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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 24 Feb 2005

Vol. 598 No. 4

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 11, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of a proposal that section 17A of the Diseases of Animals Act 1966 shall continue in force for the period ending 8 March 2006; No. 11a, Finance Bill 2005, allocation of time motion for select committee; No. 11b, Finance Bill 2005, financial resolutions; No. 11c, motion re presentation and circulation of Revised Estimates 2005; No. 17, Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Bill 2004 [Seanad]— Second Stage (resumed); and No. 2, Land Bill 2004 [Seanad]— Second Stage.

It is proposed, not withstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 11, 11a, 11b and 11c shall be decided without debate and in the case of No. 11b, financial resolutions Nos. 1 to 30 shall be moved together and decided by one question which shall be put from the Chair and in the case of No. 11c any division demanded thereon shall be taken forthwith.

There is one proposal to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 11, motion re the Diseases of Animals Act 1966, and Nos. 11a, 11b and 11c re the Finance Bill and Revised Estimates agreed?

Does No. 11c include money in respect of the charge the State now faces arising from the Supreme Court judgment?

On a similar matter, the presentation of the Revised Estimates is a month late. Is there a reason for this and is it connected to the additional charges incurred as a result of the Supreme Court decision?

I share the concerns of the previous two Deputies but I also want to ask on No. 11 if it is time to revisit the Diseases of Animals Act 1966 because it is inadequate and does not follow the principle that prevention is better than cure. The situation in Askeaton must be investigated further and this legislation does not cover that need.

The Revised Estimates do not include money that will have to be repaid by the Government to those who were wrongly charged. That will be dealt with later in the year by way of a Supplementary Estimate.

Is the proposal agreed? Agreed.

Arising from the statement issued by the Irish Cancer Society, 25 trades unions, doctors and women's organisations on the unavailability of a national screening programme for cervical cancer, the Tánaiste will be concerned that up to 934,000 eligible women have had to pay for opportunistic screening. Will that area be covered under any of the four health Bills that are mentioned in the Government's legislative programme? It is a matter of concern and we lag far behind in a European context. It is important to women, and the Tánaiste will have an interest in seeing that a national screening programme is provided.

The Deputy has made his point. If he wants to develop the debate, there is another way to do so.

The roll-out of the cervical screening programme does not require specific legislation. As the Deputy acknowledged, there are 200,000 opportunistic screenings per year in this area. It is a matter we must examine in the context of the review of the GMS contract because this facility can be provided at local level by general practitioners — that would be more appropriate. Population screening programmes are important and early detection leads to successful treatment. They are also expensive and it is always a question of priorities. Cancer care is a priority for the Government. We need to examine how we can effectively deal with this aspect of screening in the context of new contract arrangements.

I have raised in the House on a number of occasions the circumstances in which a constituent of mine, Dean Lyons, was wrongfully charged with the Grangegorman murders. I welcome the apology on behalf of the Garda Síochána. Is it the intention of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to make a statement to the House that is more explanatory than a straightforward apology? I remind the House that the two murders remain unsolved and there is a necessity for a more detailed explanation of how it happened that Dean Lyons was wrongfully charged with the two murders.

I share the Deputy's concern that these two murders are now unsolved. I will discuss the matter with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I understand he is not around today but I am sure he would be willing to deal with the matter in the House on another occasion.

Will the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children indicate whether the medical practitioners Bill will give guarantees to the women affected by the unwarranted and unjustified procedures carried out at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital?

We cannot discuss the content of legislation.

Will that Bill guarantee that those procedures, those unjustified crimes, will not be perpetrated again? I want to know whether the Tánaiste has confidence in the legislation and when it will be published.

I call the Tánaiste on the legislation. The question was already answered on Tuesday and again on Wednesday.

We will have that legislation towards the middle of this year.

In the middle of May 2000, the former Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, set up the Dunne inquiry into organ retention. Since then, €20 million has been spent on this inquiry, which is non-statutory. There is information in the media that it is to be ended and some kind of inspectorate put in place.

Has the Deputy a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

In May 2000, the then Minister, Deputy Martin, indicated that should the Dunne inquiry not succeed, there would be full statutory inquiry. Will that commitment be honoured? What exactly is the situation? It is very unclear at the moment.

