Leaders’ Questions.

The programme for Government stated that this Government would stand for a society in which people can feel safe in their communities, businesses and homes. Yesterday, Deputy Crawford uncovered evidence that the former Minister for Health and Children spent €30 million on 145 reports. A sum of €60 million was spent by the former Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on electronic voting and the Comptroller and Auditor General has reported on how the cost of the roads programme has increased by €8 billion over the period of the programme to date.

Does the Taoiseach understand the sense of frustration on the streets and in homes with petty crime, break-ins and assaults? What does he say to a shop owner in Talbot Street who last year apprehended 150 persons in the process of stealing goods in his premises, all of which went unreported because previous reports were not acted on? What does he say to a family I know in Sutton whose house was cleaned out a month ago? What does he say to an employee of this House whose house was robbed at 3 o'clock in the morning? These are only some of the thousands of incidents of unreported crime.

The Taoiseach as head of Government is bound, under Article 40.3-5 of the Constitution, to ensure the law protects our citizens, their good name, their property and so forth. He has utterly failed to do that. Does he appreciate the level of concern among members of the public? The community has lost confidence in the Garda. The gardaí are not given the resources they need to do their job. The Government has failed abysmally to use the resources of Government and the community to build a society that works and does not have the rash of anti-social behaviour breaking out all over the country every night and every weekend. People have a sense that nobody is in charge and that the abuse of property and people's rights is out of control.

Does the Taoiseach not agree that after eight years in office the Government has failed miserably to address that crisis of confidence? What will he do about it?

I do not believe people have lost faith or trust in the gardaí, that crime is out of control or that our legislation is outdated. This Government has continually recruited more gardaí and given the Garda more resources. It has passed stronger laws and improved the criminal justice system, updating it whenever necessary. It is dealing with drug offenders, and the establishment of specialist Garda units to deal with various types of crime has worked effectively. That is the reason crime figures are down.

Yes, it is true that there is still too much crime. Although the lobby in this House and elsewhere was in favour of increasing opening hours for drinking, I was one of the people who successfully opposed an extension of opening hours on Sunday nights. Some people wanted to extend the time to 2 a.m. We must be tougher.

Zero tolerance.

In fairness to the gardaí, and this is something that affects their morale, as soon as they use the type of actions and deterrents that are commonly used in other countries there is a group, which includes Members of this House, that will oppose them taking sterner action. We need to show a level of consistency.

This Government reversed the cancellation of the prison building programme which took place during the 1990s. The rainbow Government failed to put one extra garda on the streets, failed to properly resource the gardaí, failed to provide one extra prison place and supported a policy that led to 16% of sentenced prisoners being on the streets. We reversed those policies and we will continue to devote extra resources to the Garda——

What about the 2,000 gardaí?

Ask the people of Clones.

Deputy Crawford is not the leader of his party.

Twenty year old walkie talkies.

——and to pass stronger laws to deal with crime. If we are serious about crime, the best thing we can do is stand behind the gardaí so they can deal with criminals and thugs.

And not criticise them.

I do not have to take lectures from the Taoiseach on this. The Fine Gael Party founded this State and established the Garda Síochána, and we will always support them.

Posturing.

We will give the gardaí the resources and the capacity to do their jobs, unlike a previous Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform with his zero tolerance concept which is now utterly out of control.

Under Article 40.2 of the Constitution, the Taoiseach is charged with protecting the people of this country, their property and their good names. Does he not appreciate the level of frustration that builds up in people who, when they find that the gardaí are not available or do not have the facilities to be available, take the law into their own hands with unfortunate and tragic consequences in some cases? The Government is responsible for this. The Minister for Defence, Deputy O'Dea, can smirk if he wishes but the Taoiseach and his Ministers do not appreciate the level of concern, frustration and anger with the failure of the Government to deal with anti-social behaviour, petty crime, burglaries and assaults. In his eighth year as Taoiseach, he and the Government have utterly failed. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Serious crime has increased seven fold, the number of personal assaults has doubled and at least two of every five crimes are not reported. What does the Taoiseach say to the shopkeepers and business owners whose premises are invaded daily yet nothing can be done by the gardaí because they do not have the resources? There is a crisis of confidence among the public. The Taoiseach should be ashamed of how he has carried on.

Crime statistics recorded by the Garda for last year compared with the previous year——

Compare them with the 1990s.

——showed a decrease of over 3,000.

Tell that to the man in Talbot Street.

The incidence of headline crimes, at over 48,000, shows a decrease of 14%. It is not correct to say——

It is not reported.

I accept there is crime but the best way to deal with crime is to have more gardaí, better resourced gardaí and more equipment.

We need 2,000 more.

