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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 2 Mar 2000

Vol. 515 No. 5

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 4, National Minimum Wage Bill, 2000 – Second Stage (resumed); and No. 5, Insurance Bill, 1999 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings on the resumed Second Stage of No. 4, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 2.30 p.m.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 4 agreed? Agreed.

What plans does the Taoiseach have regarding the number of days to be set aside for discussion on Committee Stage of the Planning and Development Bill, given that it re-enacts section 5 of 1976 Act which requires the Planning Board to take account of Government policy and given the Taoiseach's statement that a development being examined by An Bord Pleanála in oral hearing is, in his words, a monstrosity? Does this involve an interference by the Government in the work of an oral hearing and does the Taoiseach believe the oral hearing should be ended because he has declared Government policy on the Spencer Dock development in a fashion which—

He declared his view.

—he did not do as a public representative, which he could have done by means of a third party objection, but has done in mid-hearing in a fashion where all the people involved are now prejudiced in the work they have done?

The Bill will resume on Second Stage and it is a matter for the Whips to work out how many days are required for Committee Stage. As far as my remarks are concerned, I made a comment and do not believe I made any great pronouncements of Government policy.

The Taoiseach is scuttling the process.

I do not write the headlines in the papers.

The Taoiseach scuttled the national conference centre.

Is the Deputy in favour of it?

Order, please.

What is the point of having a planning appeals board if the Taoiseach, by off-the-cuff comments of that nature, prejudices all the money spent by all the people concerned before that body—

It is an independent appeals board.

—and where the Taoiseach, as head of the Government, prejudices the entire arrangement by making a statement of Government policy of which the board must take account in accordance with section 5 of the 1976 Act?

He did not enunciate policy. It was his view.

The Taoiseach has behaved entirely improperly in this matter and he should apologise to An Bord Pleanála and to the House for his interference with the process which has been established in this House. We have depoliticised planning appeals since 1976 and it is entirely wrong that the issues now—

We cannot have a debate on the matter.

I just want to finish my sentence.

The Deputy should be brief.

Next paragraph.

It is entirely wrong that issues before an oral hearing are now being politically prejudiced by the Taoiseach for reasons that are unknown.

What about Deputy Bruton's comments on the incinerator?

I am not Taoiseach at this stage.


Order, please. I call Deputy Quinn.

I want to raise this matter with the Taoiseach on the Order of Business. I suspect he was not necessarily aware that his comments as a Dubliner and as a public representative for the area affected would be interpreted in the manner they have been. Having regard to the enormous amount of litigation already surrounding the national conference centre, the fact that it is being located on this site, the cost to the taxpayer and the forfeiture of EU moneys designated for this purpose, will the Taoiseach consider clarifying the matter so as not to prejudice the outcome and give succour or comfort to any party which may feel aggrieved if the ultimate decision of An Bord Pleanála goes against their interests and results in litigation against the State and the taxpayer? That is the enormity of the issue. It is not about whether one agrees or disagrees with the desirability of the project. It is a project which has bedevilled three Administrations which have attempted to launch—

These issues can be pursued in other ways.

Time is of the essence and I am not sure the Taoiseach was aware that his one comment of many during that journey would be carried by RTE. Legal advice is urgently needed and corrective measures should be taken by the Taoiseach so as not to add to the saga of litigation which already surrounds this project.

If it were a criminal trial, the jury would be discharged. It is as serious as that.

Does the Taoiseach wish to make a final comment?

I take Deputy Quinn's point. My views in support of a conference centre are on record and I have in many interviews given my views on the height of the building.

The Taoiseach has two different views.

I am afraid it is one view.

At least he has a view.

Every angle is covered.

If what Deputy Quinn suggested were helpful in some way, I could certainly do that.

Is it in order for Members of the House to extend our best wishes for the speedy recovery of our colleague, Deputy Moloney, who was taken ill in the House yesterday?


Hear, hear.

I compliment the Government on the action it has taken on Mozambique. Will it raise the issue of the total cancellation of the outstanding indebtedness of the Republic of Mozam bique having regard to the precedent that was brought into play with Honduras when it was subject to a massive natural calamity? Can this matter be raised by the Taoiseach with his European colleagues to achieve cancellation of the $60 million Mozambique must repay each year, which is more than its primary health care and education budgets combined?

The matter was raised yesterday, but does the Taoiseach wish to make a brief comment?

The points made by the Minister of State are being followed through by Government.

In this era of openness and transparency, why is the Government refusing to publish the Snow report on the future of-—

The matter is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

—in view of the fact that it is being used against the development of—

The Deputy should pursue the matter in another way. Deputy Sargent.

I was refused the information in a parliamentary question.

