Tuesday, 3 December 2013
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 9, proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund Regulations 2013, back from committee; No. 9a, Credit Reporting Bill 2012, motion to instruct the committee (on supplementary Order Paper); No. 18, Credit Reporting Bill 2012 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 5, Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) in the event that a division is in progress at the time fixed for taking Private Members’ Business, which shall be No. 128, motion re electricity infrastructure, the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. and Private Members’ Business shall, if not previously concluded, adjourn after 90 minutes; (2) No. 9 shall be decided without debate; (3) the proceedings on No. 9a shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 60 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the speech 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; and (4) the next fortnightly Friday sitting for the purposes of Standing Orders 21(1)(a) and 28(3) shall be Friday, 24 January 2014; the business to be taken on that date shall be the items already selected by lottery to be taken on Friday, 6 December 2013; and there shall be no further lottery for Friday, 24 January 2014. Tomorrow’s business after oral questions shall be the Finance (No. 2) Bill 2013 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages.
There are four proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 9 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 9a agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with the sitting and business of the Dáil on Friday, 24 January 2014 agreed to? Agreed.
With regard to a number of commitments made under the health section of the programme for Government, could the Tánaiste indicate to me when the hospital insurance fund will be established? When will the legislation for the patient safety authority be brought before us, and when will the authority be established? Regarding the section of the programme for Government dealing with the care of older people and community care, could the Tánaiste indicate when we will see more residential places, home care packages, home help and other professional community care services? We have seen a reduction in such services thus far, not an increase. People are looking for the additional services committed to. When will the integrated care agency be established and when will we see the relevant legislation?
With regard to the area of bio-ethics, could the Tánaiste indicate when he intends to legislate for stem cell research, as committed to? When will he legislate for post mortem procedures and organ retention practices, as recommended in the Madden report? The Government said it would legislate to change the organ donation system to an an opt-out system for organ transplantation rather than an opt-in system? When will this legislation be introduced?
With regard to the wider issue of charities, will the Tánaiste indicate when the Government will commence the charities legislation and establish a regulator under that legislation? The legislation has been passed by the Oireachtas but it has yet to be commenced.
The Deputy asked quite a lot of questions. If he bears with me, I will go through the Bills we intend to publish. The health (general practitioner medical service) Bill is expected this session. The heads of the Health and Social Care Professionals (Amendment) Bill have been approved by the Government. I do not know the date for the publication. The health identifiers Bill will be in 2013. With regard to the Health Information Bill, the Minister for Health will be bringing forward a revised scheme in view of policy developments. The health insurance (amendment) Bill is expected at the end of the year. The Health Service Executive (Financial Matters) Bill is expected this session. With regard to the human tissue Bill, work is ongoing. A public consultation process on the introduction of an opt-out system of consent was launched in July, with a closing date for submissions of 20 September. It is not possible at this stage to give a date for the publication. The draft heads of the licensing of healthcare facilities Bill are being progressed with a view to having a public consultation process shortly. The Medical Practitioners (Amendment) (Medical Indemnity Insurance) Bill is expected this session. I do not have a date for the Medical Practitioners Act 2007 (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill. Work is progressing on the national paediatric hospital development board (amendment) Bill.
On the public health (alcohol) Bill, preparation of the heads was approved by Cabinet on 22 October. I believe that covers all of the issues raised by Deputy Martin.
It does not. The Tánaiste has just re-announced those Bills that are committed but I asked about commitments in the programme for Government, for example, legislation on a hospital insurance fund, a patient safety authority and the provision of more residential places and home care packages through an integrated care agency. These are three specific commitments in the programme for Government, namely a hospital insurance fund, a patient safety authority and an integrated care agency. In the bioethical field, I asked about legislation that the Government committed to on stem cell research and changing the organ donation system to an opt-out regime.
All of the issues in the programme for Government are being progressed. Some of them will be covered by the legislation to which I have already referred but all of the issues are being progressed by the Minister for Health.
At least when he is attacking Deputy Rabbitte, he is leaving me alone. At last month's meeting, the North-South Ministerial Council issued a statement which was very supportive of the Narrow Water Bridge project. The Tánaiste will be aware that this project also enjoys widespread support across all political sectors in Louth, south Armagh and south Down, as well as across civic society, including Unionist communities. It has the potential to be a massive economic driver for-----
The Tánaiste has acknowledged that the Border region is the most disadvantaged region so, for this to work, the Government must act upon the North-South Ministerial Council commitment. It must become a champion of this project. I am asking, before the opportunity passes, whether the Government will become a champion for the Narrow Water Bridge project.
Deputy Adams knows the position on this. The position is that a value-for-money issue arose. The Government and the Northern Ireland Executive continue to support the project. Work is now being done at a technical level which I hope will be completed reasonably soon. That will then enable the issue to be examined again. As far as the Government is concerned, we support the Narrow Water Bridge project.
Sorry, Deputy Adams, but this is totally out of order. If I let Deputy Adams in again on this, I will be plagued by everybody else. The rules must be applied equally. The Deputy got his answer. Deputy Calleary is next.
The Tánaiste made commitments at the weekend regarding mandatory collective bargaining. I ask him to outline the legislative schedule for that or to detail when the Government plans to introduce the industrial relations (amendment) Bill. Does the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Employment plan to introduce that to the House in this session?
I wish to ask about two items of promised legislation. In light of recent very worrying events, what legislation does the Government propose to introduce to provide for a regulator for charitable associations?
As the Ceann Comhairle said the other day, I will decode it. There was a proposal for legislation to protect good Samaritans, that is, people who might be performing a life-saving act, for example-----
I think the legislation to which Deputy Healy-Rae refers was a Private Member's Bill and there is no Government commitment in that regard. On the Charities Act and issues relating to commencement, I will seek a reply for Deputies Healy-Rae and Martin.
