It is proposed to take No. 49, the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) Bill, 2001 [Seanad] – Second Stage (resumed); No. 50, the Youth Work Bill, 2000 – Order for Report and Report and Final Stages and No. 6, the Residential Institutions Redress Bill, 2001 – 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. 49 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 5.30 p.m. and that Question Time tomorrow shall be taken from 3.30 p.m. until 4.45 p.m. In the event of a private notice question being allowed it shall be taken at 4.15 p.m. and the Order shall not resume thereafter. Private Members' business shall be No. 115, motion re Public Enterprise (resumed) to conclude at 8.30 p.m.
Order of Business.
There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 49 agreed?
Will the Taoiseach indicate the Government's general proposals to increase the number of sitting hours to provide for the enormous backlog of legislation which currently exists and which will be there into the New Year?
Is the Deputy opposing the proposal?
I am seeking clarification on this point.
We are discussing the proposal for dealing with No. 49.
The Taoiseach's reply might influence the way I vote.
Does the Taoiseach wish to reply?
The Whips are meeting tonight, but Friday sittings seem necessary to clear some of the legislation.
Is the proposal agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Question Time tomorrow agreed? Agreed. We will now move on to Leaders' Questions.
The jobs crisis continues with news of proposals for 250 job losses in The Irish Times and 100 job losses in Waterford Wedgewood. The Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, stated yesterday that he has no idea where the money has gone and cannot explain the reduction in receipts from income tax, VAT and excise duties even though, as he says, people seem to be drinking and smoking as much as ever. Does the Taoiseach think this is the man who should introduce a budget in a month's time when he has no idea what is happening to the flow of revenue and has to base a budget on the flow of revenue expected in 2002?
I will allow a supplementary question from Deputy Quinn.
Yesterday the Taoiseach indicated in the House that the Government intended to have a budget surplus, including next year. In light of the massive economic downturn, will he indicate what cuts he proposes to introduce in current and capital public expenditure to achieve this surplus? When will those cuts be made public?
More job losses have been announced today. Waterford Wedgewood is shedding 1,400 to 1,500 jobs world wide, 100 of which will be voluntary redundancies in Ireland. The economic downturn across the world is creating enormous shocks. I spoke to a number of European colleagues over the weekend and there have been significant job losses. As I said yesterday, while there have been job losses in this country we have to manage through a difficult situation.
Almost 500,000 jobs have been lost in the US in six weeks and there has also been a downturn in Ireland. Waterford Wedgewood sells the majority of its merchandise in the US and it is not unexpected that it will face some difficulties. I am more inclined to commend the company for the fact that only 100 of the job losses will be in Ireland, and they will be voluntary. We would be happy to see a similar approach everywhere else.
I wish to clarify my comments yesterday regarding GGB. I stated that, on a GGB basis, there would be a surplus next year. This takes account of the pension and social funds. The Book of Estimates, which will be published on 15 November, will see an increase. Obviously, all Departments have to tighten up. We have to deal with the economic situation as it is. In recent years, we have increased public expenditure by what has been described by some people as excessive amounts. Across health, social welfare and education we felt it was necessary in good times to put as much money as possible into the economy to assist the less well off and to assist with issues of social inclusion and education. We will continue to do that at more moderate rates. That is what the Government is determined to do. We will plan ahead in preparing our budget as the Minister for Finance has done on the last four occasions. This day four weeks I hope we will all be here well and healthy to see the fifth budget.
I hope it is a healthy budget.
Is the Taoiseach aware that yesterday the Minister for Finance, who has no idea where the revenue flow has disappeared, again lectured the EU Commission stating that he had no intention of taking its advice in the economic management of the country? Does the Taoiseach think this is a prudent course of action in circumstances where it is the stated intention of the Government to ask the Commission to give it permission to put equity into Aer Lingus?
The Taoiseach: Commissioner Solbes, who I had the opportunity to meet a few weeks ago, and the Minister, Deputy McCreevy, are closer to being at one on the Irish situation than they ever have been. I think Commissioner Solbes would now say, because of the changed economic circumstances, that we need to continue, in a prudent way, to handle our fiscal and monetary difficulties as best we can. He would acknowledge now – although neither the Minister, Deputy McCreevy or he could have predicted it – that if we had done some of the things suggested to us last January, we would have had far more difficulties than we have at present. It is the reason the economy is still probably performing better than anywhere in Europe. However, we do not take any satisfaction out of that. We have a situation to manage. We have to try to keep economic growth as high as we can.
The answer to Deputy Noonan's question, which I suppose is a fair one, on where the revenue has gone is, unfortunately, equally simple. This time last year – I remember the period well between September and Christmas – the Irish economy was growing at just under 12%. We saw the CSO figures last week which indicated that was the case. The economy grew by more than 12% in the last quarter but by 11.8% for the year as a whole. That rate has been dramatically reduced as it has all over the world. The only place which would have been equal to us at that time was Singapore where growth was 11%. It now has negative growth of several percentage points and is in a far more difficult position than we are. The world economy is either in negative or neutral.
The figure for this year in this country will be of the order of 5% or 6%. I am already on record as saying I do not believe that will carry forward into the first quarter. When the Central Bank and the ESRI brought out their figures in September and I was asked publicly about them, I said I did not think they were right and that the carry over in the first quarter of this year would roll in. The 2.6% they mentioned the other day is probably more an indicator. That is the position and the reason the incomes are down across the tax heads. We now face a situation in which we have to try to maintain employment as best we can. The Tánaiste has already said we have to look at work permits. We have to try as best we can to look after our own population and work force. There is still quite an amount of buoyancy in the labour market but, obviously, if people lose their jobs in some areas, we have to try to balance that with those recruiting in other areas, and that the Government will do.
Yesterday the Taoiseach joined me in welcoming the establishment of the new policing service in Northern Ireland and saw in its creation the necessary construction of a police force that wins the confidence of all the citizens in that part of this island. In the light of the recent autopsy report on the late Mr. Richie Barron and the growing lack of confidence in policing in County Donegal, what specific and concrete measures does this Government intend to take to fully investigate the serious allegations of wrong doing in the Garda so that it can restore public confidence in our police force in this jurisdiction?
In agreeing with what has been said by Deputy Quinn, will the Taoiseach specifically confirm that as far back as September 1997, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform had a request for an exhumation order relating to this case from a senior garda in County Donegal? A senior garda in County Donegal submitted a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions which indicated that there was no case against the McBreartys as far back as 1997 and as far back as 1998, the DPP agreed to this. Why has this dragged on so long when so many senior people knew the facts so long ago?
As I stated briefly yesterday, I am advised that the High Court has given leave to Mr. McBrearty to initiate a civil action seeking an order to compel the Garda Commissioner to investigate allegations of perjury. Certain allegations of perjury have been made. As the substantive issue has yet to be determined by the court, I cannot comment on the case. Deputy Quinn asked me generally about confidence in regard to this issue. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has made a number of statements in the House addressing the allegations regarding policing matters in County Donegal – there have been many – and included all of them in his remarks. The Minister has had discussions with the Attorney General. As to the holding of an inquiry, the advice to date is that it would be inappropriate to hold such an inquiry until the criminal prosecutions and civil actions relating to County Donegal have run their course. The Minister has had a number of discussions with me about this matter. He is obviously concerned about the situation. I cannot confirm what Deputy Noonan said – I just do not know the answer to that—
Can the Taoiseach check the facts?
I have no reason to doubt what the Deputy said. I just do not have the information. He would have to put down a question to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. However, the Minister is concerned about the ongoing matters in County Donegal. He has had a number of discussions about it and I am sure he would be glad to report to the House as matters develop. That is the legal position and the advice from the Attorney General.
Would the Taoiseach not accept at this stage that the concern which is widespread across County Donegal and elsewhere goes way beyond the particularity of this legal case and that had his reply been given by the responsible Minister in the UK administration in relation to the RUC, it would have been deemed totally inadequate and would have been seen by some to be hiding behind the courts and due process? The concern is simply too deep and too widespread for the Taoiseach to take refuge behind a specific set of legal proceedings. There are other reports of wrong doing and other concerns which have been expressed. The Taoiseach's colleagues in County Donegal know it very well. As Deputy Noonan said, it has been ongoing for some time. It has been held back, covered up or stopped from being opened up by an incompetent Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. This is too serious a matter for the Taoiseach to simply say that because he has legal advice to the effect that a court case is pending, he cannot make any comment. We need to have confidence in the Garda Síochána in the same way as the people of Northern Ireland need to have confidence in their police service. The Taoiseach is for the time being the Taoiseach of this country, the head of a Government that can take action. What concrete steps will he take to restore confidence in a fundamental arm of any democratic state, the police force?
In reply to Deputy Quinn, I said that in regard to the McBrearty initiative I could not make any particular comments other than what I have said. I did not say that meant the Minister or the Government was doing nothing on the more general position. I would preface that by saying I believe the members of the Garda Síochána throughout the country do an excellent job always, in difficult situations. I do not want to generalise the matter. Deputy Quinn is correct, there are concerns about County Donegal and the Minister has, for some time, made the point about his concerns in several statements to this House. He has raised this not only in this House but with the Government on many occasions.
