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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 9 Nov 2005

Vol. 609 No. 4

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 16, statements on the Ferns Report. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings on No. 16 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to conclusion at 7 p.m. The following arrangements shall apply: the statements of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Progressive Democrats Party, Fine Gael Party, Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; and the statements of each other Member, who shall be called upon in the following sequence, shall not exceed ten minutes in each case — Government, Fine Gael, Government, Labour, Government, Technical Group, sequence to recommence. Members may share time. A Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes. Private Members' business shall be No. 43, motion re road safety (resumed) to conclude at 8.30 p.m.

There is one proposal to put to the House, namely the proposal for dealing with No. 16, statements on the Ferns Report. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Some time ago the Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, with special responsibility for drugs strategy, Deputy Noel Ahern, said cannabis should be legalised for terminally ill patients. When is it intended to introduce legislation giving effect to the statement by the Minister of State?

Every weekend, all over the country, there are instances of binge drinking in towns and elsewhere. Under the relevant section of the Act, beer bottles and cans are to be labelled at the point of purchase. This section of the Act has not been implemented. No criticism of those who sell the products is implied, but it might be helpful to the Garda in terms of acts of vandalism and so on to determine where beer was purchased. When might the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform give effect to that section of the Act?

We are now half-way through this Dáil term and there are quite a few Bills on the priority list as yet unpublished. For instance, when will we have the institutes of technology Bill and the University College Galway (Amendment) Bill? Is it the Taoiseach's view that we will see these Bills published on the priority list, as was committed to, before we reach the end of this Dáil term?

Regarding cannabis, no legislation is promised.

The Minister said it should be legalised.

I know there has been major success regarding cannabis in certain health areas but I do not know what work has been undertaken. I do not think there is any proposal for legislation.

Regarding the labelling of beer cans and bottles, the relevant section of the Act has not been implemented because it is not seen as very workable or practicable. It is not seen as being of any great assistance.

The institutes of technology Bill is due to be published during this session, as is the University of Galway (Amendment) Bill.

I read with some amazement this morning the conviction of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment that for 18 years, the groceries order has acted against the interests of consumers. Whatever hope I had for consumers, when I heard the Minister predict that the abolition of the groceries order would save the consumer €1,000 on average annually, my heart fell to my shoes for consumers, given the Minister's track record. The Minister has taken no action yet, though we have had another photo-shoot. When will the promised legislation come before the House?

Does the Taoiseach intend to take any measures to ensure we will not have a rash of Ministers between now and the general election using public money to promote themselves with so-called public advertisements?

That matter does not arise. It has been discussed.

I am sorry. I know the Ceann Comhairle has been in the Chair a long time, but I am not at all finished yet. Are any measures promised by the Taoiseach in that area?

Given the Taoiseach's interest in the matter, I am surprised at the delay in setting up the authority to facilitate the transfer of DIT to the Grangegorman campus. What is the delay in naming the authority and letting it get on with the work?

The legislation regarding the DIT is passed and it is just a matter of naming the authority members. I understand consultation has taken place and that efforts are being made to find a suitable chairman. I am anxious that the matter proceed.

So the authority will be announced soon.


The second issue raised by Deputy Rabbitte clearly does not arise on the Order of Business but the proper procedures must be followed. Regarding the groceries order, it is hoped we can have that legislation very soon. It is a very short Bill. We appreciate the co-operation of the House.

There are a number of pieces of legislation due in the pharmacy area. There is a vacancy for a chief State pharmacist, which in the context of any developments of the avian flu problem would badly need to be filled. Must we wait for the pharmacies Bill or will there be an independent appointment procedure perhaps more above reproach than the one which took place for the chief scientific adviser? The pharmacies Bill has been promised every year since 2003. Will it continue as a moveable feast or does the Taoiseach expect it to be published by any particular date?

The publication date is2006.

Members will know we are approaching the first anniversary of the Asian tsunami. The Thai Government is inviting to Thailand one member of an Irish family affected by the tsunami and will pay that person's fare. I am almost certain the Irish Government is giving nothing to the Irish families affected to help them make the trip to Thailand for the first anniversary. It would be a very good gesture for the Taoiseach and the Government to make some contribution. If the Government were to pay the fare of one family member affected, that would be a very small gesture and would not cost very much.

