Tuesday, 22 October 2013
Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on The One Percent Difference national giving campaign, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude no later than 5.15 p.m., with the contribution of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes, and the Minister to be called upon to reply no later than 5.10 p.m.
Will the Acting Leader ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan, to clarify whether the €10 million announced for the pyrite resolution fund will, as we are now hearing, be closer to €50 million over two years? If correct, the increased allocation is a welcome development. Will the Acting Leader also ask the Minister when he intends to publish the relevant legislation?
We got an indication last week that he intends to introduce the Bill in the Seanad. I welcome that and the progress made in this area under the tutelage of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan. I would be obliged if the Acting Leader can find out.
When will the social welfare Bill be published? It is due to be debated in the Dáil on Thursday but has not yet been published. We have heard a lot from the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Government about Oireachtas and Dáil reform but it seems that the social welfare Bill, with some of the cuts proposed, will be introduced on Thursday despite the fact that it is not published on Tuesday. I understand the Bill will be guillotined in the Dáil, with only two days of debate. I welcome the commitment of the Leader, Deputy Maurice Cummins, that no guillotine will be used in the debate on the social welfare Bill, which is due to take place in the House on 5 November. It gives an opportunity to Members to look at what is being done. Some of the proposed cuts are savage in the extreme. One need only talk to the people outside the gates of Leinster House.
I note with great interest the Government propaganda issued today about how the budget affects people. The Government researchers in the press office were able to find six people in the country that the budget did not affect. What was telling is that there is no mention in any of the examples of the cuts to the household benefits package, restrictions to the lone parents allowance, the removal of the single parent tax credit, a further reduction in medical card limits for those over 70 years of age and the removal of thousands of discretionary medical cards. I ask the Acting Leader to find out the cost to the State in producing this work of fiction circulated to every Member of the House.
Our debate on the social welfare Bill will be an honest one and I will be interested to hear people's views. There are no easy decisions. Talking about this budget being progressive is ironic. When the ESRI and the OECD examined the two previous budgets of this Government, they found them to be the most regressive of the past six tough budgets. I put it to Members that this one is even more so.
Can the Acting Leader give a commitment that, on the publication of the HSE service plan in two weeks time, a full debate will take place on it in this House? What is the figure for cuts to the health service? Is it €666 million or is it €1 billion? What are people to expect from the Government? It was unprecedented that, on the day of the budget, I warned Members opposite that the Department of Health was a timebomb waiting to go off. Can the Acting Leader tell me specifically-----
I have asked for a debate and for a commitment that, when the service plan is published, a full debate takes place with the Minister for Health in this House. What specifically is the figure for savings in the Department of Health next year? Is it €666 million, is it €1 billion or is it somewhere in the middle? We have the unprecedented situation where the Minister for Health cannot stand over his Estimates. It is incredible.
The social welfare Bill will be taken this week in the Dáil and next week in the Seanad. The Leader of the House gave a commitment that the guillotine will not be used and I am sure he will follow through on that commitment. It is a very important discussion and an important element of legislation.
I remind Senator Darragh O'Brien that the budget is taking €2.5 billion out of the economy and that does not happen easily-----
The effects were felt across the board. However, the response from those involved in business has been positive and this will contribute to the economic recovery that is under way.
I ask the Acting Leader to arrange a discussion on the issue of childhood obesity and to congratulate the Minister for Health on another initiative he undertook yesterday in leading a campaign on this issue. He presented some very chilling facts, in particular, that we were in danger of becoming the first generation to bury our own children because of the levels of obesity in society. The Irish Heart Foundation has been strong on this issue. Two out of every five Irish adults are overweight, while one in three children is overweight or at risk of becoming obese. These figures have been known for a long time and we need to take action now. The billboard and poster advertising campaign is welcome. I suggest the House support the Irish Heart Foundation, the Minister for Health and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in their efforts to tackle the levels of obesity.
