Thursday, 12 July 2012
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 10b, motion re Standing Orders 82 and 165A to 165F; No. 16a, motion to rescind Order of Referral of the Criminal Justice (Search Warrants) Bill 2012 [Seanad] to the Select Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality; No. 20, Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2012 [Seanad] - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 19, Personal Insolvency Bill 2012 - Second Stage (resumed), to adjourn at 3.30 p.m., if not previously concluded; and No. 2a, Gaeltacht Bill 2012 [Seanad] - Second Stage, to adjourn at 5.30 p.m. if not previously concluded.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 5.45 p.m. tonight and shall adjourn on the conclusion of Oral Questions; (2) Nos. 10b and 16a shall be decided without debate; (3) Second Stage of the Gaeltacht Bill 2012 [Seanad] will be taken today and if not previously concluded, shall adjourn at 5.30 p.m. and the order shall resume thereafter with Topical Issues and Oral Questions; (4) the Dáil shall sit tomorrow at 10.30 a.m. and shall adjourn not later than 3.30 p.m. and the business to be transacted shall be as follows: (i) Personal Insolvency Bill 2012 - Second Stage (resumed), to adjourn at 12.30 p.m. if not previously concluded; (ii) Gaeltacht Bill 2012 [Seanad] - Second Stage (resumed), which shall if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 3.30 p.m.; and (iii) any divisions demanded shall be taken immediately after the Order of Business on Tuesday, 17 July 2012.
There are four proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 5.45 p.m. agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing No. 10b, motion re Standing Orders, and No. 16a, motion re Referral of the Criminal Justice (Search Warrants) Bill 2012 [Seanad] to the Select Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality without debate, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 2a, Second Stage of the Gaeltacht Bill 2012 [Seanad], agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for the sitting and the business of the Dáil tomorrow agreed to?
The arrangements for Leaders' Questions and Topical Issues are on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The sittings on Fridays, which are a new innovation in this Dáil, deal with legislation. We propose to deal with the Personal Insolvency Bill, which is very important legislation designed to assist people who are having difficulties with their mortgages. The Government has given a high priority to assisting people who are in mortgage distress. We hear about it all the time from our constituents. We know of people who are having great difficulties with their mortgages. We are anxious to progress the personal insolvency legislation, which is important and radical legislation that will introduce for the first time non-judicial debt settlements for people who are in difficulty. We need to deal with that legislation tomorrow and to give it the maximum amount of time possible and also to deal with the Gaeltacht Bill 2012.
The Minister for Health has said that he is all about the patient being at the centre of the health system, yet he seems to be reluctant to produce legislation from his Department. The health information Bill is meant to bring in better governance and promote individual patient care. When can the House expect this Bill to be published?
At the finance committee yesterday we heard that there is a fund available in Europe to assist those who are affected by a disaster such as flooding. We know that Italy has completed an €18 million drawdown from it. Arising from the floods that took place in Cork recently, many homeowners and businesses are struggling to put their lives back together. Will the Tánaiste confirm whether the Government is considering applying for funding under this fund?
The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government is currently drawing up a report in conjunction with the local authorities arising from the floods which took place and I understand that he intends to make an announcement arising from that report in the near future.
The programme for Government and the reviewed programme for Government published earlier this year made commitments in regard to the survivors of the thalidomide drug which has had a devastating impact on the lives of 32 surviving people. Their demand has been for a redress process and for a health and social care package provided on a statutory basis.
Does the Tánaiste intend that legislation in that regard will be brought forward and might it be addressed in the health and social care Bill which is promised at No. 18 on the "A" list?
The Minister for Health has been in discussions with representatives of the people who are thalidomide sufferers. His door is open on this issue and he is available for further discussions. I hope it would be possible to arrive at a solution in those discussions.
Is it intended this will have a legislative basis? It appears the reason for the failure of the discussions was that what was being offered to these people, who have been very badly let down by the State, was a gesture. They do not want a gesture; they want services based on legislation so that they do not have to continue to beg and plead for services which should be readily available to them.
There is not a separate Bill promised on this matter. So far as the Minister for Health is concerned the discussions are not concluded. It would be better if those discussions were resumed and a conclusion reached. How that conclusion is expressed, whether in legislation or otherwise, can be teased out in discussions.
The budget overrun in the Department of Health has been the subject of a recent Private Members' motion. It is clear this has arisen because of the inaction on the part of the Government to bring forward legislation which was promised in the budget last year. I refer to the health (pricing and supply of medical goods) Bill which had provision for savings of €140 million and, allied to other Estimate provisions it was thought up to €300 million, which could be saved in this year's budget. Instead, there is an overrun by the same amount and the prospect of a deficit of €500 million by the end of the year which will impact on patient care and safety. I ask for information on this legislation and other health legislation. When will control of the budget be undertaken and legislation brought forward?
When will legislation be introduced to tackle white collar crime in banking circles? It is time to foster a new culture of responsibility in banking circles. Will this issue be dealt with in the Central Bank (Consolidation) Bill? Will this Bill be published immediately following the summer recess?
I have two questions on legislation. The programme for Government makes a commitment to strengthen the regulation of moneylenders. What legislation is proposed by the Government? Legal moneylenders are charging up to 210% APR and not one prosecution in the past seven years has been successfully taken against illegal moneylenders. I have asked both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste about this on many occasions but have received no response. I have been told I will receive a written response. When will the strategic investment bank legislation be brought forward? I ask the Tánaiste to share this information with the House if possible.
On the latter question, the strategic investment fund is to make finance available in order to stimulate the Irish economy. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, will be making an announcement next week about measures which the Government will take to stimulate the economy. On the issue of moneylenders the Government is committed to legislating for moneylenders and I will revert to the Deputy with the information on which Bill this will be.
Will it be necessary to bring forward new regulations to deal with Teagasc staff? There is a difficulty with recruitment of staff for the agency and staff have left under the recent retirement scheme. Research, advice and education are the primary functions of Teagasc-----
I ask about three Bills in the areas of health and medical legislation - the health and social care professionals (amendment) Bill, the HSE governance Bill and the Bill to amend the Medical Practitioners Act 2007. Which of these Bills will deal with the fact that the care of the elderly should not be regarded as a source of profit and speculative investment by business interests? Is this not the real issue raised by the incident involving the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, rather than squabbles between business people in Stubbs Gazette?
The Bill to amend the Medical Practitioners Act 2007 will be published in late 2012. The HSE governance Bill, now known as the health (amendment) Bill will be published this session. The health and social care professionals (amendment) Bill will be published this session.
The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government is considering the re-organisation and reform of local government and he will be bringing proposals to Government in the near future.
When will the new valuations Bill come to the House? Will it be cognisant of sporting organisations such as the GAA and rugby clubs who have small loss-making commercial aspects to their sporting activities? Will the Bill take into consideration those loss-making parts of their services?
On promised legislation I refer to two important pieces of legislation. When will the regulation of lobbying Bill be introduced or if the heads of this Bill have been discussed in view of the level of concern about lobbyists over the past number of years? I ask that it might be introduced at the earliest opportunity. The national vetting bureau Bill is very important promised legislation. When will it come before the House? It should be introduced at the earliest opportunity.
It is expected that the heads of the registration of the lobbyists Bill will be brought before the Government towards the end of the summer. The vetting Bill is expected to be before the Government in the next couple of weeks.