Tuesday, 15 November 2016
Ceisteanna - Questions
Programme for Government Implementation
4. To ask the Taoiseach to set out the position regarding the commitment in the programme for Government in respect of supporting an enhanced approach to Government by Ministers of State and to set out the way in which they would play a more substantive role in decision-making; the progress on this; and the way it is being implemented. [33549/16]
In addition to delegation orders that assign responsibility for specific statutory functions, I have also assigned to Ministers of State specific responsibilities to progress and implement programme for Government commitments. Following the appointment of Ministers of State, a set of policy priorities was agreed between myself, Ministers and Ministers of State. On the establishment of the Government, I met each Minister along with his or her Ministers of State on a bilateral basis to discuss their short-term, medium-term and long-term policy priorities. Since then, I have met regularly with Ministers of State to receive updates on the progress they have made in implementing their programme for Government policy priorities. It is a case of some people having statutory responsibilities designated to them and some having responsibilities assigned to them without a statutory declaration.
The programme for Government contains a commitment to supporting an enhanced approach to Government by Ministers of State and outlined the way in which they would play a more substantive role in decision-making. I am asking for a progress report on this issue. The Taoiseach has outlined how things were always done in the case of either appointing Ministers of State with statutory responsibility or appointing those without specific statutory remit but, perhaps, with a broader policy remit. The comments of the Taoiseach add nothing to what is contained in the programme for Government. The programme for Government suggests that something different would be done; that something of a more enhanced role would be put in play for Ministers of State.
I put it to the Taoiseach that this got off to a bad start when Deputies Canney and Moran tossed a coin to decide who would become Minister of State. I recall asking Deputy Moran in the corridors whether the appointments would be for two-and-a-half years each, to which he replied that I must have been joking because the whole thing would not last at all and that the arrangements were for one year at a time.
I put it to the Taoiseach that this does not represent an enhanced role for Ministers of State. I take it the Taoiseach disapproves of this behaviour by the two Deputies, albeit, they are new to the House. This has shone a bad light on the question of Ministers of State and their appointment. All of this happened and was widely reported. Both Deputies have told many journalists about it without any hint of embarrassment. They poured forth their views on how tossing a coin to decide who would become the Minister of State for one year was acceptable. Apparently, at committees the Minister of State is shadowed by the Deputy who will become the Minister of State for the next year in order that the future Minister of State can read himself into the job. I think all of this is degrading to the office of Minister of State. The practice undermines the office.
I have considerable sympathy for the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Halligan, because of the way he was treated in respect of University Hospital Waterford and the recommendation in respect of the catheterisation laboratory. In previous times, other reports were compiled. For example, a clinical report was compiled in respect of the formation of the hospital group system. The clinicians involved were adamant that University Hospital Waterford should have been the regional centre for cardiac care as well as emergency cardiac care. The hospital was designated for that purpose in a separate report. In other words, two separate reports, prior to that commissioned by the Minister for Health, identified Waterford hospital as a key centre for cardiac care. The Minister would have been within his rights to expect that the matter would be followed through and that the second catheterisation laboratory would be provided. Indeed, the HSE had made a business case for it regionally, although the decision was made nationally.
In any event, at no stage did anyone say that the hospital could not or should not go ahead with it until the aftermath of the election and the discussions and negotiations around the formation of Government. Then, hey presto, it was decided to undertake another review. The result is that the second catheterisation laboratory has not been approved. This put the Minister of State, Deputy Halligan, in a difficult position. He was caricatured and, to some extent, parodied by others as not being effective enough in pursuing the issue. I would have thought the decision-making processes in Government would have been refined in the context of the composition of Government to help better decision-making on the issue, especially since decisions apply to particular Ministers of State.
Can the Taoiseach confirm the number of delegation orders in respect of statutory responsibilities that have been issued at this stage? Can the Taoiseach outline whether other delegation orders have yet to be made or whether others are in the process of being made but have not yet been executed? Can the Taoiseach indicate the position?
I read a report recently to the effect that Ministers of State were deemed to be powerless. As I pointed out to Deputy Martin, all Ministers of State have responsibility. Some have been assigned by statutory delegation order and others have been allocated with responsibilities for particular areas. For example, there are two Ministers of State in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputies McHugh and Dara Murphy. The Minister of State, Deputy McHugh, has special responsibility for the diaspora and international development. The Minister of State, Deputy Dara Murphy, has responsibility for European affairs and data protection. He works at the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Taoiseach.
The Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 1977 provides for the delegation of statutory ministerial powers and duties to Ministers of State. This may be done at the request of the Minister concerned by Government order. The responsibilities allocated by the Minister for Foreign Affairs relate to consular, passport and technical matters, and it is not the practice, nor is it considered necessary, to delegate those functions he has held for himself as Minister for Foreign Affairs. For instance, the Minister for Public Expenditure, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, interpreted a question from Deputy Eoghan Murphy, who is a Minister of State, as referring to a delegation of ministerial functions order. He allocated the Minister of State, Deputy Murphy, functions and responsibilities to carry out on his behalf but he did not do so by statutory authority under the Act. Deputy Murphy deals with financial services, as Deputy Martin is aware, in the IFSC and so on. The Minister, Deputy Ross, decided not to allocate by statutory delegation of ministerial function responsibilities in the areas of sports, local authority programmes, engagement with sporting bodies and partnerships regarding other matters to the Minister, Deputy O'Donovan.
Was that statutory previously? Deputy Michael Ring, a Minister of State at the time, seemed to be totally in charge of sport during the term of the previous Dáil, so clearly the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, is not in charge of sport.
The Minister of State, Deputy Doyle, assumed responsibility for forestry, horticulture, food safety and the greyhound industry, and the order was to be signed in that regard, so a number of responsibilities were allocated.
The issue of the cath lab in Waterford regional hospital, which was very important, was the subject of letters, discussions and a world-renowned clinician's report. The Minister for Health accepted that the enhancement of the cath lab should be followed through and money provided for it to cover extra hours, extra personnel and extra resources and accepted the outcome in that area. The Minister of State, Deputy Halligan, has responsibility for doubling the number of apprenticeships by 2020, expanding the youth services that support early school leavers, increasing the number of flexible courses and opportunities available, working with the Oireachtas committee to review a further adult and community education-----
I take it the Minister, Deputy Ross, has no responsibility for justice. He has been making many announcements about justice recently. He is opening Garda stations again.