The Order of Business shall be No. 20, Unclaimed Life Assurance Policies Bill 2002 – Order for Report and Report and Final Stages; No. 6, Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Bill 2002 – Second Stage, resumed; and No. 21, Railway Safety Bill 2001 – Second Stage, resumed. Private Members' Business shall be No. 34, motion re agriculture, resumed, to conclude at 8.30 p.m.
Order of Business.
There are no proposals to be put to the House on the Order of Business. I call Deputy Rabbitte.
The Minister for Finance committed himself some time ago to provide additional resources for the Opposition in acknowledgement of the imbalance in resources between Government and Opposition. He subsequently resiled from that position in favour of bringing forward the Oireachtas Bill. When does the Taoiseach expect that Bill to be enacted? Will the Government make provision for at least some minimum resources for the Opposition?
We also need a room.
I understand it is at select committee. It is hoped that Bill will deal with the issues Deputy Rabbitte has raised, which I understand and appreciate.
I call Deputy McManus.
How can the Taoiseach understand?
I was there.
Allow Deputy McManus to speak.
Ireland has a serious binge drinking problem, the evidence of which is in our accident and emergency departments on a weekly basis. The Minister for Health and Children has indicated that legislation will be introduced to prevent the promotion and advertising of alcohol. Will the Taoiseach indicate when we might expect its publication? I do not know if he is aware that—
—a pub in south Dublin, for example, is promoting binge drinking on a regular basis. Perhaps the Taoiseach will respond to that.
We cannot have a debate on the matter. The Deputy should find another way to raise that issue.
The intoxicating liquor commission's report is due in approximately two months' time. Arising from that report, the legislation to which the Deputy referred will be brought forward.
Does the Taoiseach intend to amend current legislation or to introduce new legislation to deal with emergencies at airports and other vital installations, given recent events?
Is legislation promised?
The Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Bill 2002 is currently before the House, but it may need further improvement.
That can be raised in the debate on the Bill.
It is a matter for the Minister.
There is no indication when the Higher Education Authority (Amendment) Bill will be published. Is that acceptable given the problems with fees, grants, the lack of on-campus accommodation and low morale in the third level sector?
Legislation is promised to transfer certain responsibilities in relation to funding and operational matters from the Department to the Higher Education Authority.
I am informed that discussions are ongoing between the Department and the Higher Education Authority to reach agreement on this issue.
Housing is one of the biggest problems in this country at present. In the Dáil yesterday, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government was unable to give any detail whatsoever on the proposals in the partnership in relation to—
Has the Deputy a question in relation to legislation?
In relation to local government reform, will the proposals set out in the partnership agreement be part of that Bill?
That is not an appropriate matter on the Order of Business. I call Deputy Howlin.
At the outset of this Dáil, a very important Bill was restored to the Order Paper and I understand it is now awaiting a committee hearing. I refer to the Whistleblowers Protection Bill, in which I have latterly taken a more direct personal interest. Does the Government intend to proceed with this Bill to ensure that citizens who alert the proper authorities to any allegation of wrongdoing are protected?
The Taoiseach on the legislation. We cannot discuss its contents.
The Bill was published back in March 1999 which is rather a long time ago. It is at select committee and I will have to check its current status.
In the aftermath of the death of a former tenant of Dublin City Council, does the Government intend to introduce legislation with regard to standards for renting in local authority and voluntary housing, to parallel the legislation which the Government has announced its intention to introduce in the private rented sector – the housing (private rented sector) Bill?
There is no legislation promised. Rules governing that already apply to local authorities.
In the light of ongoing job losses, such as CPT in Clones and the Lissadell towel factory in Carrickmacross, and the urgency of providing alternative jobs, when will the redundancy (amendment) Bill be taken in the House?
The heads of the redundancy (amendment) Bill were approved last October. Legislation is being drafted and this is a priority Bill.
In view of the implications for changes likely to be proposed in the Health Act 1970 as a result of what are described as recommendations of a commission to abolish health boards and place the administration of the health services in the hands of a few people in Dublin, rather than under the democratic system, does the Government intend to introduce legislation to give effect to those proposals?
The reforms which the Minister for Health and Children has been discussing and debating will require a new health Act when those discussions reach a conclusion.
I call Deputy Gogarty.
Deputy Gogarty, without interruption, please.
I have no objection to more spontaneous debate in the Dáil. In the light of the ongoing issue in relation to the educational institutions and the redress board and having regard to the media attention given to paedophilia in society, can the Taoiseach give a credible reason for the fact that the register of persons who are considered unsafe to work with children has been shifted from a publication date of 2003 to 2004? Irrespective of whether there is such a credible explanation, will the Taoiseach indicate a more precise publication date in 2004? This is a hugely important issue.
In relation to the register of persons who are considered unsafe to work with children, which is to give effect to the recommendations of the joint working group on child protection – the legislation arises from the North-South Ministerial Council – the Minister for Health and Children is bringing proposals to Government with a view to establishing a parliamentary working group to finalise proposals for the legislation. The heads of the Bill are being prepared and are expected in April.
On the basis that the Minister for Health and Children has received a report from Dr. O'Mahony, a geriatrician in Cork, concerning the lack of respite or step-down places for the elderly – I spent the last two days trying to have an 82 year old man accommodated other than—
Has the Deputy a question appropriate to the Order of Business?
—in the care of his 80 year old wife, when does the Minister for Health and Children intend to take some action on the chronic state of step-down care—
That does not arise, Deputy. I call Deputy Durkan.
—in the Southern Health Board region or, indeed, in other areas—
Deputy Lynch, please.
Will the Taoiseach arrange that the Minister for Health and Children will publish—
Deputy Lynch is out of order. I ask her to resume her seat. I call Deputy Durkan.
On promised legislation, what is the current status of the health, safety and welfare at work Bill and what progress has been made?
The heads of the Bill have been approved and the legislation is being drafted. In response to an earlier question on this, I said it would come forward in April.
When can we expect a radio communications Bill? Will the Government seek to ensure that the massive profiteering in the mobile phones market—
The question is in order. The Taoiseach on promised legislation.
We have the highest tariffs in Europe, apparently, in this area.
Sorry, Deputy, we cannot debate the contents of the Bill.
Will the Taoiseach and the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources give some attention to this matter?
The heads of the Bill are expected later this year and the legislation will be introduced next year.
When will we see the Dublin land use and transportation Bill? This Bill has been five years in gestation.
The Deputy cannot make a statement on the matter. We are drifting now.
I believe we are entitled to state why we are asking questions on the legislation.
Questions about legislation are in order but we cannot debate the contents of a Bill until it comes before the House.
The Bill will be published later this year.
In view of the fact that the aquatic centre in Abbotstown will be officially opened shortly by the Taoiseach, when will the Abbotstown sports centre authority Bill be introduced?
In this session.