánaiste indicate when the Bill is likely to be discussed?
Will the Tánaiste be seeking powers under the Arbitration Bill to bring together officials in the Dublin Airport Authority, Aer Lingus and Ryanair to try to thrash out an agreement on the creation of 300 jobs?
Bearing in mind the Ministers and Secretaries (Ministers of State) Bill, and in line with speculation today about a Cabinet reshuffle, is it the intention of the Taoiseach to move the Tánaiste out of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment or move the Department? Has this been discussed?
The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government published this week the general scheme of legislation on the Dublin mayor, as requested by Members. There will be consultation and discussions. Although no date has been given for the election, the Minister is proceeding on the basis of reforms he feels are in the best interest of the city.
With regard to the Arbitration Bill, much of the detail on the negotiations between Ryanair, Aer Lingus and the DAA was articulated at the Joint Committee on Transport, under the chairmanship of Deputy Fahey. We are aware of what both sides have said. Following from what has been said quite categorically by Aer Lingus, namely, that hangar 6 continues to be of strategic importance to the company, the Government is still open to facilitating Ryanair----
-----through the hangars that are available. New hangars are to become available on sites on the airport campus and the proposals by Shannon Development are still on the table.
With regard to Deputy Hogan's final question, he knows these matters are a matter for the Taoiseach.
We will have a mayor but there will be no horse because there will be no power, at more expense to the taxpayer. The Government got rid of the dual mandate but it should reintroduce it. It is sorry it let it go; it cannot even get anything from the county manager.
This morning Mr. John Devlin, a representative of the SR Technics workers, invited political leaders, including the Tánaiste, to visit Dublin Airport, walk around its facilities, and get a first-hand handle on the options available. I am certainly very glad to accept the invitation. Does the Tánaiste intend to do so? As she indicated, there were three big beasts before the Joint Committee on Transport yesterday. None of them appeared to give an inch. Ministerial intervention is so important in such circumstances in order to knock heads together and secure the jobs available.
Arising from the reply the Taoiseach gave me yesterday when I asked him about his plans with regard to filling the vacancy in Government, I read in the newspapers this morning that he is apparently considering a wider Cabinet reshuffle. This might explain the nervous looks of some Members in the Government's Front Bench yesterday when I asked the question. One proposal being considered is the appointment of a Minister for public service reform. This is something the Labour Party proposed a year ago and if it is true, I will be glad to see it happen. If the Tánaiste knows the Taoiseach's thinking on these matters, she might let us know if this is being considered. Of course, if there is to be public service reform, there will have to be co-operation with public service staff, something that is absent at present. There has been a rolling and growing level of industrial action among public service staff since the Government threw their unions out of Government Buildings in early December and then cut their pay. What is being done by the Government to bring that dispute to a conclusion and have normal service restored in the public service?
Last week I raised the issue of the money Tesco and other multiples are trying to extract from Irish suppliers to put their goods on the supermarket shelves. What has the Tánaiste done about that since I asked her about it last week?
The SRT people met for a considerable period of time with representatives of my Department. We went through a number of issues with them and we will revert to them about some of the matters they want brought forward. It is quite bizarre. I listened to all the committee's proceedings yesterday and to Deputy Broughan, who was very considered and good.
I have reiterated the availability of the Government to deal with other options which are reasonable in supporting jobs in Ryanair. It is important that this is moved forward quickly.
With regard to the industrial action that is taking place, the Government is working on the management of that action and is clearly open to further discussions with the public service unions to address this impasse. On the issue of a code of practice, we held our consultation on it and there were very disparate views from the many sides. I have met a number of people representing the primary producers, suppliers and the retail sector as well as many Members of the House. It is my intention to introduce a non-statutory code immediately, with a statutory code being provided for in the new legislation relating to the reform of the National Consumer Agency, NCA, and the Competition Authority.
Given the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Hanafin's, confirmation recently of consideration of major changes in the lone parent payment, which will have serious consequences for current and future recipients of that payment, has the Government given any consideration to the need for the introduction of a further social welfare Bill? As this matter has been confirmed as a further contraction of entitlement payments currently available to applicants, are there other areas of the social welfare code to which the Minister, her Department and the Government are giving consideration?
There are reports in the media today that the industrial action by public servants will affect hospitals in the health service next week. What information does the Government have about that plan of action? Does the Government intend to engage with the unions about what is planned? Does the Government have any plans to protect patients in that context? Can the Tánaiste give the House whatever information is available on what the Government intends to do next week to ensure patients are not affected by the planned action?
I ask the question under the legislation on the eligibility for health services. There is a proposed Bill to deal with eligibility for health services. Patients in hospital are eligible for health services so perhaps the Tánaiste can reply under that.
What is the current position with No. 26, the company law consolidation and reform Bill? I remind the Tánaiste and the House that today is the first anniversary of the celebrated entry by the Garda fraud squad, accompanied by the national media, into the premises of Anglo Irish Bank. What is the current position, one year later, with those investigations? Is it a matter of political will, legislation or resources? It is 12 months since the Garda fraud squad entered the premises and promised, as did the Minister's Department, action before the end of last year. Why has nobody been brought to court or charged? Why has nothing happened?
If the Deputy wishes to throw a condescending, sexist remark across the House, that is fine. It is very much the calibre of Deputy Flanagan but I would expect more from him after all these years in the House.
The legislation will be ready at the end of next year. I remind the House that the Director of Corporate Enforcement is an independent arm of the State-----
It is a joint investigation by the Director of Corporate Enforcement and the Garda authorities. It is a substantial piece of ongoing work. There are no resource difficulties for the office, in the context of dealing with the issues. Every effort is being made to bring this matter to fruition as quickly as possible. However, the one thing we have to ensure is that it is evidence-based.
Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur ar an Tánaiste faoi reachtaíocht atá geallta le fada - le roinnt blianta - reachtaíocht í a bhfuil suim ag an Tánaiste inti tá mé cinnte, mar go mbaineann sí leis an Ghaeltacht. An reachtaíocht atá i gceist ná Bille Údarás na Gaeltachta. Cén uair an mbeidh an Bille sin á chur i láthair sa Dáil agus an mbeidh sé i láthair roimh thoghchán Údarás na Gaeltachta, atá dlite níos moille i mbliana? Cén uair an mbeidh an toghchán ann agus an mbeidh an Bille anseo roimh an toghchán?
Ar an ábhar céanna, chuir mé ceist ar an Taoiseach inné faoin reachtaíocht atá liostáilte sa chlár reachtaíochta ag an Rialtas. An Bille atá ann ná, Bille um Údarás na Gaeltachta (Leasú). Ceapaim gur thug an Taoiseach freagra domsa i dtaobh Bille Údarás na Gaeilge. An féidir leis an Tánaiste a chinntiú cén reachtaíocht a mbeidh ag teacht os comhair an Tí? An mbeid dhá Bhille ann? An mbeidh an Bille faoi Údarás na Gaeltachta, Bille leasaithe againn nó an mbeidh Bille eile, Bille Údarás na Gaeilge againn nó an mbeidh an dá Bhille ag teacht os comhair an Tí. An Bille atá liostáilte sa chlár ná, Bille um Údarás na Gaeltachta (Leasú.
Mar atá a fhios ag na Teachtaí uilig, táimid ag féachaint ar an straitéis úr 20 bliain don Ghaeltacht. Táimid ag fanacht ar thoradh na hoibre atá idir lámha ag an comhchoiste faoi láthair. Ní bheidh toghchán go dtí go mbeidh sin os ár gcomhair agus críochnaithe. Sin an fáth go mbeidh Bille úr os ár gcomhair fosta. Ag éirí as an straitéis, ar dtús báire beidh Bille úr os ár gcomhair. Níl sé socraithe go fóill an mbeidh toghchán ann i mbliana. Fiú muna mbeidh, leis an Bille atá ann, tá deis ag an Aire athfhéachaint a dhéanamh agus gan toghchán a shocrú díreach. I mo thuairim, tá sé ag fanacht go dtí go mbeidh an straitéis críochnaithe agus ansin cuirfidh sé Bille úr os ár gcomhair. Muna mbeidh an Bille críochnaithe in am don toghchán, beidh an Taoiseach in ann an toghchán a chur ar athló.
