Wednesday, 25 September 2013
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 17, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income and Capital Gains) (Ukraine) Order 2013, back from committee; No.18, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Exchange of Information Relating to Taxes and Tax Matters (Dominica) Order 2013, back from committee; No. 1, Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) (Amendment) Bill 2013 Seanad - Second Stage; and No. 3, Fines (Payment and Recovery) Bill 2013 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 17 and 18 shall be decided without debate. Private Members' business shall be No. 114, motion re education (resumed), to conclude at 9 p.m., if not previously concluded.
There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 17, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income and Capital Gains) (Ukraine) Order 2013, back from committee, and No.18, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Exchange of Information Relating to Taxes and Tax Matters (Dominica) Order 2013, back from committee, agreed to?
It is not agreed. Again, the reason I am raising this is because it has not escaped our notice that there have been significant discussions in the US Senate about the Irish tax structure in so far as it relates to foreign direct investment, which is a key issue for employment creation in this country. There have been fairly lengthy discussions and debates, some very partisan, in the House of Commons in the UK in respect of our taxation structure. I am quite familiar with the practice of double taxation agreements with various countries across the globe, which are an essential part of our taxation structure. It appears, however, that the time has come for this House and Parliament to have a full debate on our taxation structure and full clarification of it, outlining in detail the degree to which the country complies with international tax norms and tax law and our basic strategy relating to corporate taxation and global movements, be they in the eurozone, the G20 or the international situation. We have not had such a debate in this Parliament for a very long time and it would be opportune if we could arrange one.
Both motions were taken at the committee last Thursday where there was an opportunity for debate on them. I can confirm to Deputy Martin that this is obviously a matter of great concern to everybody. Arising from comments made in the US Senate and Senate hearings, this matter was raised at the European Council meeting in the closing stages of our Presidency, which I attended. The European Council was very clear in its unanimous decision to work with the OECD on the action plan on base erosion and profit shifting, BEPS. Clearly, legislation has not moved as quickly as the digital world. It is not a case of Ireland standing out in front. It is a case of an international response to different jurisdictional conditions that apply. We are very happy to work with our colleagues in that regard. Deputy Martin will have seen the comments from the chief executive of the OECD confirming that Ireland is not a tax haven and that it is very happy to support that. I do not object to having a debate on it. These are two motions where there was an opportunity to discuss the matter at the committee. It did not happen. I am not objecting to this but it should be done at the appropriate time in the interests of clarity. We have no difficulty in that regard.
We are facing industrial action in our second level schools. Irrespective of what has been said, the Minister for Education and Skills has threatened to sack teachers if they do not abide by the Haddington Road agreement. I would question the constitutionality of treating teachers differently in the staff room in terms of pay and conditions on the basis of the union to which they belong. That is something that needs urgent clarification. I urge the Taoiseach and the Minister not to continue to undermine the professional status of our teachers. Morale is very low in the classroom.
The workplace relations Bill, which is to provide for reform of statutory workplace relations bodies, is a commitment by the Government in the programme for Government. Given the manner in which Haddington Road was carried out and the relationship between the Minister and the ASTI in particular - we know many side deals were done and divide-and-conquer strategies used, which have left many people sore - I respectfully suggest that the Taoiseach might indicate when this legislation is coming forward, necessary as it is at this stage.
The Minister, Deputy Quinn, was being very clear in setting out the fact that the Haddington Road agreement offers protection for members of the public service who support it while those who stand outside it remove themselves from that protection. There is no question of any threats by the Minister to sack teachers, or anything of the kind. He was very realistic in pointing out the situation.
The workplace relations Bill is listed for this session and I expect it to be be published and dealt with in this session.
Sometimes I do not know what plane or planet the Taoiseach is on. However, I wish to ask him about something different, namely, his programme for Government's commitment to end long-term homelessness and rough sleeping. He will know that yesterday Dublin Simon Community revealed there has been an increase of 88% in the number of people forced to sleep rough. Will the Taoiseach set out for us what he proposes to do to make good that commitment in the programme for Government to end rough sleeping, and will he indicate whether he will support having a dedicated Dáil debate on the issue of homelessness and public housing, as the crisis escalates for so many people?
This issue has been raised by a number of organisations that work in this area, providing extensive and very valuable support. Approximately €15 million is being spent every year in this area. I have listened to the figures given for those people deemed to be the new homeless, as distinct from those who may sleep rough on a temporary basis. The Minister of State with responsibility for housing, Deputy Jan O' Sullivan, and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan, will work with the agencies and organisations concerned to see how the situation might be improved and how we might get best effect from the money that is being spent. The issue is clearly one that must be reflected upon in the budget. I understand the Minister is to meet with NAMA today in respect of the potential for acquiring units of housing to help in this matter.
