Wednesday, 24 September 2014
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 15a, motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; No. 15b, motion re membership of committees; No. 4, Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014 - Second Stage (resumed); and No. 5, Sport Ireland Bill 2014 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 15a and 15b shall be decided without debate. Private Members' business shall be No. 159, motion re housing (resumed), to conclude at 9 p.m. tonight, if not previously concluded.
It is proposed that tomorrow's business, after Oral Questions, shall be No. 4, Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014 - Second Stage (resumed); and No. 5, Sport Ireland Bill 2014 - Second Stage (resumed).
The national cultural institutions Bill, which is on the long list, will revise the governance arrangements for cultural institutions, including the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Will this Bill include provisions dealing with the short-term appointment of board members in order that they should qualify for Seanad elections? What is the Minister's view, as a Minister of considerable experience and integrity-----
-----of the charade that is occurring in the other House, with the appointment of a person to the board of a cultural institution which will come under the Bill to which I referred, in order to qualify that individual to stand for a Seanad by-election?
It is sometimes fun to go through the new legislative programme at the beginning of the parliamentary year to discover which Bills have fallen backward, moved forward or remained in the same position. Section A lists Bills that are expected to be brought forward this term, while section B includes those Bills for which the heads have been agreed. In the last session, the then Minister for Health promised that the national paediatric hospital development board (amendment) Bill would be forthcoming in that session, the same undertaking having been given in previous sessions. Now we see that the legislation has moved to section C on the legislative programme. The announcement by the Government at the beginning of its term in office of its intention to proceed with the establishment of a national children's hospital was welcome. The question is why there is this delay in putting together a legislative framework for the development board, which is already in place? Why is it not possible to indicate at this stage when that Bill will be published? It should be one of the priority Bills, given that it is concerned with underwriting a huge investment by the State in paediatric services.
There is a great deal of planning going on within the Department of Health on this particular project, but I do not have a publication date for the Bill. The A list is put together by the Whips and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, based on their confidence of which business can be delivered to the House. The publication of the legislative programme gives Deputies an opportunity to prepare for the debate on those Bills which are closest to delivery. It is a normal approach to managing business. However, I will seek information on the Deputy's behalf regarding the status of the particular Bill to which he referred.
The problem is that it has dropped from the B list to the C list. This indicates that the heads of Bill have not even been agreed, whereas the indication last session was that it had reached that stage.
In general, where Bills are included on the A list, it means their heads have been agreed by Government and they are expected to be published this session. The Bill we are discussing is not yet at that stage.
The Minister will be the first to agree that the seed capital relief scheme has been very successful in attracting investment in companies. In the context of the Finance Bill, does he expect any amendments to be brought forward to allow those provisions to cover sole traders who might wish to avail of a similar relief?
The European Stability Mechanism (amendment) Bill is promised legislation to allow for the creation and operation of the ESM's direct recapitalisation instrument. Have the heads been cleared by Cabinet and is it likely to be brought before the House before the end of this session? Have the heads of the credit guarantee (amendment) Bill been cleared and is it likely to be brought before the House?
The first Bill was cleared by Cabinet this week and will be discussed by the end of October. The heads of the credit guarantee (amendment) Bill have been approved and we will bring them to the committee so that it can have an input into the pre-legislative phase.
The Constitutional Convention, of which I was a member, successfully concluded its deliberations. There are a number of outstanding reports to be debated in the House and to which the Government must respond. Will the Chief Whip, on behalf of the Government, give us a date for a debate because it is important we bring the work of the Constitutional Convention to finality in this House?
I understand the Chief Whip has had a meeting on that and he is hopeful one of the reports will be before the House next week for debate.
-----in government, the Government would immediately bring in legislation to establish a commission on low pay. According to this list, the legislation just to establish the commission to look at the subject will be brought forward at some unspecified time next year. It has not even been approved by Government yet. Will the Minister confirm that is the case because if it is, it calls the Tánaiste's genuineness into account?
It is certainly promised legislation. It is part of the revised agreement between the parties which the Deputy rightly said followed the Tánaiste assuming the leadership of the Labour Party. It will be developed by the Minister of State in my Department, Deputy Nash. He has already engaged in a number of meetings both here and in other jurisdictions to examine best practice in this approach. This is a priority for Government but it will not be on this list until a legislative proposal is set out in a framework. Work is very actively being undertaken in my Department and we will be in a position to brief Cabinet in due course of the approach that will be taken.
