Tuesday, 14 December 2010
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 7, motion re proposed approval by DÃ¡il Ãireann of a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on attacks against information systems and repealing Council Framework Decision 2005/222/JHA; No. 8, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by DÃ¡il Ãireann of Taxation Agreements; No. 9, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by DÃ¡il Ãireann of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund (No. 2) Regulations 2010; No. 9a, Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Bill 2010 - Finance Resolution; No. 9b, Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Bill 2010 - motion to instruct the committee; No. 38, Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Bill 2010 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 39, Criminal Law (Insanity) Bill 2010 [Seanad] - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the DÃ¡il shall later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and that business shall be interrupted not later than 10 p.m.; that Nos. 7, 8, 9 and 9a shall be taken without debate; the proceedings on No. 9b shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 60 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the speeches shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and to the main spokespersons for Fine Gael, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share time and shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; the Report and Final Stages of No. 38 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 9 p.m. by one Question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Social Protection; the Report and Final Stages of No. 39 shall be taken tonight and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10 p.m. by one Question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Justice and Law Reform; in the event a division is in progress at the time fixed for the taking of Private Members' Business, which shall be No. 104 - motion re proposal to reduce national minimum wage, Standing Order 117(3) shall not apply and Private Members' business shall be adjourned after 90 minutes.
It is not agreed. The Labour Party cannot agree to the Order of Business. It is not unusual in the final sitting week before the Christmas break that the Government would seek to use the guillotine and ram through many proposals but, by any standards, what is proposed for this week is extraordinary. Today a social welfare Bill is to be passed by 9 p.m. and the Government has produced 30 pages of Report Stage amendments for that Bill.
Tomorrow we have been told we will have a vote on the memorandum of understanding relating to the agreement between the Government and the IMF and the European institutions. We have not yet been supplied with the text of the motion, which we are to debate tomorrow. Four hours are also being allocated tomorrow to deal with complex legislation on banking, the Bill for which was only circulated earlier today. It runs to more than 70 sections dealing with complex banking issues. It was supplied to the Opposition parties at lunchtime and we are expected to debate it, consider it and tease it out in four hours tomorrow. This shows no respect for this House.
I am struck by the irony of the fact that the IMF decided to postpone its decision on the approval of the IMF-EU deal out of respect for the Irish parliamentary process.
The only people who are not showing respect to the Irish parliamentary process are the Government parties in the context of the volume of business they want to do in a short time, the fact that they are not providing notice or documentation and legislation on time to the Opposition parties and then giving us minimal time to debate them. In these circumstances, we do not agree to the Order of Business.
I am aware of that but, as with the previous speaker, I am making it clear that this is unacceptable because a calculation of the time - and this is a time proposition - suggests we have less than one hour to address the amendments on Report Stage when we have gone through the various steps that have to be taken to order the rest of the business. It is not acceptable. The proposition is to sit later than 8.30 p.m. and not later than 10 p.m. and that is restrictive. The imposition of a guillotine and the limited time available are not acceptable in terms of addressing important legislation and a raft of new amendments, which we have not had the opportunity to properly tease out. We object to the Order of Business.
There is a need to proceed with this level of business this week. The issues arising tomorrow are important and have to be dealt with. We can deal with the question regarding the EU-IMF deal tomorrow but it is a matter of providing certainty on the basis that there was some suggestion of there not being certainty.
It is important to put the Bill through the House today. There is other important business this week, which cannot be delayed, and while I understand and accept the difficulty that can cause, it is important that we get it through.
Agreed but when the double taxation agreements motions come back from committee, will it be possible to have a brief opportunity to discuss them in the House? The agreements are with the Kingdom of Morocco and Montenegro and another motion refers to an exchange of information regarding taxes in St. Lucia, the Marshall Islands and St. Vincent and the Grenadine Islands.
