Today in Leinster House: December 14, 2011

Today’s Dáil business is again dominated by the Household Charge bill, but the Seanad’s sparse day is still an interesting one – and there are a couple of interesting committee meetings due too.

While not all of them are public – and those which aren’t are not listed here – it is worth noting that there are no fewer than ten committee meetings taking place today, as legislators try to get business wrapped up before the Christmas break.

10:00am – Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture – Kicking off the Wednesday, as they habitually do, members convene in room 3 to discuss a motion on the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund Regulations 2011 – which, if previous years are anything to go by, will see members sign off on funding for the various racing governing boards for the 2012 calendar year.

10:30am – Leaders’ Questions – Enda Kenny steps up for the main item of the day, facing questions from the Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and independent benches.

10:30am – Order of Business – Senators begin their day with the usual 75-minute session – but with no business scheduled for the midday slot, they will adjourn at 11:45am for an extra-long lunch.

10:30am – Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht – to discuss EU legislative plans, and the costs to consumers for water supply and disposal. Today’s meetings will hear input from the Campaign against Household and Water Charges; and Social Justice Ireland.

10:51am – Order of Business – TDs sign off on the day’s agenda, though not before trying to query the status of legislation in the pipeline.

11:21am – Statements on the European Council – The most prominent non-legislative address of the day will see Enda Kenny and the opposition leaders offer statements on last week’s meeting of the European Council, which saw Ireland sign up to a 26-member ‘Fiscal Compact’ – possibly pending a referendum.

12:46pm – Local Government (Household Charges) Bill 2011 (to conclude); Bretton Woods Agreement (Amendment) (No2) Bill 2011 (second stage) – The legislative business is officially assigned to two Bils, though the chances are that only one will be discussed: the first is the Bill to finalise the €100 household charge as is required by the Bailout and the Budget; the second is a procedural item to approve an amendment in the management structure of the IMF (which requires the approval of all member countries before it can take effect). Debate on the first bill will be required to wrap up by tonight.

1:30pm – Finance (sub-committee) – In a brief meeting in Room 4, junior minister Brian Hayes guides members through six taxation agreements reached by Ireland with Germany, Saudi Arabia, Armenia, Panama, Vanuatu and Grenada. The first four countries have reached Double Taxation Agreements, ensuring that a person with tax residence in either country is not liable for income tax in both; the latter two are information-sharing agreements so as to ensure no tax evasion on the part of individuals living or operating there.

2:00pm – Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (sub-committee) – In Room 2, jobs minister Richard Bruton guides members through the provisions of the Competition (Amendment) Bill 2011 – a procedural bill which beefs up the prosecutorial powers of the Competition Authority.

2:30pm – Questions (Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine) – Simon Coveney is the minister rostered to take oral questions today; he will face inquiries on the REPS scheme, genetically modified crops, the progress his department made in the now-abandoned decentralisation programme, fishermen’s access to trawlers, and upward-only rent reviews in fisheries and harbour centres.

2:30pm – Private Members’ Business [Sen Seán Barrett]Fiscal Responsibility (Statement) Bill 2011 [Seanad] – Trinity College senator Sean Barrett, a senior lecturer in economics in that university, proposes a private bill which would require governments to explain in advance how they will cover the difference between spending and income when they’re looking at long-term spending. A vote, should one be demanded, will be taken at 4:30pm.

3:00pm – Health and Children – In Room 1, the Health committee continues its long-running hearings on alcohol marketing; today’s input comes from the Health Service Executive; the College of Psychiatry; and FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders) Ireland.

3:00pm – Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform – In Room 4, meanwhile, members get a chance to rub shoulders with the chairman of the National Lottery, Donal Connell. No doubt the proposal to sell the licensing for the Lottery from 2013 onward will be discussed at some juncture.

3:45pm – Topical Issues – Four of the day’s burning issues are discussed by ministers, backbenchers and opposition for 12 minutes apiece.

4:30pm – Matters on the Adjournment – After dealing with Seán Barrett’s legislation, Senators get to raise other topical issues of note before wrapping up for the night.

4:33pm – as 12:46pm – Once the Dáil’s own topical issues have been discussed, TDs get back to discussing the Household Charge (and potentially the IMF who demanded it).

5:00pm – Foreign Affairs & Trade – The final of today’s ten committee meetings is a big one. Eamon Gilmore attends to explain precisely why Ireland decided to close its embassies in the Vatican, Iran and Timor Leste – and will no doubt face tough questioning from TDs who are less enthusiastic about it than he.

7:00pm – Private Members’ Business [Fianna Fáil] – Motion re Budgetary Measures – The second 90-minute debate on Fianna Fáíl’s private motion – denouncing the “anti-rural bias” shown in the Budget – continues from 7pm to 8:30pm, when a vote on the government’s neutering amendment will be taken.

8:30pm – as 12:46pm – Once Fianna Fáil’s motion has been voted down by the government side, thoughts return to the final debates on the €100 household charge, which will be discussed until another vote is called at 10:30pm.

All of the day’s business can be viewed on the streams: