It is proposed to take No. 10, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of a Council Decision establishing the European Refugee Fund for the period 2005 to 2010; No. 11, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Minister for Defence entering into a memorandum of understanding, MOU, with Austria; No. 12, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the agreements establishing a political dialogue between the European Community and the Republics of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama and the European Community and the Andean Community and its member countries; No. 13, motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; No. 24, Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) Bill 2003 [Seanad] — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 1, Private Security Services Bill 2001 — amendments from the Seanad; and No. 25, An Bord Bia (Amendment) Bill 2003 [Seanad] — Report and Final Stages (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 10 to 13, inclusive, will be decided without debate. Private Members’ Business shall be No. 46, motion re road safety.
Order Of Business.
There is one proposal to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 10 to 13, inclusive, without debate agreed?
In respect of No. 11, I think I saw the Minister for Defence in a helicopter recently. What is the nature of the memorandum understanding with Austria? Are we changing our stance on neutrality and non-alignment or what are we at?
The background to the motion is the recent decision which approved the Minister for Defence entering into a memorandum of understanding which relates to a weapons system certification testing programme for the Pilatus training aircraft for the Irish Air Corps.
I object to three of these motions being taken without debate. There are elements in all three that merit wider and greater scrutiny than can be accommodated within a committee, particularly given that the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights is one of the most overworked committees in the House. How it is expected to take on board the careful scrutiny of all of these proposals is beyond me. Regarding No. 10, motion re the proposed EU Refugee Fund, it will not only be used for the reception and integration of asylum seekers but will also be used to facilitate returns. I understand that the European Council on Refugees and Exiles has argued that these funds should not be used for the return of rejected asylum applicants but should be used only in the cases of those who were granted refugee status or other complementary protection——
We cannot have a debate. The Deputy may make a brief comment as to why he is opposing the proposal.
That is what I am doing.
It is not brief, even at this stage.
We must recognise that this is a very important matter. The European Council on Refugees and Exiles has cautioned that this measure should not be used to facilitate the return of asylum applicants.
I am sorry, Deputy, we cannot have a full debate.
This is unreal.
It may well be, but we cannot have a debate without changing the Standing Orders.
With respect, the Chair would not and has not employed such a continual barrage of interruption with other Deputies in this House——
The Chair never interrupts. It intervenes. The Chair is obliged to implement Standing Orders. It does not have a choice in the matter.
The Chair does not allow me to explain the reason, which I am doing quickly in each case. If it is my politics or my constituency——
I would not advise the Deputy to go down that road. If the Deputy will resume his seat, I will read out the relevant Standing Order for his benefit.
The Ceann Comhairle prefers to hear himself rather than a Deputy who has been given the opportunity to speak. This is a constant battle and nobody is unaware of it.
The Deputy should resume his seat. We cannot have a special standing order for him. If the Deputy is not happy with the Standing Order he should arrange to have it changed.
I am quite happy with the Standing Order.
The Chair has no choice but to implement the Standing Orders as agreed by this House.
The Chair would not employ such a barrage of interruption regarding any other party leader in this House.
No other party leader disobeys Standing Order 26 regarding making a comment as to why he or she is opposing a proposal on the Order of Business. I want to refer to the Standing order. Standing Order 26(2) states:
The Taoiseach shall have the right to determine the order ... and arrangements for sittings and for the taking of such business until such business has been disposed of; save where any such proposal is opposed, the Ceann Comhairle shall permit a brief statement from a representative from each party in opposition and the Taoiseach if necessary.
If the Deputy has a brief comment——
My statement would be a lot briefer than the Chair's explanation.
We cannot have a Second Stage debate on each of the four motions.
Deputies need to consider very carefully, because there are no guarantees of safeguards regarding the proposition in motion set out in No. 10, and take on board the caution of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles that the money being provided should not be used for the return of applicant refugees.
We welcome the motion set out in No. 12 in the context of improved trade agreements and co-operation with the central American and Andean states. Nevertheless, there needs to be awareness of two at least of the clauses within that, namely, Article 50 and Article 49 regarding counter-terrorism and the re-admission clauses in Article 49. I bring these to the attention of Members because they apply in what can only be regarded as countries with notorious human rights records, including Colombia, Guatemala and El Salvador. We need to have careful scrutiny of it.