I understand the motions are coming back to the House on Thursday. I am not sure if there will be time to debate them. The idea of referring them to committees is to provide time for Members who want to discuss them to do so. Double taxation agreements provide an opportunity for countries such as this-----
It is not agreed. As Deputy Gilmore said, we received 30 pages of Report Stage amendments to the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Bill, which were circulated at 10.40 last night. Members have not had an opportunity to consider them. The amendments contain four major new policy initiatives about which we were not given notice, including a proposal for a sovereign annuity and sovereign bonds, the status of persons at work and the denial of employment rights to persons engaging in work placement programmes, the 4% levy on officeholders and major provisions in respect of the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010. No briefing was available on these important provisions today and it has proven impossible to obtain information from the relevant Departments. This is no way to do business.
The Government is showing complete disregard to Members. It is not possible for us to get a briefing in time to deal with these proposals adequately. Will the Taoiseach show more regard for Members and for the major legislation he proposes to ram through today?
This is not agreed. Deputy Ring, our spokesman on social welfare and protection, has brought to my notice the fact that the debate on the amendments mentioned by Deputy Shortall is expected to conclude by 9 p.m. We have always objected to guillotines on Bills but this is a Bill that should be discussed. There will be no objection to the reference to public office holders but a discussion might be necessary in respect of the definition of "couple" in the context of civil partnerships - there has been a degree of agreement on this - as well as work experience placements and the sovereign annuities and associated bonds from the National Treasury Management Agency. With the debate to be concluded at 9 p.m. too little time has been allocated to Report and Final Stages. Accordingly, I object to the proposed guillotine in this case.
Even as the Minister was publishing the Bill, the Government was announcing amendments to it. Sections were introduced in the Bill as the process was moving forward. It is unacceptable. Debating 34 amendments within that short period of time will not afford the House the opportunity to deal properly with this legislation. The Taoiseach was offering a modicum of assistance earlier but withdrew it. Can he not reconsider the time being allocated, lift the guillotine and allow the measure to take its course? We oppose the guillotine.
We oppose it for the reasons I have stated. There are 34 amendments tabled and the likelihood is that we will get to debate a handful of them in the time allowed. That is unacceptable given the scope of some of the new proposals which we only saw this morning. There is no justification for the guillotine and the Labour Party opposes it.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 77 (Bertie Ahern, Dermot Ahern, Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, Chris Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Bobby Aylward, Joe Behan, Niall Blaney, Áine Brady, Cyprian Brady, Johnny Brady, John Browne, Thomas Byrne, Pat Carey, Niall Collins, Margaret Conlon, Mary Coughlan, Brian Cowen, John Cregan, Ciarán Cuffe, John Curran, Noel Dempsey, Jimmy Devins, Timmy Dooley, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Michael Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Beverley Flynn, Paul Gogarty, John Gormley, Mary Hanafin, Mary Harney, Seán Haughey, Jackie Healy-Rae, Máire Hoctor, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Brendan Kenneally, Michael Kennedy, Tony Killeen, Michael Kitt, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, 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, Eamon Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Eamon Scanlon, Noel Treacy, Mary Wallace, Mary White, Michael Woods)
Against the motion: 71 (Bernard Allen, James Bannon, Seán Barrett, Pat Breen, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Ulick Burke, Joan Burton, Catherine Byrne, Joe Carey, Deirdre Clune, Paul Connaughton, Noel Coonan, Joe Costello, Simon Coveney, Seymour Crawford, Michael Creed, Lucinda Creighton, Michael D'Arcy, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Pearse Doherty, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Frank Feighan, Martin Ferris, Terence Flanagan, Eamon Gilmore, Brian Hayes, Phil Hogan, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Enda Kenny, 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, Fergus O'Dowd, 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 John Cregan and John Curran; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe
Question declared carried
Has the Government decided the date of the return of the DÃ¡il in January? In view of comments made by Deputy Sargent, has the Taoiseach decided which accompanying Bills are expected to be dealt with in parallel to the finance Bill? When is that likely to be completed? This is a matter of considerable interest to many people around the country.
