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 Header Item Water Services (No. 2) Bill 2013 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Continued)
 Header Item Business of Dáil
 Header Item Leaders' Questions

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 825 No. 3

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  12 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Pat Breen: Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen] Payment methods need to be flexible. Phased and cash payments through post offices must be facilitated. There must be flexibility for householders and businesses with an inability to pay. It is also important that there be clarification for community organisations, voluntary groups and Tidy Towns committees on who will have liability for the use of the public water supply when water charges are introduced. There are a number of outstanding issues and I hope the Minister of State will respond to them. It is extremely important that small villages and towns in rural areas, some of which I highlighted, are looked after by Irish Water.

Debate adjourned.

Business of Dáil

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Before we proceed to Leaders' Questions, I have been informed of an act of vandalism, which I regard it to be, in this Chamber, which was totally out of character. Never before in the history of this Chamber have I seen such behaviour by a Member in walking down and handing a glass of dirty water to a Minister. That is just outrageous and unacceptable behaviour and I have asked for an immediate meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to deal with the matter.

Deputy Ray Butler: Information on Ray Butler Zoom on Ray Butler It was scandalous.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Hear, hear.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis I take it the Minister did not drink it.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins The Taoiseach cannot call it vandalism.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett It is not funny.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis No, it is not. I accept that.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins It was a peaceful gesture.

Deputy Ray Butler: Information on Ray Butler Zoom on Ray Butler It was not.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett It was not a peaceful gesture. It happened in the Houses of Parliament.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins The vandalism is being delivered to people's homes.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley It is the same water that is coming out of people's taps in Roscommon-----

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin And everywhere else.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley -----and many other counties.

Leaders' Questions

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher I wish the Ceann Comhairle and those in his office and every Member of the House a happy and peaceful Christmas. I also thank the staff of all political parties, as well as the staff of the Houses for keeping this institution going and working on behalf of the people.

The Ceann Comhairle spoke about vandalism. The HSE service plan was published this week and it certainly was an act of vandalism in the sense that it was announced that there would be a service plan, but clearly it is a plan to reduce services on a massive scale in 2014. This is clear when one considers the number of hospital procedures that have had to be cancelled, the fact that BreastCheck will not be rolled out for women between the ages of 65 and 69 years, a move which will affect more that 80,000 women, and that, within the plan, the HSE has had the audacity to include a figure of €108 million to be realised at some stage in the future without any identification of from where these savings will come. We are being asked to consider a health service plan that clearly is incapable of delivering services in 2014.

The Minister for Finance and others walked in here on 15 October and published the Estimates which did not even stand up to scrutiny between the time of their publication and the publication of the HSE service plan. Within that time it was found that the savings from medical card probity measures of €113 million were a figment of somebody's imagination in government. Will the Minister agree that the HSE service plan for 2014, even before it commences on 1 January, will simply not be able to sustain any credible form of health service in the year ahead? I have pointed to procedure and Breastcheck cancellations, the provision of fewer medical cards and a massive reduction in front-line staff, all these key issues which will put huge pressure on the HSE's ability to deliver health care.

In the context of publication of the Estimates, we were informed last week by the Minister for Health that the underlying deficit was €199 million. We now find in the HSE service plan that it is €490 million. Will the Minister agree two things? First, did the Minister for Health mislead the House in the context of the underlying deficit and, second, will the Government at least do a U-turn in the rollout of BreastCheck?

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn First, I thank the Deputy for his expressions of seasonal goodwill which my colleagues and I on the Government benches also extend to the Deputy and other Deputies and parties represented in the House.

The Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, has a very difficult job to do and he has to be given time to do it. It is not easy. One of the issues that has been in the newspapers is the €108 million in savings that have yet to be identified but which will be so identified within the context of the Haddington Road agreement. Some have suggested the figure of €108 million will not form part of the overall savings to be achieved under the Haddington Road agreement. I want to say very clearly that this is not the case. The amount of €108 million is and always has been an integral part of the overall savings target in the health sector. The Government expects full implementation of the Haddington Road agreement in all sectors, including health.

On the other matters raised by the Deputy, the Minister, Deputy James Reilly, will come into the House in due course but not today, when the clarifications have been made of the matters included in the HSE service plan and-----

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall He has had two months in which to do so.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn -----the Deputy, as his party's spokeperson on health, will have ample time to go through the details with him, having regard to the fact that it was his party leader who established the HSE in the first place.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher The problem I have with the Minister's reply is I do not think he believes it. Nobody in government believes the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, no more than I on this side of the House. The reason I do not believe him is that the Taoiseach and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform have insisted on assisting him in compiling the Estimates. His credibility is already shattered on this side of the House, but even within the Cabinet the Taoiseach, by his own admission, has said he has to go and try to help the Minister to run the Department. The difficulty we have is that there are unidentified savings of €108 million that we are being asked to assume will not have an impact on services, but, clearly, they will have a detrimental impact on them. If one goes through the full health Estimates and the HSE service plan, they are just not sustainable from the get go. Clearly, they will not be capable of delivering basic services.

We have heard time and again about the issues with medical cards, discretionary medical cards, the cancellation of procedures and people waiting inordinate time just to see a consultant. The Minister is now saying that next year will be a challenging one; it will not be a challenging year for the Minister, Deputy James Reilly, but it will be massively challenging for the many hundreds of thousands who will need to access health services in 2014.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Will the Deputy, please, put his supplementary question as he is over time?

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher I ask one more time if the Minister agrees that the HSE service plan will not be able to deliver a sustainable service next year having regard to the cuts already identified, or that we will back again next January, February or March highlighting issues with medical cards, waiting times, hospital procedure cancellations and the like. Did the Minister for Health mislead the House with regard to the Estimate figure of €199 million?

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn No, as I said, the Minister for Health has probably got the most difficult job in the country, certainly in the Cabinet, in managing one of the largest spending Departments, with which the Deputy is familiar, one which, in many respects, is at the mercy of demand-led services which, in some cases, are very hard to predict. I have every confidence in the Minister that he will meet the targets set out in the Health Service Executive's service plan.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea Did the Minister, Deputy James Reilly, mislead the House?

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen The Minister has time to answer that question, but he does not want to answer it.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher Somebody misled the House.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan The Deputy's party misrepresented the country.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher We were misled, full stop.

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

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Deputy Billy Kelleher had the opportunity to speak. Will he now allow me the chance to do so?   

  I also avail of the opportunity to extend Christmas wishes to all Members of the House, the Ceann Comhairle and the staff, including support staff. I would also like us to spare a thought for those Members of the Houses who are unwell. I am thinking of our own Deputy Nicky McFadden but also Senator Jimmy Harte who I believe is still in hospital. I am sorry if I have left others out, but I would particularly like us to join together in extending the warmest greetings to both of them at this time.

  The Minister probably thought when he saw that Deputy Billy Kelleher and I were taking Leaders' Questions they would be on the same subject, but they are not.


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