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 Header Item Order of Business (Continued)
 Header Item Convention on the Constitution: Motion
 Header Item Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Medical Card Reviews

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 828 No. 2

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An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett That was a comment as distinct from a question to the Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny It is not for me to comment on the nightclub, but I am interested in the comments made by the Minister for Justice and Equality. I also note the comments of the proprietor that these matters will be addressed. They were more than surprised at the numbers of people who showed up at that time on that night.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall The alcohol promotions are the problem.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I am glad that those involved in the crush are recovering.

Deputy Patrick Nulty: Information on Patrick Nulty Zoom on Patrick Nulty The Taoiseach will be aware that a number of local authority tenants are unable to purchase their homes because of the termination of previous schemes. Will the Government urgently bring forward the long-awaited housing Bill to address this issue and a myriad of other issues in our dysfunctional and failing housing system for the tens of thousands of families in housing need?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I answered this question yesterday. The heads of that Bill were cleared in December and it is expected to be published in this session. It is a matter of concern to the Government that a scheme should be in place so that work is under way.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis I was going to mention the tenants housing purchase scheme. Section 62 of the Housing Act needs to be repealed as a result of a Supreme Court decision which is causing serious problems for local authorities in dealing with anti-social issues. The Taoiseach previously said that the housing Bill would be published early this year. At what stage are we? Has the Cabinet discussed it and when will we see it?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny As I said, the heads have been cleared so it now goes to committee for open consultation and observation from Members of the House and outside groups in order to get it into the best shape we can. At an early stage people will have the opportunity to make the points the Deputy mentioned. It is listed for this session.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae Young people who are forced to work abroad are finding they have to come home to renew their driving licences, which is wrong. Will this issue be addressed in the Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I understand that Bill is on Committee Stage in the Seanad and people will make these points for consideration by the Minister.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall Recent reports have dealt with deaths from substance misuse. These have highlighted the widespread availability and misuse of prescription drugs, which are key factors in these deaths. From drugs task forces we know that the main drugs of abuse are prescription drugs followed by alcohol. I wish to ask about secondary legislation. Approximately 15 months ago new draft regulations were drawn up to restrict dealing in, possession of and prescribing of benzodiazepines. What is the reason for the delay in signing off on those new regulations? They are very much overdue and have the potential to transform the situation regarding dealing in prescription drugs. When will those regulations be signed?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I will need to come back to the Deputy. She has raised an important issue. Clearly the incidence of this problem is increasing. It is a matter of great concern to parents and everybody. I will respond to the Deputy as to what is the problem and when we can expect to have publication.

Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick: Information on Peter Fitzpatrick Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick When can we expect publication of the consumer protection and competition Bill to amalgamate the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority and to give effect to other changes to competition and consumer law including making provision for a statutory code of conduct for the grocery goods sector and giving effect to the recommendations of the advisory group on media mergers?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny It will be this session. A great deal of work has been done on it.

Deputy Joe Carey: Information on Joe Carey Zoom on Joe Carey When is the State airports (Shannon group) Bill expected to be published?

  In the context of the roads programme, can the Taoiseach advise on the development of the Gort to Tuam motorway through the public private partnership scheme?

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

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The State airports (Shannon group) Bill is due this session. As an assistant Whip, I am sure Deputy Carey will have some influence on when it might come to the House for discussion. He should talk to his fellow Whip on it.

  The road programme the Deputy mentioned is due for commencement this year under the PPP system.

Deputy Brendan Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan Zoom on Brendan Ryan Many people who are currently prevented from applying for certain jobs are anxiously waiting for the passage of the Spent Convictions Bill, which is awaiting Report Stage. In the middle of the last term it was on the Order Paper but was withdrawn. What is the reason for the delay? When will it return to the House so that we can complete the passage of the Bill?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny It is still awaiting Report Stage because Deputies made a number of suggestions and a number of amendments are being considered in the Office of the Attorney General, as I understand it. I will give the Deputy an update as to when we can expect Report Stage to be taken.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I am surprised I did not hear from Deputy Durkan.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan You did not observe me, a Cheann Comhairle.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I am sorry.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I was very disappointed and thought I would have to go to Specsavers myself.

  What is the status of the national children's hospital development Bill? To what extent is it enhanced or affected in any way by the recent and welcome announcements of similar developments in the hospitals in Blanchardstown and Tallaght? When will the Second Stage debate of the Bill be held?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The two announcements for Tallaght Hospital and the Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown relate to children's emergency units. They are to take pressure off the national paediatric hospital. When it is built they will provide specialist services for children. I will send the Deputy a copy of a letter that sets out the progress in respect of the development board and the hospital.

Deputy Sandra McLellan: Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan A succession of stealth charges imposed by the Government have placed middle and low-income families in dire straits. The introduction of water charges will add to this burden. The consumer needs maximum protection in these circumstances. Does the Government intend including a provision to allow for the amalgamated National Consumer Agency and Competition Authority to play a statutory role in protecting the interests and welfare of consumers?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny As I said, that Bill is practically finalised and is listed for this session. The Deputy can expect it fairly quickly.

Convention on the Constitution: Motion

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the amendment of the Resolution regarding the calling of a Convention on the Constitution, passed by Dáil Éireann on 10th July, 2012, by the deletion of ‘but in any event not later than one year from the date of the first public hearing’ and the substitution of ‘but in any event not later than 31st March 2014’.”

  Question put and agreed to.

Topical Issue Debate

Medical Card Reviews

Deputy Ciarán Lynch: Information on Ciaran Lynch Zoom on Ciaran Lynch I thank the Ceann Comhairle's office for allowing me to raise this matter today. I also thank the Minister of State, Deputy White, for coming to the Chamber to respond to it. I wish to propose a minor alteration to the medical card review process. This modification would have no cost, would improve the notification system and would make life much easier for a substantial group of vulnerable people.

When medical card holders are selected for review they are written to and requested to complete forms in order to establish their continued entitlement to the medical card. If they cannot establish that entitlement they are cut off and the system is as simple as that. However, a problem arises with a substantial cohort of people, who are clearly entitled to hold a medical card under the present arrangements, but who for one reason or other fail to return the review forms to the satisfaction of the PCRS.


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