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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 15 Nov 2006

Vol. 627 No. 4

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 18, Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006 — Report and Final Stages, resumed; No. 19, Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2006 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 17, Citizens Information Bill 2006 — Second Stage, resumed; and No. 4, Industrial Development Bill 2006 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. Private Members' business shall be No. 56, motion re establishment of patient safety authority, resumed, to conclude at 8.30 p.m.

There are no proposals to put to the House.

Arising from the interview given by the DPP and in respect of proposals made by Deputy O'Keeffe on behalf of the Fine Gael Party about changes in legislation in respect of sentencing, does the Taoiseach envisage changes in that area requiring judges in open court to explain the reasons they may have gone outside a tariff for sentences for particular categories of crime resulting in a possible tilting of the balance of the law in respect of victims as against perpetrators?

Arising from the Supreme Court decision in respect of the parents of children born in Ireland, what is the Government's reaction to it in respect of the referendum and the decision of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform?

The Irish Examiner today carries a report that in addition to Professor O’Neill’s report on Leas Cross, there is a second report from a geriatrician pending a separate investigation into that home. Will it be published or can the Taoiseach confirm it is pending?

That matter does not arise on the Order of Business. It was discussed during Taoiseach's questions.

In respect of the public service embargo on staffing, the Taoiseach will be aware that today graduates are coming out of the Royal College of Surgeons as qualified physiotherapists, each with an average of 570 points in the leaving certificate——

If the Deputy has a question on that matter, I suggest he tables a question on it.

The Chair is going to cut me off every time I raise an issue.

The practice is creeping in where the Deputy believes this is an omnibus question time.

Let me ask the question, in case the Ceann Comhairle does not get the news——

The Deputy cannot go outside the remit of Standing Order 26.

Let me ask this question under employment legislation. Why is it that of 150 qualified physiotherapists, 70 cannot get jobs here?

That does not arise. If the Deputy has a question on legislation, he can ask it, but we cannot debate the content of legislation.

We have enough suits in the HSE but why is it——

The Deputy's first two questions are in order. I call the Taoiseach.

The Minister for Finance——

It is not right for the Deputy to come in here morning after morning and ask questions that are more appropriate to the line Minister concerned.

Will the Chair tell me why, under No. 53, I cannot ask this question.

The Deputy cannot elaborate on the question. We are now dealing with Standing Order 26.

Can the Chair advise why I cannot make it perfectly plain——

The Deputy cannot make a statement or a Second Stage speech when asking about legislation that is to come before the House.

I will not make a Second Stage speech. I ask the Taoiseach, under No. 53 on the list of proposed legislation in the Department of Health and Children in regard to the eligibility for health and personal social services Bill, why is it that of 150 qualified physiotherapists——

The Deputy's first question is in order. I call the Taoiseach to reply on the legislation.

——70 cannot get jobs here when we know many people need their services? As a medical doctor, wearing his other hat, the Ceann Comhairle will know——

The Deputy should raise this matter in the proper manner.

——- that Deputies in this House have arranged for young physiotherapists to work in areas without pay so that they can keep up their skills.

The Deputy cannot set a precedent whereby this becomes an omnibus question time. There are ways he can raise this matter. If he wants to raise it on the Adjournment this evening, I will facilitate him.

Will I have to go to the Chair's office?

No, you will not; I will facilitate you.

The issue of DPP appeals against unduly lenient sentencing in serious cases before the court is to provide for a commitment. I do not have a date for that, but the matter has been referred by the Attorney General to the Law Reform Commission for consideration as a matter of urgent public interest. It has issued a consultation paper on the subject and a final report is awaited.

On the judicial issue, it is under discussion between the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Judiciary. The Tánaiste has given them the report. On the issue of the court case yesterday, it is being examined in the Department today. The eligibility for health and personal social services Bill will be introduced next year.

What about the question on a public sector embargo?

Will the Taoiseach confirm if I am correct in assuming that legislation will be necessary to establish a toll on the M50 and can he indicate when it will be published?

Is the Government any more clear in terms of its intentions to hold a referendum on the rights of the child? What is the Taoiseach's view on whether it will be held during the lifetime of this Dáil?

There is already legislation in place for tolling and I do not believe any other legislation is required.

There is nothing new on the matter of a referendum on the rights of the child. As I said last week, the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, will consult the parties and the various organisations, several of which has requested to talk to him on this issue.

Surely the Taoiseach is not misleading intentionally, but is he sure about that information on legislation? We have had information from a number of people in the House and I believe from the Taoiseach on one occasion, if I remember correctly, that legislation will be necessary to do what is now proposed in terms of implementing a State toll on the M50.

There is already a toll on the M50. Regarding a change from the current barrier toll to a non-barrier toll requiring legislation, it does not seem to me it would require it, but I will ask the Minister to check the position.

The Taoiseach might check it.

I have two questions on promised legislation. The introduction of a carbon fund Bill was announced in the last budget and it was expected to be urgently required. I do not see any evidence of such urgency as it is still on the B list of promised legislation. Will the Taoiseach indicate whether its introduction is viewed as being urgently required, given the issue it is designed to address? Is any other legislation on climate change promised such as a climate change targets Bill, as proposed by the British Government?

From contact with the Department of Agriculture and Food, I have reason to believe that legislation on the co-existence of genetically modified food with non-genetically modified food is in preparation. I imagine that legislation should be on a list, if it is in preparation. Will the Taoiseach clarify that matter, given the vast opposition to GM food here and the damage it would do to farming?

The carbon fund Bill is due early next year. The heads were completed in July and it has passed to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for drafting. It is awaited from that office and hopefully it will be ready early next year.

The other issue is not listed but if there is work taking place in the Department, perhaps the Deputy should table a question on the matter to the Minister responsible.

