Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 1, Investment Funds, Companies and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2006 [Seanad] — Second Stage.

There are no proposals for the House on the Order of Business.

I ask the Government Whip to explain why the Dáil was shut down yesterday for an extended period. A total of 16 Bills are due to go through the House. For example, the Health Bill was promised on three separate occasions last year. The Dáil returned from its 82 day summer break only for Members to find that it closed down for a period yesterday.

It was for the match.

Has the Government run out of business or did not foresee a situation in which time would be available? Given all the requests made by Members from all sides to discuss various matters——

Deputy Kenny wastes enough time.

——the House deserves an explanation from the Government Whip in this regard.

I ask the Minister when Members can expect the new ethics Bill to be brought before the House. Given the close and warm relationship between the Taoiseach and Tánaiste, they have now arranged that——

The Deputy should confine himself to the legislation. We cannot discuss its possible contents or what the Deputy would like it to include.

—— anyone who has any doubts should go to the Standards in Public Office Commission. When will the——

On the legislation.

——new Progressive Democrats amendment to the laws of conscience be brought before the House?

I call the Minister.

When will Members see it, in case people get ideas about themselves?

A special Mullingar accord.

Invective from Deputy Johnny Brady.

I call the Minister.

Hail to Deputy Johnny Brady.

Allow the Minister to reply.

As for the debate yesterday, I understand——

People were talking about Deputy Johnny Brady in Oldcastle last night to Deputy English.

I have a farm there.

I understand that no guillotine motion was in force yesterday in the House. Although Members had an opportunity to speak on the agreed issues, the Opposition did not appear to have much to say about it.


The Government should arrange the business of the House.

The Minister, without interruption please.

The Minister gave the longest answer himself.

It is not my problem if the Opposition is unable to get anyone into the House to say a few words.

The Government muzzled us last week.

As for the legislation, it will be prepared as quickly as possible and will be brought before the Government for its approval. At present, the advice of the Attorney General is being sought by my Department. Hence, the Government will move on this matter quickly.

That was an extraordinary response from the Minister for Finance. The House collapsed last Thursday at 2.35 p.m. and was not reconvened until 3.30 p.m. because of a lack of business. The House collapsed yesterday evening at 5.15 p.m. and could not reconvene until 7 p.m. Today, the House has a single measure before it that probably will not occupy it beyond lunchtime. The pretence that the Opposition orders the business of the House is completely transparent. The reason there is no legislation, of course, is that the Government has been so preoccupied since the return of the Dáil with saving its own skin that there is no legislation to put to the House. If the Government does not have any legislation to propose, why does it not make provision for a discussion on one of the three Morris reports? Would it not be possible to provide for a discussion on the botched privatisation of Aer Lingus?


Hear, hear.

Why can the House not discuss the Barr report on Abbeylara, or the conclusions of the investigation on the Dean Lyons case? Why was no thought given to avoiding yesterday's situation, when the House was meeting but had no business to conduct? The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform spoke last week about the new laws which were proposed to allow the Government to shut down tribunals. It was reported that Government sources had made it clear that the Minister, Deputy McDowell, had indicated the legislation was a priority for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. If it was a priority for the Department, why did it fall off the schedule yesterday and today? It is not on the schedule for next week, although some other major business is planned that should last approximately half a day in each case. I understand the House will debate the Nuclear Test Ban Bill 2006, which decrees that "a person who carries out, or causes the carrying out of, a nuclear explosion in the State shall be guilty of an offence".

We cannot discuss next week's business now.

We had better get back on our motorbikes quick.

Deputy Rabbitte has made his point.

The new provisions will be immensely reassuring to the public. Should we presume it was not an offence up to now?

Deputy Rabbitte, you have made your point.

It is important to clear it up.

In certain cases, the District Court may try the person charged with that offence summarily.

You have made your point.

A Cheann Comhairle, one has to fill the time with something.

It is not in order this morning, Deputy. The Chair has given you plenty of latitude.

What is going on over there? It is usual for a new Government with new and reforming legislative ideas to take some time at the outset of its time in office to put legislation in place——

You have made your point, Deputy.

——but this is an old, clapped-out and worn-out Government.

I ask the Deputy to give way.

It is divided.

Speak for yourself.

It is sundering before our eyes.

Deputy Rabbitte, we cannot have an omnibus debate on the matter this morning.


