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Oireachtas Roundup

Launch of the Oireachtas TV Pilot TransmissionBudget 2012 was followed by a u-turn on disability benefit while Labour saw a third TD lose the party whip. Meanwhile, parliamentary reform is under way.

Bills to regulate the nursing and midwifery professions and property services providers were among those enacted in December.

Much of Dáil time in December was taken up with the Budget of €3.8 billion in adjustments. The budgetary format was changed, with a statement on the expenditure estimates from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on 5 December and the Finance Minister’s budget statement the following day. There were 13 financial resolutions on budget night and extensive debate later in the month on the Bill to introduce a new €100 household charge. Newly-elected Labour TD Patrick Nulty voted against the Budget and lost the party whip. January saw debate on the Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2011.

The Seanad also spent considerable time on budgetary and financial debate in December. Minister of State Brian Hayes led statements on the Budget in the upper chamber, telling the House: “When the Government entered office in March of this year, we were all too aware of the challenges facing us.” Fianna Fáil’s Darragh O’Brien said that “one of the major difficulties with the budget is the proposed cut to the disability allowance, particularly in respect of younger people.”

That proposal was eventually withdrawn from the Social Welfare Bill following objections from government backbenchers and the opposition. In January the Seanad debated suicide prevention and the report of the advisory group for small business.

Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş and Minister Simon Coveney appeared before the Agriculture Committee on 19 January to discuss CAP reform (see page 4). The Environment Committee held further meetings on water services in January, while the Danish Ambassador Niels Pultz appeared before the European Affairs Committee to outline his country’s EU presidency priorities.

An Oireachtas TV channel went live and can now be seen by 975,000 UPC subscribers. It covers the Dáil, Seanad and Oireachtas committee meetings. Discussions are ongoing with other companies about providing the channel.    

The Ceann Comhairle has advocated other parliamentary reforms of late. He wants to see ministers’ questions reformed so that questions are chosen by lottery just before question time (to ensure that deputies attend), and the introduction of a ‘matter of concern’ provision to prevent unnecessary barracking and heckling at the order of business. He also wants the list of prohibited words to be revised.

A spokesman for the Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe, who is responsible for the Government’s Oireachtas reform agenda, said that while revising the list of prohibited words is “not top of the list” of government reform priorities, the Chief Whip is actively looking into Dáil reform regarding the order of business and a ‘matter of concern’ provision. Work is also being done on reforming the ministers’ questions system. The spokesman confirmed that the referendum on abolition of the Seanad will be held in 2012. Meanwhile the Dáil sat 108 times in 2011, eight sittings more than 2010 (and 2009). There are 123 scheduled sittings in the 2011-2012 (September to September) calendar.

Enacted legislation

Date Act
21 December Nurses and Midwives Act 2011
20 December Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011
19 December Appropriation Act 2011
19 December    Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Act 2011

Bills before the Oireachtas

House Bill Stage
Dáil Jurisdiction of Courts and Enforcement of Judgments (Amendment) Bill 2011 Second
Dáil Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011 Second (resumed)
Dáil Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Bill 2011 Second (resumed)
Dáil Construction Contracts Bill 2010 Second
Dáil Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 2008 Second
Dáil Industrial Relations (Amendment) (No.3) Bill 2011 Committee
Dáil Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Bill 2011 Committee
Dáil Central Bank (Supervisions and Enforcement) Bill 2011 Committee
Dáil Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme) and Remuneration Bill 2011 Committee
Dáil Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Bill 2011 Committee
Dáil Immigration Residence and Protection Bill 2010 Committee
Dáil Competition (Amendment) Bill 2011 Order for Report
Dáil Tribunal of Inquiry Bill 2005 Order for Report
Dáil Bretton Woods Agreement (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2011 Order for Report
Dáil Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2011 Final
Seanad Veterinary Practice (Amendment) Bill 2011 Second
Seanad Health (Provisions of General Practitioner Services) Bill 2011 Second
Seanad Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011 Second
Seanad Patents (Amendment) Bill 2011 Committee
Seanad Coroners Bill 2007 Committee
Seanad Qualification and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Bill 2011 Committee

 

Dáil private member’s motions

Date Motion Outcome
13-14 December Abandon ‘anti-rural bias’ and adopt a fair and balanced budgetary approach (Fianna Fáil) Defeated: 93-45
11-12 January Rescind cuts in resources to DEIS schools (Sinn Féin) Defeated: 85-42
13 January Local Authority Public Administration Bill 2011 (Fianna Fáil) Defeated: 96-36
17-18 January Reconsider budgetary decision on revised criteria for guidance teachers allocation (Fianna Fáil) Defeated: 90-41
24-25 January Not to pay Anglo-Irish Bank bondholders or promissory notes in the future (Technical Group) Defeated: 87-41

 

Seanad motions

Date Motion Outcome
18 January An integrated rural transport system (Labour) Accepted: 32-14
25 January Greater protection for people with disabilities (Mary Ann O’Brien, Ind) Accepted
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