I will let the Deputy know.

Is the Taoiseach aware of the Sligo librarian who had his jaw and skull fractured and spent a considerable period of time in a coma? The person convicted of the assault received a sentence of three years, with two years and nine months suspended——

Has the Deputy a question on legislation?

Are there any proposals to provide statutory guidelines to the Judiciary?

Is legislation promised?

Regarding the provisions of the DPP appeal against unduly lenient sentences in serious cases before the District Courts, when is that legislation likely to be brought forward?

The matter has been referred to the Attorney General and to the Law Reform Commission for consideration as a matter of urgent public interest. The Law Reform Commission has issued a consultation paper on the subject and a final report is awaited.

Legislation to update the legislative basis of the Office of the Revenue Commissioners has been committed to over a period of legislative programmes but as yet there is no indication of a date for publication. Can the Taoiseach update us regarding the RevenueBill?

Decisions relating to the Revenue Bill and its publication will be considered in the context of the timing and availability of the report of the Moriarty tribunal.

In light of the fact that more people are trying to move from social welfare to third level education, could we have a debate on the third level student support Bill, in order to sort out some of the anomalies? There are serious difficulties involved for people.

Hear, hear.

A Bill is due but I do not have a date for it.

I want to raise the issue of road safety in respect of heavy goods vehicles, and the lack of adequate regulation in the area. Two EU directives were issued, one on the working time of drivers of HGVs and the other on the requirement to fit speed limitation devices. Those two directives, Nos. 15 and 85, were issued in 2002. What is the delay in transposing those directives into Irish law? Given the high rate of fatalities and serious injuries on our roads, will the Taoiseach take steps to transpose the directives without further delay?

I will have to raise that matter with the Minister and revert to the Deputy.

The Minister for Defence stated here last week that he received advice from the Attorney General that a constitutional referendum would not be necessary in order to allow Defence Forces personnel to serve with the newly formed battle groups. In view of that statement, when can we expect to see a defence amendment Act to permit Irish troops to deploy abroad?

The middle of next year.

After watching on "Prime Time" last night a subject in which I am sure the Taoiseach is interested, it seems the amount of money being paid by the State to various organisations without regulation——

Does the Deputy have a question on legislation?

I have.

The issue she raised has already been discussed on leaders' questions.

When will we see a charities Bill?

That is a priority Bill and we hope to introduce it next year.

When I asked the Taoiseach last week whether he planned to restore the postal services Bill to the Order Paper, he said it had been withdrawn, which I already knew. I ask again whether he will consider restoring that important legislation to the Order Paper.

Perhaps advertising standards legislation, which I understand is promised, or health and safety legislation——

Or terrorism legislation.

——will be used to regularise the situation where Ministers have been to the frontline in advertising their wares——

Deputy, that does not arise on the Order of Business.

——in publicly paid for advertisements.

The Taoiseach on the postal Bill.

It has been withdrawn and there is no other legislation.

There should be some sort of legislation, such as with regard to criminal proceeds. The matter should come under health and safety legislation.

The Deputy has made his point.

Otherwise we will have a situation where the Minister of State, Deputy Callely, will wake up——

I call on Deputy Cowley.

I want to ask the Taoiseach about alcohol legislation and the traceability of drinks bought from off-licences. The Taoiseach said this is not practical for industry. Legislation exists in that regard and there is nothing worse than not enforcing laws that could work. When the drinks industry attended the Joint Committee on Health and Children, it gave no adequate reason for its belief in the impracticability of such a measure.

What is the Deputy's question in terms of legislation?

In view of bar codes and other measures, no reason exists, other than that the drinks industry does not want this legislation.

The Deputy made his point. I suggest he raises the matter by way of a question to the appropriate Minister.

I am sure this legislation can be enforced by means of bar codes.

The Deputy made his point.

People who sell alcohol to young people can then be disgraced.