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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 25 Nov 2003

Vol. 575 No. 3

Order of Business.

The Order of Business today shall be No. 13, motion re leave to introduce Supplementary Estimates, Votes 5, 10, 16, 17, 19, 20, 22, 26, 33, 40, 42 and 44; No. 14, motion re referral of Supplementary Estimates, Votes 5, 10, 16, 17, 19, 20, 22, 26, 33, 40, 42 and 44 to select committee; No. 15, Financial Resolution – Excise Duties on Mechanically Propelled Vehicles; and No. 5, Ombudsman (Defence Forces) Bill 2002 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 10.30 p.m.; No. 13 and, subject to the agreement of No. 13, No. 14 – referral to select committee – shall be decided without debate and any divisions demanded on Nos. 13 and 14 shall be taken forthwith; the proceedings on No. 15, and on any amendments thereto, shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 80 minutes by one question which shall be put from the Chair and the following arrangements shall apply: the speeches, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion after 70 minutes, and the speech of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 10 minutes in each case; the speech of each other Member, who shall be called upon in the following sequence, shall not exceed 5 minutes in each case – Government, Fine Gael, Government, Labour, Government, Technical Group, sequence to recommence; Members may share time; immediately following the speeches, a Minister or Minister of State shall take questions for a period not exceeding 10 minutes; and Private Members' Business shall be No. 35, motion re local government funding, to be taken at 7 p.m., or on the conclusion of No. 15, whichever is the later, and shall be adjourned after 90 minutes.

There are four proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 13 and 14, Supplementary Estimates, agreed?

I object to the taking of the Order of Business in its current form because on Thursday next the Tánaiste will travel to vote at a Council of Ministers meeting on a subject that should have been considered by the House. I expected the Government to provide time for an explanation and information to be given to all Members because there is confusion about the matter to be discussed.

That matter does not arise.

It arises because there is no provision—

It does not arise under Nos. 13 and 14, with which we are dealing.

There is no proposal to deal with the issue on which the Tánaiste will vote.

The Deputy cannot raise this matter.

There should be time for discussion of this matter in the House. It is of serious concern to a great number of people for and against the issue.

It is out of order.

With regard to the Estimates, what is the status of the Supplementary Estimate under Vote 30 to the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, which relates to consideration of a token allocation to TG4? Notice was sent to members of the Select Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources regarding a meeting to be held tomorrow and they then received a notice stating the meeting had been cancelled. Is the money being given?

The content of the Estimate does not arise.

It does arise. A Supplementary Estimate is listed on the Order Paper but it is not on the Order of Business. The Supplementary Estimate has disappeared, like many other things.

The motion relates to leave to introduce the Supplementary Estimates. What might be appropriate when discussing the Supplementary Estimate is not appropriate at this point.

It is impossible to get another opportunity to discuss this. Last Wednesday at the Whips meeting a debate on the stem cell research issue was requested and the understanding was that there would be a debate, whether through a Private Notice Question or other facility open to us.

The issue does not arise under Nos. 13 and 14.

It is important to put this on the record and I oppose the Order of Business on that basis.

I acknowledge the Ceann Comhairle is accommodating a Private Notice Question on this issue. I have submitted a question regarding the issue of stem cell research but, undoubtedly, this limits us to an exchange of questions.

The issue does not arise at this time. We are discussing Supplementary Estimates.

The objection of Opposition Members is that it does not arise. It should be included in the Order of Business that has been presented to us. That is our primary objection.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with Nos. 13 and 14 be agreed to."

Ahern, Bertie.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, Barry.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Blaney, Niall.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Seamus.Browne, John.Callanan, Joe.Carey, Pat.Carty, John.Cassidy, Donie.Collins, Michael.Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.Coughlan, Mary.Cregan, John.Cullen, Martin.Curran, John.Davern, Noel.Dempsey, Tony.Dennehy, John.Devins, Jimmy.Ellis, John.Fahey, Frank.Finneran, Michael.Fitzpatrick, Dermot.Fleming, Seán.Fox, Mildred.Gallagher, Pat The Cope.Glennon, Jim.Grealish, Noel.Hanafin, Mary.

Harney, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Hoctor, Máire.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kelly, Peter.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Seamus.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McDowell, Michael.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'Flynn, Noel.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Malley, Fiona.O'Malley, Tim.Parlon, Tom. Power, Seán.


Ryan, Eoin.Sexton, Mae.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.

Wallace, Dan.Wilkinson, Ollie.Woods, Michael.Wright, G.V.


Allen, Bernard.Boyle, Dan.Broughan, Thomas P.Bruton, John.Bruton, Richard.Burton, Joan.Connaughton, Paul.Connolly, Paudge.Costello, Joe.Coveney, Simon.Cowley, Jerry.Crawford, Seymour.Crowe, Seán.Cuffe, Ciarán.Deasy, John.Deenihan, Jimmy.Durkan, Bernard J.English, Damien.Enright, Olwyn.Ferris, Martin.Gilmore, Eamon.Gormley, John.Hayes, Tom.Healy, Seamus.Higgins, Joe.Higgins, Michael D.Hogan, Phil.Howlin, Brendan.

