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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 5 Apr 2000

Vol. 517 No. 4

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 35, Children Bill, 1999 – Second Stage (resumed); No. 36, Insurance Bill, 1999 – Second Stage (resumed); and No. 5, Mental Health Bill, 1999 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. Private Members' Business shall be No. 56, Road Traffic (Joyriding) Bill, 2000 – Second Stage (resumed) to conclude at 8.30 p.m.

I welcome the fact that No. 5, the Mental Health Bill, is on the agenda after a long delay. Is the Taoiseach aware of the case of a young person who, in Trim District Court, had to be sent for treatment in a secure setting not in this jurisdiction but in Belfast because of disturbed behaviour because no place was available to which the young person could be sent for appropriate treatment other than Bridge House in Belfast? Is the Taoiseach satisfied that, in a country as successful as ours, we do not have adequate accommodation for young people with disturbed behaviour patterns?

That would be more appropriate to a question. I call Deputy Quinn.

I know that, as Deputy Quinn has family connections in Dundalk and since this young person was sentenced in Dundalk court, he would wish me to press this matter so that satisfactory treatment would be obtained. We do not want Mr. Justice Kelly condemning the Oireachtas from the bench every second week for our failure to provide secure accommodation. The Taoiseach should answer the question.

The Deputy should submit a question on that matter to the appropriate Minister.

The Taoiseach should answer the question.

Will the Taoiseach reconsider the Government's opposition to the Private Members' Bill in the name of Deputy Broughan and the Labour Party? It affects his constituency as well as others. An acceptance in principle and a referral to the appropriate committee would be a positive signal.

The matter will be debated in Private Members' time.

In respect of No. 93 on the Order Paper, now that the Taoiseach has returned from Cairo and has seen at first hand the level of poverty in what is one of the richest countries in Africa, would he agree to the technical motion being taken without debate in Government time to facilitate the Labour Party's Private Members' Bill to increase our overseas development aid to 0.7% given the wonderful set of budgetary figures announced yesterday?

For Deputy Bruton's information, the matter he raised is the subject of Question No. 54 today which is a priority question. I have already emphasised that we have asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to bring forward a multiannual programme showing how we will reach the UN target. In volume terms, our ODA budget has grown more quickly than that of anyone else. However, because of the growth in the economy, the percentage has decreased slightly. Nonetheless, we intend to increase our ODA in volume and percentage terms.

Our Bill would have the effect of an increase of £200 million.

We cannot have a debate on it now.

Yesterday the Minister for Finance had a surplus of over £600 million.

The matter is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

It is rhetoric.

At the beginning of this session the Minister for Public Enterprise promised two Bills: one was to give a legal basis to the aviation regulator who was appointed many months ago and the other was an emergency e-commerce Bill. The Taoiseach promised they would be taken in March and we are now moving towards the end of this session. Will these two Bills, the Aviation Regulation Bill and the e-commerce Bill, be published in this session?

The e-commerce Bill was cleared by Government yesterday and it is hoped it will commence in the Seanad next week. The Aviation Regulation Bill is on the Cabinet agenda next week.

The Deputy will not be able to talk yet.

As regards the Pollution of the Sea by Hazardous and Noxious Substances (Civil Liability and Compensation) Bill, I compliment the emergency services and the officials at the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources for having averted a serious pollution disaster in Bray. I hope that is the end of the matter. Do I take it that the Taoiseach has been warned severely about the need for this legislation and when can we expect it? It is listed to be taken at an early stage but I want to know if it will be taken immediately given what we along the east coast have escaped. Furthermore, will the Coastal Zone Management Bill be brought forward in the same context given the enormous confusion in Portmarnock over the way in which the dunes have been treated? Can that be brought forward given the considerable concern in that area?

It is not appropriate to make comments, merely to ask questions.

These are two promised Bills.

The heads of the coastal zone management Bill are not expected until early next year, so that will take some time. However, the Pollution of the Sea by Hazardous and Noxious Substances (Civil Liability and Compensation) Bill is still due before Easter – this month at any rate. The coastguard and the departmental staff did an excellent job yesterday.