Beyond making statements, what will the Taoiseach do?
Will the Government hold an inquiry?
The Minister has been in discussions with the Attorney General to look at the possibility of holding an inquiry but the advice to date is that it would be inappropriate to hold such an inquiry until criminal prosecutions and civil actions relating to Donegal have run their course. The Minister has also said, both in and outside the House, that he is looking at a more independent way of dealing with cases of discipline and investigation in the Garda Síochána. He has put his proposals on that into the public domain.
That is totally inadequate.
Last week, yet more parents had to go to court to vindicate their rights to services for their autistic children. Is the Taoiseach's advice to the parents of disabled children to continue to go to court to vindicate those rights, or will the Taoiseach introduce legislation dealing with disability—
That is not in order.
—which will go some way toward ensuring that those parents get rights? What is the timetable for that legislation? Will it be introduced this term?
The Taoiseach should come out of the trenches.
The Disabilities Bill and the legislation dealing with the ombudsman are due this session.
Despite the protestations of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, there are growing reports of a return to a revolving door system in our prison service. When will the published legislation, the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Bill, be brought before the House?
As the Deputy says, the Bill is published and it is awaiting Order for Second Stage.
When will it come to the House?
If the Whips can discuss it—
It is for the Taoiseach to decide the matter.
I am happy to take it this session.
The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Bill is listed in promised legislation. I want to ask the Taoiseach about the Sellafield plant.
The Deputy must confine her question to promised legislation.
What action is the Taoiseach taking to ensure that additional security is immediately provided around that site similar to that seen in France? The Taoiseach should provide information. It is an urgent and potentially dangerous situation.
The Deputy must confine her question to promised legislation. This does not arise on the Order of Business.
We need improved security measures around that plant. The Taoiseach must take this matter up immediately.
The Deputy is disorderly. She is out of order. There are other ways that the matter can be raised. This is not the proper moment to raise it.
The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Bill is the implementation of our obligation under the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Work is in progress in the Department and the heads of the Bill are expected in January.
Maidir le reachtaíoch atá geallta le cupla bliain, sé sin an Bille Ealaíona – the Arts Bill, an bhféadfadh an Taoiseach a rá cén uair a bheidh sé ag teacht os comhair na Dála agus cén uair a bhéas an Bille á phlé ins an Teach? What is the up to date position on the Arts Bill?
The heads of the Arts Bill were approved by Government some months ago. The Bill is being drafted and is a priority. It is due early in the new session.
The Taoiseach has told me that the heads of the Housing (Private Rented Sector) Bill would be approved by the end of this year, and the Bill published early next year. Yesterday during Question Time, the Minister of State with responsibility for housing and urban renewal told the House that, to date, no memorandum has been circulated in respect of that Bill and it is not his intention or hope that the general scheme of the Bill will be approved by Government this year. What are the Government's plans in relation to this long overdue legislation to provide protection for tenants in the private rented sector? Will that Bill be published early in the new year?
It is hoped the heads of the Housing (Private Rented Sector) Bill to give effect to the report of the Commission on the Private Rented Sector will be ready before Christmas and the Bill will be ready in the new year.
Mr. Crawford: In light of the closure of Henshaw's Meat company, will the Taoiseach ensure that producers who had animals—
The question is not on promised legislation.
Legislation may be needed because farmers—
This is not the proper way to raise the matter. It is not in order. We are on the Order of Business.
Maidir le Bille na Gaeilge, os rud é go mbeidh na Meastacháin foilsithe an tseachtain seo chugainn is gá go mbeadh an reachtaíocht i gcló má tá costas ag baint leis agus má tá an Rialtas dáiríre faoi. Cathain a bheidh an Bille ar fáil agus an mbeidh an méid airgid a bheidh ag teastáil chun an Bille a chur i gcrích le fáil ins na Meastacháin?
The Taoiseach indicated yesterday that a briefing had been given to the appropriate spokesperson on justice, Deputy Howlin, in relation to the forthcoming legislation that arises in relation to the international conventions and the European Council on Justice and Home Affairs. The briefing did not specify however, which international conventions will be the subject of legislation. We have ratified five out of 12 international conventions that relate to terrorism. Which conventions will be the subject of such legislation as will enable them to be ratified in this session?
On Bille na Gaeilge, the heads of the Bill have been approved. I am sure that it will be funded. The Government has received a report on upcoming legislation relating to the international conventions. I will ask the Minister to give the Deputy the same report.
