Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 8, motion re Ministerial Rota for Parliamentary Questions; and No. 17, Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2004 — Order for Report and Report and Final Stages. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 8 shall be decided without debate; and that the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 12.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 5 May 2004, and the sitting shall not be suspended from 1.30 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. on that day. Private Members' business shall be No. 39, motion re commitment to end permanently hospital waiting lists within two years.

There are two proposals to put the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 8 without debate agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with the adjournment of the Dáil today agreed?

I do not agree to the adjournment of the Dáil in respect of No. 17. The Electoral (Amendment) Bill should be withdrawn.

That does not arise.

That is what we would be discussing in that period.

We are discussing the adjournment of the Dáil for two hours tomorrow morning.

I do not object to that adjournment. That is because of the Arbour Hill ceremonies.

Is the proposal agreed?

I do not agree to the proposal. I do not see the point of the House returning at 12.30 p.m. to debate a Bill which relates to 6,000 machines which not even Robert Mugabe would buy. Deputy Hayes wants €2 million for his local hospital. The 6,000 machines are worth about €2 million to some unelected dictator or southern state of the United States.

What is the point of putting this arrangement on a statutory basis and laying ourselves open to being sued by the company which continues to possess the relevant intellectual property?

The Deputy will have an opportunity to debate that matter later. I will put the question.

Surely I am entitled to ask a question.

We are discussing adjourning the Dáil for two hours tomorrow morning for the ceremonies at Arbour Hill. That is being opposed.

To come back to deal with the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2004.

What is the point in returning at 12.30 p.m. to compound an error, already of monstrous proportions, with the——

I am sorry, Deputy. The content of Report Stage of the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2004 will be debated now.

I do not propose to debate the content of the Bill. Why is the Taoiseach persisting with this measure? What is the purpose of bringing us back from Arbour Hill?

That is not the issue before us. I call Deputy Sargent.

A Cheann Comhairle——

I am merely trying to get a reply from the Taoiseach as to the purpose of engaging in this. It will lay us open to litigation from the supplying company. God knows what the extent of the exposure is but there is no point anybody on the side opposite, given their record——

I call Deputy Sargent.

I will be up again if I do not get an answer.

It is important to give the Government an opportunity to respond to what has developed, a clear decision that the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2004 that we are being asked to debate tomorrow is effectively without merit. There is no rush to enact it.

That does not arise on this proposal.

It will make a mockery of this House if we return from Arbour Hill to deal with a Bill which has no merit in the context of the needs of this House. There are many more urgent relevant Bills.

The Bill should be withdrawn. The terms of reference are too narrow.

That does not arise on this question.

We are returning to the House to discuss a Bill that is completely inadequate. If the Taoiseach wants support for an independent electoral commission on this matter——

The Deputy will have an opportunity to discuss it this evening and tomorrow.

It is ridiculous to return to discuss it. The Ceann Comhairle sits in the Chair of this House. Page 21 of the report states:

—in particular, experts retained by the Commission found it very easy to bypass electronic security measures and gain complete control of the hardened PC, overwrite the software, and thereby in theory to gain complete control over the count in a given constituency.

That does not arise. The question before the House is that the House on its rising today shall adjourn for two hours tomorrow morning to attend the ceremony in Arbour Hill.

I have no objection to the suspension of the House for two hours tomorrow morning. However, to resume the Report Stage debate on the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2004 makes a mockery of the House before the entire electorate.

That does not arise on this proposal.

With all respect, it arises because we will be returning to debate No. 17. It is absolute nonsense. Will the Taoiseach, for the credibility of the House please withdraw the Bill forthwith?

On a point of order——

Is the proposal for dealing with the Adjournment of the Dáil today agreed to? The question is: "That the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 12.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 5 May 2004."

On a point of order——

One cannot have a point of order when the question is being put.

The Chair cannot railroad the House like this.

I was up before the question was put. We are dealing with the Order of Business, Nos. 8 and 17. No. 17 is the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2004.

We are not dealing with it. We are dealing with a proposal that the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 12.30 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, 5 May 2004. That is what we are discussing. One member from each party is entitled to rise to oppose it. This has been done by a member of each party.

At what point will the Opposition reject No. 17 on the Order of Business?

It is the prerogative of the Government to organise the business.

I am sorry, a Cheann Comhairle. Under Standing Orders, the Opposition is entitled to an opportunity to discuss and vote on the Order of Business. The only issue put is at——

That is not a point of order.

I am sorry, it is. This is an erosion of democracy.

The Deputy knows that it is not a point of order.

Surely we must have an opportunity to reject No. 17——

The Deputy will have an opportunity to vote on it.

——which has resulted in the sum of €50 million of taxpayer's money being spent without authority from anybody. We are now being deprived of an opportunity to reject it in the House.

The Deputy knows that one is only entitled to vote on proposals before the House.

Already once today, the Chair chose to respond to Deputies who had raised Standing Order 31 by ignoring them and proceeding directly to Riar na hOibre.

I apologised to the House.

The Chair ought not to restrict the apology to this occasion. It should go wider because of the manner in which the Chair rides roughshod over the Members of this side of the House.

Hear, hear.

Hear, hear.

Standing Orders are quite specific. If the Deputy has a problem with them, he knows how to change them. The Chair has an obligation to implement the Standing Orders provided by Members. The Chair will continue to do so.

We have merely sought to establish the reason Members are being brought back from Arbour Hill at 12.30 p.m. to debate a redundant Bill that has already cost the taxpayer a fortune and in respect of which the taxpayer will be exposed to further moneys.

That does not arise. The Deputy will have an opportunity on Report Stage.

The Chair is under a misapprehension. This matter was not agreed. Deputy Durkan raised a point of order and the Chair sought to put the question.

The only matters that the House is entitled to debate on the Order of Business are proposals from the Taoiseach.

I have no objection to attending the very important commemoration ceremony in Arbour Hill tomorrow. My point is that the flawed Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2004 should be withdrawn, as its terms of reference are too narrow. We should have an independent electoral commission dealing with all elections, in which the people can put their trust.

The Deputy has made his point. He is trying to frustrate the Order of Business.

I expect the Chair to put the question again because it was not agreed.

Let us be absolutely clear.

If the Chair plays back the televised record, in the way they do at an international rugby match, he will see that Deputy Durkan was on his feet raising a point of order.

It was not a point of order and Deputy Durkan is long enough in the House to know that.

It was a point of order and I ask the Chair to put the question again because this matter is not agreed.

For the benefit of Members and to make it absolutely clear, the House is not required to approve the Order of Business. It is the Taoiseach's prerogative to announce the Government's business and make proposals as to the arrangements for taking that business.

The Opposition——

It is only these proposals which require the approval of the House.

Under Standing Orders, the proposal before the House requires the approval of the House. That is what we are dealing with.

I will put the question to the House again.

Question, "That the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 12.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 5 May 2004", put and declared carried.

The House will discuss tonight the question of the abolition of waiting lists which the Government this time two years ago in its programme for Government promised to eliminate in two years. I notice it has pulled the pigeon from under the cloth with the issuing of a statement that the national treatment purchase fund will have new responsibilities from today for the recording and publishing of waiting lists.

That matter does not arise on the Order of Business. It will be raised during Private Members' Business.

It deals with legislation. The waiting list will be reduced by 4,500 tonight.

Does the Deputy have an appropriate question?

In what legislation does it refer to patients who are not medically suitable to undergo treatment, or patients no longer requiring treatment? Who is included in these categories of patient?

Patients who are dead.

Is this promised legislation?

There will be a debate on the issue tonight.

The statement was issued today to reduce by 4,500——

That matter does not arise on the Order of Business. There will be an opportunity tonight and tomorrow night to discuss the issue.

There are two categories of people. Who are "patients not medically suitable to undergo treatment"? Who are "patients no longer requiring treatment"? Are they people who are dead?

I call Deputy Rabbitte.


Has the Taoiseach been offered resignation by any member of the Cabinet in respect of fiascos that have occurred over the past four or five days?

That matter does not arise on the Order of Business. I call Deputy Sargent.

If he has not, is it his intention to ask for the resignation of any member of the Cabinet?

I call Deputy Sargent.

A Cheann Comhairle, you appear to think I get up for amusement to ask questions. I am asking a question.

Like me, the Deputy has been a long time in the House and he is aware of Standing Order 26.

It is a perfectly legitimate question.

Not for the Order of Business.

It is long practice if there is any change in the make-up of the Cabinet. You know that, a Cheann Comhairle, as well as I do. I am asking politely whether the Taoiseach has made any such request or received notice of intention to resign from any Minister and, if not, if it is his intention to ask any member of the Cabinet to resign.

No, no, no.

Shame, shame, shame.


I call Deputy Sargent.

James Joyce could not have written a better line.

It sounded more like Margaret Thatcher.

Many Bills which could be considered far more urgent than the Electoral (Amendment) Bill would probably cost much less than €52 million to implement. Will the Taoiseach take action against that waste of €52 million?

I call Deputy Hogan.

I am asking about promised legislation, including the building control Bill and the disability Bill. If we are talking about what is urgent, the disability Bill has been left on the long finger for many years. The building control Bill has been moved and both are needed for people with disabilities. The Electoral (Amendment) Bill does not even make provision to vote for people who are blind.

It is hoped that both Bills will be passed this year.

When will the health and safety at work Bill be introduced in the Dáil? Is the Hanly report still Government policy?

The health and safety at work Bill will be before the House this session. The answer to the other question is "yes".

When speaking in the Dáil last Friday, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform said he hoped to bring before Government some form of green card system for migrant workers. Will the Taoiseach tell us if heads of a Bill have come before Cabinet in that regard and when can we expect legislation? If such a major change in our immigration law is being considered, is it not appropriate to withdraw the Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution Bill——

That matter does not arise.

——and allow for a full and informed debate to take place throughout the country, addressing all the issues contingent on these matters?

Work is continuing on the immigration and residency Bill.

Given that the national monuments Bill is proposed before the end of this session, would it be possible for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to get together all the electronic voting machines, melt them down and have them located at a suitable location as a memento to the spending of €52 million of taxpayers' money without authorisation——

The Deputy will have to find another way to raise that issue.

——while there are serious glitches in the health service which need attention?

One of the issues of concern to Mr. Tom Sweeney, who is on hunger strike outside the Dáil, is the Residential Institutions Redress Act. Will either the Taoiseach or his representatives meet Mr. Sweeney or his representatives to discuss——

The Deputy must ask a question appropriate to the Order of Business. This issue was raised on the Adjournment last week. It was also raised last week by the leader of the Deputy's party.

I too raised the issue last Thursday. I am asking specifically about the legislation, because it is part of the problem. Will the Taoiseach look at the Residential Institutions Redress Act to see if it should be amended?

There is no amendment promised. A number of conversations took place with the individual concerned to try to assist him and explain these matters to him.

Will the strategic national infrastructure Bill be preceded by the appointment of an independent commission to assess the safety of incineration technology given that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government wholeheartedly endorses the technology while his technical expertise in other areas has been shown to be wanting?

Preparation of the Bill is continuing.

In light of the recommendation in the ninth progress report of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, following 17 months of consultations that legislation to abolish ground rents should be introduced, is such legislation a priority for the Government and when will it be brought forward?

It is not possible to indicate but the recent reports of the constitutional group will be examined.