It is certainly an obsession of the Deputy. I have indicated that we will return on Wednesday, 12 January. The programme of legislative work will be outlined by the Whip on the week we return. I am afraid I am not in a position to give the Deputy a date for the dissolution of the DÃ¡il.
I had a request last week for the release of the Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe, so that he could he go to CancÃºn, Mexico, to sort out the climate change Bill. I want to say to him that he seems to have done fairly well, with 187 countries backing him up.
It was a pairing that may have been justified in the context of a new world climate agreement.
Comments were made by Deputy Sargent about mayoralty Bills and a number of other Bills that the Green Party wishes to bring forward. In view of the statement from the leader of the Green Party that he wants a general election before the end of January, how does the Taoiseach propose to accommodate all this legislation in the last fortnight in January? Is he up to it?
With the Deputy's co-operation, we will outline a work programme for the next session of the DÃ¡il and take it from there. We are returning a week early and the finance Bill will be produced thereafter in the normal way. We will give that proper consideration and there will be other work to be conducted by the House as well. The question of when the DÃ¡il will be dissolved is a matter for the Taoiseach and the President. There is still much work to be done, so I would not pack my bags too quickly.
There are three matters about which I wish to ask the Taoiseach. The Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Ãine Brady, indicated this morning that statutory regulations pertaining to home care services were being prepared in her Department. Is this being done through primary legislation or regulations, and when will it come before the House?
The Green Party announced at a press conference that it would be withdrawing from the Government in January. Have the Green Party Ministers informed him of the date on which they intend to resign from Government?
I share a constituency with the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, Deputy Mary Hanafin, and it always bothers me that she might know something I did not know.
Áine Brady (Minister of State with special responsibility for Older People and Health Promotion, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context
We will not tell him.
When we discussed the issue of home care during Leaders' Questions and questions to the Taoiseach, I made the point that the measures to be implemented in the new year will be the national guidelines and procedures for standardised implementation of the home care package scheme and the quality guidelines for home care support services for older people, which are due for publication, as well as guidelines for the home help service. With regard to statutory regulation, it has been the norm that we produce such guidelines in consultation with the voluntary and community sector and the statutory services. As there is a spectrum of care needs, we must ensure the response is proportionate and flexible. It is important that we maintain the ethos behind many of the schemes, such as good neighbourliness.
In the case of the home help scheme, people from within the community - in many cases, neighbours - are providing much-needed practical services and a home-care environment for people who require assistance. In the vast majority of cases, the services provided are very good. The priority up to now, as Deputies know, has been to deal with residential care services where that was required. We must now consider the home care setting in a way that respects the ethos of the provision of home care while insisting on proper, professional and compassionate standards for people who are in receipt of care. That is the balance that must be struck, and proportionality must be maintained. In this way we can make sure the largest possible number of people have access to these services in a way that is consonant with good standards and neighbourliness.
The other issue raised by the Deputy-----
Yes, it does. A statement was made some time ago regarding the view of the Green Party Ministers that the dissolution of the DÃ¡il should be considered in the specified timeframe. We are, as a collective authority, working through the issues to make sure our business is done and that all legislative measures consequent on the budget are enacted to provide the necessary certainty, while at the same time ensuring that other important work that is currently being pursued or that must be done within the timeframe specified is dealt with. The work programme for the next session will give greater clarity in this regard.
I noted the Taoiseach's response on the finance Bill. Can he tell us whether other legislation arising from last week's budget is also in the pipeline? Are there one or more Bills yet to present? When will the Taoiseach be in a position to advise on whether such legislation is in the process of preparation and when it will be published? With regard to the Bills the Green Party is pressing to have included before a general election takes place - the climate change Bill and the corporate donations Bill - is it also the intent of the Taoiseach and the main coalition partners to deal with both of those Bills in the upcoming term after Christmas and before the DÃ¡il is dissolved?
