It is proposed to take No. 18, Disability Bill 2004 — Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage; and No. 1, Maritime Safety Bill 2004 [Seanad] — Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings on the resumed Report Stage and the Final Stage of No. 18, shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1.30 p.m. today 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.
Order of Business.
There is one proposal to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 18 agreed?
It is not agreed. I ask the Minister for Finance to explain to the House the reason the Government wants to guillotine this Bill today. There are 100 amendments to be proposed and ruled upon and the debate has reached its halfway point. The Government's consultation group on this legislation has broken up due to a lack of response from Government. A protest group will arrive at Leinster House this afternoon. After five years of maladministration in this area and a guillotine to be used when 100 amendments remain to be discussed, which deal with very important issues for a great number of people, I object to the Government's proposal and cannot support it.
I support what Deputy Kenny has said. I am aware of the amount of time spent on the Bill. The Labour Party is opposed to the Bill because of the unacceptable nature of sections denying rights-based claims to people with disabilities. This is the reason for such a lengthy debate on the Bill. To force it through the House when the debate is coming fairly close to a conclusion and not allowing it run its natural course is unacceptable. It is a use of the guillotine that was not foreseen when the guillotine was devised.
Like the other speakers and on behalf of the Green Party I oppose a guillotine vote on this Bill. Many people both involved in and concerned about the disability sector regard it as being built on a foundation of sand as it is not rights-based. The Dáil is not being given an adequate opportunity to debate the Bill. The Independent Deputies who are not allowed to speak at this juncture in the proceedings would also wish to voice their opposition to the guillotine vote. Half the amendments remain to be discussed and more debate is required to improve the Bill, which is far from adequate. I ask the Government to recognise the strong opposition to a guillotine among disability groups.
On behalf of the Sinn Féin Deputies I object in the strongest possible terms to the guillotining of the Report and Final Stages of this Bill. We are aware that today disabled people from all over the country are gathering to protest outside the gates of Leinster House at this fundamentally flawed Bill. To add insult to injury, a guillotine will be imposed at 1.30 p.m. Some 100 amendments remain to be addressed. It is absolutely unacceptable. Over the entire Committee and Report Stages of this Bill, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in whose name this legislation and the amendments presented by his Department appear, has not participated in the discourse and debate on this Bill during those critical Stages. That is a glaring omission on the Minister's part. Great credit is due to all the Opposition spokespersons, including my colleague, Deputy Ó Snodaigh, who have worked so hard in the preparation of amendments to try to rescue the Bill so that it would go some way towards meeting the real needs of people with physical, intellectual and other disabilities. It is outrageous that a guillotine is being imposed at 1.30 p.m. I object in the strongest possible terms. Even at this late stage I ask the Minister to have a change of heart and allow the process to continue. More importantly he could agree to withdraw the Bill at this juncture.
This Bill has been extensively debated——
It has not been debated enough. As the Minister knows, it has more than 100 Report Stage amendments.
——on Second Stage, throughout Committee Stage and now on Report Stage. It is now important for the Government to enact the legislation and get on with the work that is being done and needs to continue to be done to continue to enhance the prospects for people with disability, an issue to which the Government has been committed and whose actions in this area far outstrip anything done by its predecessors. The Government wants to work with the disability community upon enactment of the legislation so that we can proceed on the basis of this modern legislative framework to improve the status of people with disability.
- Ahern, Dermot.
- Ahern, Noel.
- Andrews, Barry.
- Ardagh, Seán.
- Aylward, Liam.
- Blaney, Niall.
- Brennan, Seamus.
- Callanan, Joe.
- Callely, Ivor.
- Carey, Pat.
- Carty, John.
- Collins, Michael.
- Coughlan, Mary.
- Cowen, Brian.
- Cregan, John.
- de Valera, Síle.
- Dempsey, Tony.
- Devins, Jimmy.
- Ellis, John.
- Fahey, Frank.
