Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 20, Private Security Services Bill 2001 —Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage, to adjourn at 1.30 p.m. if not previously concluded; No. 1, Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2004[Seanad] —Second Stage; Private Members’ Business shall be No. 41, motion re health care delivery (resumed) to conclude at 8.30 p.m.

There are no proposals to put to the House.

When will the Government discuss and approve the heads of the electronic voting Bill? Is it envisaged that the legislation will deal with the change in regard to——

It is not appropriate to discuss the content of the legislation.

——presiding officers and those working in the elections from being independent contractors to employees?

The Deputy should put down a question on that matter to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

This will mean they will have to pay emergency tax and this will have to be processed by the returning officers.

The Taoiseach, on the legislation before the House.

It is a matter of importance.

Of course it is. That is why a question should be submitted to the appropriate Minister.

We cannot get an answer to appropriate questions and the Chair knows that.

As I stated yesterday, the principles of the Bill have been cleared by the Government. The heads of the Bill will be cleared next week. The Bill is being drafted simultaneously and it will be ready as soon as possible.

Will the Taoiseach not agree that he ought to defer this legislation until such time as there can be consensus in the House about changing the voting system, which is the bedrock of our democracy, and that there is widespread concern outside this House as well? What is the rush?

That does not arise on the Order of Business.

It is important.

When does the Taoiseach intend to bring this Bill before the House?

That question was asked and answered this morning.

No, it was not. The question that was asked this morning was when were the heads of the Bill agreed.

As soon as possible. I hope in the next few weeks.

I am interested in promised legislation. However, in respect of electronic voting I wish to know if the commission will be made more independent.

We cannot have a debate on electronic voting.

The judicial conduct and ethics Bill is obviously not related to that matter but it is important that we should focus on the independence of bodies. We spoke about State boards earlier and the director of elections of Fianna Fáil——

The legislation is being worked upon in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and will come before Government later in the year.

There have been serious rail incidents in recent times, including a train crashing into the Cahir viaduct and reports this morning about overcrowding on trains and platforms. It is 12 months since Committee Stage of the Railway Safety Bill was taken. When will Report Stage be taken?

Will the Taoiseach bring that legislation before the House as a matter of urgency in view of concerns about the Luas link in my constituency at which two people recently died during a 48-hour period? This issue needs to be addressed.

I understand that Report Stage is to be ordered but a substantial number of amendments must be prepared by the Department before this happens. That is the cause of the delay.

The reason for the delay is that the Minister brought forward large tracts of amendments on Committee Stage.

The Taoiseach stated yesterday that the electronic voting Bill is the Government's top legislative priority. What is the position regarding his top legislative priority last autumn, namely, the national infrastructure board Bill? Has any progress been made on that legislation?

It is caught in the bottleneck.

I stated yesterday that the first Bill to which the Deputy refers is one of our priorities. Many Bills are being drafted.

The fast-track Bill has moved to the slow lane.

The infrastructure Bill is being prepared by the Department

Is it still a top priority?

When can we expect the publication of the Irish Medicines Board (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, which seeks to amend, among others, the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977 and 1984?

It will be later in 2004.

Will the Taoiseach indicate the current position regarding the alcohol products (control of advertising, sponsorship and marketing practices/sales promotions) Bill? Will he clarify the statement he made to the effect that, as far as Teagasc is concerned, the situation at Ballinamore does not involve a budgetary situation and that farmers on the board were in favour of it?

That does not arise. I call the Taoiseach on the first question on legislation.

Farmers on the board opposed Teagasc——

I suggest that the Deputy submit a question to the Minister for Agriculture and Food.

The Taoiseach should take this opportunity to set the record straight.

The heads of the Bill were approved last summer and the legislation is currently being drafted. It is scheduled for publication in the middle of this year.

What is the current position regarding the continental shelf Bill?

It is gathering dust.

This Bill is to update and consolidate the Continental Shelf Act 1968. The position is being reviewed because the Acts do not, as a general rule, provide for the charging of fees and rents on pipelines or commercial activity. The legislation will hopefully be brought forward during 2004. I understand the Bill is being incorporated into the marine services Bill which will provide comprehensive new legislative provisions for the seafood sector and the marine coastal zone.

Has the continental shelf Bill been withdrawn in light of the other legislation?

No, I understand that it will be merged with the coastal zone management Bill.

Let us wait until the Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, hears about that. He will have some task finding office space out there. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is only concerned that he will not discover any votes on the continental shelf. Will electronic voting apply to the new——

I call Deputy Joe Higgins. He should not allow himself to be distracted by the interruptions from Deputy Rabbitte.

I know the Taoiseach will want to extend a warm welcome to Mr. Tom Gilmartin who is in town today. I hope Mr. Gilmartin's visit is not as traumatic as previous ones.

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

Will the Taoiseach indicate if the electronic voting Bill will come before the House before the Easter recess?

I stated that the Bill will be dealt with as a matter of urgency. It is being drafted and it will hopefully come before the House has soon as possible.

Is the Government awaiting the final passage of the Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill or does it intend to wait until after the European and local elections to publish the disability Bill? What is the delay in this regard?

The delay is merely that we are finalising matters. We have been involved in discussions with the committee that has been dealing with this matter and with outside groups. We hope to finalise the legislation as quickly as possible. The discussions are just about complete and we hope to bring forward the Bill as soon as we can.