On No. 11, the memorandum of understanding with Austria, the Taoiseach's explanation to Deputy Kenny regarding the trials of the Swiss Pilatus PC——
Let me again bring the Deputy's attention——
Switzerland will not approve this testing.
The Deputy is out of order. This matter will be discussed at the committee. I am calling the Taoiseach. The Deputy should resume his seat. We cannot have the debate that will take place in the committee.
We cannot have a debate at all.
Under the Standing Order the Deputy may not have it here.
I am only offering reasons why Members should——
The Deputy may not abuse the House in this fashion. The Chair cannot allow that.
This is no way to conduct a democracy. We should be informed about the proposals before us.
There are procedures in the House.
No Deputy will support me in arguing that they should be dealt with on the floor of this House although Deputy O'Keeffe is a long-time advocate of full debate.
I do not wish to go into the substance of the argument.
That is the problem.
Motions such as these are always referred to a committee. The points made by the Deputy and replies given by the Minister can be dealt with at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights. The 100 or 150 reports a year could not be dealt with in parliamentary time. That is why they are referred to a committee. The Deputy may attend the committee.
The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights cannot cope with it, given the time necessary for research.
Allow the Taoiseach to continue without interruption.
I understand it will be sent to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
On 27 February I put down a parliamentary question on the number of women from abroad who gave birth to children in Dublin maternity hospitals.
That does not arise on this proposal.
I will return to the issue.
Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?
Deputies Ó Caoláin, Ó Snodaigh, Crowe, Ferris, Joe Higgins and Finian McGrath rose.
As fewer than ten Members have risen I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 68 the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.
I do not want to delay the House, but may I ask the Ceann Comhairle to assist me? I have not received a reply to a parliamentary question I asked on 27 February last.
The Chair has no control over replies.
Who will stand up for Members?
The Deputy may raise the matter in other ways.
The information is in the public domain, but I have not received a reply.
The House would appreciate some helpful intervention from the Government to assist the unfortunate man who is on hunger strike outside the gates and to facilitate some kind of resolution to an unfortunate dispute. The man is in danger of doing himself serious harm. If the Minister for Education and Science could be helpful in resolving this, it would be appreciated by all Members.
When I asked the Tánaiste whether the independent electoral commission would have access to the source code for electronic voting, she implied that it would. I have since read that it sought and was granted indemnity by the Government in terms of any subsequent information entering the public domain on this matter. My understanding is that the Ceann Comhairle will receive the report of the commission on May Day.
It is due on May Day and I expect to receive it then.
What arrangements will the Ceann Comhairle make so that Members will entrusted with the contents of it as soon as possible?
I expect to receive the report on Friday and it will be then circulated to Members.
It is striking that the disability Bill, which has been on previous programmes of legislation, is appearing yet again with another deadline for the summer recess even though it was to have been Easter. Its publication is always imminent. Is the Government taking people to be fools when it claims it is almost published but never is? Will it be published before the next election and will it be rights-based?
The charities regulation Bill is one of those perennials that has been on the go since 1980. It was expected in 2004 but now it will celebrate its 25th anniversary on the legislation programme in 2005. It is incredible that legalisation is promised but never appears.
Does the Deputy have a question on the legislation? He cannot make a statement on it.
Public consultations on the charities regulation Bill were formally launched on 16 February, with the deadline for responses set for 28 May. The outcome of these consultations will be published and it will also inform preparations of the draft legislation. The heads of the Bill are expected at the end of 2004, with the legislation to be published next year.
The Government is anxious to complete work on the disability Bill. However, its framework and sectoral plans and the comhairle Bill had to be taken into account. Work has been completed on the comhairle Bill while most of the sectoral plans are completed. The Government, through consultations, is endeavouring to improve the Bill's presentation and address some of the issues in the sectoral plans. Most of the work on the heads is completed and, after further meetings last week, it is hoped to finish it quickly. The Bill is a difficult one and we are seeking as much agreement as possible with all interested groups to avoid future unnecessary arguments.