I have called Deputy Sargent.

I should not have to go through other channels—

The Deputy should pursue the matter in another way, it is not appropriate on the Order of Business. I have called Deputy Sargent. Will Deputy Allen please resume his seat.


Maidir le reachtaíocht atá geallta, Marine Emergency Service Bill, tá sé an-tábhachtach i gcomhthéacs Sellafield. An bhfuil aon rud le rá ag an Taoiseach maidir leis an chás cúirte atá geallta? Cathain a bheidh sé ag teacht? An mbeidh sé roimh an Bille nó ina dhiadh? An bhfuil reachtaíocht ag teastáil chun dul in aghaidh Sellafield?

The Taoiseach on legislation.

This legislation is to develop the marine emergency capabilities. The heads of the Bill are being prepared and will be produced later on this year, but the Bill may not be introduced until next year.

Deputy Yates. We cannot debate this matter further. We must move on.

Before the session began the Minister for Public Enterprise announced she would rush through emergency legislation to provide a legal framework for e-commerce. There appears to be a considerable degree of constipation in that Department whereby Bills are promised but not published. As this matter is urgent, when will the Bill be published?

It will be published in this session.

I seek your indulgence, a Cheann Comhairle, to congratulate Minister of State, Deputy Jacob, on his statement and action yesterday regarding Sellafield. Will the Government consider making time available for this House to discuss the issue and support Deputy Jacob in his proposed action?

The Minister of State and the Government would welcome such an opportunity if it was possible.

Will the Taoiseach say what proposals the Government has in regard to competition law? At a meeting of the agriculture committee yesterday the chief executive of the Competition Authority said it has submitted proposals for changes in the law.

We cannot discuss matters raised at the committee meeting until we get a report.

Legislation was promised.

The Deputy must ask a question about promised legislation.

The proposals for new legislation to strengthen the hands of the Competition Authority with regard to examination of the beef industry have been submitted to Government. Will the Taoiseach say if he has received those proposals and inform the House of what is happening to them?

Any proposals received from the Competition Authority will be looked at by Government.

I tabled a Priority Question today to the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands in respect of her involvement in the Renshaw report dealing with—

Does the Deputy's question relate to legislation?

—the National Centre for the Performing Arts. The question has been transferred to the Department of Education and Science. My question was to the Minister, dealing with her involvement. Will the Taoiseach say if it is the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht or the Islands or the Department of Education and Science that is now dealing with the legislation relevant to this £35 million project, the report upon which appears to have been deliberately doctored by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands.

The Deputy may only ask about promised legislation.

I am informed by your office, a Cheann Comhairle, that it is now a matter for the Department of Education and Science. My question was to the Minister about her involvement in this.

My office does not have control over the transfer of questions.

Will the Taoiseach say if it is the Department of Education and Science which is now dealing with legislation in this area?

Deputy John Bruton on legislation.

This is a £35 million project.

The Deputy may pursue the matter in another way.

I want to know if it is the Department of Education and Science or the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands that is now dealing with this legislation.

On legislation, Deputy Bruton.

My query relates to legislation, a Cheann Comhairle.

I have asked Deputy Bruton to—

Deputy Bruton does not know the answer, the Taoiseach does.

If the Deputy resumes his seat—

Deputy Bruton is not expected to know the answer.

I am always willing to defer to my betters in the matter of answers.

I bet Deputy Bruton could hazard a guess.

A Deputy

A Cheann Comhairle, you are mixing up the Taoisigh and I do not blame you.

Perhaps the Taoiseach will answer another question if he will not answer that one. Are the views expressed by the Taoiseach in regard to the Spencer Dock development to be taken into account by the board in accordance with section 5 of the Act? Does he think it is right for the Head of Government to comment on matters currently in oral hearing in view of the possibility of appeal?

If the House wishes to pursue this matter it should be done by way of motion.

The Taoiseach made these comments. This is the proper place—

I allowed a great deal of time on this question earlier. We are dealing now with the Order of Business.

I know, but the Taoiseach has not withdrawn his comments or qualified them. He has not stated whether they are Government policy.

The Deputy should pursue the matter by way of motion.

The Taoiseach has not dealt with the issue of the independence of the planning appeals board.

We are on the Order of Business and cannot pursue this matter any further. The Deputy has been allowed to state his case. The Deputy should resume his seat on this issue. Deputy Joe Higgins.

It is a very expensive gift given by the Taoiseach to lawyers.

It is the Deputy opposite who is giving the gift.

I have called Deputy Joe Higgins.

