Thursday, 20 September 2012
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. b11, motion re membership of committees; No. 1, Animal Health and Welfare Bill 2012 Seanad - Second Stage (resumed), to adjourn at 1.30 p.m. today if not previously concluded; and No. 4, National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2012 - Second Stage (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. b11 shall be decided without debate.
I welcome the publication yesterday of the wording for the children's referendum and commend the Minister for Children on the work she has done. As Deputy Troy said, the Fianna Fáil Party will support the amendment. I hope we will have a sensible campaign in the coming weeks around this very important issue.
The CSO quarterly national household survey statistics were stark and unfortunately may have been lost among other issues. Long-term unemployment is now 60% of total unemployment. There have been some good announcements this week and the IDA continues to do some fantastic work but we have a serious problem. Has the Cabinet subcommittee met to discuss unemployment recently? There is nothing on job creation in the A or B list of the legislative programme, while on the C list there is only legislation to abolish county enterprise boards. Given the challenge presented to the political system and the country by those figures, what plans does the Government have?
Deputy McConalogue and I were wondering what the Tánaiste has done with the Government's allocation of tickets for the match on Sunday. It is one of the allowances the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform was not able to abolish. Has he given them to the Taoiseach or to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources? If there are any tickets left over, we will be able to look after them on this side of the House.
I welcome the support of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Deputy Catherine Murphy for the children's referendum. I hope we will have a campaign that is measured, reasoned and informative. I am confident that will be the case.
Deputy Calleary is right to raise the major challenge we face in getting people into employment and back to work. If I was on the other side of the House this morning, that would be the first topic I would raise. The current Opposition obviously has its own priorities.
We cannot legislate people back into work so we will not see that reflected in the legislative programme. There was a Cabinet sub-committee meeting on the matter this morning and a range of measures is being implemented, such as the €90 million microfinance loan scheme, the €450 million credit guarantee scheme, the €150 million development capital scheme and the proposals for Innovation Fund Ireland.
We have taken a range of initiatives, including the establishment of a manufacturing development forum, the clustering development team in the digital sector and in regard to cloud computing and the health care-life sciences area. There will be a meeting of the export trade council this afternoon. Not a day goes by without the Government working on some initiative or other to get back people back into employment.
As regards the allocation of tickets, it has come as a bit of a revelation to me to discover how many Mayo and Donegal people are in government or working for the Government. There is huge demand for tickets and I am sorry for Deputy Calleary but we will not be able to help him from this side of the House.
I do not know whether to laugh or cry when the Tánaiste extols the priority the Government attaches to job creation and then refers to the damning figures in today's newspapers. The initiatives the Government is taking are failing.
Perhaps the Ceann Comhairle will be momentarily distracted again.
The Tánaiste should give over. Is he seriously suggesting the Government is dealing with the jobs crisis in this State? He is not codding anybody with that nonsense.
I am not so worried about that; I am more worried about the delivery of the service. The Minister of State raised the issue of the health (amendment) Bill, under which it is intended to provide free GP care services. She clearly feels there is not sufficient priority attaching to this matter. When will it be resolved? When will the legislation be forthcoming? The Minister of State was also critical of failures to deal with a litany of issues, including primary care and consultants' salaries. Will the Tánaiste address, in particular, the legislation on free GP services?
She talked about Government initiatives failing. She said the same when we introduced the jobs initiative. It was targeted at the tourism industry.
There are 10,500 additional jobs in the tourism industry as a result of the jobs initiative. It is working. The Deputies should give a little credit where things are working.
The Bill to provide for the phased extending of a publicly funded GP service without fees is on the A list. It is a priority for the Government and it will be published this session.
On the Order of Business yesterday the Taoiseach indicated that he might be willing to allow for a debate in the House following the report by the Irish fiscal advisory council on the state of the economy. Given his challenge to me earlier about the need for different sides to outline their alternative ways of dealing with the deficit and debt problems, will the Tánaiste confirm that the Government will allow for a debate on the financial situation we face running into the budget and what the options might be in regard to taxes and so on to deal with the State's financial crisis?
I can confirm that it is our intention to have a debate in the House on the economy and provide for an opportunity for Deputy Boyd Barrett and other Members to set out their proposals.
The business for next week is settled. The referendum Bill will be taken but the Government Chief Whip is considering this debate and will arrange time for it.
The Tánaiste's party in opposition made a great deal of the concerns of small and medium-sized enterprises and the impact the lack of change to upward only rent reviews was having on them. The party promised to bring legislation to outlaw upward only rent reviews before the House when it got into government. When does he expect to do that?
The Government is pursuing a programme to provide support for small and medium-sized businesses and that includes the setting of lending targets by the banks and a variety of ways in which credit can be extended to them to enable them to create jobs, to which I referred earlier. The Minister for Finance, in his Budget Statement, set out the Government position on legislation relating to upward only rents based on advice from the Attorney General.
When will the Valuation (Amendment) Bill 2012 be taken in the House? Will the Tánaiste confirm it will not contain any provision to ease the burden on retailers, hoteliers and small businesses in respect of their rates bill and not address that in line with recommendations that have been made, which would have an economic benefit for all?
The Bill was published in August and will be introduced in the Seanad. I understand it will be taken this session but we have to await the Seanad's deliberations on it before it comes to the House. The content can be debated then.
The Tánaiste has been giving replies to questions about job creation, jobs initiatives and so on. I want to ask under promised legislation about sick leave for employees. Small businesses will be closed down-----
With regard to the strategic infrastructure Bill, what proposals has the Government to deal with the alarming crisis facing our farmers this winter because of the very bad summer we had and the woeful inadequacy in the fodder available-----
This does not arise under the strategic infrastructure Bill. The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has announced a range of measures to bring forward the dates for direct payments.
I want to make it clear the Order of Business is about promised legislation. We have six minutes left and a number of Deputies are offering. Could Members cut out the codology of trying to make speeches when they are asking about promised legislation?
The programme for Government promised legislation to make NAMA transparent and accountable and to make it subject to the Freedom of Information Acts. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, has promised this a number of times and may be able to help the Tánaiste in this regard. When will this legislation be brought before the House?
When can Members expect the publication of the landlord and tenant Bill to reform and consolidate the law in respect of landlord and tenants? I refer in particular to young people who require accommodation for third level study.
The Tánaiste should indicate the progress on the preparation and presentation to the House for a First Reading of the companies miscellaneous provisions Bill, which purports "to strengthen and streamline the functions of certain company law enforcement agencies and to make other necessary amendments to the Companies Acts"? This has been called for by authorities outside this House. The Tánaiste should indicate when it is likely to come into the House and whether it has been discussed at Cabinet.
There are two companies Bills. The companies Bill is intended to bring greater clarification and simplification to the companies code and to modernise Irish company law through the consolidation of the existing 15 Company Law Acts, other regulations and case law. This Bill is on the A list of legislation due to be published this session. I expect the other companies Bill will be next year.
During the week, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation heard evidence that, per capita, this State has lost more jobs in the past four years than any other western state since the Great Depression. In respect of the fall-off in the small businesses in this State, when will promised legislation be introduced with regard to county enterprise boards? Cathain a bheidh torthaí an athbhreithniú a rinneadh ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla cúpla mí ó shin á fhoilsiú ag an Rialtas? Cathain a thiocfaidh reachtaíocht os ár gcomhair?
First, the heads of the Bill regarding the county enterprise boards are in preparation. Caithfidh mé teacht ar ais chuig an Teachta mar gheall ar chúrsaí teangacha chun eolas a thabhairt dó faoin reachtaíocht agus faoin tuarascáil a luaigh sé. Gheobhaidh mé an t-eolas agus seolfaidh mé chuig an Teachta é.
A number of years ago, three fishing vessels perished off the south coast of Ireland, namely, the Maggie B, the Honey Dew II and the Père Charles. Nine fishermen lost their lives and their bodies were never discovered. I understand that two years ago, partial remains were found at Hook Head and Helvick Head. I also understand the testing available to determine whether those partial remains belonged to any of the aforementioned nine men who were lost at sea has not been carried out. Can the Tánaiste give me a guarantee in this Chamber today that whatever tests are necessary will be carried out?
Can the Tánaiste give me a guarantee today that whatever is necessary to determine whether the skull and femur bones that were found can be traced will be done to alleviate the pain those families are suffering at present?