I have asked the Taoiseach this question many times. It concerns the plebiscite which was held in An Daingean. Every time I raise the issue we are told legislation is on the way. The plebiscite to re-name Dingle as An Daingean Uí Chúis was held over three years ago. It has not happened. When will Dingle be re-named?
What is currently happening in local authorities throughout the country is-----
This is being done as a result of a directive from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley. Does it have any legal basis or have any legislation or instruments been put in place for the de-zoning of land?
On that issue, the Minister, Deputy John Gormley, has published the general scheme of the local government (Dublin mayor and regional authority) Bill. The issue of the placename of Dingle will be part of it, which is currently in consultation and, following that, will be brought to the House.
This time last year the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, stated he would legislate for the retail sector and if rents were not reduced, he would address the matter. However, rents are continuing to rise in the sector and the most aggressive increases currently taking place in retail rents concern portfolios which will go into the NAMA process. Yesterday afternoon-----
Yes, there are two specific pieces of legislation. Yesterday afternoon representatives of the retail industry met the Tánaiste to express their concerns with regard to upward rents and the practice which is now developing among landlords to increase rents to such an extent that thousands of jobs are threatened around the country. During the discussion, they also mentioned the legislative difficulties which currently exist regarding the arbitration process, whereby retailers are unable to deal appropriately and in a fair way with landlords. The most critical point is that a number of landlords around the country, as part of their engagement with NAMA, are increasing rents in order to increase the valuation of their loan book.
It is creating a situation whereby retailers across the country are now threatening to go on a national strike. Following the Tánaiste's meeting yesterday afternoon with retailers, does the Government now intend to introduce emergency legislation to deal with the issue of upward-only rent reviews which exist for the vast majority of companies in Ireland, despite the legislative changes made by the Minister, Deputy Ahern, last year? Does the Tánaiste intend to make legislative changes to the arbitration process which will give the retailers concerned a fair chance in these negotiations to keep trading and keep people in employment?
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Dermot Ahern, introduced legislation to ban upward only rents. As everyone knows, the legal advice is that we cannot introduce legislation to break existing contracts as it would be unconstitutional. It is the same issue which pertains to Aer Lingus. I gave an undertaking that I and the Minister, Deputy Ahern, through a working group, would examine how we can address what retailers see as the unreasonable manner in which we have rent increases when we are currently in such a difficult economic climate.
On the arbitration issue, I gave an undertaking that I will examine some of the issues which were raised in private.
-----does the Minister acknowledge that rents are being inflated as a means of creating an over-valuation of properties for debunked developers as they enter the NAMA process? This is the kernel of the issue, namely, that rents are being over-valued-----
I have been contacted in the past 48 hours by two businesses in the west and north west who have had loans sanctioned and approved by two of the major banks in this country, but cannot get the money from them. The banks are using every mechanism available to them to postpone the payments, which are now threatening jobs in the businesses to which I refer. I am sure this is not an isolated incident. In light of that, will the Tánaiste examine what is happening within the banking institutions in this country regarding the postponement of the issuing of moneys where loans have been approved? When will No. 56, the Central Bank (consolidation) Bill, come before the House?
Yes, very much so. We have, in effect, no banking system in the country and no confidence or credit. Allied Irish Banks has created an excessive profit margin from doing business with customers. My point concerns promised legislation. As we speak, hundreds of jobs are being lost in every company in Ireland, but we have the inaction of the Tánaiste regarding job creation. We have, in effect, no confidence or credit and, therefore, jobs are being lost. It is very relevant. This is an initiative on which I can speak with confidence. We are discussing the dormant accounts (amendment) Bill. Most accounts in every bank are dormant. Business people are not trading through banks.
