Wednesday, 28 September 2011
Order of Business
It is proposed take No. 1, Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2011 [Seanad] - Second Stage (resumed) and Subsequent Stages; and No. 4, Veterinary Practice (Amendment) Bill 2011- Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and shall adjourn immediately after Private Members' business which shall be No. 26 – motion re employment and the national internship scheme (resumed), which shall be taken on the conclusion of No. 1 or at 7.30 p.m., whichever is the later, and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes; (2) in relation to No. 1, the resumed Second Stage of which shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 6 p.m., the proceedings on the Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7.30 p.m. tonight 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 Finance.
I object to the guillotining of the Bill because it reflects a pattern of behaviour since the Government took up office of ramming through Bill after Bill using the guillotine, a general lack of accountability to the House and a lack of transparency. For example, Taoiseach's questions has been reduced to once a week. There has been a clear pattern of avoiding every opportunity for detailed scrutiny of what the Government is up to. More and more, the Parliament is becoming a creature of the Executive and the Government's behaviour regarding this Bill reflects that even more.
I strongly object to the Government's approach to the Bill, which will dip into the pockets of every insurance policyholder bar health policyholders to the tune of approximately €738 million. The figure was first announced at €600 million in April and it is increasing on a weekly basis. The Minister needs to answer serious questions regarding this legislation, particularly in regard to the payoff to the bondholders of Anglo Irish Bank. Far from what the Taoiseach believes, the taxpayer is paying bondholders through the promissory note, which will cost €60 billion.
It is wrong to slam the remaining Stages of the Bill today into one slot with one vote at the end of the debate, particularly given the Seanad was forced to deal with all sections of the legislation in one sitting. It is improper and it is completely out of kilter with the Government's commitment to political reform to allow inadequate time to scrutinise legislation. I appeal to the Taoiseach at the last minute to reverse the decision on this guillotine and to take Committee Stage during a later sitting.
It is precisely because I am concerned about putting people before profit that I am deeply concerned about the fact that the Taoiseach has failed to heed the objections raised yesterday about ramming the Bill through in such a short time. If ever there was an example of putting profit before people, this Bill is it. The people deserve a proper debate and proper scrutiny of this Bill, which provides for nothing more than ordinary policyholders and the wider economy in terms of higher insurance costs being asked to pick up the tab to bail out Mr. Quinn in a labyrinthine deal with Anglo Irish Bank, its bondholders and a multinational company that will walk off with the profitable bits of an insurance company after the people having picked up the tab for Mr. Quinn's shenanigans.
I hope Deputy Mattie McGrath called all his constituents together for an analysis of this. This issue is due for mention in the High Court on 4 October and this Bill has to go through. There are 1,600 jobs depending on it.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 95 (James Bannon, Tom Barry, Tommy Broughan, Ray Butler, Jerry Buttimer, Eric Byrne, Ciarán Cannon, 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, Paschal Donohoe, Robert Dowds, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Alan Farrell, Frank Feighan, Ann Ferris, Frances Fitzgerald, Peter Fitzpatrick, Charles Flanagan, Terence Flanagan, Eamon Gilmore, Brendan Griffin, Dominic Hannigan, Noel Harrington, Simon Harris, Brian Hayes, Tom Hayes, Martin Heydon, Brendan Howlin, Heather Humphreys, Kevin Humphreys, Derek Keating, Colm Keaveney, Paul Kehoe, Alan Kelly, Enda Kenny, Seán Kenny, Seán Kyne, Ciarán Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, John Lyons, Michael McCarthy, Shane McEntee, Joe McHugh, Tony McLoughlin, Michael McNamara, Eamonn Maloney, Peter Mathews, Olivia Mitchell, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Michelle Mulherin, Dara Murphy, Eoghan Murphy, Gerald Nash, Denis Naughten, Derek Nolan, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Kieran O'Donnell, Patrick O'Donovan, John O'Mahony, Joe O'Reilly, Ann Phelan, John Paul Phelan, Pat Rabbitte, James Reilly, Michael Ring, Brendan Ryan, Alan Shatter, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Arthur Spring, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Joanna Tuffy, Leo Varadkar, Jack Wall, Brian Walsh, Alex White)
Against the motion: 44 (Gerry Adams, Richard Boyd Barrett, John Browne, Dara Calleary, Joan Collins, Niall Collins, Michael Colreavy, Barry Cowen, Seán Crowe, Clare Daly, Pearse Doherty, Stephen Donnelly, Timmy Dooley, Dessie Ellis, Martin Ferris, Luke Flanagan, Seán Fleming, Tom Fleming, Noel Grealish, John Halligan, Michael Healy-Rae, Joe Higgins, Billy Kelleher, Michael Kitt, Pádraig MacLochlainn, Micheál Martin, Mary Lou McDonald, Finian McGrath, Mattie McGrath, Sandra McLellan, Michael Moynihan, Catherine Murphy, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Jonathan O'Brien, Willie O'Dea, Thomas Pringle, Shane Ross, Brendan Smith, Brian Stanley, Peadar Tóibín, Robert Troy, Mick Wallace)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies Pádraig Mac Lochlainn and Seán Ó Fearghaíl.
Question declared carried.
I ask the Taoiseach about the commitment in the programme for Government and the commitment given by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to publish the results of the comprehensive spending review in October. There is a lot of interest in this. Along with other Deputies, I attended a meeting the other night on special needs provision, where cutbacks are continuing despite a level of funding being made available which has not been reached. The Taoiseach acknowledged the freezing of 475 posts for emergencies. They could be released. When can we expect the comprehensive spending review to be published? Will it be in the middle of October? Will it be before the crucial electoral date at the end of October?
