Tuesday, 29 March 2011
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 6, motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; and No. 10, statements on the Moriarty tribunal report. 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 on the adjournment of Private Members' business, which shall be No. 20, motion re universal social charge, which shall be taken tonight immediately after Deputy Lowry's first statement or at 7 p.m., whichever is the later, and adjourn after 90 minutes; No. 6 shall be decided without debate; the proceedings on No. 10 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. tomorrow, and the following arrangements shall apply: the statement of the Taoiseach and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case; Deputy Michael Lowry shall be called upon to make a statement which shall not exceed one hour; the statement of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case; a Minister or Minister of State may speak more than once; Members may share time; Deputy Michael Lowry shall be called upon no later than 5.20 p.m. tomorrow to make a statement, which shall not exceed 20 minutes; a Minister or Minister of State shall take questions no later than 5.40 p.m. for a period not exceeding 60 minutes; and a Minister or Minister of State shall make a statement in reply which shall not exceed 20 minutes.
Just one second, please.
There are three proposals to be put to the House today. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 6, ministerial rota for parliamentary questions, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 10, statements on the Moriarty tribunal report, agreed to?
I put it to the Taoiseach that we have not agreed to the arrangements for statements on the Moriarty tribunal report. Sufficient time has not been allocated to deal comprehensively with the statements and the questions that will follow. We also need clarification on who is to answer questions. Last week I asked the Taoiseach whether he would answer questions on this issue and whether other Members who were members of the Fine Gael-Labour Party Government that awarded the licence back in 1995 would also be available to answer questions. It is still unclear, based on the arrangements announced by the Taoiseach, how this will operate. Due to the additional time allocated to Deputy Lowry and the run-on of the sitting this evening, we will need more time, perhaps tomorrow, to facilitate comprehensive debate.
I object to the proposed Order of Business on the basis that this is not an adequate debate. We should be debating a motion endorsing the recommendations in the Moriarty tribunal report. I thank the judge for completing his investigation on behalf of the Dáil. It is not acceptable for us to deal with this through a serious of speeches.
I note that the Government is to give Deputy Lowry a full hour and 20 minutes to speak, which is more than the total amount given to questions at the end of the statements. Deputy Lowry, on whom I do not make any judgment at this point, has had 14 years, through the tribunal, to give an account of what happened. The Government should make time for a motion of censure. Sinn Féin has submitted such a motion, and we want to see the Government giving time to ensure it is debated this week. We also need to know, in the course of any proper debate, precisely what the Government will do to establish a process for implementing the recommendations of the Moriarty report. It has said that it accepts the recommendations, as I and Sinn Féin also do, but we need to know how they will be processed.
They say "Repetitio mater studiorum est." I was asked last week whether I would be here to answer questions - yes or no - and I said "Yes". I will be here, please God, to answer questions. I will answer, as far as the Moriarty tribunal is concerned, any Member who has questions about Fine Gael's fund-raising activities in that regard. The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources will take questions about the tribunal per se.
I wish to outline the reasons we have put this in the way we have. Deputy Lowry is the central focus of the tribunal report. He approached the Whip to seek a speaking slot, which we were quite happy to grant him. Subsequently, he came back to seek more time. I discussed this with the Tánaiste and we agreed, in respect of his request for 50 minutes, that we should give him more than that. He then requested that he be able to participate in the question and answer session and, rather than divert that from the Minister with direct responsibility for it - or, as far as the party and its activities with regard to the tribunal are concerned, myself - we agreed that Deputy Lowry should be given an opportunity to respond to any claims made during the course of the debate before the question and answer session, which will be taken by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and me, with a wrap-up by the same Minister.
Deputy Martin makes the point that not enough time has been allocated. I remind him that he asked for the Dáil to be recalled last Monday for a couple of hours debate on the Moriarty tribunal. We have already allocated seven and a half hours. I remind him that on 10 February 2004, statements on the Mahon tribunal lasted for 55 minutes, with a 15-minute question and answer session. I also remind him that on 14 February 2007, statements on the interim report of the Moriarty tribunal lasted for 90 minutes, with no question and answer session.
The recommendations arising from this report are clear. I received approval from the Government this morning for these recommendations to be circulated to the relevant Departments and to come back here within four weeks with information on their implementation. Seven and a half hours are being allocated for discussion of the Moriarty tribunal. Whether the Deputies stand in judgment of anybody, I was happy, having discussed this with the Tánaiste, that the Deputy who is central to the report should be given adequate time to make a statement and respond to the conclusions that have been drawn by the sole member.
