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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 4 Jul 1996

Vol. 468 No. 2

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 1, report of the Select Committee on Enterprise and Economic Strategy on Estimates for Public Services; No. 2, report of the Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs on Estimates for Public Services; No. 3, report of the Select Committee on Legislation and Security on Estimates for Public Services; No. 4, report of the Select Committee on Social Affairs on Estimates for Public Services; No. 9, technical motion re. Supplementary Estimates — Votes 18 and 32; No. 10, motion re. Leave to Introduce Supplementary Estimates — Votes 3, 18 and 32; No. 11, motion re. Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs; No. 12, motion to approve the terms of the Amending Protocol to the Convention of the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites; No. 24, National Standards Authority of Ireland Bill, 1996 — Report and Final Stages; No. 13, motion to approve Convention on Money Laundering; No. 14, motion to approve Drugs Convention; No. 15, motion to approve Mutual Assistance Convention and Additional Protocol; and No. 16, motion to approve Draft Regulations under section 46 (6) of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994.

It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) business shall be interrupted not later than 4.30 p.m. today; (2) Nos. 9 and 10 shall be decided without debate and any divisions demanded thereon shall be taken forthwith; (3) Nos. 11 and 12 shall be decided without debate; (4) the Report and Final Stages of No. 24 shall be brought to a conclusion within one hour by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Enterprise and Employment; (5) Nos. 13-16 shall be moved and debated together and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 4.15 p.m. today by one question which shall be put from the Chair; (ii) the opening speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fianna Fáil Party and the Progressive Democrat Party shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case; (iii) the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case; (iv) Members may share time and (v) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes and (6) the Dáil shall sit tomorrow at 10.30 a.m. and shall adjourn not later than 4 p.m.

Is the proposal that business be interrupted not later than 4.30 p.m. today agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal that Nos. 9 and 10 be decided without debate and any divisions demanded thereon be taken forthwith agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal that Nos. 11 and 12 be decided without debate agreed?

I have tabled an amendment to item No. 11 which I understand has been accepted by the Government. I take it I will have an opportunity to move that amendment.

Yes. Is the proposal that Nos. 11 and 12 be decided without debate agreed? Agreed. Are the proposals for dealing with No. 24 satisfactory and agreed? Agreed. Are the proposals for dealing with Nos. 13 to 16, inclusive, satisfactory and agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for tomorrow's sitting agreed? Agreed.

Will the Taoiseach state whether the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, will include changes in the DPP's office? Given the report prepared by Grant Thornton on the DPP's office, what action does the Government intend to take, if it is not included in the legislation? Will the Taoiseach tell the House why this important report which was completed and presented to the Government at the beginning of February reached the Dáil Library only yesterday? This is an important report and it has been allowed to sit around for five months.

On the issue of crime generally will the Taoiseach clarify the Strategic Management Initiative which has not yet been debated in this House, except for a five minute hearing. It recommends that when the cross-departmental groups get their acts together they look at issues such as child care, drugs and other matters. It appears from what the Minister for Justice said that this group will examine the Garda administration difficulties. The Taoiseach and I have spent much time dealing with the report and we are familiar with it — I thanked the Taoiseach before for his involvement in it. This group is at a preliminary stage. In its early deliberations it suggested setting up an SMI group, a Cabinet subgroup, a development of project teams, a strategic result areas group and a cross-departmental teams group. We are trying to help the Garda and if we are to set up——

I want to assist Deputy Ahern in raising relevant matters but this is a rather long speech about miscellaneous matters of varying kinds. I feel sure there is a more appropriate way of dealing with these matters.

Unfortunately there are a lot of miscellaneous matters which happen to be very important and we are trying to bring them to the attention of the Government. The question I am asking the Taoiseach is how can the Strategic Management Initiative — which this House and the relevant Minister of State said will take some years to operate — assist the Garda if it has to go through this convoluted process? It would be far better, as this Government is always doing, to appoint outside consultants. At this stage they are already consulting the association.

Clearly this is not appropriate to the Order of Business. In respect of matters appertaining to crime there will be a considerable opportunity for Members to raise such matters. They are clearly set out in Items Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 16 and ought not to arise now.

I asked if the Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will include an amendment in respect of the DPP's office as recommended in the Grant Thornton report?

The report in question is a preliminary report and the beginning of a study. There is no likelihood that legislative changes would be required or capable of being made in the time between now and 25 July when it is hoped the Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will be brought before the House. A number of other points were made by the Deputy but, unfortunately they are more appropriate to Question Time or to the debate we will have on 25 July.

