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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 11 May 2006

Vol. 619 No. 3

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 2, Health (Nursing Homes) (Amendment) Bill 2006 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 1, European Communities (Amendment) Bill 2006 — Second Stage, resumed.

There are no proposals to be put to the House.

I have received correspondence from the Lord Mayor of Dublin in respect of the Children Act. No facilities have been provided in the Dublin 10 area for the vetting of community employment child care workers, whether national or non-national. Something needs to be done about this. The Minister of State with responsibility for children, Deputy Brian Lenihan, promised the provision of additional staff for the Garda central vetting-——

The Deputy must speak on legislation.

This has to do with the Children Act.

What is the query on the Children Act?

The query is that the Minister of State with responsibility for children gave a commitment that extra facilities——

The query should be on legislation.

I want to explain the query.

No legislation is promised.

No legislation is promised. It does not arise on the Order of Business. I suggest the Deputy submits a question to the Minister of State with responsibility for children.

That has to do with part of the Children Act which is not implemented by the Government.

It is in legislation — secondary legislation.

It is not promised legislation, it is being implemented. The Minister of State with responsibility for children promised extra staff for the Garda central vetting unit.

Is the Deputy concerned about secondary legislation?

I want to inform the Minister that there are community employment schemes in the Dublin 10 area——

It does not arise. I ask the Deputy to resume his seat. He knows he is being disorderly.

——brought to my attention by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, with no facilities for vetting children.

I call on Deputy Rabbitte.

I have two other queries.

I hope they are appropriate to the Order of Business.

That was appropriate.

It was not appropriate.

I know the Ceann Comhairle comes in here on Thursday deliberately to stymie debate, which his other——


All right, but the Ceann Comhairle is much more restrictive than, shall we say, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

The Chair is responsible for implementing Standing Orders laid down by the House. If the House decides it wants omnibus Question Time on a Thursday, nobody will be more delighted to implement that than me.

I want to ask the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, when it dawned on the Department of Finance that it was not practical to move probation officers to Navan.

That is not appropriate to the Order of Business either.

Is it going to dawn on the Department that there are 50 valuers in Dublin who are supposed to move to Youghal, of which one has applied——

That matter does not arise. I call Deputy Rabbitte.

I assume they all——

Deputy Kenny is out of order. The questions are appropriate to——

The Chair's interpretation of Standing Orders——

Such hyperbole is all right in Citywest.

When will Fáilte Ireland move to Mallow?

Is he for or against it?

It does not arise. I call on Deputy Rabbitte.

On promised legislation.

Why is the Minister sitting on the Tim Dalton report, so to speak, and when will it become public? As a result of the report, does he envisage changes to the board of Bord na gCon?

On promised legislation and against the background of the indolent reply from the Minister for Finance on "Questions and Answers" and the Taoiseach's confused response yesterday, will the Government introduce legislation to prevent the trafficking of women for sex to prevent the type of disgraceful scenes we saw depicted on a very good example of public service broadcasting by "Prime Time" during the week? When will such legislation, in keeping with our EU obligations, be brought before the House?

To deal with the latter question first, the issue of trafficking is not explicitly provided for under Irish law at present. However, a range of offences are involved in any trafficking activity which can be prosecuted under current legislation, including assault, sexual assault and false imprisonment. I understand legislation is being prepared in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform——

It is two weeks since——

Allow the Minister, without interruption, please.

——which will create a specific offence of trafficking human beings into, through or out of Ireland for the purpose——

The Minister is interpreting himself.

If the Deputy does not want to listen to the Minister, I shall have to ask him to resume his seat. There is no point——

When will it be?

A good many shipments later.

The Minister is entitled to the courtesy of being heard by the people who want to hear him.

As I was saying, legislation is being prepared in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform which will create a specific offence of trafficking human beings into, through or out of Ireland, for the purposes of their sexual and labour exploitation. As to when, the legislation is at an advanced stage of preparation. It will provide for compliance with two EU framework decisions on trafficking and will also take account of several United Nations and Council of Europe instruments in this area.

As regards the Dalton report to which Deputy Rabbitte referred, there is no question of anybody sitting on it, so to speak. The report has been considered within the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. Discussions have taken place with the Attorney General on the report and I have been advised that I should write to those mentioned in it to advise them of the contents in so far as they relate to each individual. They will have a sufficient period to reply, whereupon the Government will consider the matter.

I have stated from the outset that it will be necessary that each individual receives due process. That has been the case throughout. Now that we are nearing finality and coming towards the publication of the report, it is obviously important that we observe those procedures.

Incidentally, I greatly welcome Deputy Rabbitte joining the growing band of greyhound racing fans in the country. I have not noticed him of late at Shelbourne Park, Harold's Cross or any other greyhound track. I take it his interest stems from his coursing of the odd hare around here. Indeed he has turned the odd one as well.

I am delighted to see the Minister disports himself so frequently on the greyhound tracks of Ireland. It is plain to see that he has not got a great deal else to do, but——

That does not arise on the Order of Business.


On a very serious matter, will the legislation to prevent the trafficking or women come before the House this session or this year?

It is not envisaged that this legislation will come before the House this year, but in the immigration area I understand that an immigration and residence Bill will come before the House in 2006.

I have been asked by the members of Fingal County Council to raise a matter about forthcoming legislation. They sent a letter. There are quite a number of Fianna Fáil councillors on the council, so I am interested to learn from the Minister's response whether he is listening to them.

What is the legislation?

They are opposed to the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Bill. It has come from the Seanad. Will the Government withdraw it in response to the wishes of members of the Minister's party? It did not need it to make a bags of the peat stations, the port tunnel, the Ringsend treatment plant or the National Aquatic Centre, so God help what the Government will do now once the legislation is available to it. Will the Government consider withdrawing the Bill in a democratic fashion?

It has gone to the dogs.

It is to be a broad spectrum reply.

My understanding is that it will be this year.

I call Deputy Crawford.

I appreciate the Ceann Comhairle calling me today.

As opposed to yesterday.

In light of the problems immigrants have with language, driving and everything else, when will the immigration (Ireland) Bill be brought before the House? Given the scandal raised this morning by my colleague from Monaghan of multiple sclerosis patients not getting medical cards, when will the eligibility for health and personal social services Bill be published so that this issue may be discussed? In the light of the difficulties with trade, when will the consumer protection Bill be brought before the House? I believe the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, will be interested in that.

The immigration Bill will be this year.

The Institutes of Technology Bill has already been published. I know that staff, students and directors of the institutes are anxious that the Bill should go through before the summer recess. Will the Minister say whether it is intended that this Bill will be introduced in the near future and that it will be dealt with before the summer?

It will be introduced this session.

The hepatitis C and HIV compensation tribunal amendment Bill was promised in the last term. It is promised now again in this term, namely, the summer session. Will the Minister say when the Bill will be published and when it will make its way before Members of the Oireachtas?

It will be this session.

Will the Minister indicate to the House what is likely to happen following the disablement of two major power stations in the midlands——

The matter does not arise on the Order of Business.

It does, and there is promised legislation.

It does not arise. What is the legislation?

When I finish the sentence I shall come to it. On health and safety grounds——

The Deputy must quote the legislation. He cannot make a Second Stage speech.

This is likely to affect the power grid for the entire country.

It should be raised in the appropriate way.

These are power stations that have been recently commissioned and they have cost taxpayers a significant amount of money——

I am sorry but the Deputy is being disorderly.

——in addition to the private investors. The consumer is awaiting the outcome. The legislation to which I refer is the single electricity market Bill.

The Minister to reply on the single electricity market Bill.

Will the Minister indicate to what extent the availability of electricity from these power stations and possibly other stations to be constructed in a similar fashion is likely to be affected in the overall single market?

The Minister to reply on the single electricity Bill.

And on the stations and how they affect us.

This session.

It will be a busy session.

The Deputy should submit an appropriate question to the Minister.

That is a most comprehensive answer.

Is the Minister aware that despite a recent court decision the legislation to enable local authorities to sell flats to long-term tenants is still not in place? When is the Bill expected to come before the House, and will he make it a matter of priority?

Will the Deputy name the Bill?

The housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill.

The housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill.

The Minister did not even know.

That was enacted in 2004.

No, it was not.

There is one underneath it.

I am sorry. Deputy Kitt is out of order. Deputy Lynch has the floor.

If the Deputy is referring to the housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, it is due for publication next year.

Legislation is required. It is on the desk of the Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern.

No. A Cheann Comhairle, this area clearly needs legislation. It is No. 47 on the Order Paper. It would be better if the Minister read it rather than jumping up and down. It will also give local authorities enhanced powers to deal with anti-social behaviour about which the Minister appeared to be most concerned when he was Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform——

The Deputy should allow the Minister to reply on promised legislation.

——but in which he has completely lost interest.

Deputy Lynch should allow the Minister to answer the question.

I would not have to jump up and down if the Deputy had named the Bill to which she was referring.

I just did.

It is up to the Minister to read his brief and know the Bill.

The Minister should be allowed to reply without interruption.

Deputy Stagg may have clairvoyants in his party but there are none in mine. The Bill is due in 2007.

The Government side is a most impressive bunch this morning.

I am sorry, a Cheann Comhairle, but I do not——

The question on the legislation has been answered.

No, it has not. It has been answered by the Whip, it has not been answered by the Minister.

It has been answered by the Minister. He said the Bill is due in 2007.

He has to be told three times before he can hear it.

I understand that Deputy Kitt had his hand up the back of the Minister's jumper but I would like him to answer.

As long as it was not in my pocket it is okay.

This is not "Bosco".

I call Deputy Catherine Murphy.

When is the Law Reform Commission report on management companies expected, because it is required before legislation can be drawn up, and will the recommendations be published?

Is it likely that the debate on Transport 21 which was postponed will be recommenced in this session or will it be held off until the autumn? I hope it will be this session.

I understand it will recommence next week. I will not hazard a guess on when the Law Reform Commission report will appear.

When the Fine Gael motion on management companies was debated we were told there was a postponement of nine months so that everything could be put in place to allow legislation to be enacted. Not hazarding a guess is a bit vague. Either legislation is due in nine months or it is not.

I will ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to revert to the Deputy.

The debate on transport is a sham.

He may be able to say when the report will be available. The matter is a most difficult one. Most of the issues with which the Law Reform Commission deals are extremely complex. That is why I said I would not hazard a guess. Obviously the legislation based on the report cannot be drawn up until the report is available but I will ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to communicate with Deputy Catherine Murphy in this regard.

Perhaps the Deputy can table a question to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It is not a matter for the Order of Business when reports are available in the House unless they have been promised to it.

This may be an opportunity for the Minister to be a little more expansive. Can he amplify what is the legislative programme in his Department because it amazes me there is not a single reference to his Department anywhere in the legislative programme?

He is too busy. He does not do legislation as he goes racing all the time.

Has he abandoned all legislation? Is he too busy——

He is at the dogs every night.

Better regulation is less regulation.

When Deputy O'Donoghue was Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform he put a number of important items of legislation into the Government programme, the corruption Bill that was to be produced, the one nationwide indictable crimes court Bill, the new legislation to enable the DPP to appeal against sentences in the District Court and a number of other Bills. What has happened to these Bills, as five years on from when they were listed in the Government legislative programme they do not appear to be receiving any priority? Has the change of Minister resulted in these Bills falling away?

He is in trouble.

I will deal with my area. The Bill relating to Abbotstown is before the House.

Put a fiver on the 3.10.

I will ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform what his intentions are in regard to other legislation.

A Deputy

Deputy O'Donoghue is taking the Order of Business.

That relates to legislation which has formally been promised. It is true that I introduced much legislation while I was Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

It never got out of the traps.

I was obliged to introduce a great deal of legislation in the justice area as well when I was Opposition spokesperson on justice.

Zero tolerance.

The reference has been noted.

Deputy Kenny should disown that one.

In regard to the housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, did the Minister say this would be published before the election?

It will be published in 2007.

The Taoiseach has said there will be an election in 2007. Will the Bill be published early in 2007?

The heads of the Bill are expected soon and I hope it will be published in 2007.

As we have a liberal Minister taking the Order of Business, will he indicate when it is intended to publish the votes for prisoners Bill which has been promised?

The Minister did not even read the brief before he came here.

The register will have to be fixed first.

Deputy Mitchell must be coming back.

The Minister may as well let the officials answer it.

Who is in control over there?

I do not think there is a specific Bill on this matter. The title is clearly different. Obviously Deputies feel I have the capacity to answer questions once I am given a general lead but I cannot do it.

He is worse than Deputy Woods.

On a point of order, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Tánaiste told the House they would not proceed with my Bill because the Government had a Bill which it intended to publish. I would expect that would be done by collective responsibility. The Minister should know that. When will we see the Bill?