Will it be rights-based?
It will be more——
I call Deputy Kenny.
No is what the Taoiseach means.
Will it be necessary for the House to make an order for an extension of electronic voting in the event of a referendum taking place on 11 June? Has the Government been in contact with the independent electoral commission in respect of indemnification being given to the company that owns the source code?
The commission was in touch with the Government on a number of indemnities which have been granted. Some have been given in the preparation of the commission's work. Others will be given on the completion of its report. Both have been approved by the Government.
Ministers often claim that tackling the infrastructural deficit is their high priority. In the programme for legislation there are now 107 Bills due before the House along with 30 already published. In section C there is the strategic national infrastructure Bill due to be published as a matter of urgency in 2005. There is also the national roads infrastructural Bill due to be published later this year, along with the critical infrastructure (Dublin metro) Bill. Is there any possibility that the Government will get its act together and publish them all as one? It does not make sense that there are three separate Bills concerning infrastructure in what is already a highly crowded legislative programme.
Each of the necessary three Bills referred to is at a different stage. One is before the Government while the other two are in preparation. Is the Deputy proposing that they be merged?
With a national development plan, one expects joined-up thinking. If the legislation cannot be even joined up, there is not much hope in delivering the rest.
One Bill concerns the proposed metro and is not related to any other issue. The national infrastructure Bill will legislate to try to introduce certainty in fast-tracking other proposals.
That is being examined.
Is the Taoiseach aware that in the programme for legislation, 19 Bills are listed for publication before the summer recess? However, according to the January programme, 13 of those were to have been published before Easter. The January programme stated that the health Bill for establishing the new health service executive and providing a legal framework for a complaints procedure in the health service was expected to be published in 2004. The Minister for Health and Children is introducing a Bill to abolish the direct representation of local authority members to the health boards on Thursday. Will the health Bill be published before Committee Stage of the Health (Amendment) Bill?
The health Bill will be published later on in the year.
In light of the ability of the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, to assist Nenagh and Ennis hospitals, is there anything he can do for the——
That does not arise on the Order of Business. I call Deputy Enright.
Is the health complaints Bill dead?
I have called Deputy Enright.
Will the Minister give the same treatment to Monaghan General Hospital?
When will Report Stage of the Education for Persons with Disabilities be taken? The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Amendment) Bill has been demoted from section A to section B in the legislative programme. When will this Bill be before the House? The register for persons considered unsafe to work with children Bill has been listed in section C for a year. When is it expected that it will come before the House? The Bill arises out of the North-South Ministerial Council. Why is this Bill delayed when corresponding comprehensive legislation is already in place in Northern Ireland?
The Minister for Education and Science is anxious to complete the Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill and will be ready to proceed with Report Stage in the next few weeks. With regard to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Amendment) Bill, the Department is now considering the Ryan report and is in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General. It is hoped to proceed with this Bill later in the year. I do not have a date for the register for persons considered unsafe to work with children Bill. A cross-departmental working group was established to consider proposals for reforming the vetting procedures of the Garda. The final meeting of that group has taken place and the report is to be presented to the Garda Commissioner in the near future. Publication is dependent upon the working group's recommendations so I do not have a date for that.
The whole country is aware of the women who suffered terrible and barbaric injury at the hands of Dr. Neary in the North Eastern Health Board area. Is the Taoiseach not dismayed at the fact that although it was promised there would be no undue delay in the publication of the medical practitioners Bill at the time when the Medical Council released its findings about Dr. Neary, the most recent publication of the Government's legislative programme now states that it is not possible to indicate when publication will take place? It appears we are going backwards. Is the Taoiseach not worried about this? Will we have to wait for a Dr. Shipman before this Bill is published?
The heads of the Bill are being prepared but full publication of the Bill is still some time off.
Some time off.
The immigration and residence Bill has appeared in several legislative programmes so far. In light of the rush for the Minister to publish the referendum Bill, when will we see publication of this Bill? We now have a chaotic approach to immigration. This Bill must be brought in as soon as possible to avoid chaos.
The national monuments (amendment) Bill is to deal with the issues raised by the decision of the High Court on Carrickmines. Further in the Government's legislation programme, we see mention of another Bill, the national monuments Bill, which is to consolidate and modernise five key items of national monuments legislation. Can we not deal with both issues together in a single Bill covering all national monuments, whether at Carrickmines or the Hill of Tara?
The national monuments (amendment) Bill, which will deal with the Carrickmines judgment, will be taken this session. It is an urgent Bill to deal with a problem that is costing the State substantial amounts at present.
The Hill of Tara will cost the same.
The national monuments Bill, which is to consolidate and modernise the five key items of national monuments legislation, will be published next year. Work on the heads of the immigration and residence Bill is ongoing but, as I said previously, the Bill was delayed by work on other matters of immigration legislation, including the consideration of submissions received as part of the public consultation process on immigration and the International Organisation for Migration study on migration legislation practice.
The Taoiseach, in reply to an earlier question from Deputy Enright, said that the commission to inquire into child abuse (amendment) Bill would not be introduced until much later. Is legislation planned to amend the Residential Institutions Redress Act, given that the matter raised by Deputy Rabbitte is only one of a number arising out of the chaos into which that Act has now been plunged? People are also experiencing difficulty in accessing the High Court. Will there be legislation to amend the Act to remove the anomalies that are now arising? Will there be legislation to enable the High Court to be accessed? Will the legislation on the commission be expanded to take account of these matters?
There is no legislation listed to amend the Residential Institutions Redress Act. As I have said, Mr. Ryan's report is being examined with a view to introducing legislation on the other side.
The Taoiseach asked the Minister to draft it.
Can the Taoiseach do anything for the man outside the gate?
We have been trying to assist the man for the past four or five days. I agree with Deputy Rabbitte. We endeavoured last week to speak to him and a number of colleagues succeeded. We have contacts with some members of his family. The official who is dealing with these cases is best positioned to explain the difficulties of his case to him and has done so. Deputies are aware of the substance of the case. A number of people have assisted with this matter today and talked to the man but to no avail. He is weakening. Perhaps we could all try to convince him to give up his hunger strike. It is a difficult case. A senior church figure will talk to him later this evening. We have explained the facts to him but the matter cannot be addressed. We will do everything we can. I appreciate the Deputy's concern and I hope everyone can help in trying to get through to him.
Deputy Michael D. Higgins referred to the Residential Institutions Redress Act. The Minister should consider the anomaly that has been created in the case of the man outside the gate and a number of other cases — he is not alone. A gentleman found that his award was reduced substantially because he sought a hearing when he was presenting his case. This is the result of an anomaly. The Act should be revisited to address that.
My second question is about an item that is due to be published before the summer recess. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has already closed three prisons and he now proposes to introduce a prisons Bill——
Has the Deputy a question on legislation?
I have. It is about the Minister's legislative proposal to close a fourth prison, namely, Mountjoy Prison. Will the Taoiseach tell us why there is need for legislation? When will the Minister stop closing prisons?
The judicial conduct and ethics Bill was referred to earlier. Arising from the Taoiseach's remarks, can we take it that although it will not be published in this session, it will now be fast-tracked because of the urgency of the situation?
The prisons Bill will be published this session.
What about my other questions?
The suggestion that the Residential Institutions Redress Act——
I have called Deputy Boyle.
I am trying to be helpful. The indication was that the Bill would be looked at.
My last question was about the judicial ethics Bill.
I replied to Deputy Rabbitte on this issue earlier. The Department is considering provisions that might be included, taking into account the views of the Constitution review group, the Oireachtas group and the Chief Justice's committee.
The Government's legislation programme, which was published yesterday, lists 25 Bills from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Four of these Bills are under section B of the programme, meaning the heads have been agreed but the legislation has not yet been drafted, and 21 are under section C, meaning the heads have yet to be approved. Given that the Minister has the capacity to produce legislation out of a hat, as he has with the Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2004, would it be in order to suggest to the Minister that he produce the Bills that have been promised and not introduce any more new legislation? The 21 promised Bills have been included in the last three legislation programmes but we have not seen a word of them.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has about ten Bills before the House already.
He has 30 Bills before the House.
It never changes. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform would take up all the legislative time of the House if it were allowed.