Why did it take five months to issue a preliminary report?

I am sorry, Deputy, I cannot allow the Order of Business to become a mini Question Time.

In relation to the Government decision to publish legislation to provide for holding a referendum on the bail issue in November is it the intention to hold a referendum on the same day in relation to Cabinet confidentiality and any other matter?

No final decision has been taken on that issue but, as the Deputy is aware, work is proceeding on drafting appropriate amendments to the Constitution in the area of Cabinet confidentiality. No decision has yet been taken as to when that referendum might be held but certainly the possibility of holding the two referenda on the same day has not been excluded.

Will the Taoiseach explain why the Government felt it was necessary to have a second report into the Garda Síochána? May I also ask the Taoiseach——

The Deputy knows it is not in order now.

It is in the context of the Government's proposed reforms in the criminal justice area.

The criminal justice area is very wide.

It is in the context of the Government's announced intentions, I am entitled to raise that in the House and I am in order.

I decide these matters, Deputy O'Donoghue.

Why did the Government feel it was necessary to have a second report into the Garda Síochána?

If that is a question it should be put down in the ordinary way.

Did the Taoiseach know there was a previous report? It is an extraordinary situation.

Deputy O'Donoghue, please desist.

On a related matter to that raised by Deputy Ahern in relation to the Director of Public Prosecutions' office, reforms have been promised and a review is taking place following a consultancy report. In the light of the fact that this Government has signed up to a proposal put forward by this side of the House for a unified prosecution service what legislative proposals will be introduced in relation to putting that proposal in place?

As the Deputy said, the review is proceeding. It will not be possible until the review has concluded to say what precise legislative proposals, if any, are necessary. Certainly if legislative proposals are necessary they will be brought forward. I know the Deputy has been concerned about this matter for some time. As the Deputy is aware we have increased the accountability of the office, as a result of exchanges between the Deputy and myself here.

Furthermore, as the Deputy acknowledged, a thorough review — and perhaps the first review — of the operations of the DPP's office since it was established in the 1970s is now being undertaken. To the best of my knowledge no similar review of the DPP's office was undertaken by any previous Government. It is important to allow the review to conclude before being categoric about the precise legislative changes that are necessary. If legislative changes are necessary they will be made and the Deputy has my assurance on that point.

Will it be necessary to bring forward legislation if the Government adopts a different way of dealing with the capital programme? Traditionally it has been funded directly by Government projects. It appears from what the Minister for Justice said today that she will look at a proposal for design, build and lease. Is it not the case that in relation to detention centres the Government had, for many months, a proposal to design, fund, build and lease a modern prison facility which shows that an outline plan could be ready in 30 days and, with planning permission, in three to six months it could be under way.

The issue of prisons does not arise now.

Will the Taoiseach explain — he may not be aware of this — why, at a meeting which was convened at 9 a.m. by the Joint Committee on Commercial State-Sponsored Bodies to discuss the Bord na Móna issue, the committee members on the Government side voted down any such discussion?

Deputy Cullen, you will desist forthwith.


On a point of order——

You are grossly disorderly. Resume your seat forthwith.

On a point of order——

I must ask Deputy Cullen for the last time not to taunt the Chair in this fashion.

I am entitled to raise a point of order.

Listen to me please. You are not entitled to raise a point of order when the Chair is on his feet dealing with disorder from you.

On a point of order——

Leave the House, Deputy Cullen.


This is gross disorder, Deputy Cullen, desist or leave the House, please.

He is entitled to raise a point of order.

There is a good deal of disorder in Newbridge this morning.

There is no point in looking to Deputy Cowen for solutions.

As part of the anti-crime package, does the Taoiseach propose to have the Juvenile Justice Bill in the House on 25 July? Will he accept that the countries winning the battle against drugs are those that have a proper legislative framework and put resources into the demand as well as the supply side?

I acknowledge the Deputy's consistent pursuit of this matter. We will endeavour to have the Bill ready, if we can, for that date. The Bill consists of 227 sections, the heads of which were not even cleared for drafting when we came into office. We have cleared them for drafting, thanks to the work of the Minister of State, Deputy Currie, who was able to overcome interdepartmental arguments that had remained unresolved throughout the tenure of two or three previous Governments. We were able to proceed to draft the Bill and while we will endeavour to have it ready before 25 July, that may not be possible. It will certainly be published during the summer. I hope the Deputy will be able to participate constructively in the debate on the Bill because she has been calling for it for some time.

How many more of our children must die before the Taoiseach introduces the Bill?