That is precisely what the Government is doing. This country, per 100,000 of population, has more gardaí than most countries. We have more prison places, more laws and tough laws in many areas — laws that have been opposed by Members of this House.

We need new laws.

With regard to drugs and sex crime, we have already substantially strengthened the criminal law through the criminal justice system. There are ten year mandatory jail sentences for anyone convicted of possessing drugs with a street value over a certain level — approximately €13,000 — and three tough Bills have been enacted in regard to sex offences and child trafficking. The Criminal Justice Bill 2004 has provisions which will strengthen the investigative powers of the Garda Síochána by dealing with the power of arrest, search powers, detention powers and the power to take fingerprints and DNA samples. It is tough laws such as this which we must support and enact if we want to end thuggery on the streets.

A Deputy

This is ridiculous.

The laws are not working.

Where is the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform? Is he gone into hiding?

Allow Deputy Rabbitte to speak without interruption, please.

I want to ask about the reported announcement by the new Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, that he intends to bring proposals to Cabinet by Christmas for a €70 million spur Luas line from the green line at St. Stephen's Green to the red line at O'Connell Street or Middle Abbey Street. Is this Government thinking? The Taoiseach should reflect on the decision of a previous Minister, the then Minister for Public Enterprise, Senator O'Rourke, who decided in 1997 that she was prepared to suffer the loss of €114 million in EU funding at the time to commission a new report by WS Atkins, which, in April 1998, recommended precisely such an over-ground link. In May 1998, the then Minister, Senator O'Rourke, rejected the Atkins proposition for a surface connection in favour of an underground link.

If it was wrong in 1998, why is it right in 2004? Is there any coherence to Government policy in respect of the provision of transport in Dublin city? At that time, the then Minister, Senator O'Rourke, justified her decision on the basis of the scale of disruption caused, the capacity of the streets in question, the objections of Dublin Bus and the prospect of a metro. The Taoiseach seems to have ruled out the prospect of a metro. What has changed since we heard the arguments from the Dublin city centre traders about the scale of disruption — we have had direct experience since then — and about the capacity of the streets to take a bus and Luas service, such as is the case on Dawson Street, Nassau Street, College Green and so on? Will the Taoiseach clarify whether the current Minister, Deputy Cullen, is talking off the top of his head, in keeping with the sound tradition in that Department in the last eight years, or whether this is Government policy?

The original Luas proposal for Dublin some six years ago was for a single Luas line from Tallaght via the city centre to Sandyford.

The proposal was originally for three lines.

I am answering Deputy Rabbitte's question which does not concern the third line. The subsequent decision, as far back as 1998, was to separate the proposal into two elements: Sandyford to St. Stephen's Green and Tallaght to Connolly Station, with a link to the airport to follow later. There have been a number of developments since these decisions were taken. The Dublin Transportation Office strategy, A Platform for Change, which was published some years ago, proposes a metro for Dublin as well as the development of an integrated rail network in the city. Both of these elements come with a price tag running to billions of euro. The second issue is that the Railway Procurement Agency has submitted a detailed business plan to the Department of Transport in regard to the proposal for a metro link between the city centre and the airport. Third, Irish Rail has submitted to the Department of Transport proposals for an integrated rail network in the greater Dublin area, a plan that has much merit as I stated in the House last week. These proposals include the electrification of the Kildare and Maynooth lines and an interconnector tunnel linking Heuston Station to the docklands to enable greater integration of rail services at a far lower cost than the metro plan. The proposals from the RPA and more recently from Irish Rail would represent significant investments for the Exchequer and, as I stated last week, would take considerable time to deliver. However, that does not mean the process cannot begin.

In reply to Deputy Rabbitte, the Department of Transport is looking at the various proposals in the context of the overall needs of the greater Dublin area, in conjunction with the organisations to which I referred. It is hoped we will be able to give consideration to these proposals at an early date.

The board of the RPA recently considered preliminary analysis of the feasibility and cost of €70 million, as the Deputy stated, of linking the two Luas lines in the city centre. The indications are positive that joining the Luas lines does not rule out the case for either a metro or the rail lines, which was the case stated five or six years ago. It could be delivered in a period of 18 to 24 months from getting approval to proceed following a planning inquiry.

This is the case stated by many of the relevant bodies in the context of the recent discussions of the Cabinet sub-committee. The priority is that we should do this. It will not affect any of the other decisions in regard to the strategy, A Platform for Change. The issue is being examined in this context on the understanding that the position of the relevant bodies is that if we are going to do it, we should make an early decision.

The Taoiseach can correct me if I am wrong but I take it from his reply that the metro is dead and that he favours the integrated proposal from Irish Rail. From his reply, I take it that what was rejected as a bad idea in 1998 is now deemed to be a good idea that does not cut off any options for the future. I also gather from the Taoiseach's reply that cost is a major consideration in this regard. How does letting the years pass in the manner in which we have let them pass make the cost any more viable? The fact is that if it can now be done in 12 or 18 months, it could have been done at minimal extra cost contemporaneously with the works that have already been put in place. In the context of the overall cost of the Luas proposal at the time, a cost of €70 million would not have been a significant add-on.

My point is as follows. Yesterday, I raised with the Taoiseach the announcement by the previous Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, that the Government would provide 850 additional beds in community nursing units through a PPP. This suggestion has been dropped and there is a complete reversal of direction. We seem to have the same lack of coherent, consistent thinking in the transport area. A proposal that was shot down out of hand by the former Minister, Senator O'Rourke, is now considered the way to go. What way is this to make major infrastructure decisions for a city that is cluttered, log-jammed and gridlocked in terms of traffic?

The Deputy's time is concluded. He should give way to the Taoiseach.

Will the Taoiseach allay fears in regard to how one can run, for example, a bus service in the inner city spatial area as well as having tram lines and motorists on the roads?

I answered yesterday on the issue of beds by stating that instead of building a new unit over a long period, which might still happen, we would begin using the private nursing beds already in place. It made sense to do this rather than dragging the process out for a period of years.

That was to be additional. Some 250 beds were offered.

On the issue of Luas, I do not think Deputy Rabbitte was leader of the Labour Party at the time-——

He was in another party.

——but I well recall the Labour Party protesting when the former Minister, Senator O'Rourke, and I launched Luas and stated we would have Luas on the streets of Dublin by 2004. That has now been done.

They stated it would be 2002.

We are years behind.

A Cheann Comhairle——

The Deputy was in another party.

If one travels around the city, one will see Luas. If one does not, that is not my problem. Luas is on the streets, working very successfully.

The Taoiseach wants history to be rewritten day by day.

He missed the tram.

Deputy Rabbitte was allowed make his contribution with no interruptions. The Taoiseach is entitled to exactly the same facility in this House, and the Chair will ensure he gets it.

While some Members may think that Luas was built with no cost, the two completed elements of it cost €650 million.

Half the roads budget.

Take them off the buses.

Have a bit of manners.

We are continuing with a large extension in the provision of public buses. We have followed the recommendations on bus corridors by the Dublin Transport Office and on the port tunnel.

When was the last time the Taoiseach took a bus?

In rail facilities——

Deputy Burton will be asked to leave the House if she continues to interrupt.

Has the Taoiseach taken a bus into Dublin city centre lately?

Does Deputy Burton wish to leave the House?

I wish the Taoiseach would take a bus.

He is very tetchy this morning.

Some years ago it was believed that the link would rule out other issues. A new plan which is good has been submitted by Iarnród Éireann. It is not a question of just dropping the concept of delivering a metro but doing it within a realistic cost. Dublin city cannot take up the entire transport infrastructure budget for Ireland. We must look at the best, most efficient and effective ways of delivering good transport services. The Government is doing this through roads, rail, the electrification of the Maynooth line and examining the linking of the two Luas lines. Those are our priority issues.

It seems certain the world will face four more years of President George W. Bush in the White House, a man who lives in continual denial of the need to address climate change. While I wish him well, I hope he has a chance to read Earth in the Balance by Al Gore for old times’ sake.

He might change the weather.

I am sure Bush is worried.

The Government also needs to take stock and prepare for the greater impact of climate change than might otherwise be the case. I appreciate the Government has had difficulty coming to terms with climate change. A half degree centigrade rise in the 20th century does not seem much. However, climate warming has doubled since the 1970s and since 1990 we had eight of the warmest years on record. Research by the University of East Anglia on rainfall shows that in 1960, 7% of rain was categorised as heavy while in the 1990s it rose to 15%. It is no surprise then that the Taoiseach has been faced with an interest in flooding as reflected in matters raised under Standing Order 31.

The Taoiseach claims he is committed — the word must be used advisedly — to a national climate change strategy and the Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, spoke about being committed to a strategic flood management policy. What does that commitment really mean? Will the Taoiseach accept responsibility considering Fianna Fáil councillors were actively involved in building on flood plains in Clonmel, Lucan, Dunboyne and many other areas where people are purchasing houses? If he can admit to that, it will indicate he has a job to make up for those mistakes made in the name of his party. We are hearing about humanitarian aid for the flood victims. However, will a capital investment programme for flood prevention be introduced? We are not talking about humanitarian aid. We are talking about Cork city seeking funds for the last 20 years for quay walls and Dublin City Council seeking €150 million for coastal defences. Will this be announced in the budget or before then?

