Order of Business.

The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 13, motion re proposed approval of Dáil Éireann of certain Acts of the 1999 Congress of the Universal Postal Union, back from committee; No. 14, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the transmission of natural gas by a second pipeline; No. 15, motion re proposed approval of Dáil Éireann of the Commission on Electronic Voting (Further Reports) Order 2004; No. 17, motion re Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Bill 1999; No. 23, National Monuments (Amendment) Bill 2004 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 24, Commissions of Investigation Bill 2003 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 25, State Airports Bill 2004 — Second Stage (resumed). 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.; Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 17 shall be decided without debate; Report and Final Stages of No. 23 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 60 minutes tonight by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Report and Final Stages of No. 24 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 9.30 p.m. tonight by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform; the proceedings on the resumed Second Stage of No. 25 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10.30 p.m. tonight. Private Members' Business shall be No. 50, motion re disabled person's grant scheme.

There are five proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal regarding the late sitting agreed? Agreed.

Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 17 without debate agreed?

There is a change to the Order Paper I was handed coming in. No. 16 appears to have vanished. Perhaps it has something to do with Deputy Rabbitte's reference to the puma in Monaghan because it referred to the approval by Dáil Éireann of the Abattoirs Act.

I object to No. 15 being taken without debate. This refers to electronic voting. The Government gave no notice of this motion although the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government contacted Deputy Allen by telephone. The commission produced an interim report on 29 April. We have not seen the final report from the commission. The motion in the Minister's name refers to actions recommended at paragraph 4-5 of the interim report but does not refer to the issues raised by the commission at paragraph 4-4. These issues were deemed not to be within the commission's terms of reference but did, in the commission's words, "have a bearing on the successful implementation of the system of elections in Ireland". Included in those issues, as the Minister knows, was the absence of a voter verifiable audit trail. Other issues raised in paragraph 4-4 were the responsibility of returning officers and the distribution of surpluses under the electronic scheme.

The Minister should be asked to explain the introduction of a reference to a comparative assessment in this order. The Minister voted down Deputy Allen's efforts to have a reference in the legislation to comparative analysis between the Nedap system and other systems. Are we now to assume that this is an admission that the lack of reference to comparisons was a serious omission from the commission's initial terms of reference? On that basis, I am opposed to taking No. 15 without debate.

No. 16 has also fallen off my Order Paper. I do not know if there is any significance to that.

It is five years since we first heard about the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Bill. I understand that what is effectively a new Bill has been introduced by the Minister by way of amendment. What is the Government's intention in respect of this Bill? Is it intended to seek to enact it between now and the end of session and will the House have an opportunity to examine what seems to be substantially a new Bill?

It is difficult enough to get a copy of the order on electronic voting. We will not have a comparison between electronic and the existing manual system. At the heart of the order before the House is the need to have a comparative assessment of the secrecy and accuracy of the current system with the electronic system. We should see a comparison between the two systems.

We are not getting a voter verifiable audit trail, as Deputy Kenny has pointed out. We need to have that. Surely we need to widen the commission's terms of reference to allow it to look at the issue of a voter verified audit trail.

I object to No. 14, the motion regarding the transmission of natural gas by a second pipeline, being taken without debate. I do not oppose the proposition, but we have not had a debate on this very important area of our oil and gas resources. This is against the backdrop of a sweetheart deal by a former Minister, Mr. Ray Burke, and the Shell company regarding the Corrib field off the western seaboard. We must recognise that this matter has not been substantively addressed by the House. There are huge issues to be addressed, including the terminal siting in Mayo and the sweetheart deal which allows Shell to pay the least contribution to the Exchequer of any of the companies involved in oil and gas exploration globally and to continue unchecked. We are about to allow, without debate in the Dáil, a further proposition concerning the sourcing and resourcing of our own oil and gas requirements.

