Wednesday, 7 December 2011
Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 8c, Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011 - Financial Resolution; and No. 20, Financial Motions by the Minister for Finance 2011, Motion 13 (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. and adjourn not later than 10.30 p.m.; that No. 8c shall be decided without debate; that the following arrangements shall apply to No. 20: the speech of the Taoiseach, the Minister and Minister of State and the leaders of Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case and that the statements of not more than two spokesmen for the Technical Group shall not exceed 30 minutes in total; that the suspension of the sitting under Standing Order 23(1) shall take place at the conclusion of the leaders' speeches and that the sitting shall be suspended for 60 minutes; that the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case; that Members may share time, and that the sitting shall be suspended at 6.30 p.m. for 30 minutes.
There are four proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 8c, Financial Resolution re Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011 to be taken without debate, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 20, Financial Motions by the Minister for Finance 2011, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal relating to the suspension of the sitting agreed to? Agreed.
There were conflicting signals emanating from the Dáil yesterday on promised legislation and it seems the Minister for Finance may have brought a definitive conclusion to the issue. Retail Excellence Ireland is outraged by what has happened and has criticised the Minister's decision yesterday which it has described as "the scandalous Government U-turn". It went on to state about upward only rent reviews that the Government "has lied to every commercial tenant and retail employee in the country". Yesterday the Taoiseach was asked a question on the Order of Business by one of his own Deputies about the landlord and tenants Bill which he replied would come before the House by 15 December. The Minister for Finance said yesterday that despite the exhaustive efforts of the Minister for Justice and Law Reform, he was exhausted trying to sort out this issue and that he could not do so.
There were constitutional and legal difficulties that prevented the Bill from being introduced. I know the Taoiseach knows what is going on in government, that he is fully au fait with everything that is happening.
I cannot recall exactly what I said, but the position is that it is not possible to proceed with the legislation dealing with upward only rent reviews because of legal advice from the Attorney General and advice from counsel on it not being constitutionally possible without compensating landlords.
Deputy Michael McGrath yesterday welcomed the fact that, at least, clarity was being brought to the issue. The landlord and tenant Bill is on the A list, but I will have to come back to the Deputy this morning to ensure accuracy on when it will be produced.
I said Second Stage of the Legal Services Bill would be taken next week and that in respect of upward only rent reviews, that after exhaustive work done with the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the issue had run into constitutional difficulties and the legislation would not be proceeded with. This was welcomed by Deputy Michael McGrath.
Unfortunately, some Members are not listening to what the Ceann Comhairle is saying. In light of the Taoiseach's decision to send back the disability payment for review, is the budget equality-proofed in line with the Government's-----
I raised the other issue yesterday. The Taoiseach is to attend a European Council summit meeting this week. He refused to have discussions before he left and refused to distribute the Van Rompuy report to the Opposition even thought the Government has had it since yesterday. Where is the reform in this institution when we need to read about these reports in the newspapers and when other parliamentarians can have discussions-----
It is not suitable for the Order of Business. The Deputy can make his contribution on these issues when the time comes and we have the debate after the Order of Business. This is about promised legislation, full stop. Taoiseach, is there promised legislation in any sense, shape of form?
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for his indulgence. The Deputy asked about reform. Last week we had a discussion about the forthcoming European Council meeting. The first reform is that we have those discussions before every meeting and after them - we will have a debate next week on the outcome and conclusions of this meeting. As the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, reminded the Deputy, he seems to have a view that there is a machine somewhere and we could run the budget through it to determine whether it is equality-proofed. Budgets in government are about people and obviously the Government has responded to a particular situation that is of great sensitivity to a particular cohort of people and it is only right and proper that we should do that. Nobody here is the ultimate repository of wisdom and correctness. We need to clear up an economic mess to give our people an opportunity to live, work and have careers here.
The Deputy will have his opportunity to speak on the budget now.
In response to Deputy Martin, who is gone, when I mentioned 15 December in yesterday's reply, that was in respect of the Legal Services Regulation Bill.
We have gained considerable respect for provisions in yesterday's budget to move the construction industry forward including commercial properties, mortgage interest and so on. That is a great deal of support and a lot of work will come from that.
I have asked a number of times about the promised legislation on the strategic investment bank. Surely most of the aspirations in yesterday's budget about any recovery in the domestic economy are dependent on the availability of funding for small and medium-sized businesses. Without a strategic investment bank it will be very hard to reassure the business community about that.
Yes, it is part of the programme for Government. While I do not have a timeline on it, Deputy Wallace will be aware that having restructured the banks which ended the dysfunction that applied there, the two main pillar banks have advised that this year they will reach their target of €3 billion in lending, which will increase to €3.5 billion each next year and €4 billion the following year.
The Deputy will be aware that in yesterday's budget the Government presented its case for a micro-finance agency for small businesses and partial loan credit guarantee for small businesses and a host of other things that will improve the position to allow small businesses to be able to employ extra people, expand their businesses and help the economy generally. I do not have a timeline for the strategic investment bank.
Some legislation has been promised for some time, including legislation to amend the bail laws. It was promised over many years by the party now in opposition when it was on this side of the House and it now falls to this Government to do it. What progress if any has been made in the preparation of the Bill? When might it be likely to come before the House? Similarly the provision of a DNA database could be very helpful to the memories of Members of the Opposition-----
-----who seem to have a particular deficiency in that area. Setting up the database would be very helpful in the future because they would be able to remember who presided over the upward-only rent reviews when they were set up.
The Taoiseach announced this morning changes to promised legislation with regard to disability allowances for young disabled persons. When will we be furnished with details of these amendments? Will he extend the review he mentioned to cover the cuts in educational allowances for the disabled which will be cut by 20% also.
No. The Deputy asked when the change will be made. It will be made when the review is completed by Ms Ita Mangan and reported to the Minister for Social Protection, and the Government reflects on it. I cannot give an actual date, but it will not be part of tomorrow's Bill.
Will any explanation be provided for that significant discrepancy.
During the discussion of the financial resolution to increase the excise duty on home heating oil, it was indicated that it might not impact until May in the coming year.
There is currently in force a directive in respect of agency workers despite that no legislation has yet been produced. According to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation that directive came into force last Monday. Therefore, the people operating it are working in the dark. When will the relevant legislation be brought before us?
Also, when will legislation to reform joint labour committees be introduced, which legislation has been promised for the past two months?
In view of the announcements made in recent days with regard to the changes in private health insurance and the billing of private beds in public hospitals, when will legislation be brought forward to ensure that we do not have mass escalation of private health insurance premia during the next six to eight months?