I will be clear about who is to answer questions. The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Rabbitte, will answer questions on matters to do with the Moriarty tribunal. I am prepared to be here if members of the Opposition wish to ask questions about fund-raising by the Fine Gael Party and its relationship to the Moriarty tribunal. I hope that makes it clear.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 112 (James Bannon, Tom Barry, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Joan Burton, Ray Butler, Jerry Buttimer, Catherine Byrne, Eric Byrne, Joe Carey, Paudie Coffey, Áine Collins, Michael Conaghan, Seán Conlan, Paul Connaughton, Ciara Conway, Noel Coonan, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Joe Costello, Simon Coveney, Michael Creed, Lucinda Creighton, Jim Daly, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Pat Deering, Regina Doherty, Pashcal Donohoe, Robert Dowds, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Alan Farrell, Frank Feighan, Ann Ferris, Frances Fitzgerald, Peter Fitzpatrick, Terence Flanagan, Eamon Gilmore, Brendan Griffin, Dominic Hannigan, Noel Harrington, Simon Harris, Brian Hayes, Tom Hayes, Michael Healy-Rae, Martin Heydon, Phil Hogan, Brendan Howlin, Heather Humphreys, Kevin Humphreys, Derek Keating, Colm Keaveney, Paul Kehoe, Alan Kelly, Enda Kenny, Seán Kenny, Seán Kyne, Anthony Lawlor, Michael Lowry, Ciarán Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, John Lyons, Eamonn Maloney, Peter Mathews, Michael McCarthy, Shane McEntee, Nicky McFadden, Dinny McGinley, Mattie McGrath, Joe McHugh, Tony McLoughlin, Michael McNamara, Olivia Mitchell, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Michelle Mulherin, Dara Murphy, Eoghan Murphy, Gerald Nash, Denis Naughten, Dan Neville, Derek Nolan, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Kieran O'Donnell, Patrick O'Donovan, Fergus O'Dowd, John O'Mahony, Joe O'Reilly, Jan O'Sullivan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, John Perry, Ann Phelan, John Paul Phelan, Ruari Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, James Reilly, Michael Ring, Brendan Ryan, Alan Shatter, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Arthur Spring, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Joanna Tuffy, Liam Twomey, Leo Varadkar, Jack Wall, Brian Walsh, Alex White)
Against the motion: 41 (Gerry Adams, Richard Boyd Barrett, John Browne, Dara Calleary, Joan Collins, Niall Collins, Michael Colreavy, Barry Cowen, Seán Crowe, Clare Daly, Pearse Doherty, Timmy Dooley, Dessie Ellis, Martin Ferris, Seán Fleming, John Halligan, Séamus Healy, Joe Higgins, Billy Kelleher, Séamus Kirk, Michael Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Pádraig MacLochlainn, Micheál Martin, Charlie McConalogue, Mary Lou McDonald, Finian McGrath, Michael McGrath, Sandra McLellan, Michael Moynihan, Catherine Murphy, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Jonathan O'Brien, Thomas Pringle, Brendan Smith, Brian Stanley, Peadar Tóibín, Robert Troy)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Seán Ó Fearghaíl.
Amendment declared carried.
It is over three weeks since the changes in ministerial responsibilities were announced yet Members of this House are being denied the right to ask questions of two members of the Government. All questions to Deputy Brendan Howlin are being answered by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan. All questions to Deputy Frances Fitzgerald are being answered by the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy James Reilly. According to the Order Paper, Deputy Fitzgerald will come before us as the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. Deputy Howlin has responsibility for public service employees and is allegedly responsible for billions of euro yet he cannot be asked questions in the House. Can the Taoiseach state when the situation will be dealt with and when Ministers will come before the House to answer questions on the areas assigned by the Taoiseach? Who will take responsibility for the announcement of the May budget?
I accept that the Minister with responsibility for public expenditure and public reform and the Minister with responsibility for children are Ministers without portfolios because the legislation giving effect to both new Departments has not been passed. This is being treated as a matter of priority. Both Ministers are concerned. The Minister with responsibility for public expenditure and public reform has initiated expressions of interest for suitably qualified persons to head up the Department. The Minister with responsibility for children is doing this through an open competition and it will be pursued as quickly as possible. We will bring the matter to the House as soon as it is ready. I cannot give an exact date but it will be as fast as we can do it. The jobs budget is being worked on separately by the Minister for Finance and will be presented by him.
I refer to a matter of grave national importance. I tabled a question to the Taoiseach on this matter but the question was not reached. A fellow Deputy also raised this point. Can time be made available to discuss the census issue and the company involved and contracted to participate in organising the census? I imagine the Taoiseach is aware that the company is CACI UK, which is a subsidiary of an American-based multinational that had the contract from the US Department of Defence for involvement in interrogation in Abu Ghraib and against which serious allegations have been made in regard to its involvement in the horrendous activities in Abu Ghraib.
