Order of Business.

The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 18, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of an EU Council Framework Decision on the Protection of the Environment through Criminal Law, back from committee; No. 18a, motion re Appointment of Members to Standing Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills; No. 18b, Ministerial Rota for Parliamentary Questions; No. 26, Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill, 2002 [Seanad] – Committee and Remaining Stages; and No. a1, Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill, 2002 [Seanad] – Second and Subsequent Stages.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders or the order of the Dáil of 17 December 2002, that business shall be interrupted not later than 6.15 p.m. and the Dáil shall adjourn forthwith, and the sitting shall not be suspended today at 1.30 p.m.; Nos. 18, 18a and 18b shall be taken before Private Members' Business and shall be decided without debate; the proceedings on No. 26 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 3 p.m. by one question which shall be put to the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down and accepted by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government; the following arrangements shall apply in relation to No. a1, the proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes, the speech of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and of the main spokesperson for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the technical group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, the speech of each other Member shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, Members may share time, and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes, and the Committee, Report and Final Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 5 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or acceptable to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Oral questions to the Minister for Education and Science shall be taken from 5 p.m. until 6.15 p.m. and in the event of a Private Notice Question being allowed, it shall be taken at 5.45 p.m., and the order shall not resume thereafter; the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 29 January 2003; and Private Members' Business shall be No. 36 – motion re regulations governing the first-time buyer's grant and rent supplements, resumed, to be taken after the Order of Business and to conclude after 90 minutes.

There are six proposals to put to the House. Are the times for today's sitting agreed to?

I object to the Order of Business. The position is that there is insufficient time to discuss and tease out the consequences of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill, 2002.

That comes under the third proposal.

I understand that but it has to deal with the times for the sitting. We want further time to discuss this. The fact is that the original Bill, which included a 20% requirement for social and affordable housing, had a degree of certainty, if unworkability, about it. The position under the proposed Bill is that local authorities will be negotiating with developers, either for compensation or for land, and there will be different outcomes in different cases.

It would be more appropriate to debate the matter when No. 26 comes before the House.

There will not be time then.

I want to formally tell you, Sir, that we are objecting to the Order of Business.

I object to the first proposal because the Taoiseach is not providing adequate time. We will now have less than 90 minutes to discuss a measure where Fianna Fáil and the Government are dancing to the tune of the builders. This morning I received an e-mail, which was received by some colleagues on the other side of the House – I would be surprised if the Minister, Deputy Cullen, does not have it – from one builder in Wicklow who stands to make €13 million from the measure being brought in by Deputy Cullen. That is an absolute disgrace—

A disgrace because he is going to build houses?

That is a complete myth, the houses could be built anyway. It is a complete—

It is a Christmas present to the builders.

Deputy Rabbitte has opposed all re-zoning.

Nobody could ever accuse Deputy Lenihan's side of the House of doing that. His colleagues in the Cabinet would prefer that he stayed quiet on re-zoning. It is a disgrace that this kind of value is being conferred on builders at the stroke of a pen and that the House—

The Deputy can discuss the content of the Bill when it comes before the House.

Unless the Taoiseach gives us more time we cannot discuss the Bill adequately. Unless the finishing time of 6.15 p.m. provided for in No. 1 is extended, we will not have the opportunity to take Report Stage—

A discussion of the content of the Bill would be more appropriate to No. 26 on the Order Paper.

I am not asking to discuss the Bill now. We will not have a Report Stage under the provisions of No. 1 because there will be insufficient time. I know there will be dancing in the Bailey brothers' household and among the Bailey brothers of Ireland this Christmas as a result of Minister Cullen's—

It is all the young people with new houses to look forward to who will be dancing.

Apart from anything else, the Bill is a betrayal of his colleague and predecessor, Minister Dempsey. Everything Minister Dempsey has attempted has been undermined, and Minister Cullen is undermining him in this case. This is a critically important issue and I ask the Taoiseach for more time to debate it.

The timing being proposed in No. 1 on the Order of Business would seem quite farcical to people outside this House. This so-called later sitting is ridiculous given that the House is adjourned for most of January. More time should be given to debating the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill, 2002. More time is necessary to tease out its implications and to consider what needs to be done to address the country's serious housing crisis.