My question relates to the same issue of legislation to enable us to comply with anti-terrorism conventions. I may be right in thinking that the same applies in relation to the International Criminal Court. Is that included in the Taoiseach's list? There have been signs from the Taoiseach that we are to get long sitting days in the House. However, we have no indication what legislation will be put forward. When will we see it? It is important that we get an up-to-date briefing on that as soon as possible.
Before the end of this session, it is the intention to publish Bills to enable Ireland to ratify five international conventions. Although this could mean five Bills, it may be possible to limit this to three Bills by amalgamating items. I will ask the Minister to brief the interested parties on the five areas involved.
The purpose of the Extradition (European Union Conventions) Bill is to give effect to the EU extradition conventions. This is urgent because the European Council on Justice and Home Affairs asked that the two EU extradition conventions enter into force in all member states on 1 January next. The Bill needs to be enacted by the end of the session to enable ratification to take place by that deadline. The Department is endeavouring to publish that Bill as soon as possible.
The purpose of the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism Bill is to allow for ratification of the 1999 UN Convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism. The UN Security Council Resolution of 28 September last, the European Council on Justice and Home Affairs, and the European Council have called for ratification as soon as possible. States must report on progress to the UN committee within 90 days. We are not obliged to ratify it in this time scale and publication of the legislation would constitute progress.
The purpose of the fourth one is to allow for ratification of the 1979 UN Convention Against the Taking of Hostages. On 28 September, the UN Security Council, the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council and the European Council, called for its ratification as soon as possible. States must report on progress to the UN committee within 90 days. We are not obliged to ratify it in this time scale but publication of the legislation could constitute progress.
The purpose of the last one is to allow for ratification of the 1973 UN Convention on the Prevention of Punishment Attacks on Internationally Protected Persons. The UN security resolution of 28 September, the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council and the European Council have called for its ratification as soon as possible. States must report on that progress within 90 days. We are not obliged to ratify it in this time scale but publication of legislation, for example, could constitute progress. It is the intention to publish bills to enable Ireland to ratify these five international conventions and that will require three bills. We have cleared the first of those bills and the Minister and his Department are working flat out to clear the others. We would like to have all of them, but certainly the two I mentioned, passed by the House in this session. That is what we are endeavouring to do. I will ask the Minister to brief party spokespersons in detail, but I have covered the contents of the five conventions.
Will any additional legislation be necessary to enable us to ratify our membership of the International Criminal Court, or will that package of legislation, apart from enabling us to comply with the UN resolution, also enable us to ratify our membership of the International Criminal Court?
Bearing in mind that there are only about five weeks left before the Christmas recess, can the Taoiseach provide any indicative time frame as to when we will see the legislation, not to mention debate it?
When I first raised this matter with the Taoiseach some weeks ago, I also mentioned that some of the proposed legislation might require a derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights. When the Taoiseach replies, he might suggest if that has been considered by the Government or does it arise in relation to any of the information he has provided this morning?
I think the Deputy is referring to the content of legislation.
No, it is a parallel matter. For example, one cannot introduce some of the legislation within the context of the charter.
Deputy Michael D. Higgins raised that matter on several occasions. It would not be the Government's intention to move away from the convention. In reply to Deputy Jim O'Keeffe's question, I had better not go into another long list but there are a number of other relevant issues. I will ask the Minister to brief Opposition spokespersons on those because there is a long briefing note on several other issues that covers the Deputy's point. The first legislation will be published within days. I will have to report on progress at the Laeken summit which will take place just after the House breaks for the Christmas recess. The Chief Whip has advised me that the only way in which we can make progress on these matters, so that I can report positively at Laeken on the progress we have made, is by doing it on Fridays.
A Cheann Comhairle, you might bear with me briefly on this matter; it is on the Order of Business and relates to urgent, promised legislation, which in principle my party supports. We cannot, support that which we have not seen. We cannot take on trust assurances that what the Taoiseach will bring forward will be constitutional and we certainly cannot enact legislation without giving it proper scrutiny. The Taoiseach would not expect that if he were in Opposition.
A question please.
No paper has exchanged hands between the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Opposition spokespersons. The briefing has been entirely oral. I referred earlier to the time scheduling for the proposed legislation which is very important and concerns the fundamental human rights of Irish citizens. In view of the unusual circumstances, I am asking the Taoiseach to give clear consideration to making available now the work in progress in relation to these areas. In that way, we can have the sort of legislative process here that will enable the Taoiseach to say at Laeken that he has made progress. Otherwise, with only six weeks to go, the timetable he has read out simply cannot be achieved in a manner that will ensure that the House will have done a good job.
We will not rubber-stamp it.
I accept that point. There are five conventions.