I wish also to speak about No. 15, the proposed approval of the Commission on Electronic Voting (Further Reports) Order 2004. The Minister, Deputy Cullen, did not contact my party colleague and spokesperson on the environment, Deputy Morgan, although he was in contact with other party spokespersons on the matter. Equality of treatment by the Minister's office would be appreciated. However, the missive sent by the Chief Whip's office talks about a comparative assessment of the secrecy and accuracy of the current system for voting at elections and referendums as against the proposed Nedap/Powervote system of electronic voting. The current system——

We cannot have a debate on the matter——

I am not debating. I am saying why the matter should be taken on the floor of the House.

We are debating whether or not the matter should be taken without debate.

We have not had the opportunity since the local and European parliamentary elections to have a debate, discussion or analysis of the conduct of the recent elections. With regard to secrecy, it was the case——

The Deputy is going well outside the scope of the debate on the matter before the House.

I do not think so, a Cheann Comhairle.

The matter before the House has nothing to do with secrecy in the recent elections.

That is the explanatory note. Of course that is what it is.

We are debating proposals——

That is what the order entails.

The Chair is speaking. We are debating the proposal that Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 17 be taken without debate. We are not debating the contents of them.

No. 15 is about the secrecy and accuracy——

This debate is not. It is about whether we should take the item without debate or not.

There are real and serious concerns because of local authorities' disposal of the traditional timber-framed polling booths that accorded real secrecy and their replacement with cardboard interfold units, which allow four people to vote at the same time in immediate proximity.

There is a question mark over this and we have not had an opportunity to debate it.

We cannot have a debate on the matter now.

These deficiencies require redress on the floor of this House.

In the case of No. 16 relating to abattoirs licences, I do not know where it has gone. It was withdrawn by the Department of Agriculture and Food but I do not know why. On No. 15, the motion re electronic voting, I indicated on the Order of Business last Thursday, when Deputy Gilmore asked, that we will renew the order on the basis of legal advice that had just been brought to the Government's attention. Deputy Allen agreed to take this matter without debate yesterday.

I had not seen the order.

If the Deputy wishes to press the matter we can provide time at 10.30 p.m. this evening and revise the Order of Business to deal with the motion on electronic voting then.

On No. 17, the motion re the proceeds of crime, after the first interim report of the Flood tribunal, the Government indicated that it wished to establish a corruption assets bureau by way of legislation. After discussion, however, with both the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Attorney General it was felt that it should form part of the Criminal Assets Bureau, and this motion provides for amending legislation. The intention is to move the amending Bill to a committee, not to finish it before the summer recess.

No. 14 refers discussion on the gas pipeline to a committee. I know Deputy Ó Caoláin has always been interested in interconnectors but they were not always as benign as they are today. We will refer the matter to an all-party committee.

How long will we have to discuss electronic voting tonight?

Are the proposals for dealing with Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 17 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 23 agreed?

I oppose this guillotine.

There are many people outside this House who do not want to see this legislation passed. They are afraid of the reputation of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and what might happen if he gets his hands on the powers contained in the Bill. We oppose this legislation. The Minister's reputation precedes him.

There are probably as many people who do not want it passed as there were in all those protests last weekend.

Many of them are archaeologists in the Minister's Department.

There are certainly more people who do not want it passed than there are Fianna Fáil councillors in Waterford.

This is an important Bill that will give the Minister the power to destroy national monuments. It is being rushed by the Government through the Houses. An hour for Report Stage of such a major Bill is not sufficient — that is not enough time to debate even one amendment. The Labour Party opposes the guillotine.

I object to the guillotine applying to Report and Final Stages of the National Monuments (Amendment) Bill 2004. We had indicated throughout the passage of the legislation that a guillotine was not acceptable because of the import of what was involved in the Bill. There should be full exercise of Members' right to participate in debate on this Bill, and the taking of amendments on Report Stage is vital to that. The time proposed will not allow for full address of the amendments that have been presented. I not only strongly object to the powers that will be bestowed on the incumbent Minister but much fear arises from these powers being vested in future occupants of that position. It is simply unacceptable.

There was no guillotine on Committee Stage but, as everyone here is aware, it is urgent that we complete the M50. The current delays are costing us millions of euro and that is why we must pass this legislation. I cannot concede on this occasion.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 23 be agreed."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 72; Níl, 57.

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Browne, John.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Tony.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDaid, James.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Donnell, Liz.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • Parlon, Tom.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wright, G.V.

Níl

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Healy, Séamus.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McHugh, Paddy.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Murphy, Gerard.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Durkan and Broughan.
Question declared carried.

The House had agreed to sit until 10.30 p.m. but there is now a proposal that the House sit for a further hour to debate No. 15 on the Order Paper. I suggest the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach bring a proposal before the House detailing the time slots, etc. for that debate.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 24, Report and Final Stages of the Commissions of Investigation Bill 2003, agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 25, Second Stage of the State Airports Bill 2004, agreed?

I object to the use of the guillotine because, very serious matters concerning the State Airports Bill remain to be discussed and questions have not been answered. Given that no business plans have been produced, to introduce legislation is to put the cart before the horse. We have not had a response from the Government as to what would happen if, for instance, the Shannon Airport business plan did not stand up. Would Shannon and Dublin airports then be held by the State, with Cork Airport standing alone? I oppose the proposal because serious questions have not been answered.

I agree that the time allocated for the Bill is entirely inadequate. We have had three guillotines today, with two each planned for tomorrow and Thursday, respectively. That is no way to do the business of the House. No matter what pleas are made to the Government on this matter, we are still presented with a circumstance in which legislation is rushed through the House at the last minute.

In the case of the State Airports Bill, none of the substantive issues has been answered. We do not know the reason it took a year to produce the Bill. Now that it has been produced, it provides for a hilarious scenario in which the company will be broken up, after which we will ask its constituent parts to bring forward plans to ascertain whether the break-up was justified. There will be no business plan or anything else, apart from the other subterranean stuff that is going on and the prospect of provoking industrial action at the airport, yet the guillotine is to come down on the Bill tonight when a number of my colleagues, including, I am sure, several whom I met in north Dublin in recent weeks while talking to Aer Rianta workers, would love to contribute. The time allocated is entirely inadequate and I oppose the proposal.

The guillotine on this Bill indicates that the Government is not thinking through the matter. The number of people employed by Aer Rianta requires that much more time be given for Second Stage to allow the Government to listen to the views of Members who have not yet had a chance to speak. I ask the Government to bear in mind that persons it appointed to the relevant boards are protesting strongly about this legislation because they know that every bank manager would throw out a proposal of this nature, which did not have a business plan. It is a requirement that the Government follow best practice and it is not doing so in this regard because there is no business plan. We should deal with the issue on the basis of a business plan. The Bill and the use of the guillotine are out of order.

The possible ramifications of the passage of this Bill for the future of the airport network is undoubtedly serious. We must recognise that one cannot treat the airport network as if it consisted of stand-alone entities. The airports are interdependent in many ways, not only in case of emergency. The Bill is a very serious proposition and it is not appropriate or acceptable that a guillotine be applied tonight at 10.30 p.m. I hope the Tánaiste will reconsider the proposal, as she has reconsidered one of the earlier propositions, for which we thank her.

I am not in a position to concede time. It is important that the legislation is passed as quickly as possible in order that the interim boards can get on with the task of developing business at the three State airports.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 25 be agreed."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 71; Níl, 53.

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Brennan, Seamus.
  • Browne, John.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Tony.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDaid, James.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Donnell, Liz.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • Parlon, Tom.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wright, G. V.

Níl

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Padraic.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McHugh, Paddy.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Murphy, Gerard.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and Power; Níl, Deputies Durkan and Broughan.
Question declared carried.

According to the schedule of business for the week, a discussion on the outcome of the EU-US summit at Shannon has not been proposed. A number of important questions need to be answered. The transfer of power to make Iraq a sovereign state is the political issue in world politics and the House should receive a report from the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste followed by a question and answer session on this important issue. The initial proposal was controversial and we do not know the full details of the discussion that took place or the concerns expressed by the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste to the US President. Is it proposed to hold such a debate this week?

