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Order of Business

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 752 No. 2

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The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore It is proposed to take No. 14, Veterinary Practice (Amendment) Bill 2011 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 15, Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Bill 2011 — Second Stage (resumed); and No. 4, Industrial Relations (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2011 — Second Stage (resumed).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett There are no proposals to be put to the House.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív Can the Tánaiste confirm how many of the 32 Bills in section A of the Government legislative programme have been published and how many of those that have not been published now constitute Bills in the new A list of 26 Bills, which is a much smaller list? Is he confident that the Bills on the new A list promised for publication this session will be published or will the A list too be eligible for nomination for the Booker prize for fiction?

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly Zoom on Dr James Reilly Like Deputy Ó Cuív’s Government.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Deputy Ó Cuív should take it easy.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The Booker prize is awarded following a competition.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary The Labour Party manifesto got it.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I will happily produce the record in respect of the A list the Government published in the past session and compare it against all of the A lists produced by Deputy Ó Cuív’s party during 14 years in office and see where the prize for fiction goes. Of the 32 Bills committed to on the A list for the past session, 21 have been published and there are four or five of the remaining Bills on the A list. Of the items of legislation on the list for this session, it is the Government’s intention to publish them this session.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív Does that mean that six or seven Bills dropped off the A list?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore There are different reasons for that. Some, in respect of their prioritisation with the troika, have been moved back and some have been replaced with other items of legislation.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald The Tánaiste committed to publishing the residential institutions statutory fund Bill during this Dáil session. This will be a difficult and controversial item of legislation, particularly for survivors of institutional abuse who still await State recognition and redress. The interdepartmental committee on the Magdalene laundries has not reported back to the Dáil and I am disappointed that the Minister refuses to acknowledge State responsibility for the survivors of Bethany Home. When will the statutory fund legislation be published? When will the Magdalene laundries committee report to the Dáil? Will the Tánaiste give a commitment to revisit the very bad decision to exclude Bethany Home survivors from any redress scheme?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The intention is that the legislation will be published this session. I do not have a date for the report of the group looking at the Magdalene situation but I know progress is being made. The question of the detail of the legislation can be debated when the legislation comes into the House.

[237]Deputy John Deasy: Information on John Deasy Zoom on John Deasy Will there be a detailing or itemising of the kind of debt being forgiven by State-controlled, State-owned or part State-owned financial institutions in the Finance Bill, the fiscal responsibility Bill or any Bill or report to the Dáil? Will the Dáil be informed of the policies of these institutions as pertains to the forgiveness of all debt of individuals, companies or otherwise? People who are paying their debt and their mortgages need to understand and know what is being forgiven and why by State-owned or part State-owned financial institutions.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore There will be a finance Bill in the normal way this session and it is intended that the Government will bring forward the fiscal responsibility Bill. It is not normal to comment on the content of legislation until it has been published, and it has not yet been published. The fiscal responsibility Bill has not yet been approved by Government. On mortgage debt, the legislation which will be most relevant will be the personal insolvency Bill and it is intended to have it before Government in the very near future.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I refer to promised legislation on whistleblowers. This morning a very brave young woman who is a mental health advocate in the HSE in St. Brendan’s in Grangegorman and blew the whistle on the appalling treatment and conditions of mental health patients before and during Christmas — which received widespread coverage, was discussed in the House and shone a light on the conditions faced by mental health patients — was sacked by the HSE in what is clearly an act of retaliation. When will whistleblowers legislation that is supposed to prevent this sort of disgraceful treatment of people who are doing their jobs as mental health advocates be brought forward? Such people are blowing the whistle on the mistreatment of patients. I ask the Tánaiste to take action on this matter.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The whistleblowers legislation is due to be published later this year.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley Four out of ten local authority housing loans are in serious arrears, that is more than 90 days in arrears. Based on Government figures, this compares to one in 12 in private financial institutions. There is a crisis and the evidence is in a reply I received to a parliamentary question. The actual figure is 38.9%, based on figures from last September——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett What legislation are we talking about?

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley ——for local authority housing loans. I raised this issue twice last October. On 6 October a Minister told me “There is no evidence to suggest——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Do not quote on the Order of Business.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley ——that the economic circumstances were creating problems regarding local authority borrowers” but the evidence is in the reply. When will something be done about local authority loans that are in serious distress? I have received complaints from constituents——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett What legislation are you talking about, Deputy?