This Bill will not deal with the crisis, and it is ironic that it is being rushed through before Christmas because it represents one hell of a Christmas gift to the builders and to those already making huge profits on the backs of people who cannot afford housing. I ask you, a Cheann Comhairle, to take on board our objections to this aspect of the Order of Business and to revisit this debate in January. All of us should be available to come in here well before 29 January in order to debate this Bill properly.

I also object to the guillotining of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill, 2002 [Seanad]. It is an absolute disgrace that we are seeing the debate on this Bill curtailed this afternoon. People are extremely cynical about what is taking place in this measure. The Aylesbury Road (Amendment) Bill is designed only to facilitate those involved in the construction industry and has nothing to do with the provision of housing for those most in need, as Minister Cullen claims. If that were the case, it would ensure that property developers meet the legislative requirements already passed in this House—

I repeat the instruction issued to Deputies Kenny and Rabbitte. We cannot discuss the content of the Bill now, Deputy.

We are not implementing the law in this regard—

Wait until we see the figures for next year. Then we will see who was right, the Deputy or I.

We are finding escape hatches for the developers to avoid their obligations under the law.

There seems to be a view that it will cost €1 billion to replace social and affordable housing and the funds we could theoretically have got from the 80,000 planning permissions which were due to wither. This is nonsense. If these planning permissions were to wither, these houses may never have been built. Some 44,000 applications would wither at the end of 2002. More importantly, some of the Opposition seem to think that the social and affordable housing provided under Part V of the Planning and Development Act, 2000 comes free to local authorities, which is news to us on this side of the House. Under the original Part V, local authorities had to pay the full market value, including site costs, for these houses because the land was generally acquired before the 2000 Act was published. Under the new Bill, local authorities will receive a levy to help them provide housing, a stream of income they did not previously have.

The Opposition is being educated now.

The provision under which many planning permissions would wither on 31 December and thereafter throughout 2003 is being removed in the interests of ensuring a continuous supply of housing throughout 2003—

That is rubbish.

This provision would have wiped out planning permissions for 88,000—

It is a complete distortion.

These are the facts, I know they do not suit everybody. The provision would have had disastrous effects on housing supply over the next two years or so—

So Minister Dempsey was wrong.

(Interruptions).

The real issue here, let us be honest, is not one of time. The Deputies opposite would like us to keep the Act in its present state because they know we would get no social or affordable housing in 2003 and they would then be able to criticise us. That is why we are changing it—

That is completely untrue.

(Interruptions).

The reality is that the Opposition is immensely upset that we are now going to get our housing targets for next year correct. They are very disappointed about that. They should just accept that it is the right thing to do.

Question put: "That the times for today's sitting be agreed."

Ahern, Bertie.Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, Barry.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Seamus.Browne, John.Callanan, Joe.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Carty, John.Cassidy, Donie.Collins, Michael.Cregan, John.Cullen, Martin.Curran, John.Davern, Noel.de Valera, Síle.Dempsey, Noel.Dempsey, Tony.Dennehy, John.Devins, Jimmy.Ellis, John.Fahey, Frank.Finneran, Michael.Fitzpatrick, Dermot.Fleming, Seán.Gallagher, Pat The Cope.Glennon, Jim.Grealish, Noel.Hanafin, Mary.Harney, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Hoctor, Máire.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kelly, Peter.

Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Seamus.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McDaid, James.McEllistrim, Thomas.McGuinness, John.Martin, Micheál.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.Mulcahy, Michael.Nolan, M.J.Ó Cuív, Éamon.Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.O'Connor, Charlie.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Donoghue, John.O'Donovan, Denis.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Malley, Fiona.O'Malley, Tim.Parlon, Tom.Power, Peter.Power, Seán.Ryan, Eoin.Sexton, Mae.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wallace, Dan.Wallace, Mary.Walsh, Joe.Wilkinson, Ollie.Woods, Michael.Wright, G.V.

Níl

Allen, Bernard.Boyle, Dan.Broughan, Thomas P.Bruton, Richard.Burton, Joan.Connaughton, Paul.Cowley, Jerry.Crawford, Seymour.

Crowe, Seán.Cuffe, Ciarán.Deasy, John.Deenihan, Jimmy.Durkan, Bernard J.English, Damien.Enright, Olwyn. Gilmore, Eamon.

Níl–continued

Gogarty, Paul.Gormley, John.Harkin, Marian.Healy, Seamus.Higgins, Joe.Higgins, Michael D.Howlin, Brendan.Kehoe, Paul.Kenny, Enda.Lynch, Kathleen.McCormack, Padraic.McGinley, Dinny.McGrath, Finian.McGrath, Paul.McHugh, Paddy.McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Olivia.Morgan, Arthur.Murphy, Gerard.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.

Noonan, Michael.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.O'Dowd, Fergus.O'Keeffe, Jim.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Pattison, Seamus.Penrose, Willie.Perry, John.Rabbitte, Pat.Ryan, Eamon.Ryan, Seán.Sargent, Trevor.Sherlock, Joe.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.Upton, Mary.Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Durkan and Stagg.
Question declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 18, 18a, and 18b without debate agreed?

No. 18 was agreed rather hurriedly yesterday at the Select Committee on the Environment and Local Government. I am concerned that legislation could take up to two years. This would be too long a period to take strong criminal action in regard to illegal dumping in Wicklow, oil tankers off our coast or the threat of Sellafield. I seek a commitment that legislation on foot of this motion would come forward more rapidly than the time prescribed on Committee Stage yesterday.

In regard to No. 2, we are dealing with an attempt on the Order of Business, with which we do not agree, to sanitise and neutralise any possibility of a division or challenge in this House from 3 o'clock today. That is not an acceptable way of doing business and renders our proceedings sterile. Because it is the Labour Party Private Members' time we specifically asked that it would be taken at the usual time at the end of business. There was some indication that this might be accommodated but obviously it has not been so. Will the Taoiseach allow that change in the Standing Orders to have the Private Members' time as the last item today?

I am opposed to taking No. 18 without debate. The decision to be ratified is currently second best and with minor modification it could offer the State the key to closing the monstrosity that is the Sellafield plant. I seek a debate on No. 18 so that we can discuss an amendment to the convention to which it refers.

I reiterate a point I made earlier. Committee, Report and Final Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 5 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair. This contradicts Deputy Stagg's contention that we are in a non-voting position from 3 o'clock. In case anyone is thinking of leaving the House early, I remind them that Christmas does not start here until 6.15 p.m. There will be votes until 5 p.m. today.

The Taoiseach is well aware that there is no opposition to that measure.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with Nos. 18, 18a and 18b be agreed.”

Ahern, Bertie.Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, Barry.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Seamus.Browne, John.Callanan, Joe.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.

Carty, John.Cassidy, Donie.Collins, Michael.Cregan, John.Cullen, Martin.Curran, John.Davern, Noel.de Valera, Síle.Dempsey, Noel.Dempsey, Tony.Dennehy, John.Devins, Jimmy. Ellis, John.

Tá–continued

Fahey, Frank.Finneran, Michael.Fitzpatrick, Dermot.Fleming, Seán.Gallagher, Pat The Cope.Glennon, Jim.Grealish, Noel.Hanafin, Mary.Harney, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Jacob, Joe.Kelleher, Billy.Kelly, Peter.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Seamus.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McDaid, James.McEllistrim, Thomas.McGuinness, John.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.Mulcahy, Michael.

Nolan, M. J.Ó Cuív, Éamon.Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.O'Connor, Charlie.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Donoghue, John.O'Donovan, Denis.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Malley, Fiona.O'Malley, Tim.Parlon, Tom.Power, Peter.Power, Seán.Ryan, Eoin.Sexton, Mae.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wallace, Dan.Wallace, Mary.Walsh, Joe.Wilkinson, Ollie.Woods, Michael.Wright, G. V.

Níl

Allen, Bernard.Boyle, Dan.Broughan, Thomas P.Bruton, Richard.Burton, Joan.Connaughton, Paul.Connolly, Paudge.Cowley, Jerry.Crowe, Seán.Cuffe, Ciarán.Deasy, John.Deenihan, Jimmy.Durkan, Bernard J.English, Damien.Enright, Olwyn.Gilmore, Eamon.Gogarty, Paul.Gormley, John.Harkin, Marian.Healy, Seamus.Higgins, Joe.Higgins, Michael D.Howlin, Brendan.Kehoe, Paul.Kenny, Enda.Lynch, Kathleen.McCormack, Padraic.McGinley, Dinny.

McGrath, Finian.McGrath, Paul.McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Olivia.Morgan, Arthur.Murphy, Gerard.Neville, Dan.Noonan, Michael.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.O'Dowd, Fergus.O'Keeffe, Jim.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Pattison, Seamus.Penrose, Willie.Perry, John.Rabbitte, Pat.Ryan, Eamon.Ryan, Seán.Sargent, Trevor.Sherlock, Joe.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.Upton, Mary.Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Durkan and Stagg.
Question declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 26 agreed?

Is that the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill?

We are opposed to that.

The Deputy has already made the case.

I have made the case formally. We want extra time to debate this measure. The certainty that existed, while unworkable, has been removed and it is necessary that we make some arrangements to have extra time to tease this out.

The Labour Party opposes the guillotining of this Bill. Our function as Members of this House is primarily to scrutinise legislation. We will have less than an hour to examine a Bill containing 20 sections, to which 17 amendments have been tabled. There are 20 proposals for opposing sections or parts of them. We will have to complete Committee, Report and Final Stages in less than an hour. The Government would not refer this Bill to the normal local government and environment committee for a line by line examination. The Taoiseach and the Minister for the Environment and Local Government came in here and made assertions about the Bill which they are not prepared to put to the test of a proper parliamentary Committee Stage style debate. The only reason they are doing that is to rush this Bill through this House without its sordid details being examined. This is the worst example of this House being ignored—

As the Deputy knows, we debated this issue this morning. The Deputy is being repetitive.

—since Ray Burke pushed through the Broadcasting Bill ten years ago.

As has been stated, completing this Bill in such a fashion today will not help to address the serious crisis in housing. It will simply provide more opportunity for profiteering and put housing further out of the reach of people because it is unaffordable. I ask that this House take on board—

The Deputy is being repetitive. The matter was discussed this morning.

January is the time to discuss this issue, not today. We do not have enough time to debate it today.

The Sinn Féin Deputies will not facilitate what we believe is an abrogation of Government responsibility to enforce the existing legislation to ensure that property developers adhere to their requirements in terms of the provision of social and affordable housing. Accordingly, we will oppose this guillotine.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 26 be agreed."

Ahern, Bertie.Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, Barry.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Seamus.Browne, John.Callanan, Joe.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Carty, John.Cassidy, Donie.Collins, Michael.Cregan, John.Cullen, Martin.Curran, John.Davern, Noel.de Valera, Síle.Dempsey, Noel.Dempsey, Tony.Dennehy, John.Devins, Jimmy.Ellis, John.Fahey, Frank.Finneran, Michael.Fitzpatrick, Dermot.Fleming, Seán.Gallagher, Pat The Cope.Glennon, Jim.Grealish, Noel.Hanafin, Mary.Harney, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Hoctor, Máire.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kelly, Peter.

Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Seamus.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McDaid, James.McEllistrim, Thomas.McGuinness, John.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.Mulcahy, Michael.Nolan, M. J.Ó Cuív, Éamon.Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.O'Connor, Charlie.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Donoghue, John.O'Donovan, Denis.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Malley, Fiona.O'Malley, Tim.Parlon, Tom.Power, Peter.Power, Seán.Ryan, Eoin.Sexton, Mae.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wallace, Dan.Wallace, Mary.Walsh, Joe.Wilkinson, Ollie.Woods, Michael. Wright, G. V.

Níl

Allen, Bernard.Boyle, Dan.Broughan, Thomas P.Bruton, Richard.Burton, Joan.Connaughton, Paul.Connolly, Paudge.Cowley, Jerry.Crawford, Seymour.Crowe, Seán.Cuffe, Ciarán.Deasy, John.Deenihan, Jimmy.Durkan, Bernard J.Enright, Olwyn.Gilmore, Eamon.Gogarty, Paul.Gormley, John.Harkin, Marian.Healy, Seamus.Higgins, Joe.Higgins, Michael D.Howlin, Brendan.Kehoe, Paul.Kenny, Enda.Lynch, Kathleen.McCormack, Padraic.McGinley, Dinny.

McGrath, Finian.McGrath, Paul.McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Olivia.Morgan, Arthur.Murphy, Gerard.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.O'Dowd, Fergus.O'Keeffe, Jim.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Pattison, Seamus.Penrose, Willie.Perry, John.Rabbitte, Pat.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Eamon.Ryan, Seán.Sargent, Trevor.Sherlock, Joe.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.Upton, Mary.Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá: Deputies Hanafin and Kelleher; Níl: Deputies Durkan and Stagg.
Question declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. a1 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal in relation to the taking of Question Time today agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal that the Dáil, on its rising today, shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 29 January 2003 agreed?