It is welcome that the Taoiseach is coming to the House tomorrow. I hope it will be the start of a very useful dialogue on the future of the House. As the dust settles, some issues about the referendum require to be addressed. How did the opinion polls get it so completely wrong? I saw result predictions at figures of 44% to 27%, 62% to 38%, 64% to 36%, 59% to 41% and that only 29% of people in urban areas supported the continuation of this House when, in fact, some constituencies recorded percentages double that figure. There was a prediction that only 24% of people in rural areas supported the continuation of this House when, in fact, the percentage was more than double that figure. I ask the Acting Leader if we could have a professor of statistics investigate what went wrong in the opinion polls. The danger to democracy is that these predictions could have seriously demoralised the "No" campaign. They led to a series of articles based on incorrect opinion poll findings. These were spin-doctored articles, with people saying that during the canvass they had struggled to find anyone in favour of keeping the Seanad. The articles were based on faulty opinion polls which failed to find 52% of the population. The credibility of market research in Ireland is at risk because of this research. The House and the Government deserve an explanation as the Government is significant when it comes to commissioning opinion polls.
I also note with great caution commentators who effectively asked people to spoil their ballot papers by writing the word "Reform" on them. This could have resulted in the country getting the exact opposite result. We must ensure this does not happen in future referendums. The country holds the most referendums of any country, apart from Switzerland and Italy. The conduct of referendums and related opinion polls deserve some thought as we plan for future alterations of the Constitution.
I welcome the ruling in the challenge taken against the children rights referendum result. I ask the Acting Leader if she will at some stage organise for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to come to the House as there is much speculation about the cost of water charges. The mayor of Killarney said yesterday that people would have to pay €600 and change their water meter every five years. I can neither confirm nor deny this information because we simply do not know.
It is time and people have a right to know what to expect with water charges, and they must budget for them. The introduction of water charges has been flagged for a long time and there has been ample time to formulate the charges. Will the Minister come to the House or could we get word from the regulator so we can have a debate on the issue? He could advise us how he intends to introduce water charges.
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business, that No. 13 be taken before No. 1 today. A child has been found in a Roma camp in Dublin in what is a serious issue, and I commend the Garda Síochána for being so active in this regard and observing that the child is possibly not from the family with which she lives. Child trafficking is a serious crime, which leads to trauma, worries, concern, grief and despair in families which lose a child in that way. It cannot be comprehended. Authorities are now seeking the parents of the child found in Greece, and perhaps everyone should be on alert, in a sense, as this issue could be far more widespread than people realise. I hope that if the child was abducted, she will be returned to her rightful family. I hope we can bring an end to this type of criminal trafficking. A particular community seems to be involved in these cases but it is not the only one involved in the matter. This is a serious crime that occurs throughout the world so we must be very observant. Parents are worried and concerned about children and we should all look out to see who is accompanying certain families when they tour around the country.
I recall him asking Charlie McCreevy - Champagne Charlie - for €1 billion for the health service but he was told to reform it. He never bothered and now the task falls to Deputy Reilly, who is working very hard to do so.
Senator O'Brien mentioned the replacement of the one-parent family credit with the single person child care credit from 1 January next year. The unintended consequence of this measure is to discriminate against separated fathers, as the designated principal carer is usually the mother, and I have no problem with that. The measure does not recognise the increasing role played by fathers in the care of children, regardless of designation. We spent a weekend at the Constitutional Convention speaking about the role of women in public life and we want to see that recalibrated. We heard female Deputies say this week that the insertion in the Constitution of the "special place" of women in the home was insulting. The necessary recalibration should bring about an increasing recognition of the role of fathers in private life.
I have spoken with the Minister for Finance about the matter and we could table amendments to the Finance Bill to have this provision examined to explore the division of the credit, or it could be shared in some way.
I hope we can look at that during the debate on the Finance Bill.
I second Senator Leyden's amendment.
I also propose an amendment to the Order of Business, that the Minister for Health come to the House today to give an explanation as to the current budget deficit in his Department and the budget for the year ahead. The level of uncertainty is unacceptable. Last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I mentioned in the House that it was difficult to see €666 million as the figure for savings and in all likelihood it would be €1 billion. This was picked up in the national media over the weekend and we have since called for the Minister's resignation. There have been umpteen calls over the years for his resignation because of his headless chicken approach to managing our health service. In the past number of days, it has been suggested in the media that a secret meeting took place in advance of the budget during which the Minister sought an additional €1 billion, which did not include the €666 million in proposed savings or the budget deficit. In his Department in a €2 billion hole?
Let us look at this from a business perspective. Intel is similar to the HSE in size with 104,000 employees and €14 billion in income. If the chief executive officer of Intel said, "I don't know how far out of budget I am this year. I think I need €1 billion. My accountants think I have to save an additional €1 billion next year", what would the company's shareholders think? Would they think they have an incompetent on their hands?
I will get to my question momentarily. Fianna Fáil is claiming all sorts this week and creating hysteria about medical cards. This the same party with the same faces and voices who tried to take them away a few years ago. It is hard to take all of this on a continual basis.
On a more positive note, I compliment the Minister on the child obesity initiative. A good advertising campaign is under way. The more emphasis that can be placed on this important area, the better.
It seems to me that it is a very good advertisement campaign so far.
The more emphasis that can be placed on this very important area, the better. Senator Clune already alluded to the statistics on that. As she said, billboards and advertising are a very effective way of reaching adults who are responsible for the diet of young children. I suggest that we have a debate on childhood obesity, perhaps even as a public consultation. The issue has been discussed in the Joint Committee on Health and Children. It would be something that could be done in the form of a public consultation. It has been very usefully done with alcohol and cancer and it is something that could be brought to the attention of the Leader to organise.
No, for the budget. Because without the €405 million from the lottery, there would be no budget. That is what the Government got from Camelot and An Post for the lottery licence - €405 million. Over the past 25 years the lottery has made €12,000 million and every year it has given €232 million after it has paid out to good causes. Camelot got the lottery on the cheap for €405 million. That is what paid for the budget because, first, that is going to pay for a start to the children's hospital, and second, other projects such as the better energy one and the city of culture in Limerick, which I am pleased about, things in Cork, projects including a sports arena and the Atlantic way drive. The lottery created the budget. We do not know how much of the €405 million we will have to pay back in interest. I cannot get the information.
I am. First, I want a Minister to come to the House to answer the question. As I listened to the budget I felt as if I was becoming like a larger lemon every five minutes because we gave €10 million to Priory Hall, which was the right thing to do for those people who were in that situation, but in spite of all the Priory Halls and ghost estates around the country, not one builder, county councillor, planner, architectural firm, engineering firm or anyone else has been brought to book. Not one person has been made responsible yet the aged community are outside the Dáil and we are asking them on a daily basis to take decreases and cuts. How do we consider that to be fair play? They have not seen one example of justice. I would like a Minister to come to the House to tell me how the people who have created the situation where cuts are taken from 80 year olds and 90 year olds - cuts to their pension, lifestyle, telephone allowance and electricity - can do so. How could one ask people to do that and to take any form of cut when we have not yet brought to book the people who brought the situation about? I would like some Ministers to come to the House to answer that question.
I second Senator MacSharry's amendment. I wish to ask the Leader what happened the Protected Disclosures Bill that was due to be discussed on Report Stage today. It was deleted from the schedule without any reference to the Whips, or certainly not to the spokespersons. I do not think that is appropriate.
I wish to refer to the glossy brochure that landed in our pigeon holes today. Senators Darragh O'Brien and MacSharry have already referred to it. I understand that it is printed by the Department of Finance on the finest of cardboard. It reminds me of the Department of Finance's budget this year for post and telephones. It was increased in the Estimates by 33%. While the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, is getting an increase of 33% in his telephone bills, pensioners have to do with nothing. That is the essential problem with the Government's approach. It is completely unfair. The only people who have been asked to give in the budget are the poorest and most vulnerable in society. Those approaching the top have been asked to contribute nothing. While the brochure refers to fairness, the only way the Government can get the figures to add up to show that budgets have been fair is by, as it said itself, going back to 2009 to the Fianna Fáil budgets.
That is written in the leaflet the Government produced. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly confirmed last week that Fianna Fáil budgets had been fair. He was a little slow coming to the conclusion considering that the ESRI had been stating it since the current Government had taken power. We really should have a full debate on the issue of fairness.
The most recent budget and its two predecessors have been completely unfair. Consider the pension levy, for example. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, slipped it in and blamed the pensions industry. The 0.15% deduction from pension funds will mean a cost of €120 a year for somebody on a pension of €5,000. That is what it will mean in practice. Somebody who worked in Tara Mines and has a pension of only €5,000 will face a cut of €2.40 a week. That is completely unfair. For somebody on a pension of €15,000 in 2015, it will mean a cut of €810. That is the reality of the policy the Government is proposing. It is letting the wealthy and those who can take cuts off with nothing. They are being asked to make no contribution whatsoever. There is no contribution to which Members opposite can point that they have been asked to make. When we were in government, we asked them to make a contribution as we made cuts affecting everybody proportionate to their means. All the studies show this.
We need a debate on the issue of fairness. The Labour Party has failed abysmally in the fairness test. Its members may boast, as they have been doing, about €37 million being set aside for childhood GP cards, but the Government is taking €390 million through increased charges in respect of medical cards. That is not fair. I reiterate a point with which the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, agreed some days ago, that is, that the budget adjustment is €3.1 billion, not €2.5 billion. It is about time the Labour Party copped on to this.
We had a budget dealing with nursing home charges that had to be refunded. It amounted to €500 million. That sum would be very handy if it did not have to be refunded. However, because there was a failure by successive Ministers to deal with the issue and no legislation in place to deal with the matter properly, the money was refunded. The leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Micheál Martin, was a Minister when in 2001 the then Ombudsman, Ms Emily O'Reilly, advised him there was a need for action to be taken. No action was taken until the matter was taken to the courts.
Senator Marc MacSharry should note that the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, was at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Health and Children for three hours last week and anyone who wanted to raise questions could do so. Issues were raised and the Minister dealt with them. It is not the case that he is not available to Members as he is available at the committee, at which he must turn up. He does turn up and deals with the issues raised. At a meeting of the committee I raised an issue about which I am concerned, namely, the €3.4 billion in the health budget paid to non-HSE organisations. Some have section 38 status whereby all the rules in regard to pay and conditions must comply with HSE standards. Some money, however, is being paid to organisations that fall under section 39 and the same set of rules does not apply. I am being advised that a CEO in one of these organisations is earning over €340,000 a year, which is in excess of the money earned by the Taoiseach, the Minister or anyone else in the country. It is taxpayers' money. Any organisation receiving money from the Department of Health or the HSE should now declare openly what its chief executive officer is earning and the proportion of this salary coming directly from the HSE.
When criticism is deserved, like others, I give it, but, by God, when it is not deserved, I will defend the person being criticised. What was said in the media over the weekend against the Minister was nothing short of a scandal. People should begin to realise that we all have responsibilities as Members of the Oireachtas to do the right thing.
Governments do not always get it right. More often than not, they get it wrong.
When an effort is being made to do things right, people should appreciate it.
I agree with Senator O’Donnell that we need to see people, not just in the construction sector such as engineers and architects who signed off on bad buildings, but also the bankers brought to book. Will the Minister for Justice and Equality update the House as to how the investigations into bringing some of these bankers to court are going? The people are looking for answers and for those responsible to be held accountable for the mess in which we find ourselves today.
Will the Acting Leader ask the Minister for Education and Skills when he intends to sign the commencement order for the Further Education and Training Act 2013? It is important it is commenced as soon as possible in light of the cut of €45 to unemployment benefit for young people in the budget. It is also important that the proper moneys are given for training courses to be provided for those vulnerable young people affected by this cut, as per the Government’s policy, and that they are not forced to emigrate.
I agree with Senator O’Donnell on the €405 million the Government will realise from the sale of the national lottery licence which I regard as an important national asset. While the money is welcome, we got a bad deal. Some €405 million over 20 years is not an acceptable amount of money. While it is portrayed by the Government as a good price, I do not believe it is and we should be looking to get more for this important national asset.
Will the Acting Leader ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to inform the House if he has any more concerns about the horsemeat scandal from earlier this year? I raise this because today's edition of The Guardian newspaper reported further allegations and information relating to this scandal. It stated how meat used in the process was so old it was sometimes green while the workers tied towels around their faces to stop themselves being sick. In a report I did many years ago, the same allegations were made about beef.
We must remember that during the horsemeat scandal an assurance was given that the meat used was fit to eat. It now appears from The Guardian report that this is not the case. One of the suppliers was arrested for smuggling cannabis into Northern Ireland in his horsemeat lorries. The horses he transported here and subsequently used in the production of burgers were unfit for human consumption being unwell with ailments such as chest infections and sepsis. There are serious allegations raised in The Guardian. Has the Minister any more information on this scandal? The article suggests there is more information available and more will come out.
We all want to see a world-class health service with all our citizens having the best possible health facilities available to them. All Members know well, however, the mess the Minister inherited two and a half years ago. We know the monolith that was the Health Service Executive.
We know the budgetary situation he faced. He is a reforming Minister who is doing a good job and we need to be supportive of him at this difficult time. Some of the commentary in the media is absolutely over the top.
I do and it is totally unrelated. To put things in perspective let us consider the appalling situation in Syria with the plight of children dying of starvation in some of the besieged towns. Will the Acting Leader organise for the Tánaiste to come to the House to update us on the situation? We all read in the newspapers that medicines and aid supplies are being prevented from getting to the most deprived and suffering people. The relief agencies are doing an amazing job in appalling circumstances but they are fighting a losing battle. There is a lack of urgency among the international community to get this crisis resolved. The death toll continues to rise and more refugees are moving to the surrounding countries. The crisis is of enormous proportions. More than 100,000 people have died so far and several million citizens have been displaced. We have not had a conversation with the Tánaiste in the House in recent times on the matter or with the Minister of State, Deputy Costello. I ask the Acting Leader to organise this debate. We are heading into winter and it is quite likely there will be significant loss of life in the coming months. As a sovereign country and a member of the European Community, it is incumbent on us to up the ante and heighten pressure on other significant members of the international community to do something significant in Syria.
Senator O'Brien asked a range of specific questions. In response to his first question on pyrite legislation, I agree it is welcome it is being introduced in the Seanad. I am delighted and we should all put pressure on Ministers to do this as much as possible. It is very good to have comprehensive debate here before the legislation goes to the Dáil. I am told it will be before Christmas but we do not have a specific date yet. The social welfare Bill will be in our pigeonholes tomorrow morning. The conduct of business in the Dáil is a matter for that House but the Leader, Senator Cummins, has given an undertaking the Bill will not be guillotined when it comes to this House and I am sure he will hold to it as we all wish him to.
I understand the House will begin to consider the Bill on 5 November. We will have all of next week in addition to the remainder of this week to prepare for the debate. I know it will be an honest and robust debate, but given it must be so it is important we remember the facts of the budget. We have had a huge amount of spin and hyperbole from the other side which is hard to take. To respond in a factual and objective manner, basic social welfare rates were preserved, there was no increase in income tax and, it is fair to say, for the vast majority, particularly hard-pressed families and the squeezed middle, as it is often referred to, the budget has not had an adverse financial impact and this is a fair point.
I ask the Opposition, which speaks of a fiction of figures prepared, to be aware of some of the factual and objective findings. This week I saw the findings of a study by the OECD on the progressive nature of the Irish tax system in which 19% of tax is paid by the top 1% of earners, 41% of tax is paid-----
Senator O'Brien also asked about the HSE and the figure for cuts in health. As he is aware, the health service savings target for next year is €666 million, which is set out in the 2014 Estimates. The HSE must prepare and adopt its 2014 national service plan for submission to the Minister for Health within 21 days of the publication by the Government of the Estimates for supplied services for 2014, which is Tuesday, 5 November.
The national service plan must indicate the type and volume of health and personal social services that the HSE will provide during 2014. Clearly, what is involved here is much more difficult than preparing an ordinary business plan. Some rather ridiculous comparisons were made by those on the opposite side of the House in this regard.
Let us examine some objective facts. The population of the State has increased by 8%, the proportion of persons aged 65 and over is increasing by over 20%, there has been a €3.3 billion reduction in the HSE's budget since 2008 and a cut of 10%, or 11,000, in the number of health service staff and a 3%-----
Senator MacSharry may not wish to listen to the facts but Senator Darragh O'Brien asked me some questions and I am trying to provide a fair response. I suggest that Senator MacSharry consider the figures. This year alone there has been a 3% increase-----
On a point of order, it is my understanding that the House passed a motion to the effect that the Order of Business should take precedence over attendance at certain committees. I call on Senator Colm Burke to withdraw his last statement. The Senator might have taken time to correct the record in respect of the factually incorrect press releases issued by Deputy Harris in respect of my attendance at the meetings of the Joint Committee on Health and Children.
Without wishing to speak for Senator Colm Burke, I believe he was suggesting that persons who wished to put questions to the Minister for Health might have posed them during the three-hour meeting of the joint committee which took place last week.