- Finneran, Michael.
- Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
- Fleming, Seán.
- Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
- Glennon, Jim.
- Grealish, Noel.
- Haughey, Seán.
- Healy-Rae, Jackie.
- Hoctor, Máire.
- Jacob, Joe.
- Keaveney, Cecilia.
- Kelleher, Billy.
- Kelly, Peter.
- Kirk, Seamus.
- Kitt, Tom.
- Lenihan, Brian.
- McEllistrim, Thomas.
- McGuinness, John.
- Moloney, John.
- Moynihan, Donal.
- Moynihan, Michael.
- Mulcahy, Michael.
- Nolan, M.J.
- Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
- O’Connor, Charlie.
- O’Dea, Willie.
- O’Donnell, Liz.
- O’Donoghue, John.
- O’Donovan, Denis.
- O’Flynn, Noel.
- O’Keeffe, Batt.
- O’Malley, Fiona.
- O’Malley, Tim.
- Parlon, Tom.
- Power, Peter.
- Power, Seán.
- Roche, Dick.
- Sexton, Mae.
- Smith, Brendan.
- Smith, Michael.
- Treacy, Noel.
- Walsh, Joe.
- Wilkinson, Ollie.
- Woods, Michael.
- Breen, James.
- Broughan, Thomas P.
- Bruton, Richard.
- Burton, Joan.
- Costello, Joe.
- Cowley, Jerry.
- Crowe, Seán.
- Deenihan, Jimmy.
- Durkan, Bernard J.
- Gilmore, Eamon.
- Gogarty, Paul.
- Gormley, John.
- Healy, Seamus.
- Hogan, Phil.
- Howlin, Brendan.
- Kehoe, Paul.
- Kenny, Enda.
- Lynch, Kathleen.
- McGinley, Dinny.
- McGrath, Finian.
- McGrath, Paul.
- McHugh, Paddy.
- McManus, Liz.
- Mitchell, Olivia.
- Morgan, Arthur.
- Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
- Murphy, Catherine.
- Murphy, Gerard.
- Naughten, Denis.
- Neville, Dan.
- Noonan, Michael.
- Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
- Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
- O’Dowd, Fergus.
- O’Shea, Brian.
- Pattison, Seamus.
- Penrose, Willie.
- Quinn, Ruairí.
- Rabbitte, Pat.
- Ring, Michael.
- Ryan, Seán.
- Sargent, Trevor.
- Sherlock, Joe.
- Stagg, Emmet.
- Stanton, David.
- Upton, Mary.
- Wall, Jack.
I note the Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen, inadvertently voted for the Taoiseach. I am not sure whether that was——
For the record, the Minister for Finance notified the Chair that he had inadvertently——
I know that.
——pressed the incorrect button. He did so before the division was announced, and it was amended accordingly.
The Ceann Comhairle did not ask for any verifiable paper audit trail, unlike the Minister for Finance.
The temptation of the vacant Chair was too much.
Is it the Government's intention to publish the EU constitution Bill today or tomorrow? If so, perhaps it will say when it is expected that the referendum commission to deal with the Bill will be set up.
The first report of the company law review group was published in December 2001. Its focus was on the simplification of company law. There is some concern, particularly in the area of international financial regulation, in that regard. Is legislation promised arising from the company law review group's report and, if so, when might we expect it?
Is there any intention of dealing with building controls, particularly regarding the quality of apartments being built? Is legislation promised in that regard?
I understand that a building control Bill is due later this year. A company law consolidation Bill is due next year. The constitution Bill will be published today and the commission will be established as quickly as possible thereafter.
Some 13 Bills have been promised for this session. We are now more than half way through and I believe that only one has been published. I wish to ask in particular about the work permits Bill, which has been promised for nine consecutive sessions. As far as I know, there has been no sign of it. Regarding the debate of recent days on tax incentives and shelters, reviews either going on or believed by the Taoiseach to be under way, and what he thinks is included in them, the Tánaiste has publicly promised amending legislation to broaden tax incentives for private hospitals to include psychiatric institutions. Given the Minister for Finance's position that there seems a reasonable argument to restrict tax incentive schemes rather than broaden them, is that Government policy or simply that of the Minister for Health and Children?
I understand that the work permit Bill will be published and dealt with this session. On tax relief schemes, I explained in the budget the circumstances and objectives of the review, which is comprehensive, covering all 23 schemes included in its terms of reference. It is appropriate to review the benefits derived from these schemes and the extent to which tax relief schemes may play a part in our continued economic and social development. We also have to strike a balance between the potential benefits to investors and the wider community benefit that derives from the operation of these schemes. These schemes have been a part of the economic policy of successive Governments of all political persuasions. I outlined in the House on that occasion the means by which we would proceed with this matter. Those consultancies have been appointed and will report to me in due course so that I can make preparations for my second budget. I do not wish to anticipate the deliberative process and the decisions the Government may make as a result of that process.
The Tánaiste has indicated publicly that she sees some merit in the possibility of private sector investments being made available for the purposes of providing services to the wider public. These matters will be part of the deliberative process considered by the Government when the specific proposals are brought forward. The issue will be considered in the budget after that review is completed.
I thank the Minister for his response but he did not answer my question. Is there imminent amending legislation to extend the scheme that exists for private hospitals to psychiatric hospitals as promised by the Tánaiste?
The Tánaiste indicated that there were suggestions made about how private sector investment might assist in the development of psychiatric services. In the past, psychiatric services have not received the level of investment that we would have liked. The question of how the Government will proceed is a matter for the Government. I am not aware of any specific proposals currently before the Government. I noted the Tánaiste's comments and in due course, the Government will consider proposals that come forward.
Seven of the largest wind turbines in the world will be opened today in the Arklow banks. Will the energy (miscellaneous provisions) Bill or any other legislation address the haemorrhaging of wind power companies from Ireland?
We cannot discuss what might be in a Bill.
There was permission for 200 wind turbines but they will not be built because Government support is not sufficient. With the price of oil heading towards €100 a barrel, I hope the Minister can address this failure.
That does not arise on the Order of Business.
The energy (miscellaneous provisions) Bill is due to be published this session. When it comes before the House, the Deputy will be able to make points on energy issues.
In light of the fact that we have Brazilian beef, Chilean pork and Thai chicken labelled as Irish produce, when will amending legislation on food labelling be brought before the House? Under the Health Act 1970, an amendment is due to be brought forward.
I am not aware that legislation has been promised in that area.
The Minister for Agriculture and Food has promised legislation and the Minister for Health and Children is facilitating her to amend the Health Act 1970.
I understand the matter is under review. I do not know whether or when legislation will be brought forward. I will let the Deputy know as soon as possible.
When will the co-operatives (amendment) Bill be published to update procedures for co-operatives? When will the Ombudsman (amendment) Bill be published to widen the remit of the Ombudsman?
The co-operatives (amendment) Bill is due to be published next year. The Ombudsman (amendment) Bill is due to be published early next year.
When will the sea fisheries Bill come before the House?
It will be published before the end of this session.
There is secondary legislation listed in today's Order Paper in the non-statutory section — the Sea Fisheries (Conservation and Rational Exploitation of Scallops) Regulations 2005, SI 245 of 2005. This statutory instrument will have a devastating effect on the fishermen who fish for scallops from Kilmore Quay, some of whom are facing penury as a result. The legislation is ordered in the non-statutory section of the Order Paper. In the letter received by the individual fishermen, it was referred to as statutory regulation. I presume a statutory instrument is statutory legislation, so why is it listed in the non-statutory section of today's Order Paper? Will there be an opportunity to debate this statutory instrument? It has been laid before the House today, although it took effect yesterday. Will we have the opportunity to debate the catastrophic effect of this statutory instrument on the livelihood of scallop fishermen in Kilmore Quay?
I cannot be of assistance to the Deputy and I will have to ask the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher to explain the situation.
Can we at least get an indication that there might be a debate? This is an important issue in my constituency and for people from Kilmore Quay and we need time to debate it in the near future.
That is a matter for the Whips, but I am sure the Minister of State will be happy to debate that here or at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.
When will the electricity Bill be published? The Minister may be able to give an indication when it will be brought before the House. What about the broadcasting authority Bill, which is eagerly awaited? It was promised that the electronic communications Bill would be published this year. In view of the Minister's mistake in helping his colleague to vote this morning, it is very important legislation. It is important that such a Bill is brought before the House so that in future, he does not allow his thumb to slip and cast his colleague's vote.
I am glad to be in a position to say that many more buttons will have to pressed on the Deputy's side of the House before the Opposition reaches our number.
The Minister should not bet on it.
He should not tempt fate.
Due to the keen attention of Deputy Kenny, I brought to the attention of the Ceann Comhairle my inadvertent error.
That was a nice gesture by the Minister.
We are so honest in my constituency that we only have to vote once to get three out of five seats. With regard to throwing light on the electricity Bill, the revised heads are being prepared at the moment and will be ready next year.
I hope that there will not be any short circuits.
It is all a very energetic process. The broadcasting Bill will be published next year and the electronic communications Bill will be published later this year.
Did the State made a bid for the Pádraig Pearse letter that was sold last night? If it did not do so, will the Minister for Finance outline the reason? Will arrangements be made for a debate on the second interim report of the Morris tribunal, which I understand is in the hands of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and will be published on Tuesday? It was apparently impossible to find time for a debate on the first interim report of that tribunal.
The Deputy's first question may be more appropriately directed to the relevant line Minister.
The Minister for Finance controls the purse strings.
Has the Minister written a cheque recently?
This question is not appropriate to the Order of Business.
I hope the decision the Labour Party takes this weekend will not be the terms of its surrender at the next election.
We do not surrender. We man the barricades.
Does that mean Deputy Costello will sit on the fence?
Like Deputy Costello, I learned only this morning that this historic document was sold for €700,000 yesterday. I can only hope the buyer is a person or institution which may make it available for our archives in the future. I simply do not know. It was a private auction and the letter was anonymously purchased.
Will the Minister confirm that the State did not make a bid?
I cannot answer that. The Deputy must seek that information from others.
I understand the second interim report of the Morris tribunal is a matter for consideration by the relevant committee and the question of a debate is for the Whips to decide. I wish to revert to Deputy Howlin's question on the Sea Fisheries (Conservation and Rational Exploitation of Scallops) Regulations 2005, SI 245 of 2005. The Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Gallagher, has agreed to meet the five Wexford Deputies on this matter and will do so shortly.
Coroners throughout the State have complained that they cannot summon witnesses to come before them. When will the coroners Bill be brought be brought before the House? It is a particularly pressing matter given that the Government parties will have many inquests to perform after the next election.
Is Deputy Ring still a member of Fine Gael?
Deputy Ring's party knew far more about political cadavers after the previous general election than we did.
The day will come for the Minister's party.
The coroners Bill will be brought before the House next year.
My question relates to some of the comments made earlier by Deputy Sargent in respect of the major wind farm that will open today off Arklow. Will any of the consultative groups on tax reliefs that have been established by the Minister for Finance consider the area of alternative energy such as wind or biomass?
This issue does not arise on the Order of Business.
Will the Minister be allowed to provide the information I have sought?
The question is relevant in that there could be legislative problems in this matter.
When will the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2004 come before the House?
I understand that Bill is ready for Second Stage.
When will Second Stage be taken?
It is a matter for the Whips to order that business. It is available for Second Stage and will proceed as soon as the Whips can schedule it. The Chief Whip will review the matter.