Kenny, Enda.McCormack, Padraic.McGinley, Dinny.McGrath, Paul.McHugh, Paddy.McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Gay.Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.Murphy, Gerard.Naughten, Denis.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.O'Dowd, Fergus.O'Sullivan, Jan.Pattison, Seamus.Penrose, Willie.Quinn, Ruairí.Rabbitte, Pat.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Eamon.Ryan, Seán.Sargent, Trevor.Sherlock, Joe.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.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. 15 agreed?

I have repeatedly said that I am opposed to guillotines on these Votes, and I oppose this one on that basis.

The basic point in this regard is that it allows three minutes for my party to articulate a view on this matter. That is not long enough and I am objecting to it on that basis.

Apart from opposing the proposition contained in the motion, I object that I will only have one and a half minutes of speaking opportunity in the debate on the motion. That is an outrageous restriction on those who wish to participate fully and on other Deputies who will get no opportunity whatever. It is too restrictive and I oppose it on that ground and, subsequently, on what it contains.

Question, "That the proposal for dealing with No. 15 be agreed to", put and declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' Business agreed? Agreed.

Arising from the Vote in respect of the Department of Health and Children, does the Taoiseach propose to carry out an investigation into the publication of a letter from the chairperson of the Lindsay tribunal, which was sent to the Minister for Health and Children?

That does not arise on the Order of Business. The Deputy should address a question to the appropriate Minister.

I refer to a leaked letter from a judge chairing a tribunal set up by this House. It was leaked and published, which should not have happened. I wish to ask—

I suggest the Deputy submit a question to the appropriate Minister.

He will not answer the question. Will the Taoiseach carry out an investigation as to why this letter was published?

Sorry, Deputy, that does not arise. I call Deputy Rabbitte.

It does arise, because it means that such letters cannot be written if that is the result, and the Taoiseach knows that. It is relevant, a Cheann Comhairle.

It does not arise at this stage. There are other ways the Deputy can raise it.

It arises in regard to the Vote for the Department of Health and Children.

The Chair has ruled on the matter.

It is relevant to the costs of the Lindsay tribunal.

It does not arise at this stage. We cannot discuss the content of the health Vote on the Order of Business.

The Taoiseach is about to answer the question. Will the Chair allow him to answer?

It is a matter for a question to the Minister for Health and Children.

The Minister is briefing the Taoiseach on the matter.

Please allow Deputy Rabbitte to speak without interruption.

The last thing I wish to do is to further impose on the besieged Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who is being attacked from every quarter, without justification in most cases. While I do not wish to weary him further, when I inquired about the proceeds of crime Bill last week the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Walsh, knew even less about it than Punchestown before he approved that proposal.

Following recent events in respect of a bureau that was to be established to deal with assets corruptly secured, I was especially interested to note that there was a suggestion that it was going to be incorporated into the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Bill. That Bill was referred to a select committee on 5 October 2000 AD. I know the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is a busy man on all fronts, but is there any prospect of this Bill soon coming before the House and will it address the issue that came as a big shock to the Minister, Deputy Walsh? He never heard of this problem in Irish society.

The Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Bill was published in 1999 and the objective of the proceeds of corruption Bill is to further target white collar crime and corruption in public and private sectors. The changes in the law contemplated for this Bill are to be included in the amendments to the Proceeds of Crime Bill and they will come forward in due course – I do not have a date for them – and will have to be taken in the House.

When are those Bills likely to come before the House.

I do not have a date but hopefully they will be introduced as soon as possible.

A number of members of the Garda Síochána have asked about the Garda Síochána Bill in light of only 31 extra gardaí having been recruited since the Government took office when deaths, retirements and members leaving the force are taken into consideration. In light of promises given, will the provisions of this Bill be able to deal with the complaints not only against individual gardaí but against the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, against whom there are also quite a number to be heard?

It will be introduced this session.

This session before Christmas.

When will a statement on the Nally report be given to the Dáil? My party leader asked about this matter a few weeks ago and the answer given was that a statement would be made shortly. When will a statement be made on it?

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is anxious to make that statement. The Attorney General is examining the legal issues before clearance can be given on it and he has not yet completed his examination.

The Minister for Health and Children indicated that he would announce the implementation body following on a recommendation in the Brennan report in October. Such an implementation body has not been established. As a result of a reply to a parliamentary question, I got an indication about the legislation that will be required to establish implementation bodies in the health reform programme. All that reply stated was that such legislation would be published next year. Will it be published early or late next year?

On the question of secondary legislation, given that there will be a reduction in the hours junior hospital doctors can work with effect from August 2004 and that the Minister announced that there will be no additional hospital consultants, the likelihood is that fewer doctor man hours will be available to patients by next August. Will we be able to debate the statutory instrument that is required and that will be published in that regard?

These matters were answered by the Minister last week. I do not have information on the month the legislation will be ready but it is under preparation. The names of the boards that will drive this matter will be announced very shortly.