I refer to the social welfare Bill and measures to be announced in the budget. Will the Government look at the Mangan report on the new social insurance stamp for the self-employed? It is a huge issue and everybody wants such a stamp. When is publication of the family leave Bill to consolidate with amendments all family leave legislation expected?
As the Deputy knows, there is an annual social welfare Bill which incorporates any changes that would be introduced into systems, such as social insurance. That would be a matter for budgetary consideration. The family leave Bill will be introduced early next year.
Last week I raised the issue of the Government's independent rapporteur on child protection. His report was given the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in January or February of this year and it has yet to be laid before the House. Could I get an indication as to when that report will be laid before the House?
I refer to the independent commission of investigation into the mother and baby homes. We all agree it is important that we get the terms of reference right. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has engaged widely with the interested parties but the Government promised that the terms of reference would be published before the summer recess in July of this year. It is now almost October and we are still awaiting publication of the terms of reference. One of the key issues here relates to the adoption (tracing and information) Bill to give people who were adopted, whether forcibly, illegally or otherwise, the right to their identity. When will the terms of reference be published and when will the important adoption (tracing and information) Bill be brought before the House?
I understand the Tánaiste is replying to the Deputy in regard to the rapporteur's report. The hope is that it will be laid before the House shortly. In regard to the terms of reference, there have been some changes in ministerial office but it continues to be a priority so I do not think there will be a delay. I think the adoption (tracing and information) Bill will be brought forward next year. Much work has been done by the Attorney General in that regard and advice has been given. It is hoped that Bill will be presented next year.
The Government promised there would be free GP for those under six years of age. It then promised the legislation would be enacted by July 2014. The Minister for Health has indicated that he is unsure of the timeframe for when it will be implemented. It is a deliverable for this Government but we do not have a timeframe for it. Is there any certainty in Cabinet as to how this will be developed and is there a timeframe around the negotiations with the Irish Medical Organisation and the general practitioners?
This is part of the revised programme for Government. The Government intends to implement this but negotiations are an essential part of rolling out this commitment. The Minister is committed to delivering it as quickly as he can but the State must negotiate terms for the delivery. One cannot set a firm date until one has-----
As the Minister well knows, the south east of the country faces a difficulty from an unemployment point of view. One of the best ways to try to sort out that issue is through education. As the Minister is probably aware, Carlow IT and Waterford IT have done much work in proposing the formation of a technological university. Will the Minister give me a timescale on when the technological universities Bill will be introduced? In regard to planning legislation, when will legislation be introduced to underpin the Construction 2020 strategy?
I understand the technological universities Bill will be taken this session. I know the planning legislation is being treated as a priority by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Kelly, and it is hoped it will be brought to Government this session.
I was going to ask about the planning legislation also. Has the noise nuisance Bill completely gone off the clár? There are a couple of issues in the Minister's and my constituency and this could be important legislation in respect of them.
I refer to an earlier discussion and the proposal by the Minister for Health, Deputy Varadkar, to give families €5 or €10 per week back in the budget in a few weeks time. Has any consideration been given simply to scrapping the water tax at least until the general election? Perhaps the general election could be used as a referendum to decide whether we should go ahead with this morass that is Irish Water and this terrible imposition.
In light of the presence of Asian clam in the hot water stretch of the River Shannon at Lanesborough, County Longford, we have had previous outbreaks in 2010 in the rivers Barrow and the Nore. This is a dangerous species which can wipe out native fish stocks. It can be carried by nets, boats, fishing rods, clothing and cruisers. When will we have the inland fisheries (modernisation and consolidation) Bill? I understand it is expected in 2015 but it is urgently needed now. We have been forewarned and we should bring the Bill forward at the earliest opportunity.
I have acknowledged on a number of occasions the good work that the Government has done on the issue of the Magdalen laundries. However, there was a specific commitment in the programme for Government regarding the 32 survivors of Thalidomide. The previous Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, abysmally failed to address the plight of those people. Can we get an assurance that the present Minister for Health, Deputy Varadkar, will now take on board the commitment made in the programme for Government and will do something concrete to resolve their plight?
I am not in a position to give the Deputy a detailed answer. I will bring the matter to the attention of the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, so that he can issue a reply to the Deputy.
I addressed that issue already in response to Deputy Durkan. We have approved the heads of the Bill and they are going to the Oireachtas committee to give its members an opportunity to comment on the proposals. We will then proceed to introduce it to the House.