It is important to assemble all the facts and that can be done without having a statutory inquiry. I had hoped to have a report from the Dunne inquiry before the end of December, but that was not forthcoming. The Government made a decision, which was reiterated recently, that the inquiry would be brought to an end at the end of March. If at that point we do not have a report, it will be a matter for me and the Government to appoint an individual or individuals who can draw up a report on what happened regarding organ retention. I believe that can be done without the expense of a statutory inquiry.

While there is ongoing consultation following receipt of the report on the roll-out of cervical cancer screening, is there a prospect that the Health (Amendment) Bill will contain a provision that will ensure cervical cancer screening is available on an interim basis for women holders of doctor-only medical cards?

We cannot discuss the content of legislation. The Deputy should submit a question to the appropriate line Minister.

Has the Government any plans to make seat belts mandatory on school buses?

Is there promised legislation?

I am not aware of any legislation but I will discuss the matter with the Minister for Transport.

It is very urgent from the point of view of children travelling on school buses.

The gross exploitation of migrant workers is now clear to all. Can the Tánaiste be more precise this morning than the Taoiseach was yesterday regarding the timing of the employment permits Bill since current legislation is facilitating that exploitation? Will the Tánaiste confirm that more resources will be given to the labour inspectorate because it is completely under resourced?

The second question does not arise on the Order of Business. The Tánaiste may answer on promised legislation.

That legislation will be forthcoming shortly. It will be introduced in this session.

The Tánaiste mentioned a Supplementary Estimate in respect of the accident and emergency crisis in hospitals. Will the Tánaiste confirm that elderly people who were directed to private nursing homes or their relatives will benefit from the Supplementary Estimate?

That does not arise on the Order of Business. That issue was dealt with on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Is there promised legislation given that the Tánaiste stated it arises under promised legislation?

Only the legislation and when it will come before the House arises. The content of the legislation does not arise on the Order of Business and never has been allowed on the Order of Business.

Regarding moneys owed to pensioners in nursing homes, will compound interest rates of 6% or 7% per annum be applied?

That does not arise. I suggest the Deputy submit a question to the appropriate Minister.

I thought it might arise under the Health (Amendment) Bill.

I see that following some ground-breaking research, the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Deputy Callely, has come to the conclusion that driving while talking on a mobile phone could be dangerous and has promised legislation in this regard. When will we see this legislation?

In the Minister of State's case it is talking that is dangerous.

His talk is not cheap.

I do not believe legislation is promised on either talking and driving or driving and talking.

I assure the Tánaiste that I have had replies to parliamentary questions promising legislation.

The Minister of State, Deputy Callely, has promised legislation. When will we see the legislation?

I have a long list here. I do not see it. I am sure that if the Minister of State has promised legislation, he will endeavour to produce it.

Is he writing parliamentary replies?

On a point of order, we have established that the legislation has been promised. All we are asking, and it is quite in order, is when we will see the legislation.

It is not on the Government's list. It has not come to the Cabinet.

The Minister of State does not read lists.

I will discuss it with the Minister of State and inform the House next week.

The Minister of State should be congratulated on his initiative.

On the Residential Institutions Redress Bill 2002, the list of institutions where abuse took place was not comprehensive. Amendments were made to it two years later. However, quite a number of people were in other institutions that have not yet been included in the list. These people are not getting any younger. Is it intended to amend the legislation to include the other institutions?

Has legislation been promised?

The Government passed legislation in this area. Further legislation is promised this session but I am not sure whether it deals with that issue. The legislation to include more institutions has been passed.

An amendment is needed to include the extra institutions.

I will discuss that with the Minister for Education and Science. A Bill is promised this session on the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.

On 16 July 2001, the Adventure Activities Standards Authority Bill was passed into law. We still await an establishment day. Will the Tánaiste inform the House whether the Government intends having an establishment day?

I am sure we do, otherwise we would not have passed the legislation. I will have to come back to the Deputy. I will ask the line Minister to communicate with him.

In regard to the opening of the electricity market, will the electricity Bill have to wait until the full review which the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources has inaugurated takes place? When will it be published? In her former role, and as a follow up to my colleague Deputy Michael Higgins, is it true that last year she pulled most of the labour inspectorate out of their job of inspecting work places for EU duties with the result that no inspections were taking place and the kind of abuses which Deputy Howlin will raise later today were allowed?

Has the Deputy a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

Was she not responsible for much of the abuse which has happened to migrant workers——

That does not arise on the Order of Business.

——and other scandals during the time she was Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment?