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Order of Business (Continued)

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 5

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The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The Houses of the Oireachtas Commission (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill will provide for a reduction of 10% in the amount allocated to the Houses of the Oireachtas to do its business. The amount for the previous three years was €360 million and this will be reduced to €324 million, a cut of 10% or €36 million. Compared to the three years prior to that again, it is a reduction of almost 20% from €393 million to €324 million. It represents, therefore, a significant reduction in the money allocated for the running of the Houses. I understand from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform that many of the individual measures will require statutory instruments and there is a procedure in the House under which any Member or party can address particular measures if they wish.

With regard to the issue of homelessness, the Government made it clear from the outset that one of our priorities was to ensure as far as possible that people would not lose their homes during this recession and to give effect to that, we passed this week the personal insolvency legislation, which will radically amend the legislation governing insolvency and put in place a range of non-judicial settlement arrangements for people who are in difficulty with their mortgages. All of this is aimed at ensuring people will not lose their homes. Homelessness is being addressed by the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, and I am sure she would be happy to answer detailed questions that may be put to her on that.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I refer to newspaper reports over the past few days about European Court of Justice, ECJ, fines. We dealt with this issue under the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012. I thought by introducing the legislation and putting charges and registrations fees on people the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government had dealt with the ECJ issue. We now find we have the worst of all worlds. We have enacted a Bill but we will have to pay the fines as well. Have we any clout in Europe?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett It sounds like a parliamentary question to me.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It is an important issue. The Ceann Comhairle is in good spirits this morning and I want to keep it that way if I can but it is a serious matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I know that.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath People will register their septic tanks and I welcome the limited grants scheme.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett This is the Order of Business. I cannot help the Deputy.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Under the Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2011, the fines were supposed to have been addressed when it was enacted but now we are being fined.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The ECJ imposed fines on Ireland in a judgment issued yesterday in respect of the county's non-compliance with matters relating to septic tanks. That was something that went back over a period of ten years when a party of which the Deputy was then a member and that he supported for a long period-----

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath We all use the tanks.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore These fines related to the period when the party and Government the Deputy supported was in office and did not address the problem of septic tanks.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The Tánaiste is not entering into the spirit the Ceann Comhairle asked for.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The Government has addressed the issue of septic tanks------

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Is the Government still paying the fines?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore -----which will mean that we will not be liable to be fined in the future. However, the fact that we were fined because of inaction in the past demonstrates the wisdom of the Government introducing the legislation relating to septic tanks, which the Deputy has been going around the country claiming should not be done. The ECJ has shown what would have continued to happen if it was not addressed.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The Government was going to solve it all.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin We have.

Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon Zoom on James Bannon Given the number of stories about the level of crime and corruption hitting the headlines on a daily basis, when will the criminal justice (proceeds of crime) Bill be published? Can it be extended to empower the Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB, to include the new crime wave in the white collar sector?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore It is No. 98 on the list. The Bill is intended to strengthen the powers of the CAB in forfeiting the proceeds of the crime. Consultations with the CAB are ongoing and it is not possible to give an indication as to when the Bill will be published.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan The courts bill proposes to amend the in camera rule in respect of family law and child care hearings. When it is expected to be brought before the House? Has it been discussed at Cabinet and have the heads of the Bill been approved?

  I refer to the land and conveyancing law reform (amendment) Bill. The boom period the country experienced, which is sadly over, showed up several flaws in land conveyancing procedures. Has the Bill been discussed by the Cabinet and the heads approved? When is it likely to come before the House to ensure we do not have a repeat of the difficulties that have arisen?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The courts Bill will facilitate an updating of the law to allow reporting subject to certain conditions of family and child care proceedings. The heads of the Bill were approved by Government on 31 October and it is hoped to publish the Bill next session.

  The conveyancing Bill will take a little longer and our hope is to have it next year.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall I would like to ask about three Bills in the health area that were promised this session, which clearly we are not going to get to at this stage. The first is the HSE governance Bill, which we were told was priority legislation and which went through the Seanad in September but has not appeared since. Where is that? What is the reason for the delay? The second is the free general practitioner care Bill, which the Tánaiste had promised we would have this session. What is the reason for the delay? When might we see that? The third is the public health (alcohol) Bill, which had been promised for before Christmas. What is the reason for the delay? When we can expect to see those three Bills?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The HSE governance Bill has been through the Seanad and is awaiting Second Stage in the House.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall What is the reason for the delay? It is priority legislation.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore There is no reason for the delay. We are breaking for Christmas today and I expect it will be taken early in the new year. There are currently four health Bills before the Houses.

The health (amendment) Bill addresses some complex issues that are currently being worked out between the Department and the Parliamentary Counsel. There are drafting issues and publication is expected early next session. Work is continuing on the alcohol legislation. Progress has been made and we expect that proposals will be with Government early in 2013.

Deputy Michelle Mulherin: Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin My question relates to the forthcoming finance Bill. There is a deadline of 31 December next for first-time buyers to draw down their loan cheques to avail of enhanced mortgage interest relief and I seek a small extension of the deadline because of the number of first-time buyers who will be unable to draw their cheques down in time as a result of the holiday arrangements for banks. I understand that 400 such borrowers will be discommoded by one bank and will miss out on the opportunity to avail of the enhanced mortgage interest relief.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore That is a matter for the legislation and I will draw the Deputy's concerns to the attention of the Minister for Finance.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis The taxi regulation Bill is due early in the new year. The taxi review report has been completed for a year and we have not had an opportunity to debate issues relating to the taxi industry.


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