Sorry, Deputy Rabbitte, I ask you to resume your seat.

What is going on over there?

I call the Minister for Finance.

It is unbelievable.

The Deputy should look behind him.

I knew the country was in safe hands when Deputy O'Dea was made Minister for Defence.

I am looking at all the youthful faces over there.

I note that Deputy Rabbitte has been energised by our 1-1 draw last night.

We are surviving.

This House is getting through all its legislation very efficiently.

Some plans have been on hold for the last five years.

Some 28 Bills have been enacted this year and a further 29 Bills have been passed. It is a question of ordering the business. We have business to discuss today. I do not know how many Opposition speakers there will be. Given the sort of parliamentary party it has, I expect the Labour Party will have far more interest in the Nuclear Test Ban Bill 2006 next week than it has in some of today's business. That is a decision for that party. That Bill needs to be dealt with. It is an old legacy from the rainbow Administration. I heard it could not get agreement on the matter around the Cabinet table.

Among other things.

A few pro-nuclear people were around at that time. The important point to make is that Deputy Rabbitte——

The Minister, Deputy McDowell, must be going off again next week — that is the reason for the nuclear ban.

——continues to stand up every morning to talk about the botched privatisation of Aer Lingus. There has not been a botched privatisation.

Even investment bankers are calling it that now.

A very successful initial public offering has taken place. Many IPOs have had to be withdrawn over the last 12 months. Deputy Rabbitte's continuing attempt to characterise the IPO in this case as anything other than successful is simply not supported by the facts. It is important to point out that the business of the House can be proceeded with. It is a matter for the Whips at all times to decide what that business will be.

The Government orders the business.

I remind the Minister that the Government produced just one speaker during one of the debates yesterday.

We are not having any more debate on that. The Deputy had an opportunity to offer if he wanted to when that was being discussed.

On a point of order, it was question-answer, question-answer with both of the previous speakers.

Yes, it was.

No. This is the Order of Business. That issue has been dealt with. If Members want to contribute on the same issue, they generally intimate that to the Chair——

I did indicate, a Cheann Comhairle, with respect.

Sorry, Deputy Gormley, I am not going to have an argument with you.

I do not want an argument.

You will obey the rules. I am not going to debate them.

Can I ask about the continuation of the important debate on the Green Paper on Energy? We had an opportunity to continue that debate yesterday and we may have another opportunity today. I would also like to ask about a further important matter relating to climate change, which is the biggest challenge faced by humanity. I refer to the carbon fund Bill.

I understand the Whips discussed last night the possibility of proceeding with the debate on the Green Paper on Energy. I look forward to that debate taking place in the House.

Just two hours have been provided for it over the last two weeks.

The Whips have discussed it. I understand there will be a continuing debate on that issue. That has been acceded to.

I asked about the carbon fund Bill but I did not get a reply.

I understand the Bill will be introduced early next year.

We will not see it until a full year after the budget.

The White Paper on Irish Aid refers to the need for a debate in the parliamentary assemblies of Europe on the issue of development. What arrangements are being made for a debate on the White Paper in this House? The White Paper does not include a commitment to the UN Convention against Corruption being ratified by Ireland. I want to save time in future by putting it to the Minister for Finance now that he should give the House a list of the UN conventions which have been signed by Ireland but not ratified. Is the Minister not concerned that the UN Convention against Corruption will not be ratified in the lifetime of this Government? Is he concerned that the White Paper on Irish Aid, which took such a long time to produce, does not include a commitment to passing the legislation needed to ratify the convention in the lifetime of the Government? Perhaps the House will be given an assurance next week as to whether the iodine tablets are out of date.

I agree with the Deputy that the ratification of international conventions is important. The leader of his party ridiculed one such convention in his contribution earlier this morning. The various conventions deal with important matters which need to be addressed. I am glad some people in the Labour Party do not regard it as a matter of ridicule that international conventions should be ratified and discussed in the House. I will seek to obtain the list required by the Deputy. As he is aware, there have always been delays between the ratification and signing of international conventions. The domestic business of the House has taken precedence on many occasions. I accept this matter has been of continuing interest to the Deputy. I will ask the relevant Departments to convey the current position to him.

I asked specifically about the UN Convention against Corruption, as I have been doing for about two years.

I am not aware of the implications of the convention or the current position in that regard.

The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has not even prepared the heads of the legislation needed to deal with the convention.

I will convey the position to the Deputy. I understand the Bill will not be introduced this year.

It is listed for 2007. The heads of the Bill are not yet in place.

It is listed for 2007.

It will not be ratified in the lifetime of this Government.

We will wait and see. We hope to be here for quite some time in 2007 and thereafter. We can ratify the convention after the election.

Can the Minister shed some light on the development of the proposals in Delivering Better Government? The proposals in question, like many other things, were included in the Fianna Fáil manifesto at the last election. I am interested in how the proposals can be squared with the recent substantial increase in the price of gas.

That does not arise on the Order of Business.

That increase was authorised at a time when the product was free on world markets.

It does not arise on the Order of Business.

I know the Minister is ready to give the answer.

I call Deputy Gilmore.

He is just shy.

Sorry, Deputy.

There is nothing wrong with that for him.

I ask the Deputy to allow Deputy Gilmore to speak.

I am asking about the minerals development Bill. It needs to be brought before the House so the Minister's colleagues can give some indication of how this matter will be dealt with.

The minerals development Bill will be introduced in the middle of next year. If the Deputy knows anywhere where we can get gas for nothing, he should give me a shout so I can contact Bord Gáis Éireann.

The Deputy knows a fair bit about gas.


It was free on the world market.

When I asked the Minister for Finance last week about the possibility of having a debate in the House on the report of the Commission on Electronic Voting, the Minister kindly agreed and indicated the Whips would arrange it.

He did not — that is the problem.

Can the Minister indicate today when the debate will take place in the House?

The Deputy is a gas man — I did not agree to that at all.

The Minister agreed to it.

No, I did not.

He said it would be referred to the Whips.

What would be the point of referring it to the Whips?

That does not mean I agreed to anything.

Now we know what the Whips are for.

I call Deputy Dan Boyle.

I will start again at the beginning. There is a report from the Commission on Electronic Voting, which, as it happens is embarrassing for the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen. When will this report be debated in this House, as is normal practice?

I do not know, offhand, when the report will be debated in the House or if it will be debated in the House. The Whips should address the issue as that is their job.

The Minister is head of Government today.

Could the Minister make inquiries so that I can ask him again next week?

We will return to this issue.

I wish to ask the Minister a number of questions on legislation under the Order of Business. Will the Bord na gCon (amendment) Bill give effect to the recommendations of the recent Dalton report and when is it likely to be published? Has the privacy Bill been approved by Cabinet and where is it listed in the Government's legislative programme? The Citizens' Information Bill is meant to be published today; is there any indication of when there will be a debate on that Bill? Will it be before Christmas? The final piece of legislation about which I wish to inquire is the Curragh of Kildare Bill. It is in section A on the pink sheets of the Government's legislative programme, where it has been for four years.

The Curragh of Kildare Bill will be dealt with during this session and I am really looking forward to it. The privacy Bill will be dealt with in the Seanad and the Citizens' Information Bill will be published tomorrow and taken in the House in the coming weeks.

It will be published today, actually.

I am very interested in the Bord na gCon (amendment) Bill and it will be dealt with next year.

Will that be early or late next year?

Some time next year. If the Deputy knows of any fast greyhounds he can give me a shout.

Is there any hope of having a debate in this House on decentralisation? Does the Minister remember that this was promised some years ago? The only decentralisation I have seen is in jobs in the Department of Agriculture and Food taken from my county.

To what legislation is Deputy Ring referring?

When will there be a debate on decentralisation now that a such a botch has been made of the whole matter?

It is another botch job.

This does not arise on the Order of Business.

Of course it arises on the Order of Business.

We have agreed the Order of Business for today and there is no backup Bill. The wrong message will go out if——

That has already been discussed and it does not arise on the Order of Business.

Will the Ceann Comhairle allow me to finish my point?

It is almost 11 a.m. and at least four of the Deputy's colleagues wish to speak. I would like to facilitate them, although it may not be possible.

The Deputy is trying to be helpful.

I have a relevant point to make.

If the Deputy's point is relevant we will hear it.

On the need for a backup Bill for today——

That is not relevant, we have moved past that issue at this point.

I ask the Minister for Finance to facilitate a debate on Aer Lingus as a backup.

That does not arise on the Order of Business. We are moving on to the next piece of business and the Deputy must resume his seat.