The Labour Party is opposed to this measure. When the budget was traditionally held at the end of January, there was some justification for this but in a situation where the budget is taken at the end of the calendar year, there is no justification for it. We have just had Question Time about Dáil reform and if the Government was seriously concerned with Dáil reform, at a time when less than 60 minutes will be provided to deal with a matter of such profound importance for people depending on social housing, it would permit the Dáil to come back in some reasonable time in the middle of January. For that reason we are opposed to this measure.

There is no reason we should not reconvene earlier in January. There is a large amount of legislation and many crises to deal with, of which housing is but one. Returning in mid-January is not too early when one considers that we have only had 35 sitting days since the election. It is a bad reflection on our seriousness about our work that we would consider rising until the end of January. It is important that the people get value for money but this does not give it to them. We oppose this measure.

We have this vote every year, regardless of who is in Government. The work schedule for January has been issued today. There will be a full work programme across all committees dealing with 14 legislative measures. I know we may want to have fun and games here, but we should not give the impression that Members will not be hard at work here early in January.

I agree with Deputy Rabbitte that we should consider real reforms, rather than employing the codology we employ every day, wasting time. I will be glad to do that.

Question, "That the proposal that the Dáil, on its rising today, shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 29 January 2003 be agreed to" put and declared carried.

The Commission on Alcohol has made recommendations to the Government regarding alcohol advertising. It appears the Minister for Health and Children has accepted these recommendations and is proposing legislation. Can the Taoiseach confirm the view of the Government that such legislation should be enacted? When will it be brought before the House?

The Minister for Health and Children has said he is looking at this area but no legislation has yet been listed. The commission has issued a report and the Minister will bring forward new proposals.

Am I correct in saying there will be legislation and it has the support of the Taoiseach?

I have already recorded my support for the Minister's proposals.

Speaking of Dáil reform, the Taoiseach may agree to taking the Order of Business immediately after Leaders' Questions. The sequence we now have only breaks up the business of the House.

I agree with the Taoiseach when he said he was tired of the codology that goes on here and that we should consider real reform.

I tabled a parliamentary question last week and discovered that the members of the Cabinet have 79 constituency workers and at least 65 press personnel working for them.

That does not arise on the Order of Business.

Will the Taoiseach try to redress this as it is unfair? The 79 constituency workers do not include those attached to Ministers of State. Perhaps the Taoiseach will look at this in the New Year.

The Deputy is not in order.

Perhaps the Taoiseach could send a couple of those workers to me.

I endorse what Deputy Timmins said. In light of the closure of meat plants for one day a week, when will the Veterinary Medicine Bill be published? There has been a reduction of one-third of the agricultural officers available to carry out inspections.

The Minister for Transport has given a commitment to reform the provisional driving licence system. To do so, legislation will have to be changed. When will that be done?

The Veterinary Medicine Bill is currently being drafted and will be ready early in 2003. I replied to the matter of the driving licence agency yesterday.

We are hearing and reading about the abolition of the dual mandate. Does the Taoiseach intend to introduce local government reform to accommodate this?

To what Bill is the Deputy referring?

The local government reform Bill.

I told the House yesterday that the Minister is to make a statement on this in due course.

The Air Navigation and Transport (Montreal Convention) Bill has not yet been circulated but it should have been in place by the end of this year. The air cargo security programme comes into operation on 1 January. This involves new cargo security procedures for companies involved in the export of cargo by air. The programme is creating difficulties for small Irish companies. The procedures that have been put in place should only apply to large companies—

The Deputy cannot discuss the contents of the Bill.

—but they are also being applied to small ones. I am concerned that it will cause major difficulties for small Irish companies. Apart from replying on the Bill, will the Taoiseach ask the Minister for Transport to look at the difficulties being imposed on small companies?

The Cape Town Convention Bill will be published next year and the heads of the Air Navigation and Transport (Montreal Convention) Bill are expected to be cleared in January.

I realise the Taoiseach answered questions about provisional driving licences yesterday. This morning, I received a note that all drivers will be required to carry their licences at all times—

Does the Deputy have a question on legislation that was not answered yesterday?

Does not this require legislation?

The Driving Test Agency Bill will be published in late 2003. The Deputy raised this yesterday and while he has mistaken two issues, his comments have received some publicity. The requirement to carry one's driving licence requires a regulation rather than legislation. Judging by his comments yesterday, the Deputy thought the provisional licence regulation would also come into effect on 1 January. That is not the case. Regulations are required but it will not come into effect on 1 January.