Under the Merchant Shipping Acts 1992 and 1998, the Minister has promised secondary legislation to deal with the issue of anchors in 18 foot open boats on lakes. On foot of the recent High Court decision, will the Taoiseach indicate if the Minister proposes to proceed with the secondary legislation or whether he intends to introduce primary legislation?

As a result of the case to which the Deputy refers, the position must be checked with the Minister. I am not aware of the most recent position.

I presume that, under the regulations of the House, the Taoiseach will convey the decision to me in due course.

When is it proposed to publish the veterinary medicines Bill? With regard to the issue raised by Deputy Crawford, the Taoiseach should clarify that the farm representative on the board of Teagasc did not give the go-ahead for the closure of the centre at Ballinamore. It is being closed due to——

The Deputy should submit a question to the relevant Minister. I call the Taoiseach on the question relating to legislation.

It is proposed to publish it this session.

In light of the refusal by the Minister of Transport to accept a question I tabled yesterday regarding when the Government approved the upgrade for the M50, what legislation will allow the Government to have a strategic involvement or say in——

We cannot discuss the contents of legislation. Does the Deputy have a particular Bill in mind?

Will the greater Dublin area boundaries and transport Bill or the critical infrastructure Bill give the Government a say in respect of an investment project worth €500 million? The Minister stated yesterday that the Government has no involvement in this project.

We cannot discuss the content of what might be in legislation.

If the Deputy puts down a question he will get a reply.

I did put a question to the Minister.

I did not say anything about putting a question to the Minister. I said the Deputy cannot discuss the content of legislation on the Order of Business.

If the Ceann Comhairle will bear with me, I am referring to a project worth €500 million which was recently approved. I asked the Minister when——

There are other ways of raising this matter. We cannot discuss every Bill that is raised on the Order of Business.

What way is open to me to raise it?

Work is in progress on the heads of the critical infrastructure Bill which is aimed at streamlining and accelerating certain procedures and it is expected during the year. Policy in respect of the greater Dublin area land use and transport Bill is being reviewed and an alternative strategy is being considered to achieve the same objectives. I do not have a date in respect of the latter.

On a point of order, this is an investment project worth €500 million. How can I find out——

If the Deputy contacts the office of the Ceann Comhairle we will be glad to facilitate him.

In view of the sensitivities regarding electronic voting and the potential for a conflict of interest, would it be advisable for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to withdraw from the position of director of elections in the two forthcoming elections——

The matter does not arise on the Order of Business.

——in order to protect himself and the integrity of the voting system?

The Deputy is out of order.

The Minister should volunteer the information and I believe he wants to answer the question.

I advise the Deputy to resume his seat or the Chair may have to take appropriate action.

He should answer the question.

Deputy Durkan is familiar with the Standing Order and the Chair does not want to read it to the House again.

Perhaps the Taoiseach will answer given that the Minister is dumbstruck.

The Minister would be out of order if he attempted to answer during the Order of Business.

In light of the publication of a recent report by the Pensions Board and its launch of a campaign this morning to persuade more women to take out private pensions, will the Taoiseach encourage the Minister for Finance to include in pending legislation——

The matter does not arise.

The question relates to pending legislation.

To what legislation is the Deputy referring.

I refer to the pensions (miscellaneous provisions) Bill on which I wish to——

We cannot discuss the contents of the legislation.

While I do not intend to discuss the Bill, the Taoiseach should encourage——

The Deputy has asked a question and should allow the Taoiseach to answer it.

——the Minister for Finance to facilitate people with special savings incentive accounts to transfer money into pension schemes by providing similar incentives on the basis that women live much longer than men, although I do not understand the reason that is the case.

The Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2004, has been ordered for today.

I would like the Taoiseach to give a proper answer to a question I asked previously on one-off rural housing. When does he intend to bring before the House the legislation he, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív, and the whole Cabinet have promised?

Legislation is required and work is being done on the guidelines which must be presented.

I have a question about the other electoral Bill. When will the legislation giving effect to the report of the independent commission on constituency boundaries come before the House given that many of the Taoiseach's backbench Deputies are introducing themselves to new constituents, even before the House has had an opportunity to read or approve the Bill?

The Electoral (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill came forward this year.

Given that the Government proposes to move income and spending power of approximately €4 billion per annum out of the Dublin region, does the Taoiseach have any concerns about the growing list of——

The Deputy must ask a question on legislation.

I ask the Ceann Comhairle to allow me to finish as my question is on legislation.

What legislation?

Is the Taoiseach concerned about the growing list of empty factories throughout the north side of Dublin? I ask for a debate on the European Union trans-sectoral rules on regional development?

Is a debate promised?

As regards the legislation on electronic voting due to be published soon, what role has the Ceann Comhairle and——

The Deputy may not discuss the contents of legislation.

This is a serious issue.

That is the reason the Deputy should submit a question to the appropriate Minister.

Does the Taoiseach believe it is unwise to involve respected officials of both Houses in what is now an acute political issue?

The Deputy is out of order. As regards the role of the Ceann Comhairle, I understand he will accept the report on behalf of Deputy Allen and the other 165 Members of the House.

We do not want to place the Ceann Comhairle in an embarrassing position.

Will the Taoiseach answer my question?

Deputy Allen has already spoken once and I cannot allow a Member to speak twice.

May I have an answer?

The Deputy will have an opportunity to speak tomorrow.