What is the timetable for the legislation which has been promised to give the Navy increased powers? Why was it not included in the White Paper on Defence? Why is there once again mismanagement of the Naval Service using an ad hoc and piecemeal approach?

The first part of the question is appropriate to the Order of Business.

Why was this legislation not included in the White Paper? Why was the Naval Service downgraded in the White Paper when the Minister announced new legislation today?

The first part of that question is in order.

The preparatory work and discussions on the Bill were conducted in the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources and not in the Department of Defence. That is why discussions are still under way.

The Government promised amending legislation on the national treasury management to provide for the management of the new pension fund. Have the heads of the Bill been cleared? Is the Bill being drafted and when can we expect it to come before the House?

The text of the Bill is expected this month and it is hoped to take the Bill before the summer.

What is the position concerning promised health insurance legislation to allow insurance companies to insure in the area of primary care and other treatments not currently covered by health insurance? When will this legislation be published?

There are two Bills involved. The Deputy is referring to the health insurance amendment Bill which will amend the Insurance Act, 1994. The text of the Bill will, I hope, be taken in the next few weeks.

Will time be made available to allow the Minister for Health and Children to make a statement on the terms of reference and the mechanisms for the conduct of an inquiry—

It is not appropriate to ask a question on time being made available. I call Deputy McManus.

On a point of order, the Minister told the House that when terms of reference—

This matter is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

It is appropriate to ask whether a statement will be made to the House on the terms of reference of a major inquiry. The Minister has proposed—

If that was the case any Member could ask a question on time being made available. A promise was not made that time would be made available.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, a promise was made.

I call Deputy McManus.

On a point of order, when this issue was first raised in the House, it was promised that, following negotiations between the Minister's predecessor and the Parents for Justice, the terms of reference of the inquiry would be brought to the floor of the House so that Members could contribute to a discussion on the matter. Will that promise be kept? Will a statement be made in the House this week? Will Members be furnished formally with the terms of reference? Will Members be given an opportunity to contribute to the debate?

That is for the Whips to decide. I call Deputy McManus.

The Taoiseach wishes to reply.

The Minister does not have a problem with that. However, whether time can be made available is another matter. The Minister would be quite happy to debate it.

Will time be made available tomorrow? In light of the fact that the terms of reference have been announced without consulting the Parents for Justice—

I ask the Deputy to allow Deputy McManus to speak.

What about the legal profession trying to get fees paid before the tribunal takes place?

Deputy Dempsey does not know what he is talking about.


Deputy McManus without interruption.

The Deputy is making a fool of himself.

Deputy Dempsey is passing on the rubbish to everyone else.

Does Deputy Dempsey have something to say?

Please, Deputy, you are totally out of order. I would ask the Minister not to provoke the Deputy. I call Deputy McManus.


I hope the ignorance being displayed by some members of Government is not shared by the Taoiseach. I am sure the Taoiseach is aware of the severe suffering and high level of deaths experienced by haemophiliacs due to infected blood products.

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

I have, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. An inquiry was set up by this House to investigate this scandal. This inquiry is now at risk because the Minister for Health and Children will not provide the comfort needed by haemophiliacs who have suffered so much. Will the Taoiseach undertake to ensure that the inquiry established by this House—

This matter is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

—-is able to function and that he protects the victims who have suffered so much?

I ask the Deputy to resume her seat. Deputy McManus should be aware that the Chair has ruled on a number of occasions that issues currently before a tribunal are not a matter for the Order of Business.

This matter is not before a tribunal.

I am trying to ensure that the inquiry carries out its work.

The inquiry can function.

It cannot function when victims are being put at risk and are unable to have the security they need. Has the Taoiseach anything to say about these people who have suffered? The Taoiseach is silent on this issue.

The Deputy should submit a question to the appropriate Minister on the administrative aspects of costs. I call Deputy Hayes.

Shame on the Taoiseach.

Mr. Hayes

Next week the Select Committee on the Environment and Local Government will consider the Planning and Development Bill. Will the Taoiseach place the Attorney General's views on Part V of the Bill in the Oireachtas Library?

This matter does not arise on the Order of Business.

