It is proposed to take No. 14, Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill 2004 — Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage; and No. 4, Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2005 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. Private Members' business shall be No. 41, motion re class sizes.
Order of Business.
There are no proposals to put to the House.
On No. 4, the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2005, I understand the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission is setting up a sub-committee to examine in the context of future elections the questions that may arise regarding the use of the facilities of the Houses of the Oireachtas by Members, Senators and Ministers in their Departments. As this Bill will not be able to take account of that sub-committee's work and any recommendations it may make, how is it intended to deal with this issue because this area needs clarification?
I understand from an internal report on bullying at the Galway hospice that a serious problem exists. When will the nurses (amendment) Bill, dealing with the regulation of nurses, come before the House?
I do not have a date for the nurses (amendment) Bill but I will ask when it will be ready. In regard to the other matter, there are issues to be clarified. It is clear from what happened in previous elections that we need to know the position one way or the other. Subject to correction, the only way to get absolute certainty in these matters is to legislate and primary legislation is the way to do that. Otherwise we will find ourselves in the same position as before. From what I have read and seen, some of these areas need to be clarified. The sub-committee should complete its work and primary legislation should be put through the House and passed.
Following the Taoiseach's admission last week that he had a substantive brief and did not read it on a matter that has exposed the taxpayer to €2 billion, does he still have confidence in the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment?
Has the Deputy got a question appropriate to the Order of Business?
It is very appropriate.
It does not come under the Standing Order.
Has the Taoiseach received any notice of resignation from the Minister concerned and does he still have confidence in him?
I call Deputy Sargent.
Is there any communication at all?
A reply might be in order.
The Ceann Comhairle has just said how independent he is. Will the Taoiseach reply to the question? There is a €2 billion exposure for the taxpayer. A Minister went before the committee and said he did not bother to read the brief——
It does not arise on the Order of Business and the Deputy knows that.
——and the Ceann Comhairle says it is of no concern to this House.
He was too busy.
I advise Deputies to be very careful of accusing the Chair of saying things it did not say. The Chair attempts to implement Standing Orders laid down by this House. That is what the Chair is going to do and it will not be intimidated by any Member. If the Deputy wishes, I shall read Standing Order 26.
The Taoiseach wishes to reply.
On the matter of confidence in his Minister, I am entitled to raise on the Order of Business whether the Taoiseach still has confidence in this particular Minister who has left us with the legacy that we spent the earlier part of Leaders' Questions discussing and who, in a blasé manner, says that we should blame the civil servants because he did not read the brief.
It does not arise on the Order of Business and the Deputy knows that.
The Chair should at least allow the Taoiseach to reply. Clearly he does not have confidence in his Minister. Certainly I do not.
Perhaps the Taoiseach will reply to me and Deputy Rabbitte together. Given that the European Court of Justice has again put the Government in the dog house on the non-implementation of EU directives, will the building control Bill, which involves the energy performance of buildings directive, be dealt with any more urgently having been promised since 2003? Will it deal not only with architects and surveyors but also with labour inspectors? We have twice as many dog wardens as labour inspectors, although we do not have many dog wardens either.
The building control Bill should be ready late this year. The heads of the Bill have been approved. It will deal with the issues in the Building Control Act 1990 and will provide statutory protection for architects, building surveyors and quantity surveyors. During the debate it will be open to Members to extend it if they so wish.
When will the civil law Bill be brought forward? In my constituency the northside community law centre is facing closure — it is on protective notice — because this Bill, which would bring it under the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and have it properly funded, is being held up. We will lose a vital service unless the legislation comes forward urgently and decisions are taken.
I wish to raise the same matter as Deputy Bruton. The northside community law centre is facing imminent closure in approximately ten days unless some action is taken.
I understand that matter is on the Adjournment. Work is under way on the heads of the civil law (miscellaneous provisions) Bill and it is hoped it will come before the House later this year.
My question is by way of supplementary because Deputy Sargent has raised the issue. Arising from all the queries we raise, what is the system of communication to the relevant Departments? We have had the same reply which, in fairness to the Taoiseach, has been given to him by his able civil servant. What happens after that? For example, do those responsible for the building control Bill simply ignore what has been said or what the Taoiseach has promised here, or is there an added urgency attached to bringing forward the next Stage? While I would not expect him to have this information unless it is in front of him, can the Taoiseach recall from memory the heads of the Bill being cleared at Cabinet, if so, when, and where is it in the pecking order? To the best of my knowledge that Bill has not moved during the past three years.
The Deputy has made his point.
What Deputy Quinn has said is correct. The heads of the Bill were cleared about three years ago and it has been in the system since then and has not come forward.
What happens next?
When it is raised here it goes back to the section. In regard to priority we deal with many Bills in each session and priority Bills are brought forward. We are hard-pressed even to get those through the House. Usually 20 Bills are dealt with in each session. New Bills are always being introduced. The pecking order or the timeframe relating to the drafting of Bills decide when Ministers or Departments bring them forward.
Will the Taoiseach note that the minimum wage is due to be increased from Sunday next, 1 May? It is paltry but welcome. Will this be brought about by a ministerial order or by another mechanism? Given that the increase will——
That does not arise.
With respect, my question does arise. Given that some 30,000 workers——
That does not arise. The Deputy cannot make a statement on the matter.
Will the Ceann Comhairle allow me to finish my question? How can he second-guess what I am attempting to ask? He should allow me to finish the question. As a result of the increase, some 37,000 workers will find themselves back in the tax net. Will the Taoiseach——
That question does not arise. I will allow the question on the secondary legislation.
——allow a special debate in the House on this matter in the coming weeks?
The minimum wage in this country is the second highest in Europe, it is not paltry. If the Deputy so desires, we can have a debate to congratulate ourselves on the fact that the rate is so high. The Government has tried to keep those on the minimum wage out of the tax net. All EU and OECD statistics prove that low paid workers in this country — in so far as they are on low pay — are outside the tax net. With respect, the Deputy is talking nonsense.
Will the Taoiseach arrange a debate on the matter? The 37,000 workers to whom I refer will be back in the tax net.
Unless a debate is promised, that is a matter for the Whips.
I am sure the Taoiseach is aware that there is a six to eight-week waiting period in respect of electricity connections. This is the position throughout most of the country and, in particular, in the majority of areas in Dublin.
The Deputy should ask a question appropriate to the Order of Business.
This is reminiscent of Ireland in the 1960s and is a result of a failure to invest in the distribution system in recent years. When will the electricity Bill be introduced? Will the latter make any difference to the situation regarding electricity connections, which is imposing a huge cost on emerging businesses and bringing many of them to near ruin?
The heads of the Bill are being revised at present. The Bill will probably be brought forward next year.
Some months ago the House approved the public capital programme for 2005. When will the health capital programme be published?
I do not know. I suggest the Deputy table a question to the relevant Minister.
It is voted money.
As far as the Government is concerned, it has been cleared.
Under promised legislation, namely, the social welfare (consolidation) Bill, why are persons living in Northern Ireland precluded from receiving carer's benefit, despite the fact that they work and pay tax in this State and that the recipient of care is resident here?
The Bill will be brought forward in the autumn.
I have two related questions. The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act 2000, Additional Functions Order 2001, was struck down by the courts as beingultra vires because the Minister was acting outside his powers. When will the draft resolution to revoke the order be brought before both Houses of the Oireachtas? Does the Government intend to bring forward legislation to deal with the issue of vaccine trials? This was attempted in 2001 but it was subsequently struck down by the courts.
On the second question, it is true that the Act was struck down. In answer to the Deputy's first question, I understand that legislation may be required. I will consult with the Department of Health and Children and inform the Deputy of the position.
