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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 6 Oct 1998

Vol. 494 No. 4

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 16, Education (No. 2) Bill, 1997 — Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage. Private Members' Business shall be No. 27 — Home Purchasers (Anti-Gazumping) Bill, 1998, Second Stage.

There are no proposals to put to the House.

Will the Taoiseach consider the Government's legislative programme and ask himself why there are no measures to deal with the two major issues facing people at present, the housing crisis and traffic problems? There are numerous legislative recommendations for action in these two areas, but none of the 67 items on the legislative programme deals with these relevant issues.

What practical measures is the Government taking?

It is not a case of introducing legislation to resolve either problem. As I stated last week, the interim report of the Minister for the Environment and Local Government and the Minister for Public Enterprise outlines the Government's short-term action plan on road infrastructure, the DTO plans, bus corridors, new buses, improvements in DART services and railway lines and the proposals on Luas. None of these matters requires legislation. Legislation does not solve problems. Only action solves them and the Government is taking action.

Regarding the housing issue which has created much concern in recent years, the Government commissioned the Bacon report and has taken action on it. The issue of supply and demand is still involved. Legislation has not changed that since Hanson's economic theory was developed. The Government is dealing with the matter through numerous measures initiated by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, and the Minister of State, Deputy Molloy.

Will the Taoiseach inform the House if the Government has prepared a memorandum setting out the heads of the Bill for the proposed legislation to give effect to devolution to certain regions to comply with the Government's efforts——

No such legislation is promised.

It was at the last election.

It appears the legislation has been leaked. Will the Taoiseach indicate whether such a Bill is promised or will be introduced?

No legislation is promised.

Item 18, the Western Development Commission Bill, 1998, which is scheduled to be taken on Thursday, is welcome legislation based on an initiative taken by the previous Government. Does the Government intend to follow this Bill with legislation dealing with regionalisation? Will the Government provide time before the end of this week for a debate on its intentions with regard to Structural Funds and its strategy in Europe?

As the Taoiseach said, no such legislation is promised.

The House is scheduled to deal with the Western Development Commission Bill, which is important legislation intended to assist the development of the west. Is it intended, in tandem with that Bill, to bring forward legislation to provide for regional government in that area?

The Taoiseach already answered that question. No such legislation is promised.

I understand that, but I am seeking information on whether the Government intends to follow through on this worthwhile legislation.

That is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

Will the Government provide time to debate the issue of Structural Funds before next week?

It is appropriate to table a question on that matter.

It will be too late. I understand the Government proposes to make a decision on Structural Funds this day week.

We cannot have a debate on the matter. I ask the Deputy to resume his seat.

It will be too late next week.

In view of the £80,000 settlement today to a Defence Forces officer for posttraumatic stress disorder——

That is not in order on the Order of Business.

I am linking the question to proposed legislation. There is a need to examine two issues of concern. The first is the State claims agency and the other is legislation to reform the Pensions Board. Does the Taoiseach intend to bring forward the two relevant Bills?

Is legislation promised?

Legislation is promised in relation to a State claims agency, which is one aspect of dealing with this matter.

Legislation is promised in this area. The State Claims Management Agency Bill will handle claims for compensation for common law personal injury and property damage against the State. The Bill is due in spring next year.

Deputy Fitzgerald was right.

Will the Taoiseach indicate whether item 62 on the list of promised legislation, the Road Transport Bill, will deal with the issue of the delivery of goods at certain times during the day to prevent traffic jams?

It is not appropriate to go into detail. A question only please, Deputy.

I ask the Leas-Cheann Comhairle to give me a chance to make a point. Will the Bill deal with the question of utilities tearing up the streets and other major issues?

Deputy Barrett knows it is not in order to go into detail.

I am asking the Taoiseach——

I suggest the Deputy puts down a question. Deputy Barrett knows it is not in order to go into detail on legislation.

I think the Taoiseach will answer. As a Dublin Deputy, is he aware of the two hour delay in traffic travelling seven miles in the morning? It takes children two hours to get to school.

The Deputy is not in order.

There is a two hour journey before children even get to school.

Deputy Bruton heard that on the radio.

I did not. I do not have to listen to the radio to know about it because my children have to get up at 6.45 a.m. for school.

Deputy Owen was giving interviews.

That is not the case.

It is not in order to ask questions on the details of legislation.

The Taoiseach thinks it is appropriate. May he answer the question?

The question is not in order.

There is a need for co-ordination.

The purpose of the legislation is to amend a number of aspects of the Acts from 1930 to 1986. It involves broad ranging amendments.

Will it deal with the issues?

Will the Taoiseach take in hand the legislation which, I assure him, is necessary to deal with the traffic chaos? The DTO report contains a number of recommendations regarding legislative measures, for example, reducing value added tax on buses which are penally taxed at present——

The Deputy is full of bright ideas.

——giving benefit in kind to people who buy public transport tickets rather than run a private car and liberalising public transport to allow private buses to operate on scheduled routes. These three measures would relieve the traffic chaos, but they require legislation and they are not included in the Government's legislative programme. Will the Government include them in the programme?

The first two items mentioned by Deputy Bruton are Finance Bill related matters. The budget will be announced in the first week of December. I refer the Deputy to the comprehensive statement made last week by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government and the Minister for Public Enterprise on a large range of issues covered in the DTO report which I hope will alleviate some of the difficulties.

The Government has promised measures in its legislative programme to tackle hospital waiting lists. There has been a significant increase in the number waiting for hospital beds. People are dying——

Does the Deputy have a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

This matter is highly relevant. It is a matter of life and death——

It is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

People are dying because they cannot get a hospital bed.

The Deputy should table a question.

Will the Taoiseach reply? There is need for legislation to ensure flexibility in hospital budgets. The Government said it would tackle the matter.

Will the Deputy please resume her seat? Deputies should ask questions appropriate to the Order of Business.

As a doctor, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle should have some idea of what I am talking about.

The Deputy can raise the matter in other ways. She can table a question or seek to raise it on the Adjournment.

It is as relevant as some of the other matters raised. The Taoiseach has a duty to tackle waiting lists.

When will the Book of Estimates be published? Will extra moneys be provided for CIE to purchase buses?

As I stated last week, the budget will be announced in the first week of December. The Book of Estimates will be published about two weeks before then.

The Taoiseach volunteered the information that the Ministers concerned have responded to the DTO report. Will extra resources be provided to give effect——

That matter is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

It is relevant.

I accept that. The Deputy should table a question.

Will the Taoiseach respond?

In their statement the Ministers concerned supported the expenditure of £145 million.

Are the Taoiseach and the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs singing off the same hymn sheet on the extension of family income supplement to the self-employed?

That matter is not appropriate to the Order of Business. The Deputy should table a question.

The Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs showed little compassion for farmers last week.

Although the Government has promised legislation to implement the recommendations of the high level group on road safety, it is not listed in its legislative programme. Is it being prepared and, if so, when will it be introduced?

Is the Deputy referring to the report of the Minister for the Environment and Local Government published at the end of July?

Primary legislation is not required to implement most of the measures mentioned. The Minister has already taken action.

It was stated at the time that on the penalty points system and random testing primary legislation would be required.

The Minister stated that primary legislation would not be required to implement many of the measures mentioned and that where required it would be brought forward.

Dr. Upton

When will Committee Stage of the juvenile justice Bill be taken? What is the reason for the delay given that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform wrote to the Chief Whip to say that it would be taken in June?

A large number of amendments have been tabled. The Bill will be considered by the appropriate committee in the next few weeks.

On the sale of the century, the sale of CIE lands, announced yesterday by the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke——

That was Telecom Éireann.

——is it intended to introduce legislation to discuss the matter prior to——

Legislation has not been promised.

Is legislation required?

The Deputy should table a question.

The purpose of the trafficking in illegal immigrants Bill is to criminalise trafficking in and the employment of illegal immigrants. When will it be brought forward? Will the Taoiseach consider publishing a consultative paper on the thinking behind it? Does he agree it would be far better to enable illegal immigrants to work here rather than criminalise them?

There is an urgent need for the legislation which should be introduced this session.

There is an urgent need for legislation to criminalise trafficking in illegal immigrants but it is also proposed to criminalise their employment. That is a backward step.

The Deputy should not go into detail.

Will the Taoiseach publish a consultative paper on the thinking behind the legislation so that we can debate the issue which is of extreme importance to Irish society?

The legislation which will be debated fully is urgently required. The Minister is aware of the Deputy's views.

On the British-Irish Agreement, the Taoiseach undertook to introduce legislation to establish a standing commission on human rights. According to the Government's legislative programme publication may arise in 1998. What does that mean? When will the legislation be introduced? Although the Taoiseach promised to introduce legislation to ratify the Council of Europe convention on national minorities, it has not been included in the Government's legislative programme. When will it be introduced?

The Bill to establish a human rights commission in line with commitments given in the British-Irish Agreement will be ready this session. I have also been asked about the nationality and citizenship Bill, the equal status Bill and legislation to establish the implementation bodies. I will forward Deputies a note.

Last week when the Taoiseach referred briefly to the much delayed copyright Bill I did not detect when it would be brought forward. The Tánaiste kindly submitted a draft to the Opposition well over one year ago. When will it be introduced? On the northside of Dublin we have been plagued once again in recent months by the joyriding craze. The Taoiseach promised me faithfully last May that he would ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Commissioner to take decisive action——

That matter is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

It is of critical importance to my constituents and those of the Taoiseach and the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Woods.

The final text of the Bill is under discussion with the office of the Attorney General. Its purpose is to implement the EU directives dealing with copyright and related rights and fulfil the requirements arising from the EEA agreement. We hope to introduce it this session.

In April or May following revelations concerning NIB an interdepartmental group was established to advise the Government on whether changes to legislation were needed to redefine the role of the Director of Consumer Affairs and the Central Bank in relation to the supervision of banking. My understanding is that the committee was to report at the latest by the end of July. Can the Taoiseach tell me whether it is intended to introduce any legislative changes on foot of that report or if the report is available?

Is legislation promised in this area?

The Deputy is right in that I promised there would be an examination of this matter in the early summer. The Departments of Finance and Enterprise and Employment discussed this matter during the summer months and a memorandum on the issue will go to Government shortly. Following that discussion, it will be decided whether legislation is required.

In view of the drastic income crisis affecting farmers and the enormous level of arrears of land annuities, will the Taoiseach and the Minister agree to bring forward a land commission Bill to regularise the position pertaining to land commission annuities which is a major problem right across——

There is no such legislation promised.

I am asking the Taoiseach if the land commission Bill is promised legislation?

A land commission Bill will be ready some time next year which will regularise the position relating to land annuities and to amend the Land Acts. I am not sure if that is the Bill to which the Deputy is referring but that is the only Bill promised.

Does it deal with annuities? If it does not, it should.

On the matter of hospital beds raised by Deputy McManus, is legislation promised to establish an eastern regional health authority to replace the Eastern Health Board? When will that legislation be brought in and will it provide the flexibility to hospitals in the region so that they can provide the beds necessary for people waiting for lifesaving operations who currently die while on waiting lists?

The first part of the question is in order.

It is all relevant.

And the second part is emotive.

The second part is true.

There has been hardly any change in this regard.

There has been a change. People with cancer cannot currently get beds.

Deputy McManus should allow the Taoiseach to reply.

It is less than 1 per cent.

There are women with tumours who cannot get hospital beds.

Deputy McManus likes to see a crisis when she is in Opposition but she does not seem to see them when in power. That is the extent to which she cares about them.

They cannot get beds.

They cannot even get to see the consultant to get on the waiting list.

Allow the Taoiseach to reply without interruption.

The legislation will be ready in October.

Some people will be dead by then.

Is the Taoiseach aware that in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform there are six Bills promised to come before the House this session, three currently before the House and an additional 22 due to be published at a later stage? Does the Taoiseach believe the Department has the resources to meet the Government's legislative commitment or should the Department of Equality and Law Reform be re-established?

That question is not in order.

I am asking about the legislative programme.

The question of funding the legislation does not arise on the Order of Business.

I am trying to facilitate the House. I could ask a question on the 30 or so items on this agenda and be in order, although it might be an abuse of the order of the House. I am asking the Taoiseach a reasonable question. Can the Government deliver in one Department on more than 30 items of legislation, many of which are extremely urgent?

Many of these legislative items are urgent but the two Departments were amalgamated; they have the same staff and the same resources collectively as they had individually. The Minister is satisfied that he can implement any legislation he brings before the House. If additional resources are required that is a matter for negotiation with the Department of Finance.

When are we likely to see the school attendance Bill providing for an update of school attendance legislation from 1926, the heads of which were agreed before we left office?

That legislation was totally revamped because of the limited nature of the original Bill.

That is untrue.

The original Bill did not deal with the reality of the position in regard to early school leavers. That has now been addressed and the heads of the Bill were cleared some weeks ago at Cabinet and it will be ready shortly.

We will decide on that when we see it.

Given that there is a great deal of interest in the Human Rights Commission, both here and internationally, will the Taoiseach consider publishing the heads of the Bill so that we can have an open debate on the provisions of the Human Rights Commission and to inform the Government, which clearly is ill-informed in relation to health issues and should be better informed of the need for the Human Rights Commission and the framework in which it should operate?

I have no difficulty with the committees giving their views on the heads of the Bill, which has happened several times.