I did not get an answer to my question on the statutory instrument, the secondary legislation. Will we have an opportunity to debate it?

Is a debate promised on this legislation? It is a matter for the Whips if a debate is not promised on it.

Is the Deputy referring to the matter concerning junior hospital doctors?

That is with the Labour Relations Commission.

We are talking about preparing a statutory instrument. A commitment on that was given by the Minister for Health and Children. Since this is such an important matter, will we be able to debate this legislation in the House?

If a debate is promised on this matter, the answer is "Yes", but if it is not it is a matter for the Whips.

That is okay.

Last week I asked the Taoiseach when the whistleblowers Bill will be dealt with in committee. He indicated he did not know but undertook to come back to me on it. The letter I received subsequently indicates that the position is identical to that as of February last, which is that complicated amendments are being considered. I ask the Taoiseach a simple question, is the Government committed to advancing the whistleblowers legislation and, if it is, when will these difficulties be overcome and the Bill referred to a committee?

In the note the Deputy received he was informed that the consultation process raised a number of detailed and complex issues which require substantial redrafting of the Bill by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, but progress in doing this has been interrupted by the necessity to afford precedence to priority aspects of the Government's legislative programme. The intention is to return to this legislation when some of those priorities are dealt with.

The Minister for Health and Children promised an inquiry into matters at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda but it has been postponed a number of times. When will such an inquiry be set up?

That matter does not arise now. I suggest the Deputy submits a parliamentary question to the Minister for Health and Children on the matter.

This is a matter for the Dáil. This inquiry has been promised and my question is reasonable.

Considering the rather unusual views articulated by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on prison reform in recent times, will the prison service Bill be introduced while we still have a prison system?

Work is in progress on the heads of that Bill, I do not have a date for when it will be published.

What is the estimated time of arrival of the disability Bill, given that the Taoiseach gave a commitment to disability groups that it would be available by the end of this month?

As has been stated, a large number of people across Departments are working on this Bill. It has priority. There are still a number of issues to be teased out and consultation is taking place with the groups. It will take another few weeks to complete but hopefully not too long. It has number one priority.

Will it be introduced before the end of this session?

That depends on the discussions. There are five frameworks involved by five Departments apart from the Attorney General's office and the Departments of Finance and Health and Children. Discussions on the Bill are across those areas. There are weekly meetings on the Bill. We are trying to tease out various aspects with those involved. Work on it will take a good few weeks. I cannot put a final date on when it will be published. There are at least 40 people across the system working on it. It is more complicated than even the Finance Bill to try to get it right. Consultation on it is taking place.

I wish to ask about two Bills. Now that the Minister for Transport has had a chance to consider the implications of his proposal to break up Aer Rianta and in light of the legal and financial advice he has brought in on the complexity of the issues involved, what is the timescale for the introduction of the State airports Bill? It was due to be introduced before Christmas, but I gather that deadline will not be met. Can the Taoiseach confirm when we might see that legislation?

Last week the Minister for Transport announced his intention to broaden the basis on which drivers will be required to provide breath tests. I understand there is now a legal obstacle to going ahead with that proposal and that emergency legislation will be required. Can the Taoiseach confirm that is the case? When are we likely to see that legislation?

The State airports Bill will be available in early 2004.

It has come back – the Minister, Deputy Brennan, will need all the help he can get.

On the breath-testing legislation, a short Bill will have to be passed to deal with an error in a previous Bill concerning a cross reference to a section. The section stated is 12(4) and it should have been 12(3) or it is the other way around. That Bill was approved by the Government this morning and hopefully, with the co-operation of the parties in the House, it can be taken quickly. It has to be taken this week.

Since the Government parties came to office in 1997 there have been numerous promises of the impending announcement of the decentralisation programme. Under what legislation, will it be announced and will that happen in this term?

Is legislation promised on decentralisation?

There is no legislation promised.

Will it ever be announced? It will probably come under the dumping at sea Bill.

I wish to ask the Taoiseach about a number of Dublin northside issues. I inspected five burnt out cars that had been vandalised last Friday morning.

Has the Deputy a question on promised legislation because I must move on.

I have one concerning road traffic legislation which the Minister, Deputy Brennan, said he would bring forward in this regard, given that a number of Bills in my name were defeated. Has the Taoiseach considered introducing legislation for a north and west County Dublin fringe development authority, given the conviction of the former Dublin assistant city and county manager and the belief of many of my constituents that much of the rezoning in County Dublin is tainted? It is a matter that should be looked at urgently.

It is not a matter that arises on the Order of Business.

Given the value in money of the recent deal by the ESB, will the Taoiseach inform the House why the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Dermot Ahern, is reportedly furious? The Taoiseach has already shanghaied the companies that—

Deputy Rabbitte, this does not arise on the Order of Business.

—had expansion in Poland. Why should the Government be concerned about the bond issue they raised on the New York Stock Exchange?

Deputy, we are moving on to Private Notice Questions