I am trying to provide answers to the questions posed earlier. Among the facts provided by the Minister for Health to the Lower House is that which indicates that the HSE is being obliged to cope with a demographic challenge relating to the increase in population. The latter is, of course, additional to the challenged posed by our economic situation. As the Minister, Deputy Reilly has pointed out, in this year alone there has been a 3% increase in admissions to accident and emergency departments. I am of the view that everyone will accept that circumstances of this nature are extremely difficult to budget for. The Minister is presiding over an unprecedented reform programme. Perhaps Senator MacSharry might want to listen when I inform him that last week I referred to changes to hospital governance in anticipation of the roll-out of universal health insurance and the end of the inequitable two-tier health system. The Government is committed to this and the Minister and his Department have been working on it. Many colleagues are not aware of that fact. On previous occasions I asked the Leader to allow the House to debate the progress that has been made towards the roll-out of universal health insurance.
I did not hear the matter being mentioned at last week's meeting of the Joint Committee on Health and Children. I did not hear an answer being provided at that forum by either Tony O'Brien or the Minister. They did not have a clue from where the figures came.
The Acting Leader should show respect to the people outside the gate who are asking whether the cutbacks in health will amount to €666 million, €1 billion or €2 billion, and how the figure of €113 million was devised.
One of the strengths on which we in this House have always prided ourselves is that we conduct debate in a respectful and courteous manner. In fairness to Senator Darragh O'Brien, he has listened courteously as I tried to respond fairly to the questions he asked. I cannot say the same for all of his colleagues. I ask Members to treat whoever is standing in the Leader's position with the respect that position should be accorded and in line with the rules of the House.
Senator Clune referred to the childhood obesity campaign and called for a debate on the issue. Such a debate certainly would be worth having. Senator Catherine Noone raised the same issue and suggested it might be a matter for the Seanad Public Consultation Committee. I agree that it would be a useful follow-up to the previous debate and the report we produced on lifestyle and cancer issues.
Senator Barrett made several timely points regarding opinion polls and how wrong they can be in the context of referendum campaigns. There is clearly a good deal of work to be done in terms of determining what changed in the week between the final opinion polls and the holding of the referendum to abolish the Seanad, or whether the opinion polls themselves were flawed. This House has a proud tradition of spotting flaws in legislation on opinion polls and stopping that legislation from going forward. On the issue of spoiling ballot papers, while people writing in newspapers can advocate anything they like, I agree with the Senator regarding the importance of educating people as to what can count as a spoilt vote and that anything written on a ballot paper may jeopardise the counting of that paper.
I join Senator Moloney in welcoming the ruling on the referendum on children's rights. The Senator also asked that the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan, be invited to the House for a debate on water charges. The Minister will be here this afternoon for statements on The One Percent Difference campaign, but we can certainly seek to arrange a debate on water charges in the future.
Senator Leyden proposed an amendment to the Order of Business that No. 13 be taken before No. 1. I am happy to agree to that proposal.
I agree with the Senator's comments in support of efforts by the Garda Síochána to combat child trafficking.
Senator Jim D'Arcy called for a debate on the one-parent family credit changes and referred to a potential unintended consequence thereof in the form of discrimination against a particular group. I agree with the Senator's comments, particularly in the context of the recent debate at the Constitutional Convention on the need to re-calibrate the role of women to take account of the increasingly strong caring roles being taken by fathers. I absolutely agree that anything which impedes that progress would be troubling. A debate on these issues is timely in a context where couples, even after separation, are dividing up child care responsibility in a very different way from what was common in the past.
I have already responded to Senator MacSharry. Senator Noone referred to the childhood obesity initiative, which I covered.
Senator O'Donnell raised the sale of the national lottery licence. That sale, and the money it generated, has had a strong impact on the budget. The measures the Senator referred to, including progress on the development of the national children's hospital and initiatives such as the City of Culture, are job creation initiatives and it is very important that funding be provided for them. We have had several opportunities to debate the awarding of the national lottery licence with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, but we certainly can seek another debate.
Senator O'Donnell also spoke of the failure to bring to book anybody who played a part in bringing about the economic crisis. That is an ongoing issue which has been raised by many speakers in this House.