Where stands the Proceeds of Corruption Bill?

The heads of the Bill are being prepared. The Bill was to be published in this session, but preliminary consultation with the relevant interests is still under way. It will be well into next year before it reaches the House.

Who are the relevant interests?

That does not arise at this stage.

I assure the Deputy they are not individuals.

I originally intended to say a few words at the end of the business today but I was informed that will be at the conclusion of Question Time and as at 6.15 p.m. only one or two Members may be here, I take this opportunity to wish the Ceann Comhairle, all his staff and the Leas-Cheann Comhairle a very happy Christmas. I also wish the main party leaders, Deputies Kenny and Rabbitte, my colleagues in Sinn Féin, the Greens and the Independents a very happy Christmas.

As we have all been through many elections, the general election, the Seanad elections and referenda, it is time we all had a break. I am very much looking forward to the break and enjoying the next few weeks. I want to thank everyone in the House for all their work. This has been a tough year. We have done a great deal of work. I particularly want to thank the staff of the House, the Superintendent, the Captain of the Guard and the ushers for their work and to wish the journalists in absentia a happy Christmas.

They are already having a happy Christmas.

I met a former Senator of the House, Des Hanafin, with the telephonists of the House the other day. To my shame I met many of those telephonists for the first time in my 25 years here. That reminded me there are people working in many sections of the House whom neither I nor the other Members of the House meet throughout the year. If those people were not here some morning, there would be a fair amount of disarray in this House.

People deserve a break at Christmas. I wish all the staff in whatever section of the House, those who feed us, clean the House, work here and make up Leinster House, particularly all my Oireachtas colleagues, a very happy and peaceful Christmas and good luck into the new year.

I endorse the Taoiseach's comments. I already said this as Gaeilge this morning. I wish the Ceann Comhairle, his staff, Members of the House of all parties, staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas and our absent friends from the fourth estate a very happy Christmas. In political terms, I could say there is a lot done, a lot more to do. Next year will tell a different story. This is one of the most uncertain vocations one can have. I wish everybody involved in this process a happy Christmas and peaceful new year. I expect to see all my colleagues back here in the new year ready for a new political agenda. We will renew the battle at that stage.

I, too, on my own behalf and on behalf of the Labour Party would like to join the Taoiseach in wishing the Ceann Comhairle and his staff compliments of the season. This has been a long and eventful year. I could well survive next year without an election. I extend seasonal compliments to the Taoiseach, Deputy Kenny and to all our colleagues in the House. The House is especially well served by its staff. As the Taoiseach said, many of them labour unseen. To all of them, I extend our good wishes. I also include the colourful scribe from the Sunday Independent and all of his colleagues.

It is remarkable that there is very little media coverage of this House any more. We cannot compete with what is going on elsewhere. Drama and sensation are the necessary criteria. The amount allocated even in the broadsheets to coverage of public affairs has been diminishing and there does not appear to be any sign of alleviation in that regard. If the House thought that benefit would redound to it from causing tribunals to be set up, it looks like the opposite is the effect inasmuch as all politics is damaged by what is going on elsewhere and there is little interest in what is going on here. That is a great pity. This is a matter for others to address rather than us. To the colleagues in the media who stayed with us throughout the year, I join with the other party leaders in wishing them a happy Christmas.

As one of the newly elected Deputies, I wish to be associated with the remarks regarding the hard work of the staff. I have got the utmost help from anyone I contacted. I wish all my colleagues a happy and peaceful Christmas and an enjoyable break.

As party Whip, I take this opportunity to extend seasonal greetings to the Ceann Comhairle and my opposite number.

The Deputy does love me.

I thank all my colleagues for their help and assistance. This applies also to the Members of our separated brethren in the benches behind me. I note that the leader of the Green Party wished the Ceann Comhairle a green Christmas, but I have no wish to deprive him of meat at Christmas. I hope he has a most enjoyable one.

I thank Deputies for their good wishes. I wish everybody a very happy Christmas. I would like to thank colleagues for their co-operation and to thank the officials, the Clerk, the Assistant Clerk and all the officials in the House who ensure we have an efficient democracy, as the Taoiseach pointed out.

Putting on another professional hat, I wish to say that during the recess Members should take a break. Members work hard in here and it is important that they take some time to relax and enjoy themselves. I wish everybody a happy Christmas.