Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 8, motion re Convention defining the Statute of the European Schools; No. 16, Family Law (Divorce) Bill, 1996, report of Select Committee on Legislation and Security and Report and Final Stages; No. 2, Telecommunications (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1996, Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; No. 17, Criminal Assets Bureau Bill, 1996, report of Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs and Report on Final Stages: No. 17 shall be taken at 8.30 p.m. and the order shall not resume thereafter.

It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders that: (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. and business shall be interrupted not later than 10 p.m.; (2) No. 8 shall be decided without debate; (3) the Report and Final Stages of Nos. 16 and 17 shall be taken today and, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 6.45 p.m. and 10 p.m. respectively by one question in each case 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 Equality and Law Reform and the Minister for Finance respectively; (4) Private Members' Business shall also be taken tomorrow between 12 noon and 1.30 p.m. and the proceedings thereon shall be brought to a conclusion at 1.30 p.m. Private Members' Business shall be No. 39, motion No. 13 re the beef industry.

There are four matters to put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is it agreed that No. 8 shall be decided without debate? Agreed. Are the proposals for dealing with the Report and Final Stage of Nos. 16 and 17 agreed? Agreed. Are the arrangements for taking Private Members' Business tomorrow agreed? Agreed.

Does the Taoiseach consider it necessary to bring in new or amending legislation to assist the Garda to apprehend the perpetrators of the eight contract murders committed to date in 1996 which remain unresolved?

Is this a matter of promised legislation?

If not, it should be.

The Government has announced its programme of legislation in regard to crime all of which is appropriate to this matter. We need to assemble evidence to arrest people. The assembly of evidence is a particularly painstaking process because there is no point in putting people on trial unless there is sufficient evidence for a conviction. That is something which has to be decided by the Director of Public Prosecutions who is an independent officer. The Garda have a heavy responsibility in assembling this evidence.

The legislation we recently passed in regard to the financial transactions of those involved in organised crime will be particularly helpful in understanding the motivations of the people concerned and also in ensuring they do not enjoy the rewards of organised crime. If the Garda or any other prosecutorial authority recommend further changes to legislation they will be introduced. The Minister for Justice stated it is her intention to ensure there will be regular reviews of criminal legislation and a vehicle is provided for reviews to be made effective whereby any suggestions made which could improve the record in the detection of crime will be implemented as promptly as possible.

Does the Taoiseach share the concern of everybody in this House and the public that contract killings — there have been a number in my constituency — continue unabated? To the best of my knowledge no case has been built up against anybody by the DPP or anybody else. I know the Taoiseach can do nothing on his own but he should at least ask the forces of the State to try to focus on who is behind them. It is a matter of great public concern.

I draw the Deputy's attention to today's Order Paper which contains the Criminal Assets Bureau Bill which will soon be law. Anybody who thinks about this matter will appreciate as I know the Deputy does that contract killings are more difficult to detect than killings by people who have a personal motive for the killing. The contractor is other than the person who does the killing. One has to identify the relationship between the two. Very often a relationship would have existed, and there would not be any witnesses or evidence of the transaction between them. It is more difficult therefore to match the person with the motive with the murderer than it is in a case where the person with the motive did the deed.

There is a serious point behind what Deputy Ahern said about contract killings being a very serious problem which requires an extraordinary response. That is part of the reason we have introduced the Criminal Assets Bureau Bill and taken extra powers to investigate the financial dealings of major crime figures. It is partly through the evidence of these financial dealings that we may be able to find evidence of the transactions which may be behind the contract killings by a third party. It is important that we understand that and that the legislation we put through the House with all-party support addresses this problem in substantial measure in the best way possible. The legislation will only come into effect at this juncture and cannot be used retrospectively. This legislation will result in a considerably improved climate in which it will be less easy for people to engage in this appalling activity.

It is important this matter should be raised here today because any killing is unacceptable. There must be the most vigorous use of all the resources available to the State to bring the people involved to justice. I assure the House that is being done and if further legislative powers are necessary, these will be taken.

On promised legislation, I notice on the list that a Bill is proposed from the Department of the Environment to amend the Constitution to allow for the election by emigrants of three Senators. Has the Government yet decided from where these three seats in the Seanad are to come? Is the Government listening to the voice of emigrants who do not want this proposal to go any further? Is the Taoiseach satisfied there is any call for this Bill to be proceeded with any further?

