It is proposed to take No. 12, Road Safety Authority Bill 2004 — Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage; No. 13 — Employment Permits Bill 2005 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 14 — statements on Sellafield, to be taken at 5.55 p.m. and the order shall not resume thereafter. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 14 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. and the following arrangements shall apply: the statements shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and to the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share their time, and shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; and 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. 28, Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill 2006 — Second Stage, resumed, to conclude at 8.30 p.m.
Order of Business.
There is one proposal to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 14, statements on Sellafield, agreed?
I express my reservations that the mechanism of statements does not go far enough towards meeting ongoing public concern. There should be a motion before the House on practical actions we can take to put pressure on the British Government. The mechanism of statements is a repeat of previous debates in this House. We must take far stronger action as a parliament to put on record Irish public concerns about the continued existence of Sellafield and the actions of the British Government on its future.
Is the proposal for dealing with No. 14 agreed? Agreed.
Will the Taoiseach give an update on the charities regulation Bill, which I know is complex. Two pharmacy Bills have been on the list for quite some time. Has the Tánaiste appointed a chief pharmacist? This area causes some concern. Will the Taoiseach give a response as to when these Bills will be published?
Both pharmacy Bills are to be ready during the course of this year. The charities regulation Bill is large. Work is proceeding as speedily as possible and it has been receiving priority. The heads were approved by Government approximately one month ago and we hope to have it in the House this year. I hope many of the substantive legal issues that surround charitable donations and bequests have been resolved. It has taken a huge amount of effort and commitment, and I hope those major issues have been resolved. It is a matter of drafting the Bill — even the heads are extremely large — and I hope it will be ready this year.
Has the Government done legislative work on the sale of a majority stake in Aer Lingus? Have heads of a Bill been approved? If not, when will legislation be brought before the House on this issue?
As I stated this morning, when the work is completed on this it must be brought to the House for approval. The management must now take it forward and it depends on when that work is complete.
I note the Ceann Comhairle's decision on my request under Standing Order 31, but, aside from the legislation — I agree with Deputy Rabbitte that it needs to be fully debated here — is there any willingness on the part of the Government to have a more broadly based debate——
It does not arise on the Order of Business.
It does in terms of what the Government decided.
Deputy Sargent decided yesterday it was a matter for the Whips if a debate has not been promised.
I am discussing Aer Lingus today, although it is related to the matter on which I spoke yesterday. A bird will not fly without wings and a plane will not fly without fuel. We could have a wider debate on Aer Lingus, which might take into account those issues.
It is not in order on the Order of Business unless a debate has already been promised.
I will put it to the Whips.
Will the Taoiseach clarify the position on a number of issues, two of which are related and another which will be made related. Is the Government working on a defamation Bill and legislation dealing with a press council? The issue of privacy has been related to those. Will we have one, two or three Bills on these matters and when will they be introduced?
The defamation Bill should be available shortly. Work is well advanced on it. The report on the privacy Bill is prepared but the heads have not yet been drafted.
On the press council——
The press council will be included in the defamation Bill.
It will be in the defamation Bill.
I presume the Taoiseach is aware that the High Court upheld the constitutionality of law permitting the purchase of ground rents from landlords. Will the Taoiseach restore to the legislative programme the Bill on ground rents and when will that be done?
I have not studied the judgment. I am sure it must be studied before a decision is made on whether to proceed.
The Taoiseach should ask Deputy Woods about it. He had a clear view on it once.
The Taoiseach should stop being evasive.
I wish to briefly raise some issues. In light of the serious difficulties that some families find with coroners courts, when will the coroners Bill be dealt with to allow us discuss the issue? When will we discuss the sale of alcohol Bill, in light of the slaughter which happens on the roads of our country and the Taoiseach's commitment to re-examine the advertising issue? When will the Bill on the attachment of fines be brought before the House to relieve gardaí and allow them to go on the beat?
The Taoiseach, on legislation.
The coroners Bill is due in the middle of this year. The heads were approved just before Christmas. On the Bill regarding alcohol products, voluntary agreements have been reached so we must await the outcome of those voluntary agreements.
When will the outcome be examined?
The attachment of fines Bill is listed for this session.
There has been much delay on the medical practitioners Bill. The Government has been subject to criticism for not publishing the Bill. What is the situation now? The heads of the Bill were agreed by Cabinet but changes were made subsequent to the Neary scandal. Have the amended heads been agreed and when will they be published?
The amended heads have not been agreed. The Bill is due later this year.
This is an extremely pressing issue that affects people's lives. When is it expected that the amended heads will go to Cabinet?
I do not know.
Will the Government consider making time available for further clarification and discussion on a number of documents included on today's Order Paper? The first is the report laid by the Minister for Defence regarding service by the Defence Forces in the United Nations. There is a precedent that when a mandate is given it is discussed in the House. If a mandate is reviewed or extended that precedent should still hold.
The other documents relate to EU scrutiny reports by the Committee on the Environment and Local Government, the first of which relates to the council regulation for amending the EURATOM Treaty. Given today's debate the question of whether we should participate in EURATOM or whether that treaty should continue to exist deserves more discussion in this House. The final item is another scrutiny report by the Committee on the Environment and Local Government on the European Council decision on genetically modified maize, which has not been discussed in this House and which is a matter of widespread concern among the public. It deserves further scrutiny on the floor of this House.
All those matters can be discussed by the Whips. I understand the UN mandate has been discussed by the committee, but if it must be discussed in the House that can be done. I do not have an objection to that.
The Taoiseach is aware from previous questions of my anxiety that RTE provide broadcasting coverage to reach Irish people living abroad, specifically in Britain. It would be necessary to amend RTE's remit to enable it to do so. The Taoiseach promised to take a personal interest in this matter. Has Cabinet approved the broadcasting authority Bill and when will it be published and brought before the House?
The Bill is down for this year.
I know it is down for this year. I hoped we would get it before Easter.
It will not be ready before Easter.
Will it be ready before summer?
It will be ready before Easter next year.
It is hoped it will be ready before summer.
I do not know whether the Taoiseach met the Union of Students in Ireland yesterday regarding their concerns about the inefficiency and unfairness in the system for distributing third level grants. When will the third level student support Bill be introduced to deal with that issue?
The heads of the Bill are at an advanced stage and are expected soon. The Bill is due to come before the House later this year.
I wish to give the Government a gentle reminder regarding its proposals for delivering better Government in which it made a commitment on the minerals development Bill. This has progressed slowly through the system although it has been promised for a long time but it remains in the dim and distant future.
In regard to the issue of emissions, carbon funding and trapping there is a Bill proposed to update the Forestry Acts 1946 to 1988 but publication is not indicated. Is it possible to say when it will be introduced? This Bill could be used as a mechanism to improve the carbon-trapping capabilities of the forestry services.
The minerals development Bill is listed for this year. I do not have information on the forestry amendment Bill because a comprehensive review of the sector is under way, including the potential legislative implications. This commenced in the latter half of last year and a consultative group has been established to oversee the legislative changes required. The group is expected to continue its deliberations up to the end of May, so it will be summer before we know what conclusions it reaches.
The transfer of the Dublin Institute of Technology to Grangegorman is close to the Taoiseach's heart. The Grangegorman Development Agency Bill was passed six months ago. When will the agency be established in order that its work may begin?
The Minister for Education and Science was waiting until some personnel became available.
Are they available now?
The Deputy and I know both people and I understand there will be progress after Easter.
I have a question each for the Ceann Comhairle and for the Taoiseach. The Ceann Comhairle ruled out a swathe of questions I proposed for tomorrow on energy.
If the Deputy wishes to discuss this matter there is another way to deal with it.
Are we allowed to discuss the Commission for Energy Regulation in this House? The Ceann Comhairle seems to have ruled that anything a regulator does is not the business of this House.
All rulings in my office are made in accordance with Standing Orders.
The Ceann Comhairle is wrong on that matter and he should allow the discussion take place.
The Deputy is entitled to hold that point of view but the Chair rules in accordance with Standing Orders.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who looks after the regulators, if not ourselves?
Does the Deputy have another question on legislation?
I would like the Ceann Comhairle to read those questions again so that we can have a genuine debate. I have one brief question for the Taoiseach regarding the backpayments for the pensioners and workers at An Post in respect of Sustaining Progress.
That does not arise on the Order of Business.
Will the Taoiseach come back to the House on that issue?