Tuesday, 3 November 2015
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 16, motion of referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the report by the Minister for Defence on service by the Defence Forces with the United Nations in 2014, and No. 43, statements on Northern Ireland.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. and adjourn on the adjournment of Private Members’ Business which shall be No. 214, motion re Travellers' rights, which shall be taken at the conclusion of Topical Issues and adjourned after 90 minutes; (2) No. 16 shall be decided without debate; (3) No. 43 shall be taken immediately following the Order of Business and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after two hours and 30 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the statement 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 on in that order shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case and such Members may share their time; (ii) the statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group who shall be called on in that order shall not exceed ten minutes in each case and such Members may share their time; and (iii) a Minister or a Minister of State shall be called on to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes; and Topical Issues shall be taken immediately thereafter.
Tomorrow’s business after Oral Questions shall be No. 8, Social Welfare Bill 2015 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 9, Finance Bill 2015 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with the late sitting agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 16, motion of referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the report by the Minister for Defence on service by the Defence Forces with the United Nations in 2014, without debate agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 43, statements on Northern Ireland, agreed to? Agreed.
On health legislation, in the past few hours I received a copy of a letter which has been sent to the chief executive officer of Tallaght hospital and copied to the Minister for Health and a number of other people. It details in an horrific way the circumstances in the emergency department in Tallaght hospital in terms of how senior citizens are being treated. It states that on one particular evening 79 people were in the emergency department. It refers, in particular, to the treatment of elderly people and how one elderly individual who was over 90 years of age was on a trolley for 29 hours and how painful and sore that was for the individual concerned. He was on a trolley in a conduit between the psychiatric rooms and some cubicles.
I know. This relates to legislation. The consultant stated this man, like others in non-designated patient conduits, had no privacy and no dignity, had been subject to constant noise and light torture, resulting in major sleep deprivation and pressure effects causing pain from lying for a prolonged period on a trolley which had not been designed for that purpose.
The letter goes through the safety issues and previous experiences in Tallaght hospital when HIQA protocols were introduced. The Taoiseach may remember the case of the 101 year old patient. No. 42 in the Government's legislative programme is the health information and patient safety Bill. This represents an appalling indictment of the Minister for Health. The Government needs to respond urgently to situations such as this that are occurring in emergency departments across the country, particularly Tallaght hospital, where the consultant said all of the HIQA protocols were being breached, particularly in terms of patients not being put in isolation rooms when required. It is a very serious matter. When can we expect the health information and patient safety Bill to be introduced?
I take it that the Taoiseach has read an article in yesterday's edition of The Guardian- it may have been brought to his attention - on undocumented workers, how they are being treated on certain vessels in the Irish fishing industry and allegedly being paid half the minimum wage.
It is a very well researched article in The Guardianand the workers in question are from Egypt, Ghana and the Philippines. There have been cases in the past when we brought forward legislation. The Government's legislative programme provides for the introduction of an international protection Bill. I respectfully suggest to the Taoiseach that there is a need to accelerate this legislation and for the Government to take this report seriously and liaise with the International Transport Workers Federation and labour agencies to ensure very basic and minimal standards of protection and rights are afforded to migrant workers and particularly to ensure they are not undocumented. There seems to be a very sorry tale in this context.
Obviously, we do not need legislation to know that the situation that the Deputy has described is not tolerable. If the letter has been sent to the Minister for Health, I am sure he will respond directly to the Deputy. The health information Bill is due for publication next year, but as I said, we do not need legislation to know that there should not be a situation like the one the Deputy described. The Minister with responsibility for the marine has responded initially on the report in The Guardianwhich took a year to put together. He intends to form a working group on Thursday to respond to the issue. It will involve a number of Departments. This situation applies to a number of other countries, particularly Scotland, where the human slavery Act 2015, which is very modern legislation, has dealt with the matter in a very comprehensive way for those involved. There may well be problems in some parts of the pelagic fleet. The Minister will respond to them in a very determined way and will announce the forming of a working group involving a number of Departments which have various responsibilities to deal with the issue of migrant workers. The Garda has a very active unit which deals with the trafficking of people. Obviously, it will have a central part to play if the allegations contained in the report in The Guardian are true.
