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Social Partnership (Continued)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 1

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  5 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] Did the Taoiseach meet with the federation of organisations involved in disability for example? We learned in the past week that the Economic Management Council did not even consult with other Ministers on the budget, never mind consulting with the whole range and plethora of outside groups. What we have been told is that the last two Ministers to be told were the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, and the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly. Everything was going smoothly until they were consulted and other issues were put on the table such as the cutting of welfare rates across 31 schemes.

The National Economic and Social Council is there to facilitate dialogue. The Government is meant to be putting it on a statutory footing and getting rid of NESDO, the National Economic and Social Development Office. It seems, however, the Taoiseach is not having any proper sense or measure of the impact his Government's decisions are having on a variety of groups across society. That is why, for example, in August representatives of the Centre for Independent Living had to picket overnight outside Government Buildings. We have reached a sorry pass when people with significant physical disabilities who require assistance to live independently had to camp outside Government Buildings to get their point across. It is a sad state of affairs when we have representatives of carers outside Leinster House today complaining about an unnecessary cut to the respite grant. That cut does not have to go ahead as there are plenty of alternatives to find the €26 million involved. All of this speaks of an inadequate structure of dialogue that is not giving the Government any sense of the impact on the ground that these decisions are having. Otherwise, the Government would not have proceeded with these cuts.

It must be remembered the ESRI stated the last budget was the most unfair of the previous five. This budget is perceived as extraordinarily unfair. It taxes low incomes more than higher incomes. It cuts child benefit and, as a result, larger families on low incomes will suffer badly. It hits the jobseeker with a benefit cut after six months. It cuts prescription charges. I met a pensioner last week who told me the Government has hit him for an extra €20 a month with this particular cut. He has prescriptions for seven items and his wife is on other medication. That is the equivalent of a cut in the old age pension when the Taoiseach claims the Government has not cut old age pensions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Can we have a question, please?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Any pharmacist will tell one that many pensioners are on considerable amounts of medication, yet the Government has substantially increased their burden.

  I do not see any strategy emerging from the Government for a broad-based or fair approach to society. The absence of-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Sorry, Deputy; could you put a question?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----structured dialogue with the social partners is evident. As I asked in my question, when did the Taoiseach last meet with them? I am conscious the Taoiseach has used up 20 minutes in his replies. The pattern of Taoiseach's Question Time is how long the Taoiseach can filibuster before the rest of us can get in.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Deputy Martin has had good practice of it himself.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I will be a little quicker if Deputy Martin wants.

  The Economic Management Council is a very effective method of streamlining positions in this case. We do not want to have endless meetings taking place about different issues.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Fair enough but the Taoiseach had no discussions at all.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Minister for Social Protection has had detailed meetings and discussions with the organisations and groups who deal with those in receipt of special protection. She can also give detailed accounts of when and where these meetings took place, as well as the issues which arose. Following that, each Minister had a bilateral engagement with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform about the ceilings to be laid out and the issues to be presented in regard to their budget for 2013. It is true that following all these engagements core payments were protected, those on the minimum wage were progressed and those who are in the lowest level of employment were exempted from the universal social charge, USC. There was a real attempt made in the budget to progress the jobs agenda and employment opportunities and, to put it mildly, to focus on small and medium-sized enterprises.

Pharmacists have rung me up to tell me it was about time somebody did something about prescription charges because of the level of over-prescribing that takes place. The Minister for Health and his Department are now focusing on an analysis of general practitioner prescribing. Trends become obvious very quickly, with particular GPs in some areas continuing to prescribe enormous amounts of medication.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin That is a separate matter.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny While some of this is warranted, there are also trends which should be identified. This is an impact upon the charges and the cap that applies thereof.

  I hope that for 2013 the presentation of the budget will be much earlier. In accordance with the European progress being made here-----

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen I hope we will have a fair budget.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny -----we will have a much earlier discussion in the House about overall figures.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Will the Taoiseach give it a miss? We have heard all this for two years and it has got worse.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan We had 15 years before that with Deputy Martin.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Deputy Martin should remember we had it from his party for 12 years.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Deputy comes in here all the time claiming he, of course, could change this.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Taoiseach should look at the Order Paper for the week and then talk about debate.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny This goes back to the Deputy's business of how he signed on for a property tax, he designed it but he does not want it yet as it is not the right time to introduce it.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin We did not design it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny This is what the Deputy has been at.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Taoiseach should not mislead the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Please, Deputy.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Deputy Martin signed on for the property tax, he put it into the memorandum of understanding with the troika and suddenly he does not want it. He is now telling me these measures are easy to redesign and restructure. That is not the way. The edifice begins to crumble when one does that, a point Deputy Martin knows well.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The edifice nearly crumbled last Saturday week across there.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Deputy Martin should look at bank politics.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny There are difficult decisions to be made. I recognise that, as does everyone else, but they have to be done in the interests of the country.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Yes, but the Taoiseach does not make them.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe What about the bank guarantee?

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan We had 15 years of Deputy Martin and his party in government making no decisions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett That concludes Question Time for today. We now move on to the Order of Business.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Before we move on to the Order of Business, I want to raise a point of order.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Yes, Deputy. What is your point of order?

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams I want to make a point of order while you are in the Chair, a Cheann Comhairle, and while the Taoiseach is still in the Chamber.

  Given his defamatory remarks earlier, I want to repeat my request that the Taoiseach be asked by you, a Cheann Comhairle, to withdraw those remarks.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett What remarks are you referring to, Deputy?

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams I am referring to the remarks he made about Jean McConville and the defamatory allegation that I was in some way involved in that poor woman's death.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Unfortunately, I am not in a position to interpret what the Taoiseach did or did not say. The only thing I can suggest is that if a rule has been broken, then you must give me some time to examine the blacks so that I will know whether a rule has been broken. If so, I will take appropriate action.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams A Cheann Comhairle, can I just elaborate on my point, please? I was making a perfectly salient and pertinent point earlier about the Government's budget, particularly its effect on the carer's allowance, child benefit and other matters. Not through bad temper or a slip of the tongue, the Taoiseach made his remarks, which were quite a deliberate and cynical attempt to distract attention from these measures and to exploit the sufferings of people in the North as a means of doing that.

  Can I draw your attention, a Cheann Comhairle - he knows this better than me, if I may say so - to Standing Order 59, which states:

(1) A member shall not make an utterance in the nature of being defamatory

The Taoiseach also knows this. It continues:

and where a member makes such an utterance it may be prima facie an abuse of privilege, subject to the provisions of this Standing Order.

(2) (a) If the defamatory nature of the utterance is apparent at the time it was made during the course of proceedings, the Ceann Comhairle shall direct that the utterance be withdrawn without qualification.

I asked you twice, a Cheann Comhairle-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I ask the Deputy to go on and read the rest of the Standing Order.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams I will.

(b) If the member refuses to withdraw the utterance without qualification the Ceann Comhairle shall treat the matter as one of disorder: Provided that the member may claim that the matter be referred to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges in which case no further action shall be taken thereon by the Ceann Comhairle at that point.


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