I have no comment to make on the US election. I am sure we will hear the result in due course. Having ratified the Kyoto Protocol, an ambitious national climate change strategy has been put in place. Arrangements administered by the EPA for large industry and power generation installations in the country to participate in carbon trading under the emissions trading scheme, which starts in two months, have also been put in place. The review of Ireland's national sustainable development strategy for the earth summit in Johannesburg last year has been finalised and published. We have enacted strong environmental legislation, such as the Environmental Protection Agency Act that improved EPA licensing and introduced more stringent enforcement powers and anti-litter measures. The Government has continued to transpose into domestic law other legislative measures from the EU.

Ineffective.

A complete review has been undertaken of the national climate change strategy to ensure sufficient measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are in place in line with our commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. We have finalised the scheme to purchase emissions allowances as a supplementary measure to emissions reduction and trading to ensure compliance with our overall strategy.

He means buy our way out of it.

I agree with Deputy Sargent and I hope whoever is in the White House will now take a more enlightened position than four years ago when Kyoto was rejected and the US refused to work with other states. The outgoing US Administration began to examine the Kyoto Protocol in the last year and it was discussed at the G8 summit. Whether it is President Bush or Mr. Kerry, I hope the incumbent will take a more enlightened position. There is considerable pressure on the US to do so.

Water plains were covered in the last major planning Act. Many of the projects referred to by the Deputy have either commenced or are being examined. Some are being held up for various reasons, with which the Deputy will be familiar. Investment has been made in drainage, sewerage and other schemes to ensure we can deal with the flood issue in a more efficient way. Regarding building on plains, since the population has risen by 1 million since 1973 that extra million people must live somewhere——

In water.

I am not a planner but our system of planning is more regulatory, bureaucratic and less efficient than anywhere else——

Councillors are not planners.

Allow the Taoiseach without interruption.

We set the laws and rules. We take longer and have longer planning processes.

A Deputy

Corruption.

The system goes on for an age. Having said all that, Deputy Sargent is still critical of the endgame. People must live somewhere. In the next 30 years the population is set to increase by another 1 million. Perhaps the Deputy can tell us where to put them.

That is a ridiculous claim.

The Taoiseach knows well that his councillors did not listen to the planners. That is the problem when it came to rezoning in those areas.

No houses would be built if we listened to the Green Party.

The planners had plans but they were not listened to. The US President, whoever it may be, will find it a bit rich for the Taoiseach, representing the most car dependent country in the world per capita, to be telling him to get his act together about climate change. The Taoiseach stood over the demise of any prospect of a carbon tax. He now claims everything will be fine and our Kyoto commitments will be met. He knows that this is not true and we will have to buy our way out, costing taxpayers’ money.

The metro Bill has been scuppered. Regulatory and restructuring issues in the electricity industry have been set back. The building control Bill has been set back from early 2004 and is now promised for late 2005. The energy Bill and national oil reserves Bill have also put off. Dealing with this legislation would indicate some level of engagement with the issue of climate change, but the Government is not engaging. Will the capital investment to deal with flooding be made, as the Government is not going to deal with climate change?

Four years ago, I was one of the first, on behalf of the EU, to raise with President Bush our opposition to what he had stated about the Kyoto Protocol.

The Deputy is just not right on public transport. In the past seven years we have probably spent more on public transport than was spent since the foundation of the State.

Four times more has been spent on roads than rail.

Allow the Taoiseach to speak without interruption.

The Heuston Station project was completed last year ahead of schedule. Seventy six new diesel rail cars are coming into service on Dublin outer suburban rail. Capacity has increased on all routes: rail capacity on the Dundalk-Drogheda route has increased by 43%, by 30% on the Arklow route, 24% on the Maynooth route and 130% on the Kildare route. Four new diesel rail cars are coming into service on the Cork-Cobh line. There has been a capacity increase of 100% on the Cork route and a decentralisation——

Decentralise it.

The record speaks for itself.

——of our services around the country, which Deputy Sargent does not support either. Phase 1 of the DART upgrade project is under way which includes the purchase of 40 new DART rail cars, the upgrade of power supply for rail cars and changes in station platforms. All of these ongoing public transport initiatives are unlike anything that ever happened before. Deputy Sargent should——

It is 4:1. The Taoiseach knows it is not working.

——recognise that.

I certainly recognise that.

I accept the Deputy has a problem with the additional 450,000 houses but he failed in his reply to say where we should have put those people.

A flood plain is not the place for them.

The Taoiseach is over-briefed.

He is understated.