Tuesday, 27 March 2018
Order of Business
Today’s business shall be No. 8, motion re. proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Finance Act 2004 (Section 91) (Deferred Surrender to the Central Fund) Order 2018, without debate; No. a26, statements on the Government response to the Salisbury attack; No. 9, motion re. proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the report by the Minister with responsibility for defence regarding service by the Defence Forces with the United Nations in 2016, back from committee and to conclude within 40 minutes; No. 1, Vehicle Registration Data (Automated Searching and Exchange) Bill 2018 [Seanad] - Second Stage. Private Members’ business shall be No. 178, motion re. disabilities, selected by Sinn Féin.
Wednesday’s business shall be No. 9a, motion re. report of the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government under Standing Order 114 on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the quality of water intended for human consumption, recast, COM (2017) 753, without debate; No. b26, post-European Council statements; No. 9, motion re. proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the report by the Minister with responsibility for defence regarding service by the Defence Forces with the United Nations in 2016, back from committee, resumed if not previously concluded; No. 26, Childcare Support Bill 2017 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 26a, Telecommunications Services (Ducting and Cables) Bill 2018[Seanad] - Committee and Remaining Stages; No. 5, Industrial Development (Amendment) Bill 2018 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 1, Vehicle Registration Data (Automated Searching and Exchange) Bill 2018 [Seanad]- Second Stage (resumed). Private Members’ business shall be No. 179, motion re. HPV vaccine, selected by the Labour Party.
Thursday’s business shall be No. 10, motion re Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2017 (Increase in Number of Ordinary Members of An Bord Pleanála), back from committee, without debate; No. 10a, motion re appointment of seven commissioners to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, to conclude within 40 minutes; No. 5, Industrial Development (Amendment) Bill 2018 Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; No. 1, Vehicle Registration Data (Automated Searching and Exchange) Bill 2018 [Seanad] - Second Stage, resumed; and No. 27, statements on affordable housing, to adjourn at 5 p.m., if not previously concluded; No. 11, Report of the Joint Committee on the Future Funding of Public Service Broadcasting by the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment shall be debated in the evening slot.
I refer to the first revised report of the Business Committee, dated 27 March 2018. In relation to Tuesday's business, it is proposed that: (1) motion on the Finance Act 2004 (Section 91) (Deferred Surrender to the Central Fund) Order 2018, shall be taken without debate; (2) statements on the Government response to the Salisbury attack shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons of parties and groups, and shall not exceed ten minutes each. There will be a five-minute response from Minister or Minister of State and all Members may share time. The statements shall be brought to a conclusion after 85 minutes, if not previously concluded, and, if concluded after 8 p.m., shall be followed by Private Members’ business for two hours and the Dáil shall adjourn on the conclusion of Private Members’ business; and (3) speeches on the motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the report by the Minister with responsibility for defence regarding service by the Defence Forces with the United Nations in 2016, back from committee, shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons of parties and groups which shall not exceed five minutes each and the motion shall be brought to a conclusion after 40 minutes, if not previously concluded, and all Members may share time.
In relation to Wednesday’s business, it is proposed that: (1) motion re report of the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government under Standing Order 114 shall be taken without debate; (2) post-European Council statements shall commence immediately after Taoiseach’s Questions and be followed by the suspension of sitting under Standing Order 25(1) for one hour. The statements will be brought to a conclusion after one hour and 45 minutes if not previously concluded. Speeches of a Minister or Minister or State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, shall be ten minutes each and a Minister or Minister for State shall take questions for a period not exceeding 20 minutes, with a five-minute response from Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time; and (3) the order of the Dáil of 21 March 2018 referring the Telecommunications Services (Ducting and Cables) Bill 2018 [Seanad] to select committee be discharged and that Committee Stage of the Bill be taken in committee of the whole Dáil on Wednesday, 28 March 2018.
