Tuesday, 29 January 2019
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
47. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the further preparation that has been made for the various possible outcomes (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50419/18]
Question No. 47 in the name of Deputy O'Sullivan is grouped with Question No. 56 in the name of Deputy Farrell. As Deputy O'Sullivan is not present, according to Standing Orders, Deputy Farrell can pose the question.
This question has been somewhat overtaken by the publication of the heads of the Brexit Bill last week. However, I am interested in hearing about the numerous policy areas the Bill will cover in preparation for the event of Brexit. I also wish to hear the Minister's view on whether the legislation will prepare us for every eventuality, given the uncertainty in Westminster today and no doubt in the coming weeks.
I propose to take Questions Nos. 47 and 56 together.
The legislation itself is a big challenge, logistically, for this Parliament. There are nine Departments involved in contributing to the legislation, including the Department of the Taoiseach. Essentially, there will be 17 pieces of legislation in one omnibus Bill. We hope to publish the Bill on 22 February. The legal draftspeople are working overtime to try to get it done. We have given them the heads of the Bills from each of the nine Departments. What this is about is legislating for a worst case scenario where the UK leaves the EU without a deal, without proper contingency planning and without a transition period, which is what everybody wants to create the time and space to be able to put permanent solutions in place. In that scenario we must protect our own citizens in a practical way.
We must make sure that trains can continue to travel between Dublin and Belfast under a new environment because they will be travelling out of the EU into a third country and back in again. We must ensure that British students can continue to come to Irish universities in the way that they do today and that Irish students can continue to go to British universities and get the kind of financial supports that they get today. We must continue to ensure that children in Belfast who are being brought to Dublin for specialist paediatric care can continue to do that in a way that is catered for in law, and that in the same way the many patients from Donegal who go across the Border into Altnagelvin hospital will get the same kind of treatments. We must ensure that people in Ireland who get pensions that are paid for by the British Government, and people who get pensions in the UK that are paid for by the Government continue to be able to hold onto their incomes in a way that is seamless after 29 March. There are lots of practical areas to be addressed.
Secondary legislation is also required to deal with issues such as the recognition of a British driver's licence in Ireland. Those are all things we take for granted when we share a Union together, when we share a Single Market, and when we all operate to the same rules base and the same series of directives.
Given that the heads of the Bill have been published, there is a lot of meat to be put on the bones prior to having a meaningful debate on this matter. As Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs I am concerned about such issues as intercountry adoption and education. Those areas are of great interest not just to the committee but to the general public. There are concerns over the time the Government has set out for the passing of this legislation. The intention is to get it through the House in two weeks. I accept the necessity to plan in advance but I am concerned over the likelihood of full co-operation by all Members of the House in order to expedite the passage of the Bill. The Bill then has to go through the Seanad, which is an entirely different matter. It would be worthwhile to arrange for a debate on this matter on or about the 22 February or at least to have statements involving the Minister and other Ministers on the progress of this matter.
I understand that we are asking for a lot in this regard. We have asked the Business Committee to agree that we would waive pre-legislative scrutiny for this legislation. In return, I am very anxious to meet the Chairs of all the relevant committees in the areas that relate to the omnibus Bill. If necessary, we will facilitate sending officials into the committees, if Members so wish, to give full explanations and to tease out what is being proposed. We can do that in advance of the Bill being published because we know what the heads are. We can do a lot of the groundwork before 22 February so that everybody understands what is in the Bill. Much of it is straightforward but there are some more complex areas where questions will arise and Members may wish to table amendments, which we will consider. I will make myself and officials available to committee chairs and, if necessary, we can offer that the people who put the legislation together can address the committees, but what I do not want is to send the Bill to seven or eight different committees when it is published because I do not think we could complete it in the timeline that is needed.
I appreciate the Minister's response. There is nothing in the draft Bill that relates to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. That is not to say it will not affect children, especially in terms of intercountry adoption, the potential for interruption to education streams and also in healthcare. I would be interested to hear if there is a specific part of the legislation that will cover matters relating to the Department or Children and Youth Affairs or whether it will just relate to the Departments of Justice and Equality and Health. I would welcome the opportunity outlined by the Minister to meet with officials from his Department or from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to discuss the omnibus Bill.
There is a range of areas. Even though the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has not been directly involved some of the measures may impact on children. I refer, for example, to child benefit payments for people living in Northern Ireland who may have been working south of the Border, who receive payments in the North.
We could take a detailed look at the legislation and if the Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs wants to follow up it is no problem for us to provide the briefings needed.
The next item is a Topical Issue debate raised by Deputies Gino Kenny and Richard Boyd Barrett on the planned increase in value added tax, VAT, on food supplements, including vitamins. We await the arrival of a Minister.