Wednesday, 16 October 2013
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. a7, motion re membership of committee; No. b7, motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; and No. 14, Financial Resolutions 2014 from the Minister for Finance, resuming on Resolution No. 8.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. a7 and b7 shall be decided without debate; and the following arrangements shall apply in regard to the resumed debate on No. 14: the speech of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the leaders of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, or persons nominated in their stead, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case, and such Members may share their time; the speech of each other Member called upon, who may share time, shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case; and the suspension of sitting under Standing Order 23 shall take place on the conclusion of the leaders' speeches for one hour.
There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. a7 and b7 without debate agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 14 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for the suspension of the sitting today agreed to? Agreed. I call Deputy Martin on the Order of Business.
The new HSE national director of acute hospitals, Mr. Ian Carter, warned of further dysfunction if the Government kept taking money out of the system. Since yesterday, there has been a major lack of credibility with regard to the figures presented for the health budget and the proposed cuts of some €666 million. The Minister, Deputy Reilly, did not do a good job of explaining this yesterday. Many people were not impressed at the press conference and the general impression was that, to be fair, the Minister of State, Deputy Alex White, dug him out of a hole and saved the day.
The figure involved is €666 million. Are the Secretary General of the Department of Health and the chief executive officer of the HSE standing over the figures? Do we have background documentation that can support the figures for each provision in that Estimate? When can we expect the promised Health Service Executive (financial matters) Bill, which deals with a statutory financial governance framework for the HSE? Will the Taoiseach confirm the accuracy and credibility of those figures?
The position is that, as the budget resolutions went through yesterday, the HSE must now prepare its service plan within 21 days to give effect to the plans it will implement based on that budget.
Obviously, that will come back to the Minister, and he must bring it to Cabinet to have it signed off. They can then get on with spending the moneys allocated.
My question is about the Health (Provision of General Practitioner Services) Bill. I understand this is the legislation in which the provision of GP cards to children aged five years and under will be contained. When will that be introduced? Will that also contain provisions for the same extension to people with long-term illness? The Taoiseach will recall that this promise was made in his Government's first budget.
A separate issue that I have raised with the Tánaiste on a number of occasions relates to the Magdalen laundries and the redress scheme. The women are still waiting; none of them has seen a shilling. I have correspondence from both the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, and from the Tánaiste indicating that there is some logjam in respect of agreement on pension and health supports. The clock is ticking-----
There is no difficulty other than verification and validation of the paperwork that has been submitted. Some of it is complex, but there is no problem. The Deputy's use of the non-existent word "logjam" is irrelevant in this.
-----and there is a huge increase in below cost selling and in the number of outlets selling cheap alcohol. This is very harmful to people's health. When can we expect the Public Health (Alcohol Labelling Provisions) Bill to be brought to the House? It is urgent.
My question is about the promised health identifiers Bill, which will provide for an identification system throughout the health services through a single and unique identifier. Have the heads of the Bill been discussed and has it been progressed? When can we expect it to be brought before the House?
I have a question about the Data Sharing Bill. WikiLeaks is in the ha'penny place after the leaks about the budget in the last few days. I heard the entire budget on Sean O'Rourke's programme yesterday. I know he is trying to outdo Pat Kenny but he had the entire budget, line for line and syllable by syllable. When the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan, was Minister of State at the Department of Finance some years ago he had to resign over a leak half an hour before the Budget Statement. This budget was completely leaked. It is making a farce of this House.
The Minister for Social Protection has stated that people who are in trouble should go to their local social welfare offices. Unfortunately, these offices have been closed and there has been a targeting in the budget-----
The Social Welfare Bill, which will provide for amendments to the Social Welfare Consolidation Act and other relevant legislation arising from the measures to be announced in the budget. The Government has closed many small community welfare offices, but the Minister is telling people to go to those offices. It is a hide and seek exercise.
The Government has introduced a number of schemes to extend credit, particularly to SMEs, and they have been less than successful, to put it mildly. The Government acknowledges that because it is proposing legislation, the Credit Guarantee (Amendment) Bill, to "enhance the success of those schemes". That is urgent legislation so when can we expect to see it?
I do not have a date for it. However, I remind the Deputy that the first full commercial licence for a lending bank in a number of years was issued recently by the Central Bank. It is applicable to firms. It is not a mainline bank but is for those who use technology produced by a company, Dell, located in the Deputy's constituency. It is one of a number of groups interested in acquiring full commercial licences for lending money to small and medium enterprises. The Deputy will also be aware that the Government has set new lending targets for the pillar banks of €4 billion each to be achieved this year. I will advise the Deputy as to the stage of preparation of the Bill.
When can we expect the publication of the Noise Nuisance Bill, which is to extend and improve the power available to enforcement authorities to prevent, reduce and abate noise nuisance by allowing for on-the-spot fines and providing for mediation between neighbours?
Earlier the Taoiseach spoke about a guy who was on a three day week and was receiving unemployment assistance. The Taoiseach said he was getting rent allowance and his income was getting up to €900. How is that?