In relation to Thursday’s business, it is proposed that: (1) motion re Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2017 (Increase in Number of Ordinary Members of An Bord Pleanála), back from committee, shall be taken without debate; (2) motion re appointment of seven commissioners to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission shall commence immediately afterwards and be followed by the weekly divisions. Speeches shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokesperson of parties and groups and shall not exceed five minutes each. The motion shall be brought to a conclusion after 40 minutes, if not previously concluded, and all Members may share time; and (3) statements on affordable housing shall commence not later than 3.30 p.m. and to adjourn at 5 p.m., if not previously concluded, and the order shall not resume thereafter. In the opening round, statements of a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokesperson of parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, shall not exceed ten minutes each. All other Members shall not exceed ten minutes each and there shall be a five minute response from a Minister or Minister of State. All Members may share time; and (4) the Dáil on its rising shall adjourn until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 17 April 2018.
It is not agreed. After the Business Committee concluded the business for today the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade issued a statement, first to the media and only in the past 30 to 40 minutes was it posted to his website, making what I believe to be a pre-emptive, stupid and reckless decision to expel Russian diplomats without any evidence of Russian culpability for the Salisbury atrocity-----
Absolutely but that decision has been made in advance of the debate with no provision for a vote on a decision, which I and other Deputies believe fundamentally attacks our international reputation as a neutral country, without any evidence and which is frankly riddled with hypocrisy in respect of the justifications that provided for it.
I certainly will not be agreeing to the order of business unless the Government concedes that there will be a vote on this decision because it has profound implications for Ireland's neutrality and is based on no evidence whatsoever.
The timing of a debate is a matter for the House but 17 countries in Europe have made this decision as have 23 around the world. These are government decisions. I am not aware of any country that makes these decisions based on a parliamentary debate and vote.
Bobby Aylward, John Brassil, Declan Breathnach, Pat Breen, Colm Brophy, Richard Bruton, Peter Burke, Mary Butler, Thomas Byrne, Jackie Cahill, Seán Canney, Ciarán Cannon, Joe Carey, Pat Casey, Jack Chambers, Niall Collins, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Barry Cowen, Michael Creed, John Curran, Michael D'Arcy, Jim Daly, Pat Deering, Regina Doherty, Timmy Dooley, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Alan Farrell, Frances Fitzgerald, Peter Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Simon Harris, Seán Haughey, Martin Heydon, Heather Humphreys, Paul Kehoe, Billy Kelleher, Seán Kyne, John Lahart, James Lawless, Michael Lowry, Marc MacSharry, Micheál Martin, Helen McEntee, Finian McGrath, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, Joe McHugh, Tony McLoughlin, Kevin Moran, Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, Eoghan Murphy, Denis Naughten, Hildegarde Naughton, Jim O'Callaghan, Kate O'Connell, Willie O'Dea, Patrick O'Donovan, Fiona O'Loughlin, Frank O'Rourke, Éamon Ó Cuív, John Paul Phelan, Anne Rabbitte, Michael Ring, Noel Rock, Shane Ross, Eamon Scanlon, David Stanton, Robert Troy, Leo Varadkar, Katherine Zappone.
Richard Boyd Barrett, John Brady, Tommy Broughan, Pat Buckley, Joan Burton, Joan Collins, Michael Collins, Catherine Connolly, Seán Crowe, Pearse Doherty, Dessie Ellis, Martin Ferris, Kathleen Funchion, Danny Healy-Rae, Brendan Howlin, Alan Kelly, Gino Kenny, Martin Kenny, Catherine Martin, Mary Lou McDonald, Mattie McGrath, Denise Mitchell, Imelda Munster, Catherine Murphy, Paul Murphy, Louise O'Reilly, Jan O'Sullivan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Willie Penrose, Maurice Quinlivan, Brendan Ryan, Eamon Ryan, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Bríd Smith, Peadar Tóibín.
On Wednesday's business, No. 9a, motion regarding the report of the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government under Standing Order 114 on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the quality of water intended for human consumption, I do not know what that recommendation is and the Labour Party does not have a member on the committee. I cannot ascertain, since I looked at the Order Paper, what exactly is proposed and I certainly could not accept a resolution without debate without knowing what it is. Perhaps the Minister will explain what it is and what exactly is recommended. Is the directive on water quality being accepted, transposed into Irish law or amended?
To be helpful, we had a detailed presentation by Irish Water, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and the Environmental Protection Agency last week and we agreed unanimously that we would consider the report that was in front of us today. I have no difficulty with the debate or the Business Committee re-examining the issue. I think when people see what the committee is unanimously proposing this morning, they will see it is reasonable and proportional but there is nothing controversial in our recommendation.
