Thursday, 9 October 2014
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. a15, motion re sittings and business of the Dáil; No. b15, motion re proposed authorisation by Dáil Éireann for the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission to instruct legal representatives; No. 1, Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2014 Seanad - Second Stage (resumed); and No. 7, Irish Collective Asset Management Vehicles Bill 2014 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. a15 and b15 shall be decided without debate; in respect of the sitting of the Dáil on Tuesday, 14 October 2014, the following arrangements shall apply: the Dáil shall sit at 2.20 p.m., shall sit later than 9 p.m. and the motion for the General Financial Resolution shall be moved not later than midnight whereupon the Dáil shall adjourn forthwith; subject to the return of the writs, new Members shall be introduced at 2.20 p.m.; and the Budget Statement and the financial motions by the Minister for Finance  shall be taken at 2.30 p.m., and the following arrangements shall apply: the opening statements of the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform shall not exceed 45 minutes in each case; the statements of the main spokespersons for finance and public expenditure and reform for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed an aggregate of 60 minutes in each case, and such Members may share their time; and following the statements, the sitting shall be suspended for 30 minutes.
There are two proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. a15 and b15, without debate, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal regarding the arrangements for the sitting of the Dáil on Tuesday, 14 October 2014, agreed to? Agreed.
The Governor of the Central Bank announced his intention to make it a requirement for home buyers to save up at least 20% of the value of the properties being bought, in other words, a 20% deposit. In light of the escalating house prices in Dublin, the housing crisis in parts of the country and the many families that have fallen into homelessness, will the Tánaiste agree to a debate on this issue? Given the facts that families are unable to afford homes and we are facing into an inflationary cycle again, has the Government conducted an evaluation of the Governor's proposal and will it make a formal submission to the discussion phase that is under way until the end of the year?
I understand that the Central Bank is going to hold a consultation process, which will take a number of months. Everybody is concerned, particularly young couples and individuals who have perhaps been working for up to ten years and are interested in buying houses, be it in the Dublin area or around the country. We know from the evidence regarding, in particular, the two big banks that the number of mortgages being granted is increasing significantly.
It is a very important social issue. The submissions to the Central Bank and its consultation procedure will go ahead independent of this House but I would have no difficulty with the Whips discussing whether, at a certain point in time, it might be appropriate to have a debate. In the course of next week most of the time will be taken up with the budget but I would certainly be open to that suggestion. It is a very important issue. The Whips can address it.
I wish to raise two issues. First, why has there been such a delay in the reformed and consolidated domestic violence legislation? We have been raising this matter since the Government came to office in 2011, but there is inexplicably still no sign of it. When might we expect to see it?
Second, the Tánaiste last week indicated that the draft terms of reference of the commission of inquiry into mother and baby homes had been distributed to the relevant Departments. Will she update the Dáil on that matter? Which Departments have been sent the draft terms, when are they expected to report back, what precise form will other consultations, particularly with groups representing victims and survivors, take, what form of consultation will take place with Opposition parties and when will we finally see the inquiry's terms of reference?
In respect of the first item relating to domestic violence, I understand that it is for next year. In respect of the terms of reference of the mother and baby homes, I outlined to the House last week that the terms of reference had just gone to the relevant Departments, namely, those that are involved in the interim report in particular and any other Department that would have a concern, be it historical or current, about the issue. I do not have an exact timeline for how long it will take the relevant Departments to report back and comment, if they do, in respect of the draft terms of reference, but I expect them to do it in a reasonably progressive timeframe.
I expect that when that work has been completed, in conjunction with the judge who has been appointed, the Government will be able to move forward. I have told Deputy McDonald that I believe the critical point is to get the terms of reference right. As she is aware, there have been extensive consultations with interested groups and, alongside this, there also will be changes in legislation regarding the tracing of information. There are several different issues that are concurrent to this inquiry and I hope to see it in the not too distant future. I do not have an exact date at this point in time.
A number of lending agencies have had their loan books sold to third parties, some of which are regulated and others of which are not. Following this sale, there appears to be a difference in the procedure being followed which does not appear to be in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the Department of Finance and the Central Bank, as well as the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste in this House. Can the Tánaiste indicate when the relevant legislation governing the sale of loan books to unregulated third parties will be introduced?