I refer the Deputy to the budgetary measures that have been announced. There is the finance Bill, some pensions legislation and also some betting legislation. That can all be done during the course of the first session when we return. There are also the banking issues. There is important work to be done by the House in a reasonable timeframe and with proper and due consideration. Other legislation that is at an advanced stage of preparation and approval by Cabinet will also be introduced in due course.
I wish to raise the issue of secondary legislation on foot of the Taoiseach's comments earlier on the "Prime Time Investigates" report about elder abuse. We have now heard reports of the abuse of elderly people in the community and in residential care, and we have seen the same thing with regard to children in residential care and in the community. Before we begin to hear inquiries and reports about the treatment of people with intellectual disabilities, would it be possible to include this part of our health services in the inspection regime? In this way we could ensure that those vulnerable people are protected. We should not have another "Prime Time" exposÃ© before action is taken.
If the mental capacity Bill was enacted, it would ensure that a prosecution could be obtained for wilful neglect of a vulnerable person, whether someone with a disability or an elderly person, as we saw in the report last night.
I understand the mental capacity Bill is due for publication this session. If this is a Bill that the Deputy feels should be included in our work programme in the new year, I can certainly arrange for that. As he said, it is an important Bill and it would put the statutory framework on mental capacity on a modern footing. Much good work has been done in the disability sector in recent years on a collaborative basis and it would be good if this could be further provided for. This will be considered by the Whip based on what the Deputy has had to say about it and his constant interest in that area.
The matter of intellectual disability and inspection regimes is one to be taken up in the first instance with the Minister for Health and Children. I take the Deputy's point. We should note that much excellent care has been provided in the absence of a statutory framework and that the provision of such a framework gives us no guarantee of uniform professional standards. However, it would help to specify a clear duty of care. We must acknowledge the professionalism of those who operate in different sectors, whatever the statutory or other regime they are working under. We are all in agreement that every individual case of abuse is one too many. A comprehensive review is being undertaken of the four cases that were highlighted in last night's programme. That is as it should be. It is an exercise in accountability and a proper response is required.
The question of inspection regimes for carers of people with intellectual disabilities is something I will consider in consultation with the Minister for Health and Children.
I listened carefully to the Taoiseach's reply and to the Minister of State, Deputy Ãine Brady, this morning. We still have not been told when the regulations will be published. Will the Taoiseach give us a date? He is right to say the vast majority of care is good but it is the exceptional cases that need regulation.
They are the people who must be protected by regulation. We need to know this is being dealt with urgently by Government. Will the Taoiseach give us some indication of the date when those regulations will be published such that the small number of cases will be subject to regulation and, therefore, those people we saw on television last night will be protected?
Work is ongoing on this matter. There has been a collaboration with the voluntary sector and consultation with the statutory sector to bring forward guidelines. The first point of call is to issue these guidelines, to publish them early in the new year and to put in place a regime that will see their implementation. They will be brought to the attention of everyone, including local managers. The review being undertaken now is as a result of what has occurred and what has been highlighted. There is in existence a complaints procedure where people, families and clients can have recourse to any complaint being dealt with. Where people are dissatisfied for whatever reason - we often find a personality clash or something happens that breaks the bond of trust - it is necessary for good quality care to be provided. Replacements can be provided and rosters can be changed. Often they are changed to accommodate those individual difficulties that arise in families.
In the vast majority of cases we are discussing HSE-provided services. A total of 55,000 home helps are run by the HSE. Where home care packages have been adverted to there is also an involvement by the HSE in terms of procurement issues etc. I contend that in the vast majority of these cases the level of complaint thus far is such that given the range of activities and the fact that â¬200 million more is being spent in this area than was the case even a few years ago, even in the present circumstances, it is an indication of the need for the flexible response and the service in place. There is a spectrum of need which varies from place to place and from individual to individual.
