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Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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  2 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger] We are talking about a small number. Could the Taoiseach now tell us that these women will be able to access the drug and that doctors should be allowed to prescribe whatever they feel is effective, and has proven to be effective, for other patients without waiting two years for a licence to be made available for its use for cervical cancer? Is it not time this country looked at bringing drug companies under public control so that they do not profiteer at people's expense?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It is not correct to say the tests were messed up either by the State or by the laboratories. That was true in some of the cases but we do not yet know how many. It was not true in all the cases.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger I was speaking of the 221 cases.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar We know that for a fact. To answer the Deputy's substantive question, discussions are under way on that. The HSE's medicines management programme has developed a proposal that would allow women who might benefit from the drug to have the drug prescribed and reimbursed, regardless of whether they were caught up in the CervicalCheck audit. Discussions are under way with the company and, ultimately, it will require the agreement of the company and the co-operation of the clinicians to do that.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Does the Taoiseach know how soon that will be?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I do not.

Deputy Catherine Connolly: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Tá ceist dhíreach shimplí agam faoi Bhille na dteangacha oifigiúla. An mbeidh an Bille foilsithe roimh an Nollaig? My question relates to the Official Languages Act. The Taoiseach promised to bring in the Bill before Christmas. An uair dheireanach a d'ardaigh mé é ná ar 5 Samhain. Tháinig freagra ar ais ag rá go mbeidh sé foilsithe le linn na seisiún seo. On the previous occasion that I raised it, the Taoiseach said it would be published within this session. Ta sé thar a bheith tábhachtach. Bliain na Gaeilge atá ann agus táimid ag caint faoi chearta búnusacha.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Tá brón orm a rá nach bhfuil an Bille ullmhaithe nó réidh ach beidh sé réidh sa bhliain úr.

Deputy Catherine Martin: Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin It is nearly a year since the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government published the Safe as Houses report, which recommended that the Government set up a scheme to remediate legacy defects in residential buildings. The Dáil called for same when it passed a Green Party motion in June 2017. Some affected homeowners from my constituency in Dublin Rathdown are currently outside Leinster House, marking another year with no movement from the Government on this issue.

When I raised the matter with the Taoiseach in October, he said that the Minister of State, Deputy English, was examining proposals and he admitted that there must be an understanding of the extent of the defects across the country so that such proposals could be drawn up. Has the Government made any moves towards investigating the extent of the latent defects in residential housing, with a view to drawing up a plan for practical State reliefs along the lines recommended in the Safe as Houses report and the Green Party motion on building standards or are the homeowners to remain abandoned by the Government?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Minister of State, Deputy English, and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, are still examining this matter, which affects some developments in my constituency as well. The primary difficulty in all of this is that if the State, in effect the taxpayer, were to take on the liability for repairing defects in private homes and buildings, the costs could run into many billions of euro, which would then have to be taken out of other budgets, whether for social housing, health or through massive tax increases or action on climate change. That is the reality of the situation.

Deputy Catherine Martin: Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin There are other proposals.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Taoiseach should be allowed to speak without interruption.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar If the Deputy has an accurate cost that she can stand over, I would be happy to see it.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I refer to the programme for Government which has many references to a better health system for the aged, those in need of mental health services and those with disabilities. It is incredible that I have to again raise the Rosalie unit in Castlerea, County Roscommon. I want the Taoiseach to respond this time if he can because the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, cannot provide any more information. Elected members and the families of the patients were given assurances that there would be no interference or movement of patients from the unit. Incredibly, as we speak, every attempt is being made to move a lady from the unit. She has mild mental health issues and she was getting all the care she needed there but she is being moved to a private nursing home where she will not have the same level of care. I appeal to the Taoiseach to call off the proposed move. Could he stick to his promise that the review will go ahead in January and at least leave matters as they stand until that is done? It is not fair to those people or their families. I will not accept the same old answer again. I would like the Taoiseach to respond on the basis that when he was Minister for Health, a letter issued from his Department, as I pointed out previously, saying that the unit would not be closed.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher It is the Taoiseach’s prerogative to delegate.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly With respect, the Deputy is not a clinician and neither am I. I do not dictate the most appropriate care for the elderly and neither does he. That is a matter of fact. That is done by clinicians. I will not comment on the decision taken by a clinician on where somebody gets the better care.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy That is an outrageous comment.

