Tuesday, 5 February 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Today's business shall be No. 13, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the agreement between the member states of the European Union on the status of forces and of the NATO Partnership for Peace status of forces agreement, subject to the respective reservations, back from committee; No. 14, motion re Ireland's participation in a European Defence Agency project – military search capability building, referral to committee; and No. 1, Greyhound Racing Bill 2018 [Seanad] - Second Stage. Private Members' business shall be No. 213, motion re JobPath, selected by Sinn Féin.
Wednesday’s business shall be No. 35, statements on CervicalCheck; No. 11, European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2019 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; No. 1, Greyhound Racing Bill 2018 [Seanad] - Second Stage and No. 2, Companies (Amendment) Bill 2019 [Seanad] - Second Stage. Private Members' business shall be No. 214, motion re a fair start for every child, selected by the Labour Party.
Thursday's business shall be No. 36, statements on the fourth interim report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, and No. 2, Companies (Amendment) Bill 2019 [Seanad] - Second Stage. Thursday evening's business shall be No. 15, motion re report on tackling childhood obesity – Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs.
I refer to the first revised report of the Business Committee of 4 February 2019. In relation to today's business, it is proposed that No. 13 shall conclude within 85 minutes and that speeches shall be confined to a Minister or a Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, which shall not exceed ten minutes each, with a five minute response from a Minister or a Minister of State, and all Members may share time; and that No. 14 shall conclude within 45 minutes and that speeches shall be confined to a Minister or a Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, which shall not exceed five minutes each, with a five minute response from a Minister or a Minister of State and all Members may share time. Private Members' business shall take place at 8 p.m. or at the conclusion of No. 14, whichever is the later, for two hours and the Dáil shall adjourn at conclusion of Private Members' business.
In relation to Wednesday’s business, it is proposed that there shall be no oral questions to the Taoiseach and that the sos, in accordance with Standing Order 25(1), shall take place at the conclusion of questions on promised legislation; that No. 35 shall conclude within two hours and that the statements of a Minister or a Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, shall not exceed ten minutes each. Following the statements, each party or group shall have five minutes each which shall consist of alternating questions and answers, with a five minute response from a Minister or a Minister of State and all Members may share time.
In relation to Thursday's business, it is proposed that, in relation to No. 36, the statements of a Minister or a Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, shall not exceed ten minutes each and that the statement of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes each, with a five minute response from a Minister or a Minister of State and all Members may share time.
No. It would be a gross dereliction of its responsibility for the House to fail to discuss the nurses' strike this week. In the pelting rain this morning every nurse to whom I spoke expressed repeatedly his or her disbelief and fury at the failure of the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health to listen to the reasons nurses were striking and engage with them.
I do not believe the House should compound the failure of the Government to engage with the nurses, listen to them and actually discuss the issues that have led them out on strike-----
It is why we need a debate. We need a full debate precisely because of what the nurses are saying that nobody is actually talking about the issues that have led them out on strike. If the Taoiseach wants to resolve it and the House wants to take its responsibility in trying to resolve it, it has to discuss the details of what is going on-----
Two items were raised and they are being discussed this week. The Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, will be here tomorrow to debate CervicalCheck and there will also be a debate on Thursday on the mother and baby homes. The Minister will take Question Time today and be before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health tomorrow for a number of hours where I am sure this issue will be raised.
I do not think that is enough. It is not serious enough in the face of what is going on. The nurses do not want to be out. If the Taoiseach is serious about ending the dispute, we need to thrash out the issues fully.
I have answered several questions about the nurses strike already today and I am sure I will answer more in the coming days. The Minister for Health will be here to answer questions in the afternoon. He will also go before the health committee tomorrow. There will be ample opportunities to make speeches and statements on the strike, but it will not be resolved here. It can only be resolved through engagement at the Workplace Relations Commission-----
-----the Business Committee, of which Deputy Boyd Barrett is a member, last year agreed to a protocol for dealing with industrial disputes. One of the provisos where a debate was requested was that it would not happen when an Oireachtas committee was already considering the issue. Our understanding is the Oireachtas committee will deal with it in the morning. If it does not do so, the Deputy will be quite in order to come back and say we need to have a debate, but my understanding is that is what the committee will do in the morning.
Maria Bailey, Pat Breen, Colm Brophy, Richard Bruton, Catherine Byrne, Ciarán Cannon, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Michael Creed, Michael D'Arcy, John Deasy, Regina Doherty, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Alan Farrell, Charles Flanagan, Simon Harris, Martin Heydon, Heather Humphreys, Paul Kehoe, Seán Kyne, Josepha Madigan, Joe McHugh, Tony McLoughlin, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Kevin Moran, Eoghan Murphy, Tom Neville, Michael Noonan, Kate O'Connell, Fergus O'Dowd, John Paul Phelan, Michael Ring, Noel Rock, Shane Ross, Leo Varadkar, Katherine Zappone.
Gerry Adams, Richard Boyd Barrett, John Brady, John Brassil, Declan Breathnach, Tommy Broughan, James Browne, Pat Buckley, Mary Butler, Thomas Byrne, Dara Calleary, Pat Casey, Shane Cassells, Jack Chambers, Lisa Chambers, Joan Collins, Michael Collins, Niall Collins, Catherine Connolly, Barry Cowen, David Cullinane, John Curran, Clare Daly, Dessie Ellis, Martin Ferris, Michael Fitzmaurice, Peter Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Pat Gallagher, Seán Haughey, Michael Healy-Rae, Brendan Howlin, Billy Kelleher, Alan Kelly, Martin Kenny, John Lahart, Marc MacSharry, Catherine Martin, Micheál Martin, Charlie McConalogue, Mary Lou McDonald, Mattie McGrath, Denise Mitchell, Aindrias Moynihan, Imelda Munster, Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, Catherine Murphy, Eugene Murphy, Paul Murphy, Darragh O'Brien, Jim O'Callaghan, Willie O'Dea, Fiona O'Loughlin, Louise O'Reilly, Jan O'Sullivan, Eoin Ó Broin, Éamon Ó Cuív, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Maurice Quinlivan, Anne Rabbitte, Brendan Ryan, Eamon Ryan, Eamon Scanlon, Róisín Shortall, Bríd Smith, Niamh Smyth, Brian Stanley, Peadar Tóibín, Robert Troy, Mick Wallace.
As I indicated earlier, the Minister is to take oral parliamentary questions today and will be before a committee tomorrow for a number of hours. He will also attend the Dáil for statements on CervicalCheck. I propose that we defer to next week the oral parliamentary questions to the Minister which were to occur this week.
While it is correct to say that the Order of Business has not received the approval of the House, nonetheless the rationale for that is to facilitate a debate on the nurses' dispute. I propose that we continue our activity in the order specified, Taoiseach's Questions and so on, and that the Business Committee would meet to reorder the schedule for the remaining days to accommodate a debate on the nurses' dispute.
I agree with Deputy Martin's proposal with one caveat. I am opposed to the removal of questions to the Minister for Health. Deputies have a range of health issues and are waiting for answers to them. I ask the Business Committee not to alter the parliamentary questions and to fit the health debate into another slot.
I propose that we have a meeting of the Business Committee immediately after this Order of Business and we will come back to the House with a proposal arising out of that. Is the proposal for dealing with Wednesday's business agreed to?
Today is Safe Internet Day. Many significant issues arise from the advent of technology. A Cybersafe Ireland survey published today presents worrying and interesting statistics that simply cannot be ignored by policymakers and Government. It confirms that four out of five children own a smartphone and almost half of these children are in contact with adults they do not know and are playing games with people aged more than 18 years. The games contain sex and violence. A recent report by the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, indicated that nine year olds who own a smartphone are potentially weaker at reading than their peers who do not.
The Irish Primary Principals Network called last month for a national policy on smartphone ownership for schoolgoing children. A White Paper on this issue will be published next month in the United Kingdom and there is already a commitment there to introduce a planned compulsory code of conduct. There are issues there. Will the Taoiseach outline the plans under the programme for Government for providing a digital commissioner? Does the Government plan to introduce a code of conduct here to protect children as much as possible?
We have debated the issue of a digital safety commissioner at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment. It was agreed there that I would seek legal advice on the definition of "harmful material" because there is a category the committee wants to identify, harmful but not unlawful. There is no definition in the existing Bill and there are variants on this. The challenge for us is to find a robust set of definitions of what is harmful for the purpose of setting up the code and an enforcement method for take down. I am working with the Attorney General to develop proposals in that area to bring back to the committee.
Last year I raised with the Taoiseach the scandalous interest rates being charged by licensed moneylenders who can charge up to 187%. On Monday, Amigo Loans – I kid you not – Amigo Loans, which I raised before with the Taoiseach, started lending here. It is licensed by the Central Bank to charge interest rates of up to 49.9%. It specifically targets people who have a poor credit history. It is daylight robbery and highlights once more the urgent need to cap interest rates as part of wide-ranging reform of the regulation of moneylenders.
In December an Teachta Pearse Doherty introduced the Consumer Credit (Amendment) Bill 2018 which would place a cap on the rates moneylenders could charge. The Government opposed the Bill, which was disgraceful, despite the Taoiseach's assurance that he would examine any legislation brought forward. The Bill passed Second Stage regardless. Will the Taoiseach now accept that legislation is badly needed? Will he move to get it on the Statute Book as soon as possible?
The Deputy will be aware that her party's legislation proposes that lenders be allowed to charge interest at a rate of 36% a year. That is a very high interest rate, but it seems to be Sinn Féin's proposal. The difficulty we have in setting any maximum interest rate, whether it be 36% or another figure, lies in the risk that doing so would drive people towards moneylenders. We need to bear in mind that if people cannot access credit on the market, it is very likely they will find other moneylenders who will provide it illegally.