Friday, 17 December 2004
Order of Business.
Brian Hayes (Fine Gael)
On behalf of Fine Gael, I wish the Cathaoirleach, the Clerk, the Assistant Clerk and all their staff in the House a very happy Christmas. I thank them very much for all their hard work, particularly over the last three weeks, which have been difficult, since we have had to work very hard four days a week with late hours. All the amendments and papers must be produced by a very small staff under the leadership of the Clerk and the Cathaoirleach. I wish them a happy Christmas. I also wish the Leader, the other group leaders and Senators a happy Christmas.
From time to time there is some tension in the House, which is not a bad thing if it is creative. I appreciate the co-operation from the Government side to ensure that all voices in the House are heard and views recorded. In particular, I extend my best wishes to the Leader and Eamonn McCormack, who does a great amount of work behind the scenes to ensure the House operates in smooth manner. This is recognised by all parties. It is important at this time of the year that people spend time at home with their families and I wish everyone a very peaceful and happy Christmas and a good break in the Christmas spirit so that when we return in January we are ready for the next spat and beyond.
We are grateful that the Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill is not to be guillotined as it was in the other House yesterday. Deputies did not have the chance to deal with any of the amendments tabled. We are also grateful that Second Stage is to be taken separately from Committee Stage to ensure the Minister hears our views.
I must make one political point, however. We were told that the former Minister for Health and Children did not know about the potential problems that had arisen as a result of the overcharging fiasco from the Health Insurance (Amendment) Act 2001. Now we have documentary evidence that this time last year the then Minister for Health and Children met Ministers of State to discuss the issue. With a staff of 400 in the Department, one might have thought that the matter would have been raised. In fairness to the Tánaiste, she at least responded when the leader of my party, Deputy Kenny, raised the matter in the other House two months ago. However, the former Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, has been politically negligent in the way in which he has dealt with this issue.