I cannot give Deputy Martin an exact date for this. I do not think the Minister is going to publish the review as it comes in to him. I think the information that is going to be made available as we prepare the three-year fiscal programme will be available for debate and discussion here. The Minister will set out a timeline - he has not done so yet, but he will do so shortly - for a structure to this, for the completion of his analysis of the expenditure review, for the preparation and publication of the three-year fiscal plan, and for the preparation of the Estimates leading into the budget. We hope to change things from previous years. Rather than having Deputies discuss Estimates in February or March, we might be able to change that fairly radically so that Members have an opportunity to give their views based on the information supplied in the comprehensive spending review and the formation of the fiscal plan and Estimates. I cannot give Deputy Martin an exact date now, but we will set out a timeline for it.
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has to make a judgment as to where we go as the Cabinet and the decisions we have to make. When we come to the point where we prepare the Estimates leading to the budget, the information that backs that up-----
Tá ceist agam ar reachtaíocht atá geallta maidir leis an bpróiséas chun daoine a ainmniú do thoghchán na huachtaránachta. Tá a fhios ag an Taoiseach nach bhfuil an próiséas go maith. Feicimid na hiarrthóirí ar an teilifís agus cloisimid iad ar an raidio ag rith ar fud an Stáit ag lorg votaí. My question is around political reform and, predictably, the archaic system for those who wish to be nominated to run in presidential elections. Under the Taoiseach's promised legislation on political reform, is there any plan to change the system to make it more democratic, more open and easier for citizens who want to nominate for that position?
I committed to setting up a constitutional convention, and I expect to do that after the Presidency. That is an issue that the convention can consider. It is a matter of much discussion. I think the current closing time for nominations will result in seven candidates for the Presidency. It will be a matter for the convention to consider, discuss and make recommendations as to whether it thinks the process should be changed to a more meaningful or relevant one.
No. What I did commit to was to have a referendum later in respect of the question about the abolition of the Seanad, and we have to have a referendum on children's rights. The matters to be considered by the constitutional convention can include the criteria and process for nomination for the Presidency. I am sure that the convention will make a number of recommendations that Government and the Houses can consider.
On promised legislation and in light of the disclosure yesterday that the bowel cancer screening programme is to be postponed for another six months, one of the main issues that has been raised is the inability of hospitals to do colonoscopies. I understand that 2,500 people are waiting for a colonoscopy. In the context of No. 86, on the licensing of health care facilities, when will the legislation be introduced? State-of-the-art theatres and staff are lying idle at Roscommon County Hospital and they could be used to carry out those procedures, deal with the backlog and take away the fear from people who are waiting for colonoscopies. Will the Taoiseach intervene to ensure this work takes place in Roscommon?
Draft heads of a Bill have been submitted to the Minister for consultation. The bowel cancer screening issue is of concern. I understand the programme was to begin in January and the Minister is concerned about the delay. As the Deputy knows, the Government's view is that small hospitals have a real future.
Many Members of this House will be members of policing committees, which have a continuing focus on the availability of alcohol to minors, particularly in the run-up to the Hallowe'en period. Under promised legislation, the Government has given a commitment regarding a Bill on the sale and availability of alcohol. Will the Taoiseach tell us when it will come before the House?
Given the dire and escalating crisis in accident and emergency departments throughout the country and the uncertainty and threat that hangs over those in Loughlinstown hospital in my constituency and others that have been mentioned today, will the Taoiseach allow a debate in the near future on the situation of our health service and accident and emergency departments? It is a pressing issue.
On the Order Paper, we have the birds and natural habitats regulations 2011, which I understand were signed yesterday. Is the Taoiseach aware of the dire consequences this will have on people in rural Ireland? I hear that is where he comes from. Will he make a statement on the matter?
Can the Taoiseach give me a date for the much-needed Bill on the electoral commission? I understand Deputy Hogan has put a considerable amount of work into the Bill and I am personally interested in it. To safeguard electoral integrity, it is important that we have it as soon as possible.
-----that the flow of credit is an integral part of that. To that extent, he has promised a strategic investment bank on a number of occasions. Can he tell us when the legislation will be brought before the House to deal with that matter?
Some time ago, the Taoiseach said that one of the main reasons there is overbudgeting in hospitals and a lack of throughput was incompetent hospital management. In view of that statement, is any legislation foreseen to address the matter and restructure hospital management?
Yes. Discussions are going on and decisions are being made about improving the competency and efficiency with which hospitals are run. The Minister for Health will make a statement on that shortly.
On the proposed legislation to deal with the European stability mechanism, can the Taoiseach give a date for when the Bill will be presented to the House and when it will pass all Stages in both Houses? When the Bill is published, will the Taoiseach also publish the legal opinion to inform Members in their deliberations on this important legislation?
The Bill will be presented in this session and the Houses will be given all relevant information. I do not intend to publish any advice given by the Attorney General, in accordance with precedent, as a legal adviser to the Government.
The Cabinet has not signed off on the legal services Bill, because a great deal of work is ongoing with it. It is a huge Bill of almost 300 pages and is quite complex. It will be brought to Cabinet as soon as possible as part of the requirement under the EU-IMF troika timeframe.
The Minister for Justice and Law Reform is preparing legislation to consolidate and reform bail laws. It will probably not be published until next year but it may be ready at the end of this year. The work is under way in the Department.