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley ——and local authority officials. We were promised legislation and that the issue would be dealt with as part of——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Deputy, you are not listening to me. What legislation are you talking about?

[238]Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley My understanding is that the issue was to be dealt with under legislation dealing with mortgage arrears. It is contained in a commitment on page 44 of the programme for Government. Perhaps the Tánaiste can tell me when it will be dealt with.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore It is intended that personal insolvency legislation will come before Government very shortly. It will contain measures to address mortgage difficulties. The Deputy could raise the particular difficulties in respect of local authority loans with the Minister of State with responsibility for housing. The terms of those loans very often vary from what is available on the commercial side.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan In respect of promised and past legislation, I wish to raise the degree to which the Data Protection Act is now being used by State and semi-State agencies to withhold——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett We are drifting a bit.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan There is promised legislation. It is being used to withhold legitimately sought information from people by public representatives. It is being used as a shelter to ensure that no information is given or that the elected Members of Parliament do not get information. There is a vehicle before the House in which context this might now be treated. The confidential communications with Oireachtas Members Bill is promised legislation, No. 109, and is expected to be published in 2012. Alongside that, an amendment to the Data Protection Act, which is now causing a serious problem for public representatives——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett That is a matter for a parliamentary question.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan ——in carrying out their daily work should be introduced.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore Data protection legislation is in place to protect the interests——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett What about the other Bill?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore We do not have a date for the publication of the data sharing Bill but it is promised legislation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Was that the Bill the Deputy was talking about?

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan No, I referred to No. 109. It is a Bill to enhance the protections available to citizens to communicate in confidence with Members of the Oireachtas. The promised legislation is at cross purposes if——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett We will not discuss that.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan It affects the Ceann Comhairle’s job.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I am sure it does.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I know he would not like it to affect his job.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Lots of things affect my job. You are affecting my job at the moment.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I know. I like to be helpful.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett You are not.

[239]Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan The critical issue I see, as a Member of this House for some time——-

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

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan ——is that the legislation is at cross purposes if we continue to allow the Data Protection Act to be interpreted the way it is.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Maybe you could table a parliamentary question and will have a good debate about it.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore Deputy Durkan is referring to the confidential communication with Oireachtas Members Bill. It is in section C and the heads of the Bill have not been approved by Government.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis Yesterday in the United States and other countries there was a shutdown of websites such as Google, Tumblr, Mozilla and Wikipedia.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Oh my God.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis They shut down all day in protest at the Stop Online Piracy Act, SOPA. Under our criminal justice Bill, the cyber crime Bill is due to come into force. When will it be published? There are huge ramifications for the sharing of and access to information on the Internet and freedom of speech.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I understand the Minister of State, Deputy Sherlock, will introduce a statutory instrument shortly to deal with that issue. There are some international issues relating to Internet freedoms and access to websites. I am convening an international conference on the issue in June which will involve states and representatives of the IT industry dealing with some of the definitions and issues that are giving rise to restrictions in access to the Internet in some countries.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews On personal insolvency legislation that will be published very soon, I ask the Tánaiste to confirm that the bankruptcy or insolvency of an individual will not be allowed to last longer than two years. Furthermore, I ask that mortgage debt be included in the comprehensive assessment of an individual’s financial situation.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The Deputy is well aware I cannot comment on the content of legislation. As I said earlier, the heads of that Bill have not been approved by Government. The legislation is being circulated to Government. There will be plenty of time to discuss its contents when it comes before the House.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews I encourage the Cabinet to make every effort to include it at that level.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Deputy can always table a parliamentary question.

Deputy Terence Flanagan: Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan Following the references to personal insolvency, is there any date on which the Tánaiste expects legislation to come before Cabinet? There are close to 100 residents in my constituency who face the real prospect of insolvency through no fault of their own. There is huge anxiety and stress as a consequence. I refer to the situation in Priory Hall. I asked the Tánaiste to follow up on that with other members of the Cabinet.

[240]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett That is a separate issue that is being dealt with by way of parliamentary question.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The personal insolvency Bill has been before Government. It is an important piece of legislation and a considerable amount of work has been done on it. I expect it to be considered by the Government in the very near future.

Deputy Brendan Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin Will there be any measures brought before the House to help deal with cigarette smuggling and the illicit tobacco trade in light of the considerable revenue lost to the State every year as a consequence and in light of the criminal networks that are being built on foot of this illegal trade?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Is legislation promised in this area?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I do not believe there is health legislation. The issues in respect of taxation and so on may be part of the Finance Bill but I am subject to correction.


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