On the same issue, one such lending institution that is engaged in this process has announced recently it is contemplating the sale of loans it had extended to small and medium-sized enterprises. This is causing much concern and anxiety to some of the small businesses concerned. On the same lines as Deputy Durkan, when is publication of that legislation on the sale of loan books to unregulated third parties expected?
Now that the students are back in college and a lot of parties are taking place in many houses in estates, when does the Tánaiste expect the noise nuisance Bill, which is No. 78 on the Government legislative programme, to come before the Dáil?
The findings of the Mahon tribunal exposed what happened when vested interests became involved in the planning system. It showed how that corrupted and undermined that system. When can Members expect the planning and development Bill providing for the implementation of the planning recommendations in the Mahon tribunal to come before the House?
I assure the Deputy that a lot of work is ongoing in respect of that particular proposed Bill. While there may be some chance it will come during this session, in practice, because of the complexity of some of the issues involved that the Deputy will appreciate, I expect it probably will be next year.
When Members get their budget books next Tuesday, will there be a separate Vote for the Office of Tánaiste? Is it the case that the Office of the Tánaiste is returning to the sort of structures that obtained when former Deputy Spring was Tánaiste?
When will the social welfare Bill come before Members? When the Tánaiste and I entered this House, the Deputy behind her, Deputy Stagg, led a wonderful campaign against the dirty dozen, that is, a set of savage cuts imposed by the former Deputy and Minister Mr. McCreevy. Since 2011, however, we have had a dirty ten dozen or perhaps 12 dozen.
First, in respect of the Tánaiste's office, I simply have taken over an inherited arrangement. There have been no changes although there may be fewer people. Perhaps I could give the Deputy an exact comparison but there have been no substantial changes. The Deputy was speaking of the establishment and I occupy the same office.
Even going back almost 15 years, I do not think there has been one. I believe it always has been part of the Department of the Taoiseach.
On the social welfare Bill, there will be a book in respect of the budget setting out all the details and, like all Deputies in the House, the Deputy will be able to see that. On social welfare, as the Deputy is aware, the Government has got many people back to work, the consequence of which has been significant savings on social welfare.
Moreover, as the Deputy is aware, a consequence of this is the Government has been able to protect core rates and do what no other country affected by the kind of difficulties this country has experienced could do. As Professor John FitzGerald of the ESRI has noted, income inequality has actually decreased in Ireland, notwithstanding the dreadful recession.
I seek an update on the proposed technological universities Bill. In particular, I refer to the proposed amalgamation of Cork Institute of Technology and the Institute of Technology, Tralee. This assessment and evaluation has been under way for the past two years and it must be expedited to facilitate the upgrading of these two excellent institutes of technology to university status.
A great deal of work has been going on in this regard. I used to work in that sector as a senior lecturer and, consequently, I follow it quite closely. It is making strong progress and I expect to see the legislation next year. As the Deputy is aware, there is a lot of welcome investment in the institute of technology sector nationwide. My understanding is that Tralee is doing very well. It is attracting many students and is strengthening its courses, which sounds good in the context of the assessments that come as part of the process.
On a point of order, I ask that Deputy McDonald correct the record of the House, because she indicated that people were going to be cut off from their water supply and this is not correct. I ask her to correct the record of the House.
On the Garda Síochána (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2014, it has been reported today that the Government is advertising the position of chairman-designate of the proposed new policing authority. The new chief commissioner-designate of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Ms Emily Logan, appeared yesterday before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. She made clear the very rigorous process of public appointment independence under which she was appointed. Will the same process applied to the chairman-designate of the policing authority to ensure that, from the outset, it is clearly independent of Government in its responsibilities?
As the Deputy is aware, the policing authority legislation is something the Labour Party in particular has pioneered in this jurisdiction and we have taken on board a lot of valuable experience in respect of the Northern experience. This is being prioritised and there is an agreement in place that this legislation will come before the Dáil before the end of this year. A lot of work is being done on this and I am pleased to note that good progress is being made and this will provide for vigorous structures. I cannot provide the detail but I expect this to be introduced before the end of the year.
The question was not answered in respect of the chairman-designate and whether the process will be fully independent. It is not a point about the Government but about the public appointments process.
----- as for the chairman of such a body, or rather, the chairperson of such a body as one should not assume it is a chairman, I expect the appointment of someone of significant calibre, as with the appointment of Ms Logan to her new role.