Thursday, 11 October 2012
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. b13, motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; No.4, Fiscal Responsibility Bill 2012 - Second Stage (resumed); No.16, statements on philanthropy and the arts (resumed); and No. 17, statements on the framework for sustainable development in Ireland, to be taken not later than 1.30 p.m. today and the order shall not resume thereafter. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. b13 shall be decided without debate; the proceedings on No. 17 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 3.42 p.m. and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the opening statements of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share their time, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; (ii) the statements of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes and such Members may share their time; and (iii) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes.
There are two proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. b13, the ministerial rota for parliamentary questions, without debate, agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 17, statements on the framework for sustainable development in Ireland, agreed? Agreed.
I am sure the statements on the framework for sustainable development will be very important but it is somewhat perverse that despite repeated demands from the opposition, we are not having a full debate, in plenary session, on the crisis in the Department of Health, which is heading for a budget deficit of €0.5 billion-----
On promised legislation, when will the transport (CIE borrowings) Bill be introduced to the House? The Tánaiste will be aware the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, has steadfastly refused to assist CIE in facing its financial challenges and in that context it is important that this Bill be published as soon as possible.
Is it proposed to go ahead with the national lottery (amendment) Bill, in view of the fact that the sale of the national lottery is at an advanced stage?
Concerning the issue of debates and statements in the House, last week the main Opposition party, through Deputy Micheál Martin, asked for a debate on the economy and that debate will take place the week after next. The issues that are down for debate today were agreed with the Whips.
The transport (CIE borrowings) Bill is due this session and the national lottery (amendment) Bill is also due this session.
I wish to raise the issue of alcohol and alcohol abuse and commend the very focused addressing of these matters by the former Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Róisín Shortall. We are advised that publication of the public health (alcohol) Bill is expected next year and the sale of alcohol bill, under the Department of Justice and Equality, is promised for this session. Is there any effort being employed or is anyone taking up this issue, either within the Department of Health, the Department of Justice and Equality or at Cabinet, to pursue with the same serious intent and vigour, the addressing of these most important matters and the expediting of legislation for these Houses? I ask the Tánaiste to give us some sense that this matter remains a critical focus for this Government.
Yes, it very much does and both the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Alex White, are progressing proposals in respect of the responsibilities of their Departments in this area. I expect the sale of alcohol Bill, to which the Deputy referred, to be published early in the new year.
The issue of local government reform is under consideration by the Government. I expect that a decision and an announcement on that will be made in the near future and then, obviously, the preparation of legislation to give effect to the reforms that the Government proposes will begin.
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, at a recent meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council, dealing with cross-Border issues, agreed that the harmonisation of penalty points would be implemented. More legislation on penalty points has been promised once the speed limit review concludes. Is legislation required in relation to the speed limit review? Will the promised penalty points legislation include measures to harmonise penalty points North and South?
I have just asked a question about promised legislation. We need to deal with the ludicrous situation whereby people who commit driving offences escape punishment both North and South of the Border. It is a ridiculous situation.
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport is preparing new road safety legislation and he has been in discussions with his Northern Ireland counterpart about the harmonisation of penalty points.
In light of the very significant job announcement which will be made later today in Dublin, when will the proposed betting (amendment) Bill come before the House? The additional revenues that will accrue to the State arising out of measures contained in that Bill will be ring fenced for the horse racing industry, which is in much need of resources at the moment.
I join with Deputy Walsh in welcoming the jobs announcements this week, which are very significant. Kerry Group announced 900 new jobs earlier in the week and Paddy Power announced 600 new jobs today. The betting (amendment) Bill has actually been published but it is expected that there will be some amendments made to it and that will be done as the Bill is progressing through the House.
Large numbers of home owners are under serious financial pressure. Negative equity is one issue but a more pressing one is the fact that 10% of mortgage holders - over 100,000 families - are in serious mortgage distress. In that context, when will the Insolvency Bill be back in this Chamber? I hope the Tánaiste will say that it will be before us next week.
As specific gangland law is gathering dust, there must be an overhaul of legislation and the introduction of measures that will meet the requirements of the courts to sustain charges made against people involved in gangland crime. Words of condemnation and arrogance from the Minister for Justice and Equality are simply not enough.
That issue was addressed by the Minister for Finance in his Budget Statement. He has outlined the constitutional difficulties that arise in respect of such legislation.
The Tánaiste replied to an earlier question on the sale of alcohol Bill which is the responsibility of the Department of Justice and Equality. I ask about the promised public health (alcohol labelling provisions) Bill which comes under the Department of Health. What is the expected publication date for that Bill?
The Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Alex White, is dealing with that Bill as a matter of urgency and I expect that we will make an announcement on it in the near future.
In the context of the health information Bill, I ask about the situation in South Tipperary General Hospital, where an 80 year old lady presented for an X-ray yesterday and was still on a trolley this morning.