In setting up or preparing for a statutory framework we must ensure this ethos is maintained. This has been the means by which a quality care system has been provided thus far. Keeping it close to the community, close to the family and people who live nearby and who know the individuals concerned is a significant advantage in ensuring that the system works. Were there a different system with people leaving from places of employment to go out and do these tasks in another way we would not have as successful a scheme as we do. I have no wish to be misrepresented in this regard. We are all aware from our personal experience and we want to see the dignity of people maintained and that people are properly looked after. One case is one case too many but the vast majority of cases are handled in a discreet, proper and professional way. Where there are complaints, they too can be accommodated. Let us not suggest this is a systemic problem, although I agree a review should be carried out to determine the extent of the lack of professionalism which was evident in the cases highlighted last night. It is in everyone's interest to do that. That is being undertaken and local managers have been instructed and directed to do that. It is a good practical response to last night's programme because certain people must go out and check that people are being looked after properly. If some have started well but are now providing care in a way that is not acceptable, that has become complacent or routine or whatever the issues are, it must be identified at this point. A complete review gives us the prospect of doing this.
Given the indicative priority legislation programme for early in the new year will the Taoiseach give some indication as to whether it might be possible to introduce the national vetting bureau Bill and, perhaps, the Central Bank (No. 2) Bill, both of which are considered to be urgently required given the present situation?
Whatever about Santa Claus coming down the chimney, he will not be coming on the M7 Castletown to Nenagh roadway. Will the Taoiseach ensure that workers, contractors and sub-contractors in his constituency and mine are paid in order that the road can be opened?
I wish to ask the Taoiseach about two matters of legislation. No. 90 on today's Order Paper is the Twenty-ninth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2009. This is a Bill designed at a time of economic emergency to facilitate the Government to apply the same level of public service remuneration reductions to members of the Judiciary as have been applied to other people. It was published by Fine Gael in advance of the 2009 budget. There have been two budgets in which public sector wage reductions have been applied, neither of which applied to members of the Judiciary.
As the Green Party has given the Government some extra time in January, would the Taoiseach agree to take this Bill on board so that when a general election takes place on this simple and straightforward issue, about which there would be no public controversy - we can hold a referendum to coincide with the general election? This would ensure the Judiciary is not perceived as an elite apart from the public sector wage reductions that have occurred. Will the Taoiseach take on board this Bill and allow its enactment? Will he make Government time available for its enactment during the first week we come back and when the DÃ¡il sits again, if the finance Bill is not available to take at that point?
Before the DÃ¡il closes this session, will the Government publish the new, apparently promised, wording, on which it is now working, for a referendum on children's rights in circumstances in which, apparently, the Government is not willing to take on board the proposals of the Joint Oireachtas Committee? If we do not have the wording before the DÃ¡il ends this week, will we have it before we get to the end of this year?
I know that. I was about to come to that. The Deputy should allow us even a proportion of the intelligence he has himself. We can answer the Deputy's questions as we heard them; it is a matter of giving us some time to deal with them sequentially. That is no problem.
However, if the Deputy does not wish to hear the answers or he already knows the answers, what is the point?
Work is continuing with regard to the children's referendum. I cannot give a date this side of Christmas or the new year as to when that will be completed, when the Government will consider it or when we would have to come back to those involved in the previous work in this area. I note that good work was done. I am not sure whether a consensus wording to an amendment can be provided.
Recently, some Ministers claimed it may be necessary to implement part of the McCarthy report's recommendations on the sale of State assets. Last weekend, one Sunday newspaper report referred to an international consortium preparing to make a bid for purchasing Coillte.
The forestry Bill will not relate to the matter raised by Deputy Ferris. No decision has been made by the Government nor is one is due in the near future on the issue. In the immediate future his concerns are not well grounded.
No, not to my knowledge as an organisation. On several occasions, Coillte has entered into commercial contracts with private companies, however. No preparations are being made for the sale of the organisation itself or its land. If Deputy Ferris has an individual issue, we can check it out for him.