The Taoiseach reported several weeks ago on the overwhelming support for Mr. Verhofstadt to take up the position of EU Commission President. It was then reported there was overwhelming support for the Taoiseach himself and subsequently Mr. Patten. All these candidates fell by the wayside and I am happy Mr. Barroso, whom I mentioned as a serious candidate three weeks ago, has accepted the nomination which will be ratified this evening. I assume that is the reason for the mini-Council later. Will the Tánaiste comment on that?

Time has not been set aside to discuss the EU-US summit held at the weekend. There will be a discussion tomorrow on the IGC and the European Council meeting. A longer than usual discussion will take place but I do not know whether the two debates can be married together. Perhaps the Whips will reflect on that. A meeting will take place in Brussels this evening to finalise the proposal for a new European Commission President for the next term. It is terrific that this will be finalised during the Irish Presidency. The Taoiseach did not put his name forward for selection.

I know that.

During the IGC process, the Government put forward a proposal regarding how the President should be chosen but that was not acceptable to others. There should be a better way than the unedifying spectacle of nominations being made and shot down in public. We should be able to do things better and learn from that for the future.

We enjoyed a successful Presidency and it concludes tomorrow evening. Perhaps tomorrow we will have an opportunity to discuss the important matters relating to the various summits that took place.

Did I understand the Tánaiste correctly during Leader's Questions that her party favours bringing forward legislative proposals to implement the recommendations of the all-party committee on the price of building land? Is she speaking only for her own party or is she speaking for the Government? When will legislation be brought before the House?

I have no reason to believe the Government does not support the recommendations in the committee's report but the Government is awaiting a submission from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. He informed me that he will bring that to the attention of the Government after he receives the NESC report on this matter.

When will that be?

Relatively soon. I discussed the matter with the Minister a few minutes ago.

Will stadas oifigúil don teanga Gaeilge san Aontas Eorpach be a token of appreciation for the work for which the Tánaiste says the Taoiseach is appreciated? How tangible can that appreciation be for the people of Ireland?

Will time be made available to debate the post-Shannon summit?

The matter has been discussed. Has the Deputy a question on legislation?

This issue goes beyond legislation. If the peace is as bloody as the war——

We cannot have a debate on this. A number of Members are offering and we will not be able to hear them all.

I have been asked by a number of communities to raise the issue of drinking outside public houses and other licensed premises. Has account been taken of that under the intoxicating liquor Bill?

The Bill will be taken later this year. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has circulated the heads of the Bill to his ministerial colleagues for their response.

Four vicious attacks on the elderly have taken place in my county over the past ten days.

The Deputy should ask a question on legislation.

Mandatory sentencing is needed for people convicted of such attacks because community service does not teach the perpetrators a lesson. When will the criminal justice Bill be taken?

The heads of the criminal justice (miscellaneous provisions) Bill are expected later this year. A criminal justice (protection of confidential information) Bill is due later this year. The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill 2002 has been enacted.

There is not much sign of that.

In marking this successful Irish Presidency, the last of its kind, the European flag, which has been raised for the six months should be maintained on various buildings.

The building control Bill has been promised on a number of occasions. Is it likely to be published later this year?

The flag is not a matter for me but it is quite a good suggestion. I thank the Deputy for his compliments on the Presidency.

The building control Bill is expected later this year.

The nursing and midwives Bill has been promised since the publication of the nursing commission report in 1998. It was stated in January that it would be published this year and in April we were told it was not possible to indicate when it would be published. Given the crisis in nursing and the INO's indication of 2,000 vacant posts over the past 18 months, will this legislation be brought forward? Can it help to address the crisis with which we are faced?

Last week the Government cleared the heads of the medical practitioners Bill and I understand from the Minister for Health and Children that the nurse's Bill will be the next legislation taken relating to professionals in the health care sector. I am not in a position to say when we will have that.