Considerable attention has been given to patient safety but action has not been taken by the Government in regard to legislation. We are awaiting the HIQA legislation and other major legislation, the medical practitioners Bill. It was promised for a long time dating back to the Dr. Neary scandal, but as of yet there is no sign of it. What exactly is going on? When will we have sight of that Bill?

The HIQA Bill will be published this session. The heads of the medical practitioners Bill were approved previously and further heads of it are expected to be included in the Bill. It is still hoped it will be available this session. Its introduction has been delayed because of the inclusion of the additional heads of the Bill.

Given the continuing haemorrhage of Irish trained nurses from our acute hospital system, when will the nurses and midwives Bill be brought forward? It was scheduled to be introduced in 2007. Will it be introduced before the dissolution of the Dáil in advance of the general election?

It is due to be introduced in 2007.

I do not have a date for it.

We spoke about the charities regulation Bill in recent months and the Taoiseach indicated it is being prepared. Is work on it close to completion or when does the Taoiseach expect it to be ready?

One of the drafters is working more or less exclusively on this Bill. It is hoped it will be ready at the beginning of the New Year.

Did the Taoiseach receive advice from the Attorney General concerning the landlord and tenants ground rents Bill previously proposed? Will it be restored to the legislative programme? The Taoiseach may be aware of the major problem in Mallow town park.

And in Carrickmacross.

That question should be granted to Deputy Sherlock. He raised the matter consistently for many years.

Will the Taoiseach state whether——

Allow the Taoiseach to answer the question.

Go on Taoiseach.

Unfortunately, I do not have news for Deputy Sherlock. The Bill is not proceeding. The Supreme Court decision has implications for it.

That is all over.

It is estimated that 170,000 people perfectly entitled to vote were removed from the draft register of electors. Some of those have not yet been notified of the removal.

Does the Deputy have a question on legislation?

Yes, I do.

This issue was raised yesterday.

It relates to the Electoral (Amendment) Bill which we are about to debate. It has the worthy object of giving voting rights——

The Taoiseach on the Electoral (Amendment) Bill.

The Ceann Comhairle has not yet heard the question. Will the Taoiseach use the opportunity provided by the Electoral (Amendment) Bill to make the necessary changes to legislation which are required to extend the date——

It would be better if the Deputy held his contribution until Second Stage.

We are on Report Stage of the Bill. The matter I wish to raise was ruled out of order on Committee Stage because the scope of the Bill is confined to giving voting rights to prisoners. This is an immediate problem. The deadline for people to correct the register is 25 November.

It does not arise on the Order of Business.

It arises because 170,000 people have lost their vote. It is a democratic right and we must correct it. The deadline is 25 November. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government was asked to extend that deadline and he refused to do so. A legislative change is required and an opportunity will arise today to make that change. Will the Taoiseach allow the House to do so and ensure that the voting rights of 170,000 citizens will be restored?

This point was already raised and I understand the Minister stated primary legislation is required to make an amendment. The Minister was asked to consider primary legislation. It cannot be amended in the format suggested. It is a matter for the Minister whether he considers the argument put forward by Members of the House.

That is the point, we are dealing with primary legislation.

That is exactly what was asked for.

We deal with primary legislation all the time. It is absurd and a bit rich that we have a worthy Bill giving voting rights to prisoners and at the same time 170,000 people who always had the right to vote——

The Deputy has made his point.

——have their votes taken from them.

Hear, hear.

In view of the ongoing difficulties in mining and exploration, particularly the exploration of minerals, is it possible to bring forward the minerals development Bill with a view to addressing the issues?

The Taoiseach on the minerals development Bill.

The Bill will be published in 2007.

That will be a big help.

I did not hear the Taoiseach's reply yesterday to the question I raised on the threat to children here and throughout Europe presented by Internet grooming. Is it possible to legislate in the context of the electronic communications miscellaneous provisions Bill due before the House? Will the Taoiseach determine whether this can be done by technical means as opposed to through the justice system?

The Taoiseach on the promised legislation.

I understand we already have quite strong legislation on child pornography which is only seven or eight years old. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform will bring forward other legislation. A number of other Bills affect this matter. I presume the Deputy asked whether these points will be considered in the new legislation. I am sure they will.

The contention is that the EU Commission——

We must move on.

The Government is about to sign a memorandum of understanding with our battlegroup colleagues on our participation in the battlegroup. Does the Taoiseach agree it would be appropriate to debate this memorandum of understanding——

It does not arise on the Order of Business. Subjects for debate are a matter for the Whips.

This memorandum of understanding makes no mention——

I suggest the Deputy obey the Chair. We will not continue any longer on the Order of Business.

We had legislation——

The Deputy can raise the matter tomorrow if it is in order.

It is in order. We ought to have a debate. The fact is it makes no mention——

Is a debate promised? As the Deputy knows, only promised debate is allowed on the Order of Business.

Deputy Kitt indicated in the newspaper that we should discuss this item in the House. Is it not correct that Deputy Kitt was so quoted? No mention was made of our requirement of a UN mandate.

Is a debate promised?

The matter can be raised with the Whips.

I understand the single electricity market Bill was approved at Cabinet yesterday. When will the Opposition have an opportunity to examine it? Deputy Kenny correctly highlighted the public sector embargo. Will the Taoiseach liaise with the Whips on this matter?

It does not arise on the Order of Business.

We could have a debate on it.

The Taoiseach will answer the first question on legislation.

The Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen, can write in The Irish Times about this matter.

We must move on with the business ordered.

We only see the Taoiseach for a few minutes. When will the Taoiseach come back to the committee regarding the commission of inquiry into the Stardust tragedy?

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform deals with that matter.

The Taoiseach is from the north side.