I will not say to Deputy Mitchell that if he asks me the right question I will give him the right answer but if he tells me which Bill he is speaking about and gives me its correct title I will try to answer it. There are two Bills relating to prisons, neither of which mentions votes. There is the Prison (Services) Bill and the Prisons Bill 2005, which is in the Seanad.

Try looking under "vote".

Prisoners begins with "P".

Perhaps the Deputy should visit more often.

Give the Minister a break.

I wish to ask about promised legislation.

That is familiar territory.

The United Nations Convention against Corruption has been indicated for signature and ratification. I also wish to ask about the optional protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture. The terms of the Good Friday Agreement require human rights legislation North and South to be on the same level. Is the Minister concerned that in the case of the second one we are not in harmony as Britain has gone ahead with the Convention against Torture? Ireland is out of step in this regard which is in breach of the Good Friday Agreement. Will the Minister indicate when we will sign and ratify both conventions?

I will ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs to communicate with Deputy Higgins in regard to that matter.

It was hardly worth the Minister's while coming in.

No legislation has been promised in regard to that issue.

On a point of order, this matter has previously been raised on the Order of Business and it has been promised from the Government benches that the United Nations Convention against Corruption would be signed shortly. It has also been suggested that making human rights legislation North and South coterminous with each other would be done in the lifetime of the Government. It is not true to say there is no promised legislation. There is both promised legislation and an obligation——

The Deputy has made his point.

That is two Bills the Minister knows nothing about.

It is quite outrageous that the Minister can be dismissive of a breach of the Good Friday Agreement.

Given that the Minister for horse and hounds is presiding——

The Deputy should respect all Members, including Ministers.

The Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism is presiding and tourism comes under his remit. While vast amounts are spent on marketing, the country is still in a right state in terms of litter.

Has the Deputy a question on legislation?

Yes, I am tracing the background. I ask for the same leeway that was given to the European Commissioner yesterday.

If the Deputy would like to bring in a Standing Order to give him special leeway and it is agreed, I will certainly do that, otherwise he cannot be facilitated.

I had the record of the House corrected on this issue when the Tánaiste said——

The Deputy cannot do that on the Order of Business.

I am asking about promised legislation. I am conscious of the need to introduce refundable bottles and cans under the packaging directive.

That does not arise on the Order of Business.

When will legislation be introduced? It would halve the litter problem overnight if it was introduced.

There is no promised legislation.

There is litter still and loads of money is being poured down the drain. It will still be a kip.

I have asked about the charities regulation Bill previously and the Taoiseach promised several months ago that it would be introduced this session. However, according to the latest update on the Government's legislative programme, it is not expected until late 2006.

The Bill is substantial and work is progressing as speedily as possible. It has been given priority within the Department and it is expected to be published in 2006.

How many years has it taken?

I am not sure whether the Minister can answer this question but perhaps his office will communicate with the House. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has cancelled the Committee Stage of the Building Control Bill 2005, which was due to be taken on 25 May. Its provisions require us to implement a EU directive on energy conservation in buildings by the end of the year. He has introduced the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Bill in the Seanad recently. When will both Bills be taken in the House? Will they be completed by the end of this session?

The Taoiseach has given a commitment that he will communicate on this and I will transmit the Deputy's request that the Minister should communicate with him as well.

I thank the Minister.

The Government has agreed to a debate on the Forfás report on our oil dependency. When will the debate take place?

That is a matter for the Whips.

I will let the Minister go on a high note and ask him an easy question. When will he get the Shamrock Rovers stadium up and running in Tallaght?

That does not arise on the Order of Business.

On the last occasion I was present, Deputy Rabbitte concentrated on my constituency. I am glad he has his priorities right.

Is it intended to proceed with the natural gas regulation Bill? Will the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill be passed by the House before the threatened 40% price increase is imposed on householders and firms using gas and given that the Government will have doubled the price of gas for householders in recent years?

Work is continuing on the preparation of the heads of the natural gas regulation Bill. However, it is unlikely to progress this year.

It is probably very big as well.

The Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill was published on 28 March.

Last February, when the Minister took the Order of Business, I raised the issue of the HSE preventing a man from supplying water on a voluntary basis to the citizens of Ballycroy, whose water has been contaminated in recent years.

That does not arise on the Order of Business.

A man has had a colostomy. He has to be——

The Deputy will have to find another way to raise this.