Order of Business (Resumed).

Is the proposal to sit later tonight agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for No. 9, that it be taken without debate, agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for No. 3 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for No. 17 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for No. 18 agreed?

Regarding No. 18, I thank the Minister for his co-operation. It is a rare achievement for an Opposition spokesperson to have a Bill passed. This legislation will provide access to voting for people with disabilities. This is a matter of concern to members of the disabled community who will be entitled to vote in the next general election under the new arrangements. It is a significant achievement on Deputy Wallace's part that this legislation will be placed on the Statute Book.

Are the proposals for dealing with No. 18 agreed? Agreed. Are the proposals for dealing with No. 4 agreed? Agreed.

Since I raised the issue of organised crime and contract killings last week another person has been executed. Will the Minister for Health inform the House whether the Cabinet has any new proposals, ideas or ways to deal with this problem?

That matter is not relevant at this time.

I raised this matter frequently in the past two years and I am obliged to highlight it every two to three weeks when a further person is executed. People may not like to hear it, but the problem of crime is as bad as ever.

There are many other ways to raise this matter.

Are there any proposed new measures to try to deal with this matter?

(Limerick East): The investigation of an individual crime is a matter for the Garda Síochána. The Leader of the Opposition last week raised this issue with the Taoiseach who recited the full package of measures which the Government had put in place. Those measures are clearly taking effect.

When will legislation to provide for the establishment of an independent courts service and an independent prison service be published?

(Limerick East): Early next year.

When will promised legislation on school attendance be introduced, given the serious problem regarding the presence of 13 to 15 year old children on our streets? Perhaps the proposed legislation could be retitled the "right to education" Bill because this is a growing problem and urgent action is required to cater for the needs of these children.

The Deputy may not elaborate on that matter. He may merely ask a question regarding the current position of the measure.

(Limerick East): The Bill has approximately 20 heads and will be ready in March or April of 1997.

Under the Ministers and Secretaries legislation, will the Minister for Health indicate when the Taoiseach and Tánaiste propose to return to the House?

(Limerick East): The Taoiseach and Tánaiste are in America on important business concerning the European Union and this country and are meeting with the President of the United States. It is ridiculous to criticise them for meeting with the President of that country.


This is the first occasion in some time that the Minister for Health has defended the Tánaiste.

When is it intended to publish the broadcasting Bill? As a White Paper did not follow the publication of the Green Paper, will the Minister circulate a memo on the costings of the latter? Will there be an investigation of leaks to national newspapers of the contents of this Bill, which I understand has not yet come before Cabinet?

(Limerick East): The Bill is being put through the normal process and a draft has been——

Lost in the post.

(Limerick East):——circulated to Departments in the usual way. It will be placed before the Government in the near future and will be published early in 1997.

Will action be taken in connection with leaks?

The programme for renewal contained a commitment on homelessness. In view of recent reports on the extent of homelessness, does the Government have any proposals to deal with or alleviate this problem?

(Limerick East): Legislation is in place to deal with this matter which is being addressed by the appropriate agencies. It is a great cause for concern if children are homeless in Dublin as Christmas approaches. The appropriate agencies have been alerted and will intervene before Christmas.

Is it intended to introduce legislation to replace the Official Secrets Act and, if so, when?

(Limerick East): As the Deputy is aware, the Freedom of Information Bill which was published yesterday is a step in that direction.

It is not.

There shall be no arguments. Deputy Woods should not show continuous disdain for the Chair because I will not tolerate it.

(Limerick East): The Select Committee on Legislation and Security, under the chairmanship of Deputy Flanagan, is examining the wider issue.

In view of public concern regarding lack of confidence in the Blood Transfusion Service Board and the lack of correct information emanating from the Department of Health and the board, will the Minister for Health, because of the limited time available for priority questions today, consider making a full statement to the House and allow time for a debate before the end of the week?

There are many questions on that subject on today's Order Paper.

There are only two.

(Limerick East): I will be making a full and complete statement in reply to the priority questions tabled by Deputies Geoghegan-Quinn and O'Donnell during Question Time.

Let us await the answers.

Is it intended to introduce legislation to establish a Garda authority? A leak regarding that possibility recently appeared in a newspaper.

(Limerick East): No such proposal has been put forward. As the Deputy is aware, a group is currently examining the Garda Síochána and its wider functions. We will await the group's recommendations before any initiative is taken.

Regarding the list of promised legislation to be published during this session, of which only two days remain, a commitment was given that the credit union Bill would be published. Will it be published before the end of the session?

(Limerick East): As Deputies who have been in contact with representatives of credit unions are aware, this is a massive undertaking but it is going before Government tomorrow and will be published shortly thereafter in the normal way.

Will the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry appear before the House on Thursday next, perhaps during the debate on the Estimates, to provide an update on the Russian situation, particularly in light of the increased incidence of BSE? Will the Minister for Health ensure that his colleague appears before the House? I have received serious information about this matter.

I would like to help the Deputy but he must raise that matter in another way.

I believe the Minister for Health was attempting to be helpful. Will he confirm that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry will appear before the House?

The Deputy will not seek to circumvent the ruling of the Chair.

The Ceann Comhairle will recall the long debates we had regarding the Protocol signed by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Yes. I am sure the Deputy will find other ways and means to deal with that matter but it is not relevant to the Order of Business.

Will the Minister for Health, perhaps by a nod of his head, confirm that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry will appear before the House?

The Deputy will desist from raising this matter.

As we are entering the season of goodwill, will the Taoiseach in waiting confirm whether there will be pre-budget lunches this year with invitations issued by the Labour Party?

(Limerick East): I wish Deputy O'Keeffe a happy Christmas. I am surprised that he did not take the opportunity this year to promote Mitchelstown ham.

There are a few years left to do so.

Last May the Tánaiste promised an amendment to the Control of Exports Act, 1983, in relation to military goods, particularly landmines, but there has been no indication as to when the legislation will be amended.

(Limerick East): I have not been briefed on that matter but I will ask the Tánaiste's office about it. I believe it may have gone through.

I refer to the two statutory instruments. AFRI has criticised the Government for the delay in this regard.