That matter is currently under consideration by the Government. As the Deputy knows, the Minister for the Environment published a discussion paper on the subject during the summer which outlined some of the difficulties with any proposal in regard to votes for emigrants, whether it be votes in elections to the Seanad, the Dáil or county councils.

It is on the list.

It is on the list because the Government undertook in its programme to address this question but it has not come to a final conclusion on the matter. It is a matter we will be considering shortly with a view to coming to a decision as to what proposal, if any, we can put before the House and the people on the matter.

Will the Taoiseach indicate if it is proposed to introduce the credit union Bill in this session?

The legislation to which the Deputy refers is planned for introduction this session. The likely date of its introduction is either next month or early the following month.

On promised legislation, the litter Bill is listed among Bills expected to be published this session. Will the Taoiseach indicate whether that Bill will be published this session? Is he aware that a survey published today confirms that three-quarters of all tourists visiting the country this summer were appalled by our litter problem and were of the opinion that our litter laws are ineffective? Will that accelerate the publishing of the Bill?

I recently saw a particularly well written letter from a tourist in the Deputy's local national paper on this matter.

That is right.

This problem exists in every town in Ireland. It is, therefore, a matter of some urgency.

Put the votes for emigrants Bill in the dustbin and introduce the litter Bill.

We should not treat this problem as a matter of minor importance. Litter creates a major negative impression. There is such a thing as personal responsibility in this area. One cannot legislate for virtue in every circumstance, as I know a liberal minded party like that of the Deputy will appreciate, but within the limits of what legislation can do to make people good the Government will be introducing legislation. We expect it to be introduced this session.

I refer to the juvenile justice Bill which I note is due to be published this session. Some details were published in the newspapers during the week of what will be contained in this Bill. Will the Taoiseach indicate when the Bill will be taken this session? I urge him to introduce it as soon as possible because serious problems are being experienced on the streets of our towns involving young children who cannot be dealt with by the health boards. These children are out of control.

I thank the Deputy for raising the matter. I acknowledge that Deputy Quill has raised this matter on several occasions.

Countless times.

It is our intention, as with the previous Bill, to introduce that Bill this session. This is a large Bill with 240 heads and the Government approved a number of additional proposals in regard to the Bill at its Cabinet meeting today. The Bill is at advanced drafting and I am glad to be able to say to Deputy Ahern and to Deputy Quill, who has raised this matter several times, that we hope to have it ready by October or the first half of November but certainly this session.

Various commitments were made in the Programme for Government on the issue of local service charges. Will the Taoiseach update the House on legislation planned in this area? Will this matter be dealt with in conjunction with the issue of RPT? I understand I am in order in asking a question on the programme for Government.

Is legislation promised on this issue?

The Order of Business is for questions on promised legislation, not the programme for Government. As the House is aware, we introduced legislation in regard to water charges.

It has been the practice.

Somebody may distort what the Taoiseach said. He could be misinterpreted.

The Opposition had a few programmes that it did not finish.

The Government is finishing ours.

Let us hear the reply. The Order of Business is somewhat prolonged. The Taoiseach, without interruption.

The matter of tax relief for service charges was dealt with, as the Deputy knows, in the recent Finance Bill.

It is not working out.

That represented significant action in regard to what had been previously perceived as double taxation which had been allowed to continue while the Deputy's party was in office without anything being done about it. This Government has eliminated that element of double taxation by allowing a tax relief in respect of service charges.

How many people availed of the relief?

It is not working. They are not satisfied with it.

The Deputy's party did absolutely nothing about the matter when it was in Government. It did not have the gall to oppose this proposal when the Government introduced it. I compliment the Minister for Social Welfare in particular for looking for this very successful proposal.

In relation to the updating of the Medical Practitioners Act, 1978, a promise was given in June that this legislation would be introduced in the coming session. In the light of ongoing difficulties with the Medical Council, particularly with section 51 which relates to the holding of sworn inquiries into professional misconduct by a hospital doctor, will the Taoiseach expedite the introduction of this amending legislation in the light of recent cases?

It will be next year before that legislation is introduced.

Deputy O'Donnell will be introducing it.