Will the Taoiseach ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry to free up the moneys that were promised one year ago——

Let us hear Deputy Kirk who may raise a matter appropriate at this time.

I wish to raise with the Taoiseach what happened at the meeting of the Joint Committee on Commercial State-sponsored Bodies this morning.

Natural justice.

Government members decided to vote to adjourn the meeting although other members wished to discuss the serious issue at Bord na Móna.

The Deputy can discuss it next Tuesday.

I thought Deputy Kirk intended to raise a matter appropriate to the Order of Business.

On the freedom of information Bill, when will Members be supplied with copies of the report which the Minister for the Environment published last week? Every Member should have been given a copy.

It is not strictly in order, but I will allow the question.

I understand the Minister has been in touch with Deputy Dempsey about making a copy of the contents of the report available to him.

I am not talking about myself, I am talking about the Members. I got my copy at the last minute.

The Deputy got a copy before it was published.

I will inquire as to the early publication of those documents.

Will the Taoiseach also ensure that each Member receives a copy of the Constitutional Review report which was issued today? It is an insult to Members to allow these reports into the public arena when we do not have a copy. We have to read about such reports in the newspapers.

The report in question was placed in the Library, as appropriate, at 4 p.m. yesterday.

What about the Members? We are entitled to a copy.

Will the Deputy allow me answer? I am sorry to hear that copies were not made available to Members when the report was being placed in the Library. I take a serious view of that because I have always believed Members should receive copies of such publications before others.

The Taoiseach should take action in that regard.

I will take steps to ensure there is not a repetition of that event. I regret it happened.

The Taoiseach should speak to his Ministers because it happens every day of the week.

When will the amendments to the Turf Development Act, 1946 come before the House? Members of my party turned up this morning before 9 a.m. for a meeting fixed last Tuesday. The one item on the agenda, the Bord na Móna issue, was voted down by the Government. We have had more than £66,000 of unvouched expenses, 11 weeks of inaction and seven board meetings.

The Deputy may not circumvent my ruling on this matter.

If the Government was carrying out its responsibilities, this matter would have been dealt with weeks ago.

The Deputy should have had a chat with his board members.

What board members? That is a disgraceful remark. The Minister should sack a few of the members again, depending on their affiliation.

On the Order of Business last week I asked the Taoiseach about the Government's plans for a statutory prisons board, which will require legislation and reform of structural management in the prison service. He replied to me in correspondence on the matter. Will he confirm that the Government is considering structural management reform of the prisons, especially having regard to the promised additional capital building programme on spaces?

Was legislation appertaining to the matter promised?

Legislation has been promised on a statutory prisons board.

I am not aware that legislation has been promised specifically on that point but, as the Deputy acknowledged, she raised this matter with me earlier in the week and I replied to her yesterday in considerable detail.

It is not a private matter, it is a matter for the House.

I undertook in the House to reply to the Deputy and she accepted that. Questions on the reform of the prison services are more appropriate to parliamentary questions. However, any legislation that is necessary to give effect to the structural reform of the management of the prison services will be introduced.

Does the Taoiseach intend to allow the Dáil to go into recess tomorrow without making any comment on the Government's decision this morning to block discussions on the Bord na Móna issue?

Deputy Brennan did not even turn up.

Deputy Brennan should raise that matter at another time.


Why was the Deputy not at the meeting?

I note that Deputy O'Keeffe got a job.

I have no intention of discussing that now.

The Deputy should turn up next Tuesday when the matter will be discussed.

The Government blocked the discussions.


Let us hear Deputy Callely.

Will the Taoiseach confirm the Government's support for the Organised Crime (Restraint and Disposal of Illicit Assets) Bill, 1996, particularly in light of the comments of Government Members on a national television programme last night? Will he confirm that the Government will support all stages of that Bill.

The matter must be raised some other way.

My question refers to legislation before the House. I want a commitment from the Government on the matter.

The Deputy will not circumvent the ruling of the Chair.

We should get a commitment on this matter.

It should be raised in a proper manner.

In view of the Taoiseach's concern that Members have not been circulated with the constitutional review, why have Members not been circulated with the half-yearly Exchequer returns? Can the Taoiseach arrange for these to be circulated to Members, as is usual practice?

I am not in a position to say whether it is usual practice to circulate the half-yearly Exchequer returns.

Are they out of line?

Perhaps Deputy O'Keeffe will allow me to complete my answer to his colleague without assistance. From recollection, I understand they are usually published in Iris Oifigiúil. However, if it is usual practice for them to be circulated to Deputies I will make inquiries about the matter and will come back to the Deputy about it.

The Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1996, to provide access to polling stations for disabled people was a Fianna Fáil Private Members' Bill that was not opposed in the House. It subsequently went to Committee which supported the principle. As far as I know, there is no difficulty between Government and Opposition with the Bill and the Minister has been helpful in this regard. Will the Taoiseach agree to have the Bill mentioned here on 25 July so that it can go back to Committee for reconstruction in September? There is no necessity for the Bill to have another Second Stage debate in the House. If the Bill could be mentioned on 25 July it would allow Deputy Mary Wallace to process it in Committee with the Minister who, I understand, supports the principles of the Bill.

It would be better to have a proper debate on this Bill, which deserves to be debated on Second Stage as well as on Committee Stage.

We had a debate on Second Stage.

In any event the session of 25 July should be devoted exclusively to crime related matters. I am not in favour of introducing other legislation at that stage. As the Deputy said, there have been constructive discussions between the Minister for the Environment and Deputy Mary Wallace. I can assure the House this Bill will be taken in the new session and dealt with appropriately. I would need to be persuaded that it would be appropriate to bring it up on 25 July.

Tomorrow then.

If I can attempt to persuade the Taoiseach — the disabled will not have a vote in the bail referendum in November. The House has already spent three hours debating the Bill which has also been debated in Committee. I do not want a debate on 25 July. All that is necessary is for the Bill to be referred to Committee on the Order of Business. The Minister can then bring his amendments to the Committee in September. What is the point of having Committees if we do not have business for them?

I would prefer such matters to be dealt with by the Whips as is the normal procedure.

There is a difficulty in the Cabinet.

My understanding is that Deputy Mary Wallace expressed her satisfaction with the arrangements being made and was willing to go along with them. The Deputy has come up with a suggestion which I do not think is a good one. We should devote the session on 25 July exclusively to crime related matters, as we said we would. We should not open up other topics on that day.

It is just a question of mentioning the Bill, not opening up anything. The Taoiseach wants to bury the Bill.

We will do everything we can to ensure the provisions of the Bill regarding access to polling stations for disabled voters will be in effect, if at all possible, for the referendum in November. That is the best way of approaching the matter. Let us deal with it as legislation is normally dealt with rather than introducing an important Bill on the basis of a mere mention as the Deputy is suggesting.

It is necessary for the Taoiseach to propose legislation to include south Tipperary for future payments such as those for the flooding in Clonmel, which have not been paid for seven months, and the high school which has not been built?

The Deputy knows how much I wish to help him in this matter, but not now.

I appeal to the Taoiseach and to the Minister to consider the question of access to polling stations for the disabled, especially with the referendum coming up in November. It would simply be a matter of moving the Bill on 25 July.

There are other ways of deciding business in this House rather than by arguing it out on the Order of Business.

The Bill has been debated on Second Stage in Private Members' time. If it could go to Committee in the summer its provisions could be put in place in the constituencies for the referendum in November. I am concerned that if we leave it until September or October it may not be in place in time. It would be unfair to disabled people who require access to democracy via polling stations or postal votes. The Minister has been more than helpful on this issue and he is willing to agree to it.

The Deputy has made her point and her leader has made the point for her also.

Perhaps the Taoiseach will give further consideration to just mentioning it on 25 July.

The Government is getting advance notice, one would think they would do it to oblige the handicapped.

My understanding is that the Deputy agreed at 10 o'clock this morning with the arrangements the Minister is proposing. Now, half an hour later, her leader has come forward with a different proposal. The Deputy's Bill deserves to be properly debated.

The Government has blocked it for the past five months. It should be ashamed of itself.

It will be properly debated and dealt with expeditiously. It would not be a good idea to introduce any other legislation on 25 July because that day is to be devoted to legislation related to crime.

On a point of order. I have no desire to be disorderly.

Just mischievous.

So that there are no misunderstandings and for reasons of clarity, I wish to inform the Taoiseach that this morning the committee spent three-quarters of an hour in private session whereupon we agreed to proceed in public. When we moved into public session——

The Deputy must not treat the Chair in this disdainful manner. I will not take it from him.

I am not treating the Chair with disdain, This is the least transparent, closed Government in the history of the State.

Thank God the Progressive Democrats are not like that.

The Deputy should resume his seat or leave the House.

I do not wish to leave the House.

The Deputy must now leave the House, otherwise I will name him.


Hear, hear.

The Government tells us to use the committees but it abuses them. It abused the system on the Luas Bill.


This is a House of Parliament, not Tipperary North Riding County Council.

When will the report of the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting be laid before the House?