The Order of Business is No. 2, Institutes of Technology Bill 2006 — Second Stage, resumed. Private Members' business will be No. 51, motion re primary education, school places and class sizes, resumed, to conclude at 8.30 p.m.
Order of Business.
There are no proposals to put to the House today.
Is it possible to amend legislation to cater for the consequences of the ruling of the European Court of Justice that the State may be liable for charges of persons on waiting lists for operations in Ireland?
Will it be necessary to transfer land to the Department as a result of the decision to locate the Central Mental Hospital at Thornton Hall?
That is a question for another time.
In view of the difficulties being experienced internationally in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme does the Taoiseach consider that, as one of the longest serving European leaders——
That does not arise on the Order of Business. The Taoiseach may answer the first question on legislation.
If the Ceann Comhairle lets me finish the sentence he will see why it does arise.
If it is about legislation I ask the Deputy to come to the point.
The Ceann Comhairle jumps out of the traps very quickly these days. I will finish my sentence and ask the Taoiseach a question on international legislation which I am fully entitled to ask.
The Chair cannot allow Members to continue if a question is not relevant to the Order of Business.
I ask the Taoiseach whether there is an international role for Ireland as a non-aligned country.
That does not arise on the Order of Business.
It may be the subject of Leaders' Questions.
From the Ceann Comhairle's perspective, nothing arises on the Order of Business. We have had a farcical situation this morning whereby questions were asked on the time a committee met, whether it was raining or whether the sun was shining.
In the view of the Chair the Deputy's question should be submitted for written answer.
The Ceann Comhairle has recently been very tight about the regulations to an extent that none of his predecessors was.
The Deputy should read the Official Report.
None of the Ceann Comhairle's predecessors was as restrictive. He has developed a system of talking while everybody else is talking so as to drown out legitimate questions the Taoiseach wants to answer.
The Taoiseach may want to answer them but he can no more be out of order than Members.
The Taoiseach is not out of order and neither am I.
The Deputy is out of order. The question on Iran does not arise on the Order of Business. I will refer to Standing Order 26.
We have heard it all before.
Can the Taoiseach reform this place?
I would be very glad to.
It is ridiculous. He should do something about it.
The Chief Whip has proposals if the Opposition is prepared to accept them.
Standing Order 26 allows the taking of business which has been promised, including legislation promised either within or outside the Dáil, matters concerning the making of secondary legislation, arrangements for sittings and when Bills or other documents on the Order Paper needed in the House will be circulated, subject to the proviso that the Taoiseach may defer replying to a question relating to the making of secondary legislation to another day.
I will tell the Ceann Comhairle where I consider him to be wrong. Document No. 52 is a Bill on foreign affairs, namely the British-Irish Agreement (Amendment) Bill 2002 which deals with support programmes for the EU. Britain is a negotiating party to the discussion on Iran and I am asking the Taoiseach if he considers that Ireland has a role as a non-aligned country.
The Deputy is absolutely correct that he has the right to raise the issue of document No. 52. He is, however, absolutely wrong to ask the Taoiseach what his view is on the issue. We cannot discuss the substance of the document on the Order of Business.
We need to know what the Taoiseach is thinking.
That particular legislation will be brought forward this year. On the first question, which the Ceann Comhairle has ruled in order, the Department of Health and Children is currently studying the implications of this important case. The ruling clarifies that authorisation to travel abroad for hospital treatment cannot be refused where the treatment in question is normally available in the member state of residence but cannot be provided without undue delay. The delay must be within a medically acceptable period, taking account of the individual circumstances.
With regard to the public hospital waiting list the National Treatment Purchase Fund, which was established four years ago to reduce long-term waiting lists, ensures faster access to treatment, in most cases within the State, though it is subject to budget limitations. Since we joined the European Union we have made extensive use of the treatment overseas scheme to send patients abroad, particularly to the UK. The Department is examining the judgment of yesterday.
On 16 May 2006 I put down Parliamentary Questions No. 400 to 403, inclusive, to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform about a meeting or meetings he had with a private investigator in County Meath in his capacity as Minister. My questions were detailed but I received the following reply:
I propose to take Questions Nos. 400 to 403, inclusive, together. I can confirm to the Deputy that I have met and spoken to the person concerned on a number of occasions.
That is the full reply, which I consider contemptuous of the House and disrespectful of the Dáil.
It is contemptuous and not for the first time.
Does the Deputy have a question appropriate to the Order of Business?
It is typical of the arrogance——
Does the Deputy have a question appropriate to the Order of Business?
What is my redress as a Member of this House——
The Chair has no control over such matters.
——when I put down a legitimate question to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, detailing the matters I want answered, and receive a reply as contemptuous as this?
The House can fold up.
It does not arise at this stage.
The Ceann Comhairle has ruled out Deputy Kenny because he was out of order. I was perfectly in order in putting down these questions but I received a contemptuous reply.
Yes, Deputy but there are other ways he can raise it. We cannot have a discussion on it on the Order of Business.
What are those ways?
The obvious way would be on the Adjournment.
On the Adjournment.
Do not make us laugh. The Minister would not come to the House to answer.
On the Adjournment the only issue not addressed is the one that was raised.
If Deputies are not satisfied with the Standing Order they should change it.
The Minister will send in a junior Minister with four scripts for the four matters raised and they will read out the answers without even knowing the subject matter of what they are reading.
There are other ways to raise the issue.
In his capacity as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform he met a private detective to dig dirt on the previous Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
I would prefer the Deputy not to continue when he has been ruled out of order.
When I put down a question on what transpired the Minister gives me a contemptuous reply and the Ceann Comhairle tells me to raise it on the Adjournment.
Yes, Deputy and if that does not suit him the Chair would be glad to discuss other ways.
It does not suit me.
He is closing down information.
The Supreme Court stated that a lack of answers causes tribunals.
During questions I asked the Taoiseach, in the context of active citizenship, whether any progress was being made on charities legislation. Heads of the charities legislation Bill were shown to Opposition spokespersons but what progress has been made? It has been repeatedly pushed back and is now due in late 2006. Can the Taoiseach say whether it will be published in late 2006 or before the Government has to go to the country?
On nuclear safety, has the Government sent a submission to the British Government clearly stating the view of the Irish Government on the enthusiasm of the Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, for nuclear power? A criminal justice suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism Bill has been promised. I hesitate to call what Mr. Blair is considering "nuclear terrorism"——
On legislation please, Deputy.
——but it could be seen as nuclear terrorism if something went wrong. Has the Government put its views in writing or will it do so with a nod and a wink and a slap on the back?
The Deputy would make a great Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The heads of the charities Bill were approved about two months ago and it has been given priority drafting.
It has been a long time coming.
It is a very large Bill with many legal complexities but a number of the difficulties around charitable donations and bequests and some other legal difficulties have been overcome. I understand it is hoped to get the Bill into the House in the autumn and the Minister is anxious to do so.
The other legislation was-——
I referred to the criminal justice, suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism Bill.
It is not possible to indicate when that legislation will be taken.
Perhaps Tony Blair will help.
The Taoiseach will be aware of the recent signing of the Abuja accord between one of the rebel groups in Darfur and the region's government and the passing of a recent UN resolution on the difficulties in Darfur. Will the Government look favourably on any requests seeking the participation of Irish troops in a potential UN force in Sudan?
That is a matter for the relevant Minister.
When will the defence amendment No. 2 Bill come before the House?
It is to be taken in the autumn session.
When will the Ombudsman (amendment) Bill to widen the remit of the Ombudsman to include additional bodies be taken? Given that the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of law permitting the purchase of ground rents from landlords, will the Taoiseach restore the ground rents Bill to the legislative programme? Did the Taoiseach refer the matter to the Attorney General?
The heads of the Ombudsman (amendment) Bill have been approved and legislation drafted. The Bill is listed for 2006 subject to time constraints on the parliamentary draftsman. The ground rents Bill is not proceeding.
The Bill was withdrawn for a reason set out by the Minister.
It was withdrawn because of the legal cases.
The High Court and Supreme Court made a decision on the matter. Did the Taoiseach refer it to the Attorney General?
The Bill is not listed so I suggest the Deputy table a question to the Minister to see if it will be listed again.
I believe the issues I raise are in order. In light of the need for gardaí to be on the beat, when can we expect the introduction of the enforcement of fines Bill, which would relieve pressure on Garda time? When will the long-promised legal costs Bill be taken? The programme for Government contained an agreement to provide that the Director of Public Prosecutions may appeal against unduly lenient sentences in serious cases before District Courts. When will the relevant legislation be introduced?
The enforcement of fines Bill is due for publication in this session. It will be 2007 before the second Bill will be taken.
What about the appeals mechanism?
I wonder if the Taoiseach has more up-to-date information on a question I have asked him on several occasions. The Comhairle (Amendment) Bill was supposed to be the third leg of the Government's disability strategy but has been in suspended animation since its publication in 2004. The chairman of Comhairle indicated he wanted certain changes made to the organisation, including its name. When will the Second Stage debate take place?
The Comhairle (Amendment) Bill is at Order for Second Stage. It was held up because the disability groups wanted to look at what they thought were best international practices. They sent a delegation to New Zealand to look at what happened there and have since produced a report.
The main reason for the delay was the Minister's dislike of the name.
We need a Bill which gets the support of the disability groups. They have now given their views and I believe they will be taken into account in the Committee Stage amendments to the Bill.
When will the property services regulatory authority Bill to provide for the establishment of a property services regulatory authority and the regulation of the auctioneering sector come before the House?
The Bill is listed for 2007. The heads have not been done yet.
The Taoiseach has often referred in the House to the fact that 400 beds in acute hospitals are not available because people who have been medically discharged cannot move on. How can he expect us to debate the nursing homes subvention legislation without acting on any of the three reports——
The matter does not arise on the Order of Business.
Of course it arises.
Deputies may not discuss the content of a Bill on the Order of Business.
I have not referred to the contents of the Bill. If the Ceann Comhairle gives me a moment to state the reason this is——
The Deputy will have an opportunity to comment when the Bill is before the House. I do not wish to read out Standing Order 26 a second time.
If the Ceann Comhairle allowed me to complete the sentence, he would see my point. Three reports have been published on this issue and instead of——
To what legislation is the Deputy referring?
I refer to No. 83, the Health (Nursing Homes) (Amendment) Bill 2006.
The legislation is before the House.
Second Stage has yet to be taken.
The Deputy will have an opportunity to make his views known.
How can the Taoiseach expect the House to debate the Bill when he has not made decisions on the published reports?
The House cannot discuss the Bill on the Order of Business.
The Bill will remain meaningless until decisions are taken on the issues underpinning it. As a doctor, the Ceann Comhairle is aware of the reality and I believe he is trying to prevent Deputies from having an opportunity to address the framework within which the Bill should be debated. It makes a nonsense of the business of the House.
Business should be conducted in an orderly manner and the Deputy should speak when the Bill is taken.
The Ceann Comhairle's behaviour is making a cod of the House.
In view of the surreptitious closure of a number of post offices, which will lead to a reduction in the value, strength and effectiveness of the post office network and a consequent reduction in the extent to which An Post can expand its services in future, does the Taoiseach anticipate that the postal miscellaneous services Bill promised two years ago will be reinstated on the schedule in the near future?
As the Bill has been removed from the list, no legislation is pending. The Deputy should pursue the matter with the Minister through a parliamentary question.
Deputies are entitled to ask about promised legislation. The legislation in question was promised and featured on the Dáil Order Paper, from which it was then removed. Is it intended to place it on the Order Paper again in view of the serious issues I have raised?
That is a matter for the Minister and should be pursued with the Minister.
I asked the Taoiseach the question.