On the matter referred to earlier, I am a friend and local representative of the gentleman in question and I must mention for the record the role played by the Taoiseach to date in trying to resolve this matter. It is very much appreciated.
What about a question?
That does not arise on the Order of Business.
Arising from the response the Taoiseach gave to Deputy Kenny about the change in the terms of reference of the Electoral Commission, which is considering the introduction of electronic voting, will the Government introduce a regulation to allow for the commission to take into consideration factors such as referenda?
Second, will the Taoiseach bring forward regulations regarding the details of the indemnity afforded to the commission, which was then extended to the company that produces the electronic voting machines? When will the House be provided with details of the indemnification offered?
If a parliamentary question is tabled, the Minister will give details of the indemnities. There is nothing secret——
The commission must report before next Saturday.
The details of the indemnity——
To what extent is the taxpayer exposed?
We cannot have a debate on this now. I call Deputy Gilmore.
The terms of reference of the commission on electronic voting confine it to examining the application of electronic voting to the European and local elections and reporting on that by 1 May. Have the terms of reference been amended to include a request to the commission——
The Deputy should table a parliamentary question to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
No, the commission is to report to the Ceann Comhairle on Friday.
That is correct.
I ask the Taoiseach whether the terms of reference of the commission have been changed to include an obligation on it to report on the application of electronic voting to the referendum poll.
That does not arise on the Order of Business.
It does. The commission will report to the Ceann Comhairle on Friday.
That is correct.
Even if I wanted to table a parliamentary question——
This matter is more appropriate to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government than to the Order of Business. The Deputy should table a question to the Minister.
Is the commission obliged to report on the application of electronic voting to the referendum poll?
We cannot have a debate on the terms of reference of the commission.
The Taoiseach should reply to the question.
There has been no change to the best of my knowledge.
Four Bills were listed for publication by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in 2004. These were the Bord Gais Éireann Bill, the broadcasting authority Bill, the gas regulation Bill and the minerals development Bill. Publication has been deferred to 2005. On what dates in 2005 will they be published? The continental shelf Bill has been deferred from 2005 to 2006. On what date will it be published?
The marine safety Bill will be published this session and the marine safety agency Bill will be published next year. The heads of the marine services Bill, which will make comprehensive new legislative provision for the seafood sector and the marine coastal zone have not been drafted and, therefore, it is some time away. The continental shelf Bill will be published in 2005. I do not have a date in 2005.
Last night's "Prime Time" investigation dug up evidence from four people in ten days about the abuse of foreign workers working under permit in Ireland——
Has the Deputy a question on legislation?
I have. I deliberately found the legislation.
The Deputy should refer to the legislation. It is 5.30 p.m. and I am moving on the next business——
That is not a problem. As soon as I complete my question, the Chair can move on.
What is the legislation?
The Employment Permits Bill 2003. Will the Taoiseach ensure some degree of protection will be afforded to these people under the legislation?
We cannot discuss the content of the legislation.
It will be taken this session.
Will the Taoiseach ensure there will be some degree of protection——
I call Deputy Sherlock.
A number of weeks ago, I questioned the Taoiseach about S.I. 90 of 2004, which relates to the administration of health services. Will the statutory instrument be introduced by the Minister for Health and Children prior to the passage of the Health (Amendment) Bill 2004?
The Bill will be taken this session.
Will S.I. 90 of 2004 be implemented prior to the enactment of the legislation?
I will get a note for the Deputy. I would have thought the legislation would be passed first.
I refer to two Bills. Why does the Taoiseach continue to list the ground rents Bill when he has no intention of publishing it?
It reminds him of Deputy Woods.
The Order for Second Stage of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service Bill 2002 was withdrawn. The House was informed that another Bill would be published. Given the significant problems and difficulties being experienced by people in terms of borrowing, when will this much needed Bill be published and brought before the House?
The Minister is not proceeding with the Money Advice and Budgeting Service Bill 2002 and that is why it has not been moved. The reason the ground rents Bill is still listed is I still hope the Attorney General, the CSO, the Land Registry and the other experts involved will find a way of resolving the issue.
The Taoiseach should not hold his breath.