Deputy Jim Daly: Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly It is not within my gift. I did not go to medical school.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy That is an outrageous comment.

Deputy Jim Daly: Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly The Deputy raised the issue previously and I inquired of the HSE as to whether there were any efforts to move anybody from the facility and I was assured there was no change in the circumstances since we last spoke.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy It is going on as we speak.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Deputy should allow the Minister of State to respond without interruption.

Deputy Jim Daly: Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly However, if an individual-----

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy It is going on as we speak.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Minister of State should be allowed to respond.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy He is not telling me the truth.

Deputy Jim Daly: Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly If the Deputy wants to call me a liar, that is a very different set of circumstances.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy He should stop it now.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Deputy Murphy should please allow the Minister of State to respond.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I am not calling the Minister of State a liar.

Deputy Jim Daly: Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly I have been totally upfront.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I know what is happening on the ground.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Deputy Murphy is normally very orderly.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I am annoyed over this.

Deputy Jim Daly: Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly The Deputy's annoyance is understandable. I have no problem with that, but the facts still remain on the record of the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher We have to move on. Other Members are waiting to speak.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea Could I ask the Taoiseach what arrangements, if any, are in place to protect the reciprocal arrangements for the receipt of State benefits between Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland? For example, 135,000 people in Ireland are currently in receipt of British State pensions and approximately 70,000 are in receipt of private pensions from the UK. There are also reciprocal arrangements for State assistance such as child benefit. Many of those people are very concerned, and they need reassurance. Could the Taoiseach offer them that?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Minister, Deputy Regina Doherty, has done a lot of work on this matter with her colleague in the United Kingdom. I can assure people who receive UK pensions in whole or in part, or part of a UK benefit, and vice versa, that it will continue.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea Will it be seamless?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Yes.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran Last week, I raised the availability of Spinraza for children suffering with spinal muscular atrophy, SMA. The Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, replied, indicating that discussions were ongoing between the pharmaceutical company and the HSE. He also indicated that the talks were coming towards an end and that progress might be made. He did not indicate what the progress was. The reason I raise the question again is that parents are waiting. I am happy to have the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, reply and give an update on the progress and whether there is likely to be a decision this side of Christmas.

Deputy Jim Daly: Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly My understanding is that there will be a decision this side of Christmas but I cannot box in the HSE in the negotiations by putting a deadline on it, but I am hopeful that there will be.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran Will the Minister of State keep me informed?

Deputy Jim Daly: Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly I will.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, announced to the media yesterday his intention to increase penalty points and fines for speeding, which has been met with anger and frustration in the constituency of Cork South-West where there has been no proper investment in roads. I wish to ask the Taoiseach about the Minister's proposal to apply a fine and penalty points to motorists who do not have their licence on them. There has been an outcry among farmers, fishermen and people working in construction, who have tractors and jeeps fully insured, taxed and with an NCT but given the nature of their jobs, they must use different vehicles daily and would find it impossible to carry a licence.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Could the Deputy ask a question?

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins Previously a garda would tell a person to drop in to the Garda station and produce his or her licence. Could we have a proper debate on the issue? Will the Taoiseach stand by those law-abiding people and not allow the changes to go ahead?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Unfortunately, we did not have an opportunity to discuss that memo at Cabinet yesterday because we had to set aside additional time to talk about Brexit, so the memo will go to Cabinet next week.

  It is important that we have robust and effective road traffic laws-----

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea Hear, hear.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----but it is also important that we are not too draconian either.


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