Can we have a little bit of order, please? There seems to be a little confusion about this. My understanding is that it was agreed that this matter would be taken this week because there is a time constraint. It was discussed both at the Oireachtas joint committee and at the Business Committee last week and there was a clear understanding there that if the reasoned opinion was considered acceptable to the joint committee - Deputy Ó Broin has said it unanimously agreed on the matter - it could be taken here today.
The Government, led by the Department, has a responsibility to respond to the directive and make a recommendation to the Commission as it sees fit.
I note, for example, that elements of it were in excess of the recommendations of the World Health Organization, WHO. We were supportive of the Department bringing together the various stakeholders to bring their opinions to bear on the Government concerning the recommendation to the Commission, in order to have it watered down, to use an expression. That was an unfortunate pun. As Members will know, the issue has been extensively debated in various forums. However, I refer to this proposal.
My question relates to forthcoming legislation. The Tánaiste has proposed that a two-thirds majority should be required for any changes to legislation arising from the recommendations on abortion of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, if there is an affirmative vote in the forthcoming referendum. It seems to me that as things presently stand, that would be an unconstitutional move. The Tánaiste's proposals would require a constitutional amendment to be put into effect. I believe he was to call on this in Cabinet this morning. A lot of us are at a loss to explain the rationale behind it within the current constitutional framework. Can the Taoiseach confirm whether he agrees with that proposition? Second, is it the intention of the Government to bring forward a further amendment to the Constitution to facilitate the Tánaiste's desire for such a provision?
I will be brief. I am assuming that the Tánaiste misspoke on this matter. I would like the Taoiseach to confirm that. If not, how on earth does the Government propose to insert into legislation something which clearly contravenes the Constitution? I would also like to know when the legislative package or the heads of Bill that the Government is considering today will be published and made available for scrutiny by the rest of us.
I pointed out this morning that as this suggestion was carried in five national newspapers today, presumably it was promulgated by the Government itself. For the new Bill to require a two-thirds majority of this House to amend would be unconstitutional. I too would be interested to know whether that is being entertained, because several Ministers were reported in the newspapers as saying that they support it. Before this gets out of control, the Taoiseach should be very clear in saying that this is unconstitutional and will not happen.
What the Tánaiste is proposing is not only unconstitutional, it is fundamentally undemocratic. It is further confusing people on this issue, and frankly, this kind of thing is going to endanger the "Yes" vote for the repeal of the eighth amendment. The Government and the Tánaiste should stop messing around and trust women. This is not about trusting politicians; it is about trusting women. This sort of stuff just confuses matters, as well as being undemocratic.
I too have to question how the Tánaiste could make an assertion like this. Deputy Thomas Byrne said on radio that a transition year student would know from a cursory look that this is totally unconstitutional. How did this get into five newspapers today? I seldom agree with Deputy Boyd Barrett but as he suggested, is the Government really trying to turn the people off supporting it? It is about politicians. It is about trusting politicians to make legislation here in the future, and quite frankly the people I have met and spoken to are not going to trust the Government with this. The Government is creating utter confusion. The Tánaiste might have taken a journey across the River Lee, across the bridge and back again. That is as far as he went. He is trying to get out of the commitments he gave to people before. The members of the Government have made a total dog's dinner out of this one too and the dogs in the street are waiting for them.
The logical conclusion of what the Tánaiste has talked about is that an amendment to the Constitution will be required, an amendment which essentially will be termed around the issue of abortion. At this stage, the Taoiseach must clarify the Government's thinking on this. If that is what is being proposed, the issue will move into a whole new spectrum in terms of time and debate. The Taoiseach must clarify this today.
There is quite a lot on the Cabinet agenda today, over 30 items, 11 of which we still have to address. The Cabinet meeting will resume this afternoon. We have not yet finished the discussion on the abortion legislation but it is intended that by this evening, we will be able to publish the general scheme of the Bill. On the proposal to require a two-thirds majority to be able to change any legislation, I sought advice from the Attorney General on that matter today. The Attorney General advises me that it would be contrary to Article 15 of the Constitution, and therefore could not be included in this legislation and therefore will not be. There will not be a requirement that any change to primary legislation would require a two-thirds majority as doing so would require an amendment to the Constitution in itself and it is not proposed to do that.