Tá dhá cheist agam, an chéad cheann faoi promised legislation to provide for rent certainty and another on the misuse of drugs (amendment) (No. 2) Bill, but before I come to them, I asked the Taoiseach earlier if the Government would formally recognise the Palestinian state in keeping with the motion of support which had been passed by the Oireachtas but on which the Government had failed to act. As it may have slipped his mind, I am giving him an opportunity to answer it now. It would send a clear signal if the Government acted on this important issue.
On the misuse of drugs (amendment) (No. 2) Bill, the Minister of State, Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, is quoted as having said in a speech made in London that he was confident the Cabinet would agree to legislation that would allow for the provision of medically supervised injection centres for use by intravenous drug users. It is a source of wonderment for me why he goes to London to make these statements, but leaving that aside, he has also indicated his support for the decriminalisation of the personal use of small quantities of drugs. Has this matter been discussed by the Cabinet and when does the Taoiseach expect the misuse of drugs (amendment) (No. 2) Bill to be published?
On the issue of rent certainty, we were promised legislation. On 28 September the Minister involved, Deputy Alan Kelly, made such a commitment on the back of others. The Ceann Comhairle will know that since the Government took office, rents have increased by 35% but nothing has been done to tackle these increasingly unaffordable rates. He will also know that there are 1,500 children living in homeless accommodation in this city.
We are told the next election will be a choice between stability and chaos. How much chaos can a family put up with? What amount of chaos must there be in the Cabinet that it cannot settle its mind on such an urgent and important crisis issue? When will we see the Government’s emergency legislation to tackle homelessness? When will the Government publish its promised and proposed legislation on rent certainty?
I dealt with this before Deputy Adams came into the Chamber. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and the Government have done a great deal of work in respect of rough sleepers and homelessness in general. The HAP, housing assistance payment, regulations have been changed, along with proposals for modular housing, the return of voided units to habitable condition, targets set and moneys put in place with regard to over 200 sites opened around the country for social housing to deal with the fundamental issue of housing supply. The Minister for Finance and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government are talking about several other immediate responses, as well as medium and long-term proposals. I hope they can conclude these discussions this week. If legislation is necessary out of that, the Government will obviously give it consideration. I will come back to the Deputy on the work that follows through in respect of the motion passed on Palestine and what it actually means.
The misuse of drugs (amendment) (no. 2) Bill is due for next year. However, there is a court case, the outcome of which I cannot determine, which may have a bearing on when this particular legislation may apply. We cannot do anything about it until that decision is made by the courts. The matter of legalising small quantities of heroin has not been discussed at Cabinet. In the past, there was reference to the supervision of needles for drug users but the question of the legalisation of small quantities of heroin for personal use has not been discussed.
In Galway city and county, 60% of burglaries are carried out mostly by repeat offenders, particularly people who are heroin abusers. I am sure that is the same in our major cities. It is very frustrating for the gardaí who apprehend these people to see them back on the streets again in hours.
Some of them only spend a few months in jail and they are back out on the streets again. When does the Taoiseach expect the bail Bill to come before the Dáil because many people out on bail are reoffending?
The bail Bill is due before the Dáil while the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill 2015 is due next week. Deputy Grealish will be aware of yesterday’s announcement by the Garda Commissioner and the Minister in respect of specific moneys to be allocated by the Government to deal with spate of burglaries carried out by a small number of well-known criminals. These are matters to which the Members of the House will be able to contribute. This is an issue of concern to the Government and one to which it has responded with requests from the Garda Commissioner to provide facilities and opportunities to deal with this. It will involve our communities in having information passed to the Garda at the earliest possible time.