(Dublin West): Deputy John Bruton is trying to take over the House again. On No. 66 of the Government's legislation programme, will the Taoiseach say, in view of the disgraceful decision of the British Government to release a mass murderer, General Pinochet, a man guilty of genocide against children—

Please ask a question. The Deputy should not make comments.

(Dublin West): In view of the British Government's decision to send General Pinochet back to Chile today, a man guilty of murdering and raping innocent people—

The Deputy is being disorderly.

(Dublin West):—what is the position with regard to the Bill dealing with the convention on extradition procedures between EU member states? Will the Taoiseach comment on the British Government's decision to send a war criminal—

That question is not in order. I have ruled that that question is not in order. The Deputy should find another way to pursue that matter. The Taoiseach on legislation.

The legislation is due later this year.

The Taoiseach said on a number of occasions that it would not be necessary to introduce legislation to establish a tribunal to deal with deafness compensation cases from the Defence Forces. I feel the Government has changed its mind on that, even though we knew there would a Supreme Court decision on this issue. What is the timetable for establishing that tribunal? Will the Taoiseach be able to bring forward the necessary legislation to establish it this session or will it be further delayed? Will the Taoiseach also say why the Minister for Defence has three times announced changes to Baldonnel Airport but has not made the report available.

That question is not appropriate to the Order of Business. The Deputy may pursue that by way of parliamentary question.

On the Defence Forces hearing loss compensation Bill, I said previously that the legality of that matter is being examined. I stated in January that the Minister had announced his intention to provide a statutory underpinning for the compensation scheme. The heads of that Bill are expected this month and the Bill will be published before Easter.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore.

The Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rent) Abolition Bill now in my name was originally moved in this House by Deputy Woods in 1997 and passed Second Stage in the Dáil on 19 March 1997. A motion was passed to refer it to a select committee. Will the Taoiseach consider agreeing to have that Bill referred to a select committee which was the will of the House in March 1997 and which was agreed unanimously in the House in March 1997?

Mr. Hayes

Will we get an answer to that question?

The Bill is now before the House as a Private Members' Bill and must be dealt with on that basis.

Mr. Hayes

It is the Government's Bill.

It is before the House.

We cannot debate the issue now. Deputy Austin Currie.

Will the Taoiseach agree that where ever possible we in this House should set good example? Why then, was the Taoiseach seen on television last night not wearing a safety belt?

That matter is not one for the Order of Business. The Deputy may pursue the matter in another way.


Will the Deputy resume his seat?

Is the Taoiseach not giving a bad example?

The Deputy is giving a bad example. I call Deputy Michael Higgins.

It is all Charlie Bird's fault.

I ask Members to allow Deputy Michael Higgins to speak.

Blame it on the birds.

What consultations took place between the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister or the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Home Secretary on the issue of allowing Augusto Pinochet to be returned to Chile?

Questions on conversations are not permissible on the Order of Business.

Many families who were tortured under the direct supervision of Augusto Pinochet were offered refuge in Ireland.

Has this something to do with promised legislation? The Deputy will have to find another way to raise that matter.

It is outrageous. He was connected with the armaments industry internationally.

That is not in order on the Order of Business. The Deputy should resume his seat. He is being disorderly. I call Deputy Jim Higgins.

(Mayo): Yesterday the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform confirmed in a written Dáil reply that there are 200 more prison staff than prisoners in our prisons.

Statements are not in order on the Order of Business. I ask the Deputy to put a question to the Taoiseach.

(Mayo): Our prison system is out of order. The Minister also confirmed that it costs a record £53,000 to keep a prisoner in jail for one year. The Minister has been sitting on an expert group report for the past two and a half years.

The Deputy is making a statement. He should ask a question.

(Mayo): When will the legislation recommended in this report, the Prisons Service Bill, be published so that we can establish a coherent management structure?

The heads of the Bill are expected in May or June. The Bill will be published either later this year or early next year.

Next year.

Consultation on the adoption contact register Bill finished some time ago. The Government list states that its publication is not expected before mid-2000. However, that could mean any time after mid-2000. Will the Taoiseach be more precise about when the legislation will be published?

The heads of the adoption contact register Bill are expected in May and the Bill will be published in the autumn.

Will the Taoiseach make time available in the House for a debate on war crimes and crimes against humanity which are currently being committed in Chechnya by a member of the Council of Europe, namely Russia, given that Ireland holds the presidency of the Council of Europe, which is the body responsible for human rights in Europe, including Chechnya?

We will make time available for such a debate.

The Government promised an inquiry into the retention of organs in Irish hospitals following post-mortems on babies. Has it decided if this inquiry will be on a statutory footing and, if so, when will the legislation come before the House?

The Minister is in discussions with the families and their legal representatives. As soon as they are concluded, the Minister will make a statement on the matter.