Is the Taoiseach aware that since the Tánaiste took over as Minister for Health and Children, her Department seems to be suffering from some kind of paralysis? As Deputy Howlin said, the health capital programme has not been forthcoming. In addition, legislation from the Tánaiste's Department seems to be moving at a slower rate than was promised. The House was promised there would be no delay regarding the nursing homes repayment scheme. What has happened to the relevant Bill and when will it be published?
When Dr. Neary was deregistered by the Medical Council, the House was promised that the medical practitioners Bill would be published as soon as possible. The heads of that Bill were expected last autumn. The Tánaiste promised that they would be forthcoming but we still have not seen them. When will the Bill be published? When will the nursing homes repayment scheme be introduced? When will the Taoiseach deal with the serious problems in the area of health that are causing such suffering?
On the medical practitioners Bill, further heads are expected by the summer. The legislation will probably be introduced next year. The Department of Health and Children has other legislation which will be dealt with in this session. Work is well advanced on the nursing homes repayment scheme. Legislation has already been enacted and the scheme is being put in place. The Tánaiste is giving this scheme priority and she will endeavour to ensure the legislation is in place to deal with it. That matter is being dealt with and the Government has received a number of reports on it.
I have questions on two items of legislation. The Taoiseach has just indicated that the social welfare (consolidation) Bill will come before the House in the autumn. However, the Government's legislation programme published two weeks ago indicates that it would be published in mid-2005. Will he explain the reason for the delay of a further three or four months?
The building societies (amendment) Bill is due for publication in late 2005. Is the Taoiseach prepared to publish the heads of the Bill in advance of its publication? Will he publish any representations made by individuals and organisations that have asked for this Bill to be brought before the House?
The Deputy is correct that the social welfare (consolidation) Bill is due to be published in mid-2005. The Department of Social and Family Affairs is hoping to meet that deadline but it seems more likely to be taken in the autumn session. It may be published in the summer but it is unlikely to be taken in the House until the autumn.
The heads of the building societies (amendment) Bill were approved in 2003. I understand work is continuing on the Bill. On the matter of representations made, the Deputy should table a question to the relevant Minister.
I wish to ask a question about the alcohol Bill and the matter of advertising and the control of the sale of drink to young people. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government recently had a meeting with the farming organisations to inform them on action to be taken on the nitrates directive.
The Deputy should ask a question on legislation.
Will the Taoiseach at least consider allowing the House to discuss the future of agriculture?
That matter does not arise at this stage.
The nitrates Bill will be the single most important issue for people in the Border area.
The Deputy should allow the Taoiseach to answer a legitimate question.
The heads of the alcohol products (control of advertising, sponsorship and marketing practices/sales promotions) Bill have been approved by Government. The legislation should be ready sometime later this year.
The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have previously referred to their commitment to bring forward the pharmacy Bill. Will the Taoiseach outline the current status of the Bill and indicate when the heads thereof will be available?
The heads of the Bill are expected shortly. However, I do know when the Bill, which will update the various items of pharmacy legislation that have been on the Statute Book for many years, will be published.
Will the Taoiseach instil some urgency into the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources regarding the legislation that is required to deal with the rapid rate of inflation in motor fuel prices? The national oil agency Bill has been promised for late 2005. In view of the circumstances that currently obtain, will the Taoiseach encourage the Minister to bring the Bill forward as soon as possible?
The heads of the national oil agency Bill were recently approved. The legislation should be drafted by the end of the year.
The price will be gone out of sight by that time. More urgency is required.
Two persons have needlessly died under the hands of Ms Mineke Kamper, an alternative practitioner. After failing to attend the first inquest she was fined €6.35. It has subsequently been revealed that she continues to treat a number of patients, including children. The public must be protected.
Does the Deputy have a question on legislation?
Legislation must be introduced urgently because a fine of €6.35 is insufficient.
Is legislation in this area promised?
I have already indicated that the medical practitioners Bill will be produced next year.