I refer to promised secondary legislation relating to the fair deal scheme. Currently there are seven telestroke diagnostic machines in storage which could save the HSE approximately €55 million. In the interests of stroke patients - and of the health budget - when will these machines be unpacked? Is it the Government's intention to proceed with the fair deal commencement orders under the Health (Amendment) Act 2013, given that1.6% of the total health budget is going on the nursing home care of people with a stroke?
I will ask the Minister for Health to respond to this. I recall asking similar questions on many occasions when I was on the other side of the House. The process is that it is decided to order and acquire machinery and have staff to operate it and it is in the interests of patients that, once acquired, such machines should be used.
I refer to the Road Traffic (No. 3) Bill. In this new legislation the deadline for declaring off-road used vehicles is the end of this week, which is causing enormous trouble. I compliment the staff of local authorities and the tax office who are trying to deal with this matter. I appeal to the Ministers for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Transport, Tourism and Sport to give an extension that will allow people to be compliant. There was enough information but, as usual, the Bill was rushed through the House.
I refer to the family relationships and children Bill. Is there any proposal by the Government in that Bill to ban beauty pageants for young children? This is of concern to many people in the country. Children could not attend these beauty pageants unless their parents brought them. Is it the Government's intention to allow these pageants to continue?
I refer to legislation that I believe was due some years ago and which is now long overdue, namely, proposed legislation in respect of lobbying. This issue often features in the media and I feel strongly about it because it is important. Lobbying often has negative connotations but I wish to make a point about positive lobbying. The Taoiseach will be aware, because we have walked the lands-----
Please allow me to finish a sentence. With respect, the Ceann Comhairle allowed Deputy McDonald a fair bit of latitude. I wish to say one sentence. The Taoiseach had the opportunity, for which I thanked him, of visiting-----
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform held a public seminar on the regulation of lobbying Bill some time ago. The draft heads of the Bill have been prepared and have gone for consideration to the committee which deals with public expenditure and reform.
I can confirm for Deputy Griffin that the this amending Bill on road safety has already been prioritised and is listed for this session. For the information of all Deputies, when the legislative programme is produced at the commencement of each session, that information is on the website for all Deputies to see. If they check there they will see the roads (amendment) Bill is listed for publication in this session.
What legislation will the Government be bringing before the House to deal with our current housing waiting lists? There is no Bill in section A and section B of the programme of legislation to deal with very long housing waiting lists. For example, there is a waiting list of eight years east or west of the city of Galway. There has been a reference to an 88% increase in homelessness in recent years. What legislation will be brought before the House to deal with those issues?
The Government has promised for some time to amend the Defence Act 1954 and to deal therein with a number of disciplinary related issues. When is it intended to bring forward the defence (amendment) Bill?
Yesterday, Deputy Martin raised the timing of legislation for an open competition for the appointment of a Secretary General and Clerk of the Dáil and the overhaul of the top level appointments commission, TLAC, system. Deputy Martin wrote a comprehensive letter to the Taoiseach on 12 July-----
Before I call on the Taoiseach to answer this, I am being dragged into a controversy over this matter and I resent it very much. The 1959 Act was amended by the 2003 Act, which obliges me in law to perform certain functions. There were amendments to that Act in 2006 and 2009 and nobody made any changes. I am obliged by law under the current 2003 Act to perform certain duties. I tried to do so by calling a meeting of the commissioners and they were briefed before the meeting, so the shambles that took place means that I am now in a very awkward position so that I am going to apply the 2003 Act, which I can, where I do not exercise my right and it will now be a matter for the Taoiseach in accordance with that Act. It is not the 1959 Act but the 2003 Act that should be looked at.
I am appearing in newspapers. People are leaking stuff following a consultation process that took place within the law. The content of the leak was totally improper and incorrect, and an attempt to blacken my good name. I have to sit here and take this abuse without having any right of response. This is not in order on the Order of Business.
I respect the complete independence of the Ceann Comhairle in this fashion. I regret the fact that there have been comments attributed in sections of the media about the Ceann Comhairle. He has a constitutional responsibility to chair this House in a proper fashion, which he does.
I can confirm to Deputy O'Dea that the Minister will bring a memo to the Government very shortly on this matter. It is our ambition to have an open and transparent conclusion to this matter.
When does the Taoiseach expect the publication of the criminal law (sexual offences) Bill to implement recommendations of the second interim report of Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children and further protect vulnerable persons against exploitation and abuse?
I have a question on three items of promised legislation. Is it intended to have all Stages of the pyrite levy Bill passed through the Dáil in preparation for signing it into law? Is it the same case for the Employment Permits (Amendment) Bill 2012, which will consolidate existing legislation and take account of evolving jurisprudence and cater for future accession to the EU and people seeking employment from other jurisdictions? The third Bill is the health information Bill, which was promised to provide the legislative framework for the better government and health information initiatives, including data mapping and health information resources for use in the health services, which is very important.