Will the Minister avail of the opportunity to debate Aer Lingus and clarify the situation there?

I ask Deputy Ryan to resume his seat as he is out of order. I ask him to show respect to his colleagues and also to the Chair.

Have the heads of the immigration and residence Bill been approved by Cabinet and is it intended to publish this Bill before the end of term?

The heads were approved in September and the Bill will be published next year.

When will the sale of alcohol Bill be brought before the House to allow us discuss the ongoing problems in that area? The fines Bill is on the pink sheets. We were promised a Bill on the enforcement of fines between 12 and 18 months ago, yet gardaí are still out collecting fines.

It is not possible to say when the enforcement of fines Bill will be taken. The sale of alcohol Bill will be taken early in the next session.

Yesterday a Minister of State made a serious allegation in an early morning interview against an institution established by the State.

That does not arise on the Order of Business.

The last time a Minister of State gave such an interview he fell asleep on the telephone. Does the Minister plan to keep Ministers of State away from early morning interviews or is there anything we can do to contain them?

Deputy Rabbitte is out of order and I ask him to resume his seat.

Do those in the health service and the Minister for Health and Children realise that last Monday in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, which has been declared a hospital of excellence in the north east, GPs in the area ——

That does not arise on the Order of Business. Has the Deputy a question on legislation?

The blood testing service has been closed down. The outpatients' physiotherapy unit has been closed down. Yesterday the Taoiseach called on people ——

I ask Deputy McEntee to resume his seat. This is the Order of Business and the Chair is happy to read the Standing Order for the benefit of Members. This is not an omnibus Question Time on a Thursday. The Chair tries to facilitate as many Members as possible but if Members ramble on aimlessly, this cannot be done.

I would like to know who is responsible.

We have enough time to facilitate everyone.

We will not spend the entire day on the Order of Business.

I think I am in order because the Bill I wish to raise, the third level students support Bill, has been on the Government's legislative programme for a number of years, is very urgent and could have filled in time yesterday and today. Parents who obeyed the Government and opened special savings incentive accounts, SSIAs, are now being punished in terms of their children's eligibility for third level grants. The legislation has been lingering for years. Has it been agreed by Cabinet and when will it be debated in this House? Will it address the problem of parents being punished for opening SSIAs?

The heads were approved in July and it should be taken during this session. The Minister for Education and Science dealt with this matter adequately.

What about SSIAs?

That does not arise on the Order of Business. If Deputy Rabbitte wishes me to read out Standing Order 26, I will. I ask him to give way to his colleague in the Labour Party, Deputy Brian O'Shea.

What of parents who have taken out SSIAs?

This does not arise on the Order of Business. I suggest Deputy Rabbitte submit a question to the line Minister in relation to the subject. He cannot come into this House and ride roughshod over Standing Orders. Deputy Rabbitte is out of order and I ask him to allow his colleague to make a contribution.

Does it arise that parents who opened SSIAs will be penalised in terms of grants for their college-going children because they accepted the offer of Government regarding these accounts?

Deputy Rabbitte is out of order; he knows the rules like everyone else.

The Government is befuddled and confused, as usual.

The Government is anything but befuddled and confused.

I wish to raise the matter of applications by local authorities for borough boundary extensions and I have a particular interest in the Waterford application. When is it intended to enact sections 55 to 62 of the Local Government Act 2001? This provides for the establishment of a local government commission to deal with the aforementioned issue.

I will have to return to the Deputy on that question as I do not have the relevant information.

When will the education miscellaneous provisions Bill be published?

This session.

On legislation concerning access to public services, there are ill old people who cannot get transport to hospital——

We cannot debate what might be in the legislation. To what Bill is the Deputy referring?

To finish on that point, old people cannot even get enough money to stay in a private nursing home——

What legislation is the Deputy talking about?

The difficulty is that €675,000 has been spent over the past ten days doing Shell's business in Bellanaboy.

We will proceed to No. 1, the Investment Funds, Companies and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2006.

That is a disgrace.

I call the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Michael Ahern, to move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.


Deputy Cowley is out of order.

Shell is making €3 million every hour in profit.

Will the Deputy allow the Minister of State to proceed?

The money should be used for hospital services——

I ask Deputy Cowley to allow the Minister of State, who has been called, to proceed.

——instead of subsidising Shell, which is making €3 million every hour. It is disgraceful.