As regards three, we would not have to have them passed. One of the Bills was passed by the Government yesterday. I will ask the Minister to brief Opposition spokespersons. I am sure he can give the content of that Bill because it was passed by the Government. He will give as much information as he can on the other issues so that we make progress. The Deputy will be aware from newspapers and comments on the international stage, that all other parliaments are making enormous efforts to do this. We have to do so, too. I will ask the Minister to arrange urgent briefings on those matters.
I wish to correct the Taoiseach on his bright and breezy assessment of the situation in Waterford Glass. Jobs are being lost on an ongoing basis.
We cannot have a debate on this matter at this stage.
The workers are not one bit happy at the short-time working which has been introduced. All 2,500 workers feel under threat.
Does the Deputy have a question on promised legislation?
I wish to make that point clearly to the Taoiseach. All 2,500 workers feel under threat.
If the Deputy does not have a question on promised legislation he should resume his seat.
There is no happy scenario as the Taoiseach paints it.
That is right.
Is the Taoiseach aware that the legislative programme in the Department of Health and Children appears to have slipped rather badly, presumably as a result of the work that has been done on the health strategy. We were promised that the health strategy would be published in July, yet we are now in November and there is no sign of it.
Has the health strategy gone to the Cabinet? When will it be published?
Will it be funded? Sin í an cheist.
The Deputy should put a question on legislation.
Will the Taoiseach clarify the position of the health strategy? It is becoming a bit of a joke at this stage.
A sick joke.
A very sick joke.
Does this involve legislation, Taoiseach?
The Estimates are being published and crucial decisions are being taken on the future of the health service, yet there is no strategy.
The Deputy has put her question, so she should let the Taoiseach respond to it.
When will the health strategy be published? It has been promised and leaked often enough, yet we have not seen it.
The billboard Government.
In terms of the legislative programme that the Department of Health and Children is now—
Deputies should not make long statements. Questions on legislation are the only matters in order at this stage.
I am trying to ask a question.
Brief questions on promised legislation are the only matters in order; anything else is not in order at this stage. The Deputy should not proceed with statements, just questions on promised legislation.
I am in order.
The Deputy is not in order.
Will the Taoiseach indicate what health legislation will be published in the first six months of next year? Every time a programme is published it has slipped further.
I do not know if the Deputy wants me to list them all but there are seven or eight such bills, most of which have already been published.
More billboards but no value for the taxpayers' money.
I do not know if there is any particular Bill the Deputy wants to ask me about but several bills have been published. More will be published during this session and others will be published in the first session next year.
The poor old taxpayer will pay, as usual.
Will the Taoiseach call together the three relevant Ministers to address the lack of custodial places for juveniles, having particular regard to the ridiculous situation in the recent past.
Does this involve promised legislation?
Legislation has previously been promised, as has funding.
The Deputy's question should relate to promised legislation.
But nothing is happening.
The Deputy is out of order.
The point is—
The Deputy can raise that matter in a number of other ways.
Yesterday, a social worker made the point that the effect of the system was that the only thing increasing for a prisoner was the amount of money that he or she stole.
The Deputy is not in order. I call Deputy Sargent.
In light of the appointment by the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources of a manger for coastal zone management, when will the Coastal Zone Bill be published? It was promised in 1994. There have been over 4,000 submissions made on the matter and the legislation is still awaited even though a manager has been appointed. It seems he or she is in the Department without a policy. What will he or she do?
The Coastal Zone Management Bill is to provide a new legal framework for the management of the coastal zone and is to replace the foreshore Acts. The Bill is being prepared in the Department and the latest information is that the heads of the Bill are expected in the spring.
(Dublin West): On the priority legislative list, many people with local authority housing finance loans are trapped in a nightmare of crippling interest rates. One family paid £26,000, for instance—
The Deputy is making statements. It is not in order to make statements on the Order of Business.
(Dublin West): I want to ask about a proposed Bill high up on the list. It is the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. When a family pays £26,000 in 1985 and now owes £42,000 as a result of housing finance alone—
I point out to the Deputy that statements are not in order at this stage.
(Dublin West): It is to illustrate the urgency involved. Can the Taoiseach bring forward the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which is to address a range of housing issues, including increasing the borrowing limit of the Housing Finance Agency, and could—
What a Bill contains is not in order.
The Bill is due and will be produced this session.
Like myself, the Taoiseach probably got more bad news on jobs on the northside last night.
We are discussing legislation now.
I refer to the General Electric Company, the biggest industrial company in the State.
Is it to do with promised legislation?
It is planning to cut half its workforce. Is it not time that the Taoiseach put himself at the head of some sort of task force—
The Deputy is completely out of order. The Order of Business is now concluded.