Will the Tánaiste press it as a priority?

Why is the report of the investigation into the hoarding of building land in the Dublin area being suppressed? It has been available to the Government since last December. Why has the Opposition not received copies of the report?

The Deputy should submit a parliamentary question to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

We have been asking him but we cannot get answers. Why is the report being suppressed?

It is not being suppressed.

The report is with the NESC.

Why has it not been placed in the Oireachtas Library? It was promised in December.

Why will Government not implement the main thrust of the Harbours Act 1996 by facilitating the sale of Balbriggan and Skerries harbours, which will take place today? Will the Tánaiste intervene to ensure that the harbours will not be put into private ownership?

That does not arise on the Order of Business.

The Deputy may not be aware of it but the order was signed this afternoon.

I am delighted the representations we made were taken on board.

On the ball.

I have a question on legislation involving the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who is in the House. I thought he might be towing one of his cages from Shannon to Monaghan to bell that big cat.

The Deputy should ask a question appropriate to the Order of Business.

At least that would be some value to the taxpayer. He got no use out of them in Shannon.

If the Deputy does not come to the Order of Business, we will move on.

With all the practice gardaí got capturing black balloons in their brave raid on the peace camp, a black cat would be nothing to them.

Does the Government intend to amend the legislation, as suggested by the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, to allow children to accompany their parents into licensed premises after p.m., particularly during the holiday season when food is being served? Is the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform still saying there will be no change?

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is keen to know if Deputy Higgins is available to go after that cat. He will give the Deputy every possible assistance. There are no plans to change the legislation.

The cat is described as black and white——

The Deputy is good at wandering around the country. This would be something useful.

Order. We cannot keep the Order of Business going until 7 p.m. Deputy Joe Higgins should resume his seat in fairness to his colleagues on his side of the House who wish to ask appropriate questions on the Order of Business.

A new definition of a wildcat strike.

Under the Health Insurance (Amendment) Act 2001 regulations are to be brought forward to enable those over 65 to gain cover. When will those regulations be introduced?

I will ask the Minister for Health and Children to communicate with the Deputy. I do not have that information.

The enforcement of fines Bill was meant to end imprisonment, where practicable, for the inability to pay fines, but the number of people being imprisoned for their inability to pay fines is increasing all the time. Also, has any progress been made with the ground rent Bill?

The enforcement of fines Bill issue should be addressed later this year. I apologise that the answer has been the same on the ground rent Bill for many years. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is reflecting on the matter.

The Government promised three legislative measures to improve services for those with disabilities, but we have been informed that the disability Bill will not be produced for the fourth promised Dáil session. The Education for People with Special Educational Needs Bill has finally been enacted, but can the Tánaiste indicate when the third Bill, the Comhairle (amendment) Bill, is likely to see the light of the day? Also, will we have to wait through a fifth and sixth session before seeing the main disability Bill?

Both the disability Bill and the Comhairle (amendment) Bill are almost finalised and they will be published together.

Does the Government propose to bring forward a supplementary Estimate to open the many hospital units lying idle? I refer specifically to Clonmel——

A question must be asked on promised legislation. I call Deputy Durkan.

——where €25 million has been spent but €2 million is all that is needed.

Deputy Hayes should table a question for the Minister for Health and Children.

A commitment was given in An Agreed Programme for Government to introduce legislation to allow the Director of Public Prosecutions to appeal against unduly lenient sentences. It might be a good time now that the Government is in mid-term to review the situation to ascertain how strong that promise was.

The Law Reform Commission has examined that matter and I understand it supports the idea of the DPP being given that power. I am sure the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will bring forward legislation to implement that proposal.

Ireland's speed limits are to be changed to the metric system at the end of October and the Road Traffic Bill was to be dealt with in this session. When does the Tánaiste expect this Bill to be brought before the House because people will have to be told how important this is?

It will be in the autumn.