It is proposed to take the report of the Select Committee on Enterprise and Economic Strategy on the Organisation of Working Time Bill, 1996; the report of the Select Committee on Social Affairs on the Universities Bill, 1996; No. a1, report of the Committee of Selection; No. 4, Equal Status Bill, 1997 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 5, Education Bill, 1997 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. a1 shall be decided without debate.
Order of Business.
Is the proposal for dealing with No. a1, report of the Committee of Selection, agreed? Agreed.
Is it proposed to introduce legislation dealing with the reform and restructuring of the national training authority, FÁS, later this year and, if so, will it also cover other State agencies?
As the House will be aware, the White Paper on training is being prepared. A decision must first be taken on the White Paper before legislation is introduced.
In view of the High Court decision yesterday in the Gilligan case, will the Government avail of the opportunity in the Finance Bill to close off any loopholes so that the entire proceeds of crime can be seized and the Criminal Assets Bureau can conduct its work efficiently? I understand the difficulty arises in relation to section 194 of the Income Tax Act.
The judgment in question will of course be examined in conjunction with the preparation of the Finance Bill.
Given that the advanced technology college in Merrion Square is in examinership, will the Taoiseach outline the position in regard to the legislation to regulate private education to ensure proper educational standards, consumer protection and employee rights referred to in page 29 of the programme, A Government of Renewal? When will the legislation be ready? What steps does the Minister for Education intend to take to ensure that the students concerned are able to complete their courses and have their consumer rights protected?
The Deputy may not elaborate now.
This issue has been ongoing for many years and the Government has been negligent in not introducing the legislation.
This is a private institution.
I am aware of that.
The Government introduced legislation to establish Teastas, the national certification authority, which deals with the educational standards in institutions and to which application can be made for certification.
On a point of order, the Teastas legislation is separate.
It is not separate legislation.
I allowed the Deputy to ask a question on legislation.
I am referring to the legislation promised on page 29 of the programme, A Government of Renewal, and I will not be fobbed off with a misleading answer.
If the Deputy is dissatisfied with the Taoiseach's reply he can raise the matter some other time.
I am referring to the specific commitment in the programme, A Government of Renewal, to introduce legislation to regulate private colleges. There is obviously no legislation in this area.
Pending the reform of the Income Tax Act, 1967, following yesterday's High Court judgment, will the Taoiseach assure the House that the proceeds of crime legislation which relates to the status of the assets as opposed to the status of the accused will be enforced vigorously by the Criminal Assets Bureau during the hiatus which will inevitably develop?
The enforcement of the law is a matter for the relevant authority, and these authorities are pursuing their responsibilities with great vigour.
Will time be provided for a debate on the continuing cases of discrimination against Irish citizens and people of Irish decent in Britain and, in particular, the treatment of these people by the British criminal justice system.
I am anxious to help the Deputy but he is raising the matter at the wrong time.
Apparently we have no co-ordinated method for protecting people who are unable to protect themselves.
I respectfully suggest that the Deputy raise that matter at a more appropriate time. There are many avenues open to him for that purpose.
Can I have an answer to my question?
It is not in order now, Deputy.
On the telecommunications Bill, No. 74 on the list of legislation, will the Government take action to prevent the loss of 1,200 jobs in Telecom Éireann?
That is a different matter.
Does the Government care anymore about employment in State companies?
When will the legislation be brought before the House?
The Deputy should table a question.
The question about legislation is in order but the other matter must be raised in another way.
I take it the Government does not care about the 1,200 job losses.
The public sector is in far safer hands with this Government than it would be with any alternative Government.
I told the Taoiseach the new owners would do that.
This is a weak area for the Deputy.
There will be 1,200 job losses.
How many jobs did the Deputy say were going to be lost in the sub post offices?
I asked the Taoiseach on Tuesday if his Government intended to issue a stamp to commemorate the death of St. Colmcille. He said he would reply to me the following day. The reply I received from his office stated, "I have no plans to commemorate the 1400th anniversary of St. Colmcille".
This does not arise on the Order of Business.
In one sentence the Taoiseach has dismissed 1,400 years of history. Perhaps he might reconsider the request.
It is urgent after 1,400 years.
The British Government is producing a stamp.
Will the Taoiseach confirm that the Government will make time available for the House to discuss the local government planning and development regulations? This was raised with the Whip last night who conceded that we could discuss it on a date in March. I am anxious that it be discussed before 21 sitting days elapse.
That will be arranged.
Will the Taoiseach voice his concern to the Minister for Justice about the fact that it took 24 hours for the State Pathologist to arrive at the scene of two murders in Cork and Kerry in recent months? Is he concerned about the added agony this causes families? Is it possible, in the light of this experience——
I hesitate to do anything which would belittle the matter to which the Deputy is referring, but this is not the appropriate time to raise it.
——to do anything about locating the Assistant State Pathologist in the Munster region?
I notice the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry are sitting beside each other.
Does the Deputy have something against that?
Will the Taoiseach arrange for those Ministers to discuss a very serious matter which has arisen in Border areas? As I forecast earlier this week, all the permanent Border checkpoints have been removed since yesterday by the Garda and Army. The Minister is shaking his head but they have all been taken from my county.
They have gone mobile which is more appropriate.
The Deputy knows full well that that matter is not relevant to the Order of Business.
The point is that, with the difficulties caused by Newcastle disease emanating from the North into the South, this is the wrong time to do that and I ask the Government to reconsider.
This is the wrong time to raise that matter.
In regard to broadcasting legislation, there are continuing reports that only 40 per cent of viewers can receive Teilifís na Gaeilge. In view of the huge allocation which this House passed for Teilifís na Gaeilge, can the Government do anything to try to get over those technical difficulties? There must be some technical way of assisting or developing the range of Teilifís na Gaeilge.
The Deputy has raised a good point which is worth pursuing. This has been an important investment and everybody should have access to it.
Hear, hear; well said.
It is very important for the survival and growth of the Irish language that this television station should be a success. A very conscious decision was taken over the lifetime of a number of Governments to provide this station and I am most anxious that it should be accessible to everybody. I thank Deputy Bertie Ahern for raising the matter.
These compliments are unbearable.
This is not the first time it was raised.
Of course, I will give the Deputy credit for thinking of everything first.
When will the Greyhound (Amendment) Bill come before the House?
During this session.
On promised legislation and the commitment given in the programme, A Government of Renewal, will the Government introduce the Health (Amendment) Bill to reorganise the health services and the replacement of the Eastern Health Board? Will the Taoiseach give a timescale for that?
We will introduce that legislation.
In the second half of this year.
The Taoiseach has misled the House — we will introduce it.
I recollect that that legislation was promised in the dim and distant past when Deputy O'Hanlon was Minister for Health. There have been many Ministers for Health since then who did not produce the legislation——
I am talking about now.
——but it will be enacted by this Government.
Why did this Government not produce it?
The Deputy should read her history books.
In view of the Taoiseach's reply to my colleague on the greyhound industry Bill, he might find that the Bill has become more promised since the Tánaiste's visit to Cloonanas last weekend.
The Taoiseach might not have the answer to the following question this morning——
We were worried that the Deputy would not make it.
——but perhaps his office could communicate with me on it later. Two separate Bills have been promised — the Teastas legislation is quite separate to the legislation which was promised to regulate private third level colleges. When does the Government intend to introduce legislation to deal specifically with the protection of the consumer rights of students attending private third level colleges? That has nothing to do with the legislation on Teastas.
There are two issues here. The first is certification that the courses are genuine, which is important consumer protection in itself and is provided for in the Teastas mechanism. There is also the question of bonding, as is the case with, for example, travel companies which get into difficulty. That separate matter is also being addressed.
I asked about that earlier.
The Deputy has to be told twice.
Is the Taoiseach aware of the great concern among retired nurses that they will not benefit from the deal recently made with other nurses? This would be a break with precedent. Will he take up that issue with the Minister for Health?
Perhaps the Deputy will raise that issue again.
Yesterday I raised an issue with the Taoiseach in regard to the Fine Gael convention. Will the Taoiseach release the Fine Gael members in Meath from the muzzle which is on them? They have gone to ground on LM-FM — all 950 of them.
I missed that.
The Taoiseach muzzled them.
I am glad to say the Deputy and I have one thing in common — our favourite radio station.