Tuesday, 17 December 2013
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 18, statements on the third report of the Constitutional Convention on same-sex marriage. It is also proposed, notwithstanding in Standing Orders, that (1) the proceedings on No. 18 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7.30 p.m. and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the opening statement of a Minister or a Minister of State and the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group who shall be called upon in that order shall not exceed ten minutes in each case and such Members may share time; (ii) the statement of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes and such Members may share time; (iii) a Minister or a Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; (2) Private Members’ business which shall be No. 42, Planning and Development (Transparency and Consumer Confidence) Bill 2013 - Second Stage, shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, 18 December. Tomorrow's business after oral questions shall be the Social Welfare and Pensions (No. 2) Bill 2013, back from the Seanad - Order for Report Stage and Report and Final Stages.
There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 18, statements on the third report of the Constitutional Convention on same-sex marriage agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members business agreed to? Agreed.
When will the White Paper on universal health insurance be published? I note from the programme for Government that universal health insurance is to be introduced by 2016, but the legislative and organisational groundwork for the system is to be completed during the Government's term of office.
We have not had a White Paper yet. Will it be published before the end of the session?
Universal primary care will remove fees for GP care. When can we expect the universal primary care Bill which it is envisaged will remove fees for all GP care? When will discussions on the new GP contract begin?
Will the Taoiseach give an update on the consumer and competition Bill? Various commitments have been made on it. The Ministers, Deputies Bruton and Rabbitte, have territorial differences on it.
The Taoiseach has indicated the health service plan will be published tomorrow. Will he afford any opportunity on Thursday or tomorrow for debate on this in the House given the fact it relates to the budget? We were given certain figures in the budget which were clearly false and do not stand up. Will the Taoiseach give the Government time to debate the health service plan in plenary session in the House?
It will be published tomorrow. On Thursday we will have an adoption Bill which deals with an extension of time for the 22 or 23 people involved in Russian adoptions. This is an issue which must be dealt with. We will also deal with the Water Services (No. 2) Bill and the Pyrite Bill. I will have the Whips examine it. I do not know whether we could have initial statements from the main spokespersons.
The consumer and competition Bill will be published at the start of the next session. It is practically finalised.
It is a bit behind. Much of the pressure on the parliamentary counsel system was because of the requirements of the troika. There might be a little more flexibility to deal with these now.
I thought universal health insurance might have been in before the end of this session but it will not. It will also be in the next session. Today the Government approved the Minister to go ahead with the preparation of legislation for free GP care for children under the age of five as part of a process to phase in universal health insurance, as committed to in the programme for Government. We are committed on a phased basis to a universal GP service by 2016 as a precursor for universal health insurance.
With regard to the GP contract, the Department of Health and the HSE are examining the changes which need to be made to the GMS contract to facilitate the introduction of universal primary care. This contract will focus on prevention and will include a requirement for GPs to provide care as part of integrated multidisciplinary primary care teams. The formation of these new contracts will have regard to the constraints of Irish and EU competition law, particularly with regard to setting fees and allowances. The Minister of State, Deputy White, who has responsibility for primary care met the IMO earlier this year and outlined the Government's policy on universal health insurance. All of these will be briefed the coming weeks.
In the course of Taoiseach's Questions today the Taoiseach was asked about collective bargaining rights and legislation to underpin these rights in the State. I would like a precise timetable as to when the legislation will be published and when it might be enacted.
We had thought the whistleblowers legislation, which is the Protected Disclosures Bill, would be enacted before the Christmas recess but there seems to be some delay. Will the Taoiseach set out the timetable for the legislation?
Today the Taoiseach launched his medium-term economic plan amid some fanfare. Will he tell us whether there will be time allowed for scrutiny and debate of this economic plan?
The economic plan is a medium-term structure as far as 2020. It was not delivered with any excessive fanfare. It was a normal presentation at the Government press centre. I recall when there were some very flash operations in various parts of the city by various Governments. The Protected Disclosures Bill is finished in the Seanad and is awaiting Second Stage in the Dáil. It will be in the next session I expect. The industrial relations Bill will be dealt with in the next session in so far as the programme for Government is concerned. As I stated to Deputy Martin, the other one is at the start of the next session.
It is due to come before the House tomorrow and will be rushed through between now and Thursday evening. I appeal to the Taoiseach to halt the process because of the expressed concerns of the Dublin city manager, other county managers, senior officials, local authority members and their representative bodies. There is huge concern.
Deputy Stanley was not here and I answered extensively Deputy McDonald's question in respect of this matter. With regard to Dublin City Council, the transfer of the assets, liabilities and pensions-----
-----and the collection of commercial rates, this goes to Second Stage tomorrow and Committee, Report and Final Stages will be taken this week. It will not be taken back and we will deal with it now. It is time to move on.
With regard to the health executive Bill, in particular the thalidomide issue, is the Taoiseach aware a previous Government fails to issue public warnings about thalidomide as it was undesirable-----
-----and the fact it caused birth defects in up to nine babies because of ineffective recall. A total of 22 of the 32 survivors are taking action. What action will the Taoiseach take to support the thalidomide families?
Bhí mé chun ceist a chur ar an Taoiseach maidir leis an Consumer Bill, ach tá an cheist sin curtha air cheana féin. Gheall sé roimh an samhradh go bhfoilseofar é sa téarma seo. Tá súil agam go bhfoilseofar go luath é.
Ar ábhar eile ar fad, tá tuarascáil foilsithe ar luach ar airgead na scoileanna beaga. Is ábhar imní é seo do go leor daoine. Go deimhin féin, tá polaiteoir sinsearach Aontachtach ón Tuaisceart ag iarraidh cruinniú leis an Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna.
An bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Rialtas an tuarascáil sin a fhoilsiú agus a phlé sa Teach seo? An bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna cruinniú a thabhairt don pholaiteoir sinsearach Aontachtach atá ag lorg cruinniú leis faoin gceist seo?
Bíonn cruinnithe idir an tAire Oideachais agus Scileanna agus polaiteoirí éagsúla an t-am ar fad. Tá sé iontach báúil do chruinnithe le polaiteoirí ón Tuaisceart. Níl a fhios agam an raibh am aige cruinniú a eagrú sa chás seo. Níl mé ag caint ar son an Aire anseo. Freastalaíonn sé ar chruinnithe Thuaidh-Theas go minic agus nuair is gá. Tá sé an-bháúil do chruinnithe a bhaineann le cúrsaí oideachais trasTeorann. Labhróidh mé leis i dtaobh iarratas an Teachta agus cuirfidh mé scéal chuige.
I refer to the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004. I understand the Taoiseach had discussions last week with Ms Antoinette Keegan of the Stardust Relatives and Victims Committee regarding the possibility of establishing a commission of investigation into the Stardust tragedy in 1981, given the problems with the outrageous failure of the Keane tribunal-----
-----and the problems with the Coffey report. When the Taoiseach was canvassing in my constituency during the last general election campaign with Deputy Terence Flanagan, he might have given people a commitment-----
I am sure the Ceann Comhairle will forgive me. Now that we are in the past-bailout era, can I ask again about the bail Bill, which has been promised since the days when my esteemed colleagues opposite were in office? In view of the urgent necessity of the Bill, is it intended to bring it to the House as soon as possible? When is the Red Cross (amendment) Bill likely to come before the House?
I do not have a date for the Red Cross Bill but I assure the Deputy that work is advanced in respect of the bail Bill. It has gone a long way in the Department and while I cannot give the Deputy a date, it is almost out through the gap.
We are all aware of the vast amounts being spent on free legal aid and how this scheme is being abused by career criminals. I am sure they do not disclose all the money they have buried in fields around the country. When is the criminal justice (legal aid) Bill due to be published?
The setting up of an electoral commission needs to be fast-tracked because of the dreadful state of the electoral register in most counties. The local and European elections are coming up next year and the electoral (amendment) Bill is on the clár, with publication expected in 2014. Will provision be made in the Bill for a commission?
I do not have a date for publication of that Bill but I assure the Ceann Comhairle that the electoral register in County Longford is very much up to date because of the activities of one Deputy James Bannon.
I would like to inquire about the geothermal energy Bill in the context of the dispute between the SEAI and Muintir na Tíre, which is a contractor employed by the SEAI. The SEAI has refused mediation offers. Could the Taoiseach ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to intervene?
I will keep trying. I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the advice.
I refer to the regulation of lobbying Bill. Supermarkets are putting market gardeners and so on out of business as they sell greengroceries for almost nothing. Something has to be done to stop this, because it equates to lobbying, bullying and intimidation.
The regulation of lobbying Bill will be published early next year. The minerals Bill must be dealt with first and that will be followed by the geothermal Bill late next year. I expect the minerals Bill to be published in the first half of the year.
I have repeatedly called over the past number of months for an amendment to the 2010 adoption legislation and I welcome the fact that a Bill in this regard will come before the House on Thursday. When will it be published? We are expected to debate all Stages on Thursday, which I have no problem doing, but we are still in a vacuum regarding what is in the legislation. Is it normal practice when all Stages of a Bill are to be debated within 48 hours that Members would not have sight of its contents? Will the Taoiseach indicate when we will see them?
I refer to the publication of the draft wind energy guidelines last week. The Taoiseach agreed previously to make time available to debate this important issue in the House. I again ask when time will be made available to debate what is an important issue for residents of many counties.
This adoption Bill is a matter of sensitivity and it has to be dealt with or the time will pass by. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has proposed a number of amendments to the Adoption Acts, which the Cabinet approved this morning, after issues were raised by the Deputy and a number of others. I expect that officials will be touch with the Deputy and other Members quickly. We need to deal with it on Thursday and that is why all Stages will be taken then. It only went through Cabinet this morning. I had to deal with the economic programme afterwards. The Deputy will be contacted and he can give his support for it. He has rightly been vociferous about these amendments.
There is a public consultation period on the draft wind energy guidelines. The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, announced on 6 December the commencement of a public consultation period on proposed draft revisions to the 2006 guidelines. The public consultation will run until 21 February 2014 and further details are available on the Department's website.
I refer to the health governance Bill. Will the Taoiseach give me an update on the Liam Mac an tSaoi case, which was raised in the House a number of weeks ago? His family would dearly love to have him home for Christmas. Will he be moved closer to Galway before Christmas?
Deputy Martin raised this issue last week. I can confirm that the people from Galway came to Dublin and that young Liam will be transferred to Galway University Hospital on Christmas Eve. He will be accommodated in the hospital's high-dependency unit until the necessary support care team is put in place, which is expected to happen on 6 January. I hope the little boy will be comfortable and that when his mother is satisfied he can be transferred to his home.
The sports Ireland Bill intends to provide for the establishment of sports Ireland as a new organisation to replace the Irish Sports Council and the National Sports Campus Development Authority. When is publication expected?
I am informed by the Minister of State with responsibility for sport that it will be at Cabinet before the end of January and it will probably be the middle of next year before it becomes law.