The Minister for Health promised that the legislation would be introduced this year, given the ongoing problems with the Medical Council in two recent cases and a current case.

I cannot recall precisely what the Minister for Health said.

I have it here.

I am sure the Deputy has the quotation; she is always very assiduous in researching these matters. The position is that a general scheme is being prepared for amendment to the Medical Practitioners Bill but the first stage is the approval of the heads of the Bill before the matter goes to drafting. We have yet to approve the heads of the Bill. I know the Minister for Health is working on it but it is my task to give as realistic an assessment as possible to when legislation will be introduced. Regrettably, I do not expect it will be ready this year but I expect we will introduce it next year.

May I ask the Taoiseach if he has purchased his quickpick lotto ticket for tonight as the prize is over £4 million? In relation to promised legislation, will the Taoiseach indicate when the Government intends to raise the ceiling of a miserable £10,000 which applies to the charitable lotteries, restricting them to the crumbs that fall from the table in this area? This has been promised for some time. The Taoiseach had an opportunity to put that right in a Private Members' Bill but preferred to wait until innumerable discussions had taken place. Could he not put the matter right now? Can he not see the great disparity that exists currently and how adversely the charities are affected?

A number of aspects of the lottery need to be looked at, not just the matter to which the Deputy referred. The sale of overseas lottery tickets here has created a problem in recent times.

The Government is currently conducting a comprehensive review of this matter. The Minister for Finance prepared some issues for consideration by the Cabinet. This consideration is ongoing. I am not in a position to give any indication to the Deputy as to the timing of a proposal at this time.

In the meantime the funds of charities are going down the drain. Would the Taoiseach consider making up some of these funds as the charities are losing very badly?

On the last day of the last Dáil session in late July the Taoiseach and I paid tribute to our outgoing Captain of the Guard, Cathal Ó Laoghaire. On behalf of this side of the House and, I am sure, everybody in the House, I congratulate Noel McCann, our new Captain of the Guard, and wish him well. I congratulate the Superintendent and the staff here for the work they managed to complete in what was a fairly short summer recess. Now that the Minister for Finance has done such an excellent job — I commend him for providing the money for the excellent work — I would ask him to look at the small matter of a fax machine for the Fianna Fáil Front Bench to go with the renovations.

I will ask my colleague, the Minister for Finance, to look seriously at that matter. I thank Deputy Ahern for his generous tributes to the outgoing Captain. They are well deserved. I also wish the new captain well in his work in the House. I agree with Deputy Ahern about the very excellent way in which Leinster House has been improved in the time during which we have been unwillingly absent, not on holiday but at work elsewhere. It was a great tribute to everyone involved in Leinster House that it was possible for us to have a meeting of the Economic and Finance Minister's Council of the European Union in the precincts of the House. The professionalism of that operation was a great tribute to everyone in the House.

Was the dinner good?

I was not at it, but if previous dinners of Ministers of economics and finance are anything to go by, they always look after themselves extremely well.

There is a Bill later today to facilitate the selling off of 20 per cent of Telecom Éireann to foreign interests at what I regard as a scandalous price. No. 78 on the list of promised legislation is another Telecom Bill to give effect to the strategic alliance. When will that second Bill come before the House?

Next year.

The Tánaiste promised an amendment to the control of exports Acts to specifically ban land mines. When is it intended to introduce that amendment?

There are legislative proposals from the Department of Foreign Affairs which we expect to have before the House in this session to deal with certain amendments to the Geneva Convention. These may be the ones to which the Deputy refers. I will make further inquiries and I will communicate the relevant information to the Deputy. The Government has authorised the drafting of legislation to allow us to accede to amendments to the Geneva Convention.

At No. 39 on list D, which is the updated list of legislation, there is a Bill which deals with putting the employment of secretarial assistance in this House on a legislative basis. Will the Taoiseach bring forward that legislation as a matter of extreme urgency. If he is not aware of them, perhaps the Minister beside him would intimate to him the difficulties in this area. Will the Government bring forward this legislation as a matter of priority?

I understand very full discussions have taken place on this matter, including with the Deputy and his party. These negotiations and discussions are at an advanced stage. It is recognised that this anomaly has existed for many years under a succession of Governments, Government Whips and Ministers for Finance. It is an anomaly that needs to be put right, and it is in the process of being put right.