Mr. Hayes

Will the Taoiseach do so to help the committee in its deliberations? Part V of the Bill has received a certain amount of attention recently.

I call Deputy Finucane.

Mr. Hayes

If the Government has nothing to hide it should put this matter on the record of the House.

This matter is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

As regards acts of piracy at sea beyond the 12-mile limit and the inability of the Naval Service to board trawlers which have been causing much havoc for Irish trawlers, when will legislation be introduced to give the Naval Service the power to board vessels outside the 12-mile limit and within the European economic zone, which is part of our territory? This legis lation was promised by way of an article in The Irish Times this week.

The proposals are being examined in the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources. Whatever emerges from that examination will be published.

So there is not a clear promise.

(Dublin West): We should invite the students in the Gallery to come down to the floor of the House and send some Members up to the Gallery to see if they learn better behaviour.

Teacher's pet has arrived.

Deputy Higgins without interruption.

(Dublin West): Deputy Bruton is misbehaving again. In light of the disturbing views of the British Consumers' Association that hands free mobile telephone ear pieces have increased radiation emissions and are a potential health risk—

Does the Deputy have a question on promised legislation?

(Dublin West): This issue is the responsibility of the Department of Public Enterprise as it involves the control and regulation of emissions. When will legislation be brought forward requiring mobile telephone manufacturers to state the level of radiation emissions—

Is such legislation promised?

The telecommunications regulations Bill is in preparation but the heads are not expected until later this year. Perhaps the Deputy could make his comments in the context of that Bill.

(Dublin West): Will the Taoiseach take an initiative to secure the release of the Glen of the Downs protesters who are still in prison?

That matter is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

Will the Wildlife Bill re-emerge into the sunlight in the next two weeks, as confirmed by Deputy Harney? Will the Government ever introduce legislation governing national parks? This was on the list but it seems to have disappeared. Even though he does not go into the Oireachtas Library very often, is the Taoiseach aware that one of the support pillars is in a state of collapse?

The Taoiseach on promised legislation.

The Wildlife Bill will come back to the House the week after next. The national parks Bill has been deferred for some time. I have explained the reason for that before. When the Wildlife Bill is enacted, further work will be undertaken to draw up a legislative framework for the management of State properties, including the national parks, historical parks and heritage gardens. That framework will take account of the issues being considered in the forthcoming national heritage plan.

Is the Taoiseach aware of the U-turn made by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development yesterday on the cost of certification for farmers on the beef assurance scheme?

That is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

The Minister accepted the farmers' case but the Minister of State went back on the commitment.

If the Deputy does not resume his seat, I will move on to the business proper of the House.

This Government has no regard for parliamentary democracy.

It has no regard for Irish farmers. Every time the Minister gets a chance he places levies on them.

Yesterday the Tánaiste agreed to consider the possibility of a debate on the situation in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia in particular. There will be statements in the House on the Taoiseach's attendance at the Africa-EU summit. Can those statements be extended because we need to talk about the situation in Ethiopia? We should discuss more than the summit on this occasion.

It is money they need.

I have no difficulty with having a debate on Ethiopia. We will find time for it.

When can the House expect to see the Bill on Civil Defence? Traditionally the Minister of State at the Department—

The Deputy must ask an appropriate question on the Bill. There are three other Members waiting to put a question.

Who is responsible for Civil Defence, the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach or the Minister for Defence?

The Bill is due later this year. The Minister for Defence is responsible and in this instance delegated responsibility to the Minister of State at the Department of Defence, the Government Chief Whip, Deputy Séamus Brennan.

There is concern in Dublin at the moment about a series of unprovoked and random attacks on young people. Can the Taoiseach ensure that resources will be made available to deal with this problem?

That does not arise on the Order of Business.

Will adequate resources be made available under the Children Bill?

The contents of the Frederick Snow report are being used to block the development of Eircom park. Will the Taoiseach publish the contents of the report?

That is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

Why is the report being suppressed?

Given the appalling state of the environment, and the fact that the Minister for the Environment and Local Government blames everyone but himself, when will the Taoiseach introduce the environmental protection agency Bill?

The heads of the Bill are expected to be ready at Easter and the Bill will be published later this year.