Tuesday, 8 December 2015
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 13, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership and Co-operation between the EU and its member states and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam; and No. 1, Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 2008 [Seanad] - Second and Remaining Stages. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and shall adjourn on the adjournment of Private Members’ business; No. 13 shall be decided without debate; the Second and Remaining Stages of No. 1 shall be taken today and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. tonight and the following arrangements shall apply: the proceedings on the Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 8.10 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair, the opening speeches 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, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case and such Members may share their time, the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case and such Members may share their time, and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; and the proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. tonight by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Health. Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 205, motion re establishment of independent anti-corruption agency, shall be taken on the conclusion of No. 1 and shall adjourn after 90 minutes, if not previously concluded.
Tomorrow’s business after Oral Questions shall be No. 2, Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011 - amendments from the Seanad.
This is not agreed. The original intention regarding this framework agreement with Vietnam was that it would be sent to the select committee on foreign affairs without debate. Now the Government is trying to pass it in the Dáil without debate. I appeal to the Taoiseach to allow this to go to the select committee-----
Is the proposal for dealing with No. 13 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 1 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' business agreed to? Agreed.
First, I commend the "RTE Investigates" programme last night and the team involved in it. As the Taoiseach said already, what was revealed was truly shocking and also very damaging to the body politic in general, with the actions of a few tarnishing the many public representatives who give of their best in the public service. No public official and no politician should seek to benefit themselves by using or abusing their office. What was revealed last evening is truly unacceptable.
In that context, it is important that the Taoiseach gives us a timescale for key legislative measures that would respond to some of the issues raised in the programme last night. I refer in particular to the timescale in advance of the next general election. The Taoiseach spoke earlier about the planning Bill, which he says includes provision for an independent planning regulator. When can we expect the conclusion of that Bill? Is it the Taoiseach's intention to circulate to other parties a schedule for the completion of that Bill and its enactment before the general election? What are the Taoiseach's thoughts on that?
There is also legislation promised relating to the Standards in Public Office Commission. Is it proposed that there would be the power of initiation of investigation by the commission, so it could initiate its own investigations as opposed to having to wait for a complaint to be made? That is an important point.
Furthermore, the Taoiseach will recall that the former Minister, former Deputy John Gormley, had initiated independent inquiries into allegations of planning irregularities in a number of counties, including Cork, Carlow, Meath and Galway. Public advertisements had been produced and so forth. His successor, former Deputy Phil Hogan, suppressed those investigations and said they were not to proceed. He considered them to be inappropriate for some reason. Then there was an internal review. Can the Taoiseach indicate what happened to that internal review? It may have been quashed by the High Court. A barrister was supposed to be appointed to review complaints in Donegal. However, none of this has been published. The Taoiseach might not have immediate answers on the matter now, but perhaps he would revert to me on the internal review that replaced the investigations John Gormley had initiated and on the status of the review in County Donegal, where allegations were made and a barrister was brought in to examine them.
In practical terms, the legislative response is the crucial response to the issues that were raised in the programme. It is important that we get a timescale for that. We are open to agreeing a timescale with the Government in terms of bringing through the House the vital legislative measures that would make a difference for the future.
I am glad Deputy Martin agrees with the observation that nobody in public life should be involved in what we saw in the programme last night. I do not wish to say more because it might well be the case that criminal charges could follow from the Garda Síochána.
Earlier, I referred to the planning Bill and the criminal justice (corruption) Bill. They will be the follow-on Bills to the other five legislative measures I mentioned relating to the powers of the Ombudsman, protected disclosures, restoration of the Freedom of Information Act, the effective banning of corporate donations and the legislation to regulate lobbying. The heads of the planning regulation Bill were published in June. They were sent to the Oireachtas committee for consultation, were considered and now the final draft is practically complete. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, tells me that he hopes this can be brought to the Cabinet next week. In that event, the Bill will be considered and, if approved, will be published. That provides for independent assessment, independent and objective oversight and the capacity to ensure there is proper planning with a proper process and analysis of these matters. I will refer back to the Deputy in respect of-----
On the planning Bill, the Taoiseach is saying it will be published next week after going to the Cabinet. The Dáil reconvenes in January. Is it the Government's commitment that this legislation will be put through both Houses before the general election?
If I may, a Cheann Comhairle, I omitted to mention something in my first contribution. The Taoiseach invited me and other party leaders to a meeting next Tuesday regarding Judge Cregan's investigation into the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, IBRC, assets. Will there be an outcome before the general election in terms of an inquiry being established? Next week is the last sitting week for the Dáil, so there will not be a chance for debate. We have sent our proposals.
We need to have a rational discussion about this. There are a number of recommendations in respect of serious legislation in that regard and I must talk to the Deputy, Deputy Adams and the other leaders about how it will be possible to draft legislation that will be quite complex and which could be objected to - I do not wish to rush something like that through the House - and which will get the answers that every Member of the Oireachtas requires. The commission was set up in good faith on foot of views expressed by Members of the Opposition. Judge Cregan has given his independent view and we must discuss the implications of that. I have written to the party leaders and other Members because we must meet to discuss that and to see what options are available and how best to proceed on this. I wish to engage with Deputy Martin, Deputy Adams and other Members in that regard.
I refer to the issue of emergency legislation in respect of the commission of investigation into the IBRC, the Criminal Justice (Stormont House Agreement) (Implementation) Bill and the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill.
I have huge concerns that what we have just heard from the Taoiseach is him kicking for touch on this issue. I raised the matter of emergency legislation last week.
The Taoiseach has written to me and others. I have read his letter. He says that he put forward legislation the previous time based upon what the parties here said. He rejected every amendment we tabled. We voted against the legislation for exactly the reasons that have been vindicated because we are now in the mess the Taoiseach has created for us. He says he cannot publish the Attorney General's advice. That means he has decided not to. He could publish the advice if he wished. Of course, I would be pleased to meet the Taoiseach and other Opposition leaders, but I have no confidence he is going to deal with this issue.
On the criminal justice (Stormont House Agreement) (implementation) Bill, the key thing relates to dealing with the past. I met last week with the family of Seamus Ludlow who was shot dead by a Unionist paramilitary gang. His case was recommended by the Barron report and the Joint Commission on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights in its final report of March 2006 recommended that there be two commissions of investigation. The Government has not moved on that. Will the Government act on the recommendations? Will it agree to implement the joint committee's recommendation to establish the two commissions of investigation?
On the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill, I have asked the Taoiseach for as long as three weeks to set time aside for a debate on the outcome of the Paris climate change conference. We saw with Storm Desmond the impact of climate change on communities, families and small businesses.
I do not agree with the Deputy. I merely set out the situation in so far as we as a country are part of the European Union and have signed on for serious reductions in targets. I merely point out that in the technical discussions that will take place, we have a different profile. We will meet our target between 2020 and 2030 but no targets have been set for our country yet. The climate Bill has gone to the President for signature. I will ask the Whip to consider the time allocations to see whether it might be possible to have a debate or some comments in respect of the Paris COP21 discussions.
I look forward to meeting Deputy Adams, Deputy Martin and others on the IBRC. On the criminal justice (Stormont House Agreement) (Implementation) Bill, Seamus Ludlow, God rest him, is not the only one who has been involved here. Let us see how the North-South ministerial meeting on Friday progresses. It is First Minister Robinson's last one. I hope Stormont can stand up to the test. I will consider the implications of what Deputy Adams has said in regard to the late Seamus Ludlow.
The Taoiseach is well aware at this stage of my concerns about the lack of any grievance procedure for parents of school-going children. It is an ongoing issue and an ongoing failure on the part of the State to address this issue adequately. Among a number of key indications we want to see brought forward is the school admissions Bill. When will it be brought in? It would enable us to progress this issue and ultimately to move to the establishment of an ombdudsman for education. It is important to bring the legislation before the House as speedily as possible.
It is 22 months since the motorised transport grant and mobility allowance scheme left people with a disability marooned in their homes awaiting the establishment of an alternative scheme in the health (transport support) Bill which was to be published in September 2014. What is the delay in the publication of the Bill and when will we see it?
When is publication of the building control Bill expected to place construction industry registry Ireland on a statutory footing thereby providing in law for the registration of builders, contractors and specialist subcontractors?
I remind the Taoiseach that there are five working days left to get the one-year bankruptcy Bill enacted and operational. There should be no more than two years' income attachment as one of the provisions.
I am not bearing with you. This is about promised legislation and it happens every time I call the Deputy. I was not going to call him and in future I will not if he keeps going on like this.