I wish to ask about two items of promised legislation, the first of which is the Garda Síochána (compensation) Bill and the second of which is the housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill. The latter deals with local authority shared-ownership loans, which is of pressing urgency. I ask the Tánaiste if the heads of both Bills have been approved by Cabinet and when they are expected to be brought before the House.
The heads of the Garda compensation (malicious injuries) Bill have been approved by the Government and it is expected to be published early next year. The heads of the housing Bill are expected by the end of the year.
The programme for Government commits to ending long-term homelessness and the need to sleep rough. Following the recent tragic death of a man in Dublin's Phoenix Park, it is clear that tackling homelessness remains a key challenge for Irish society. There are reports of huge increases in homelessness in Dublin and Cork but the Government has cut €233 million from the social housing budget since taking office.
Local authorities do not have sufficient housing to prevent people from becoming homeless. When will adequate funds be released to meet the programme for Government target to ensure that nobody is forced to sleep rough?
The Government has a target to end homelessness. Nobody should have to sleep rough. It is very tragic that anybody has to sleep rough. On the issue of public housing, the Government has, in this year's budget, recommenced a public housing programme.
When is publication of the consumer and competition Bill expected, which will make provision for a statutory code of conduct for the grocery goods sector. I raise this in the context of food labelling because a lot of multinationals in this country are putting "made and packed for" on labels, whereas people wanted to know where goods are "made in"? This is having a hugely negative effect on Irish companies, the economy and jobs.
It is generally accepted that the regeneration of the rural economy will benefit from the expansion and development of the dairy industry post-2015. The targets that have been set out in Harvest 2020 are part and parcel of that. A number of issues have arisen, including for instance, land leasing regulations, although the primary legislation is already in place and is fine. The leasing of land has been incentivised to encourage-----
I know that, but it has been pointed out that the incentive does not extend to companies that own agricultural land. Will the Tánaiste encourage the Minister for Finance to look at this anomaly in the legislation?
Ireland’s ratification of the Antarctic treaty has been raised on several occasions with both the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Taoiseach. More than 40 countries have signed up to the Antarctic Treaty System. The Government cannot claim to be very strong on matters environmental. In a recent response from the Tánaiste-----
-----he stated that the administrative costs associated with signing the treaty would be problematic. I have tabled parliamentary questions to various Departments on this, only to be informed that no cost-benefit analysis was carried out.
The Antarctic treaty is an important international treaty. When does the Tánaiste propose to introduce legislation and sign up to it?
Deputy McLellan raised the important point that we have seen in the last week in the capital city two acts of utter depravity.
They were two acts of utter depravity which everyone condemned. As far as Garda resources are concerned, the Minister for Justice and Equality has secured approval from the Government for the recruitment, for the first time in a long time, of additional gardaí. The advertising for this recruitment process will be proceeding shortly.
The question of the Antarctic treaty is not so much an issue of administrative costs but the range of legislation that would need to be introduced. Signing up to any treaty requires quite an amount of legislation. I am examining this. It is not about administrative costs but about the body of legislation that will have to be put in place across several Departments.
Deputy Martin was there a while but he did not get around to signing it either. I am working on it and I am happy to answer any questions Deputy Ó Fearghaíl might have on it.
We have been waiting for Report Stage of the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) (Amendment) Bill 2013 for several months now. It appears the reason for the delay is the Government’s decision to piggyback legislative changes to public sector certified sick leave arrangements, due to be implemented in the new year. This matter was the subject of a Labour Court recommendation. However, the court did not recommend that the new arrangements be applied retrospectively to 1 January 2010, as I understand the Government is seeking to do. When will we see the sick leave legislation? Will the Tánaiste confirm whether is the Government’s intention to apply this legislation retrospectively?
There has been much talk about the recent top-up payment scandal in the Central Remedial Clinic and possibly in other charities. The first function of the Charities Regulatory Authority is to increase public trust and confidence in the management and administration of charitable trusts and organisations. Will the Tánaiste agree that the commencement order for the Charities Act 2009 must be made as soon as possible? Will he clarify when it will be signed? Has the board of the regulatory authority been populated, as the Minister for Justice and Equality suggested in July would happen before the end of the year? If the Government is dealing with this matter, why has the board not yet been established to restore public trust and confidence in the management and administration of charitable trusts and organisations across the State?
Will the Government allow for the scheduling of a debate, with accurate information provided, on the recent asset quality test of the banks undertaken by the Central Bank? More questions than answers seem to have arisen because of this exercise.
We know that when the banks did not provide detailed information in the past, they got this State into serious trouble. It is important to reassure every Member that the review shows that the banks are adequately capitalised.
Earlier, I told Deputies Martin and Healy-Rae that I will get an answer for them on the commencement of the Charities Act. I will include Deputy Pearse Doherty in that.
There are several ways in which the Deputy can pursue the other issue he raised. I am sure the Minister for Finance would have no difficulty in responding on the issue.
The report that the number of people sleeping rough in Dublin has doubled in the last while is a shocking indictment of the failure of the Government’s policy in homelessness and housing.
When will the housing Bill come before the Dáil? I have raised this on numerous occasions but I just get vague answers. Given the current housing crisis, will the Tánaiste bring forward the housing Bill so we can have a policy for the area as well as a proper debate about this most urgent of crises?
The housing Bill will be taken early next year.
We are not awaiting any legislation with regard to provision for homeless people. The Government has already provided additional beds for the homeless. The situation of those sleeping rough needs to be dealt with. It is not an issue of legislation but of dealing with a problem.