I am trying to make the case to the Taoiseach why time should be made for this. Serious concerns are being expressed about the sensitive nature of the census information being potentially accessible to a company against which grave human rights allegations have been made and which is linked to the US Department of Defence. This is a matter of national importance and it should be discussed. Statements on behalf of the Government should be made and Deputies should have the opportunity to ask questions about this matter.
I suggest to Deputy Boyd Barrett that he raises this matter on the Adjournment through the Ceann Comhairle's office. I know he has tabled a question to the Taoiseach and these are answered on the basis of a rota. A certain number are answered every day. Deputy Boyd Barrett could change this to a written question and I will see that the Whip with responsibility for census matters gives the fullest information possible.
I launched the census a short time ago and it is very important in terms of Ireland's economy and social issues. Deputy Boyd Barrett requests up-to-date information on this matter and I suggest seeking Dáil time through the Whips or he can request the Ceann Comhairle's office to grant an Adjournment debate. This will allow Deputy Boyd Barrett some time and allow the Minister some time to answer. He can also transfer his oral question for written answer and he will be given as much information as can be supplied.
I refer to a matter raised in the House last week that, to my knowledge, was not answered. I refer to the serious industrial relations issue with regard to staff in the House from a health and safety point of view and enforced working hours due to the public sector embargo. No Dáil tours can take place after 4 p.m. due to the lack of staff. Alterations have been made to the contracts of staff without consultation with the employees or Members - the employers.
Can the Taoiseach indicate exactly the day on which the Government will present a programme of promised legislation under each of the departmental heads? Can the Taoiseach indicate if the programme will reflect commitments across the various Departments contained in the programme for Government? I refer in particular to legislative commitments with a health interest. Will the promised legislation, the intended legislation to give effect to those commitments, be included and be followed up within the current year?
The legislation is to be published next Tuesday. I have already asked Ministers to only produce the legislation they know is ready to be published and which will reflect those priorities. For instance, the legislation to introduce a ban on corporate donations will be prioritised, as will a number of other matters that are contained in the programme for government that are deemed priority issues. Deputy Ó Caoláin and I, when on that side of the House, have raised matters about the list of proposed legislation on many occasions. I do not wish the situation to arise where legislation is listed that cannot be produced in a considerable time. I am more interested in seeing what can be produced as a priority and legislation that comes through efficiently that Members of the House can deal with in the course of their duties.
Last week the Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Deputy Shatter, announced his intention to introduce a Bill aimed at speeding up investigations which are currently under way, including those into Anglo Irish Bank. The Bill would apparently include detailed measures relating to the production of documents required during an investigation into and prosecution of complex crimes - something I am sure we will all welcome. Could we have an indication of when the Bill is likely to be introduced in the House?
As the Taoiseach is aware, the agreement with the EU and the IMF requires the establishment of a budgetary advisory council by the end of the second quarter of this year. Is it still the Government's intention to proceed with that and, if so, does it require legislation?
The programme for Government includes a commitment by the Government to introduce within 100 days a budget that will give effect to a range of measures, some of which are outlined in the programme for Government. Given that the commitment of the Government is to stay within the financial parameters that were laid down by the previous Government to year-end, is it the intention in the finance Bill that will give effect to those measures, to offset those measures in the mini-budget in June or will the offsetting be deferred until December?
I raise the matter because as we all know the domestic economy is completely flat-lined. There are many people without two pennies to rub together but the people who have money are afraid to spend it. We could not get the answer from the Minister for Finance. Will the legislation to give effect to the mini-budget just relate to the programme for Government commitments or will the off-setting which the Minister for Finance has said is necessary happen in June or in December during the normal annual budgetary process. The offsetting of those measures between now and 2013 is at least to the tune of €1.5 billion. There is a need to explain matters to the House today to give confidence to people that there will not be a mini-budget in June which will dig deeper into the pockets of ordinary spenders.
The Deputy is aware that when the troika met, before the election and since, it made it perfectly clear that adjustments can be made within the agreed programme but that in respect of any such adjustments compensatory measures would have to be identified and agreed. That is the position in regard to the budget within 100 days for a jobs stimulus of the indigenous economy and a restoration of confidence for employers for the creation of jobs. The measures that will be included in the jobs budget to be taken within 100 days will include measures that have already been compensated for within the programme and as agreed by the troika. In other words, this is not a case of just putting up measures that do not have to be compensated for until the end of the year. They must demonstrate and have them accepted now. The intention is to provide a stimulus for the indigenous economy for credit for job opportunities and for a return of confidence so that people who have money will understand that they will have an opportunity to spend it in good measure.