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 Header Item Ministerial Responsibilities (Continued)
 Header Item Cabinet Confidentiality

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny] The Statistics Act 1993 provides that the director general of the CSO is completely independent in the exercise of functions relating to statistical methodology and standards, the content of statistical releases and publications and the timing and methods of dissemination of these releases and those publications. Clearly, there are specific functions delegated to the Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs who is accredited to the Departments of the Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Ministers of State are appointed by the Government and their general role and responsibility is to assist Ministers in the running of their various Departments. In many cases, that particular assistance is related to policy issues and, therefore, formal delegation of statutory powers is not, or may not be, necessary, depending on the policy issues the Minister of State deals with.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams If I understand the Taoiseach properly, his initial response to the question did not name the new Minister of State with responsibility for primary health care, Deputy Alex White, as someone for whom a delegation order had been signed. He then conferred with the Minister for Health and said this had been done this morning. I think that is correct. Is it not?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Yes, it was approved by Cabinet this morning.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Just in the nick of time.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly Or just in time for Saint Nick.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams He then went on to say that in the case of a Minister of State having responsibility for primary care there is no need to sign a delegation order. If there was no need to sign a delegation order for Deputy White why did the Cabinet approve it this morning?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin To be sure to be sure.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Was there no need for a delegation order for the former Minister of State, Deputy Shortall, who resigned when the Minister for Health interfered with a list of primary care centres to add locations in his own constituency after the list had been completed? We need consistency.

I understand that I am only learning here, but can the Taoiseach help me through this? No delegation order was signed for Deputy Shortall during her entire term in office. The Taoiseach says it was not necessary but yet he signed one this morning for the new Minister of State, Deputy Alex White.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny There is no mystery here. A delegation order was signed for the previous Minister of State, Deputy Shortall, with regard to her duties. Some of the duties were administrative and did not require a delegation order. Some of the duties were dealing with issues that did require a delegation order.

The same applies in the case of the Minister of State, Deputy Alex White. The administrative end of the work he is dealing with does not require a statutory declaration but he also deals with opticians and dentists in the case of fluoridation-----

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams And primary care.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny And primary care, yes. The areas of opticians, dentists and fluoridation do require a statutory delegation order. Government approved of that this morning and signed it for Deputy White.

  The administrative end of primary care, or the administrative areas associated with any other issue, do not themselves require a statutory declaration.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams But one is required for primary care centres.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Not in itself, because it is not a statutory function. It does require a statutory declaration to deal with questions about opticians, dentists and fluoridation.

  The Minister of State also deals with the area of primary care and the administration of that, including primary care centres.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams He should have gone to Specsavers.

Cabinet Confidentiality

 2. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the progress that is being made in his Department in the commitment to legislate for Cabinet confidentiality as outlined in his Department's strategy statement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48015/12]

 3. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the plans he has to introduce legislation to deal with the issue of Cabinet confidentiality. [49777/12]

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I propose to take Questions Nos. 2 and 3 together.

  Cabinet confidentiality is provided for in the Constitution and I have no plans for legislation on the matter.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I thank the Taoiseach for his response, but it is quite extraordinary that he has so rapidly abandoned a commitment in the programme for Government. I suppose it is just one of many commitments that have already been abandoned and of many election promises that have been treated with total abandon as well.

  The Taoiseach's Department's strategy statement said the Government would legislate on the issue of Cabinet confidentiality. We saw, in the course of the preparation of the most recent budgets, the Economic Management Council functioning as a de facto Cabinet. We used to have kitchen Cabinets, now we have an Economic Management Council. It would appear that the reason that was adopted was to ensure the minimisation of leaks from Government, which were happening every hour of every day in the run-up to last year's budget.

  This year, the Taoiseach managed to keep things quite tight until he went to Cabinet with his set of proposals. Then we found ourselves with a budget that had very few surprises in it, with the exception, perhaps, of the misery the Government was intent on inflicting on carers.

  Can the Taoiseach explain what has motivated him to abandon the promise he included in the programme for Government and in his Department's strategy statement? At one time, the Taoiseach promised to issue report cards for each of his Ministers. Has he been checking their performances with regard to maintaining confidentiality or leaking on an ongoing basis?

  I assume the Taoiseach himself is firmly committed to Cabinet confidentiality. What is he doing, on an ongoing basis, to address the regular leaks from Cabinet and what action can the public expect him to take in a situation where he can identify a member of Cabinet who has been responsible for a significant leak? In government in the past, the Taoiseach's party had to take the extraordinary step of removing a junior Minister who leaked the entire budget in one go. Maybe his only mistake was to give it all out at once. In recent times we have been getting it in dribs and drabs.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Deputy Ó Fearghaíl will recall the Howlin judgment when the confidentiality of correspondence received by Members of the House was challenged. That will be dealt with in the whistleblowers legislation in 2013.

I have read some of the material that purports to be from the Cabinet. I paraphrase Mark Twain and say those rumours are greatly exaggerated. I have read of vicious rows, walk-outs and this, that and the other. I assure the Deputy the Government is completely focused on its work for the country, our national challenges, our people and getting our economy right. Confidentiality is something all Ministers sign up to, in terms of the Official Secrets Act. In that context, legislation is not necessary.

I remind Ministers on a regular basis of the importance of keeping that confidentiality. I have no control over rumours, speculation or allegations. If we go back as far as 1922 and look at reports of every Government since, we see the same old story applies. Those outside the Cabinet like to write about what they think goes on in there. There have been occasions in the past when some of these things happened to be true. I can assure the Deputy that the recent headlines I have read are very far wide of the mark.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams I am nor surprised by that because all the rumours and leaks imply that Labour stood up to the Fine Gael Government. I do not see any evidence of that.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin We could be court-martialled yet.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Deputy Howlin is pirouetting over the poor.

The programme for Government contains a commitment to legislate on the issue of Cabinet confidentiality and he says he will not act on that. It also commits to opening the budget process to the full glare of public scrutiny in a way that restores confidence. The programme for Government also says the Government is too centralised and unaccountable and that a real shift in power from the State to citizens is required.


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