Senator Conway made the same point more generally with reference to bankers. As we know, trials are pending against certain individuals involved in the former Anglo Irish Bank, but I certainly agree that the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement must be facilitated with any resources necessary to ensure prosecutions are brought for the type of conduct that led to Priory Hall and so on. It should be noted, however, that the investigation and prosecution authorities of the State are independent of the Legislature. Senator Conway called for the Minister for Justice and Equality to give us an update on investigations, but I am not sure whether that would be appropriate. It would be appropriate, however, for the Minister to outline the State's machinery of enforcement and the resources provided for that purpose.
Senator Thomas Byrne referred to the Protected Disclosures Bill. The amended schedule of business for this week was circulated last Sunday, which gave adequate notice to Members. I presume the Bill simply was not ready to go to Report Stage, but I am sure we will have it in due course.
The Senator also raised issues relating to the budget. We will have plenty of time to discuss those issues in the context of the debate on the social welfare Bill and so on. We have already had some debate on the budget. There have been plenty of measures in this and previous budgets which have impacted on the higher paid, and rightly so. We are seeing some signs of confidence returning, with two years of growth and the creation of 34,000 jobs in the past 12 months.
There is no apology for focusing on job creation in this as in previous budgets.
Senator Colm Burke pointed out that the Minister for Health had attended a meeting of the Joint Committee on Health and Children for three and half hours last week. He also referred to the health budget allocated to non-HSE bodies. That topic is worthy of debate.
Senator Martin Conway referred to the lack of accountability. We might have the Minister for Justice and Equality in the Chamber to speak about enforcement mechanisms.
With regard to the comments of Senator Diarmuid Wilson, I can check the commencement dates for the Further Education and Training Bill, but any delay in the commencement of the Bill should not delay the introduction of training places for young people. Funding has been put aside in the budget and there is a commitment to the youth guarantee to ensure there are sufficient further education and training places available.
Senator Susan O'Keeffe referred to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the horsemeat scandal. The Minister will attend tomorrow for a wide-ranging debate and statements on the Common Agriculture Policy. The alarming findings of the horsemeat scandal can be put to him.
Senator Michael Mullins referred to the need for a debate on the situation in Syria. We will ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to attend the House for a debate on that topic which a number of Senators have requested. The conditions in which children and civilians are living are appalling. I understand the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade will attend the Chamber on Thursday morning for some of the debate on the EU Scrutiny and Transparency in Government Bill.
An amendment was proposed by Senator Marc MacSharry and seconded by Senator Thomas Byrne, but I cannot agree to it.
Senator Terry Leyden has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 13 be taken before No. 1." The Deputy Leader has indicated that she is prepared to accept the amendment. Is the amendment agreed to? Agreed.
Senator Marc MacSharry has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That the Minister for Health come to the House today to give an explanation for the current budget deficit in his Department and the budget for the year ahead." Is the amendment being pressed?
- Sean Barrett
- Thomas Byrne
- Terry Leyden
- Marc MacSharry
- Trevor Ó Clochartaigh
- Brian Ó Domhnaill
- Labhrás Ó Murchú
- Darragh O'Brien
- Ned O'Sullivan
- Averil Power
- Feargal Quinn
- Diarmuid Wilson
- Ivana Bacik
- Terry Brennan
- Colm Burke
- Deirdre Clune
- Michael Comiskey
- Martin Conway
- Jim D'Arcy
- Aideen Hayden
- Lorraine Higgins
- John Kelly
- Denis Landy
- Fiach MacConghail
- Marie Maloney
- Michael Mullins
- Hildegarde Naughton
- Catherine Noone
- Mary Ann O'Brien
- Marie Louise O'Donnell
- Susan O'Keeffe
- Pat O'Neill
- Jillian van Turnhout
- John Whelan
- Ivana Bacik
- Terry Brennan
- Colm Burke
- Deirdre Clune
- Michael Comiskey
- Martin Conway
- Jim D'Arcy
- Aideen Hayden
- Lorraine Higgins
- John Kelly
- Denis Landy
- Fiach MacConghail
- Marie Maloney
- Michael Mullins
- Hildegarde Naughton
- Catherine Noone
- Mary Ann O'Brien
- Marie Louise O'Donnell
- Susan O'Keeffe
- Pat O'Neill
- Jillian van Turnhout
- John Whelan
- Katherine Zappone