The dormant accounts (amendment) Bill will come before the House later this year. The Central Bank (consolidation) Bill will come before the House this summer.
My question for the Tánaiste regards the extent, if any, to which discussion on the heads of the Bill to provide for the regulation and assessment of legal costs has taken place in Cabinet. Has any agreement been reached on the heads? Are they being drafted? When is it likely the Bill will come before the House?
Regarding Irish passports and the identities of Irish citizens being stolen and used for passport purposes in the assassination of the Hamas leader, the situation is becoming more bizarre given that Australia is now involved. Strong action has been taken by the Australian government.
I am coming to my question for the Tánaiste. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Micheál Martin, is currently in the Middle East, visiting Gaza. He has visited Egypt and was in Brussels where he met the Israeli Foreign Minister. We need to have a debate on this in the House. I ask that the Minister come to the House next week, at a time to be agreed, so that we might have a debate and a proper response. We have no co-ordinated or coherent response to the threat to our good name, the reputation of the Irish passport and the lives of Irish citizens-----
-----as used in this fashion by a so-called friendly state. The only way to deal with it properly is to allow it come to the floor of the House so that we can all express our views and the Minister can outline the result of his consultations in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Will the Tánaiste please tell me why that man is still walking around, free, without being prosecuted? There is legislation, namely, criminal legislation, under which this man should be prosecuted for destroying the lives of many women. The total number is unknown. He had the audacity to appear on television and tell us that now all he does is play golf-----
-----and entire families. Why is he not prosecuted? The Harding Clark report is very clear. If he is not prosecuted, why does this Government not set up a compensation fund to compensate the women for the wrong that was done to them?
Given the savage cuts in health budgets, particularly in the west where there is a 15% cut in the budgets of Galway and Limerick hospitals, both cancer centres, why have we not seen the drugs reference pricing Bill? When will it be published? It could save up to €200 million, yet I see that high on the list of legislation is the drugs prescription charge Bill which will save only about €20 million and will hurt the most vulnerable in the country, the sick, the old and the elderly.
My office has been inundated with calls from victims of his butchery in Drogheda, from very upset mothers or those who cannot be mothers because of him. I fully concur that there ought to be a prosecution of this man. His insulting contemptuous remarks on television were appalling.
Regarding the industrial development Bill, it is a year since Michael O'Leary put on the record to the Minister's office his offer of 500 jobs to this State. A year later 200 of those jobs have gone to Scotland. He said 300 are still on the table. He wants the Tánaiste to call his bluff on this matter. Notwithstanding the difficulties on all sides, will the Tánaiste make one final effort to try to resolve this issue with Aer Lingus and Ryanair and use her good offices to push one step further rather than have them go to other countries where he is already negotiating in that regard?
On foot of my call last night during the Private Members' motion for the possible creation of 240 jobs, albeit 60 fewer than Michael O'Leary's, I raised the matter with the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affair, Deputy Ó Cuív. Has he been in touch with the Tánaiste since then with regard to those potential jobs? This does not require legislation, only a couple of telephone calls. The problem with this House, and the Ceann Comhairle can ask me which-----
It is very difficult to quantify it because it is on Committee Stage. The Department and the Minister are preparing amendments, it will then have to go through Report Stage and Final Stage in this House and it will then have to go to the Seanad. As the Deputy is a Whip, I am sure we can get an update for him on when the Minister expects to have the Committee Stage amendments brought before the House.
Dick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Can we send details of how Bills are passed to the Fine Gael Whip? It might assist him.
Last year, I raised the issue of the staff of the National Property Services Regulatory Authority twiddling their thumbs in Navan because they have not got the legal powers to do their work in regard to managing agents. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform brought that Bill into the Seanad last May but nothing has happened with it since. Meanwhile, disputes are ongoing between apartment owners and managing agents, with the apartment owners, on the one hand, not paying their fees and leaving a shortfall in the accounts for management companies, and the managing agents, on the other hand, not providing the services they should be providing. These disputes could be mediated by the authority if the legislation was put in place. What is the up-to-date position?