To maximise the efficacy of the services provided by the Property Registration Authority, the Valuation Office and the Ordnance Survey office, when will the táillte Éireann Bill come before the House? Is it likely to be given some priority rating in this or the next session?
When is it expected that the apprenticeship Bill will be aired in the House? When is it likely to be passed?
I welcome the support from Deputy Grealish for the bail Bill which I have raised on numerous occasions in the past.
The heads of the táillte Éireann Bill have been cleared but it will be next year before it appears in the House.
There are discussions going on about governance with the apprenticeship Bill. It is not far from being completed but I cannot say whether it will make it on to the programme in the next seven to eight weeks.
The Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill 2015 is already in the House and the bigger bail Bill will be here next year. One can feed into the other.
I also have listened to Deputy Durkan for the past ten years raising this matter. We are making progress.
There is a need to provide for mandatory calorie labelling for menus in restaurants, takeaways and other food outlets. When will the health and wellbeing (calorie posting and workplace wellbeing) Bill be before the House?
With regard to the wildlife (amendment) Bill, recently the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Heather Humphreys, banned the sale of woodcock. This is having a detrimental effect on parts of rural Ireland.
I do not have a date for that Bill. However, I am interested in what Deputy Healy-Rae is actually at here. The woodcock population, depending on the severity of the winter, goes up and down, as he is aware.
Regarding legislation on three international conventions on migrant workers’ rights, employment and equality of opportunity, the British Government has ratified the convention on migration for employment. It is very relevant that these conventions are ratified. When will we ratify them?
Earlier, I addressed the current issue regarding migration workers arising from a recent report in The Guardian. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney and other Ministers will respond on Thursday in the context of setting up a working group across several Departments to examine this.
The Taoiseach will appreciate this morning that the summit’s organiser, Mr. Cosgrave, painted a very dim picture of the way in which the Government has interacted with the summit or used the opportunity to the benefit of Ireland.
The National Tourism Development Authority (Amendment) Bill 2015 has been published and is awaiting arrival in the House.
I wish all of those involved in the Web Summit every success. I hope it is a fabulous occasion and wish them well for the future also.
The register needs to be placed on a statutory footing and, thereby, provide in law for the registration of builders, contractors and specialist subcontractors. When can we expect the building control Bill to be published?
This is a little reminder to the Taoiseach on the one-year bankrupcy Bill. Will the Taoiseach keep it right at the top of the agenda? Deputy Penrose is concerned as is Deputy Michael McNamara and many others. We are getting calls from constituents non-stop. It is a very important matter which ties in with homelessness and other matters.
There is a second thing, a Cheann Comhairle, because I get forgetful. The Taoiseach made statements on Northern Ireland. I am not in a position to make a contribution on those given my status as just an ordinary Member of the Dáil.
You are all right, a Cheann Comhairle. I have a question for the Taoiseach which relates to a question I asked before the break last week. The Department of Justice and Equality is to issue a statutory instrument which will facilitate-----
-----local authorities in dealing with families who are engaged in anti-social behaviour. It is a particular problem in a number of estates in my constituency. The councils, having gone through all the procedures and brought these families to task or to court, are not being facilitated. They are awaiting a statutory instrument from the Department of Justice and Equality. Will the Taoiseach advise the House when the statutory instrument will be signed by the Minister? I also asked a number of weeks ago about the independent Government rapporteur on child protection. Every year he lays his annual report before the Houses of the Oireachtas. I understand the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has the 2014 report since February. We are now in November and still awaiting it. This year's report will be with the Minister and we will not have had an opportunity to discuss the 2014 report. Will the Taoiseach advise me when that report will be laid before the Houses?
I notified the Department of Justice and Equality that Deputy Troy raised the matter of the statutory instrument concerning anti-social behaviour. I have not had a final communication back from it yet but I will advise Deputy Troy when I have. I will speak to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on the report of the special rapporteur and will advise the Deputy when it is to be published.