Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 10, motion re Standing Orders 39 and 116; and No. 1, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2007 — Second and Subsequent Stages. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted on the adjournment of Private Members' business, which shall be No. 15, motion re proposed incinerator at Poolbeg, which shall be taken for 90 minutes at 7 p.m. tonight or on the conclusion of No. 1, whichever is later. No. 10 shall be decided without debate, Second and Subsequent Stages of No. 1 shall be taken today and the following arrangements shall apply: the proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 50 minutes, the speeches shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for Fine Gael and the Labour Party, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share their time, and which shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes. The proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. by one question put from the Chair and which shall, in respect of amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 10, motion regarding Standing Orders 39 and 116, without debate, agreed?

The Government is asking us to approve No. 10 without debate. This represents a significant change in Standing Orders and the conduct of business on the floor of the House. Two separate sets of motions were presented in the days leading into this week's sittings, but the Taoiseach and Chief Whip have taken only one of them. No. 16 on today's Order Paper which directly impinges on the proposal in No. 10 has not been taken. I urge the Taoiseach to take both motions together as they are related and there should be an opportunity to properly discuss the import and content of both which relate specifically to Leaders' questions and access to priority questions and other such matters. It is grossly unfair that the Government proposes to take one of these without debate and to exclude the other in its entirety. Both motions should be taken together and there should be a full debate thereon in the Chamber. I appeal to others in the Government configuration, particularly the Green Party which in the past protested on these benches at the failure of the Government to provide for the right of smaller parties to have their voices heard and to have access to participation in all relevant opportunities and debates in this Chamber, which this proposition will not facilitate. Instead, it only compounds an already impossible situation for my colleagues and me.

I appeal to the Green Party Deputies and those who were formerly members of the Technical Group in the 29th Dáil to use their persuasive powers in government to ensure there is a full and inclusive debate on these matters and that they are properly resolved to reflect the rights of five Deputies to be recognised on the floor of the House as a technical group. This is precisely the wording that was previously argued by the Green Party in the last Dáil. I ask the Taoiseach in the second week of the 30th Dáil to accede to this request, allow the opportunity for Members to discuss this and related matters properly and let the decision then be taken by a free vote, not with a Whip being applied by the Fianna Fáil Party.

Standing Order 39 relates to priority questions. It sets out the sessional order determining the sequence in which questions nominated for priority are placed on the Order Paper each day. It is based in the normal way on the number of seats held by each party in the House. Standing Order 116 relates to the Private Members' business rota. Again, it sets forth the sessional order determining the sequence in which groups in opposition are entitled to use Private Members' time. If there are issues Deputy Ó Caoláin wants to discuss with the Government Whip, there is time to do so during the summer recess. The sessional orders are based on the numerical strength of the parties in the House. We must proceed accordingly.

If they are based on numerical strength, we are surely entitled, even though our percentage may be small, to a squeak in some debates in the course of a 12-month period. I have discussed this issue with the Chief Whip but he does not hold out much hope of the Taoiseach having a change of heart. The latter's kicking to touch at this point will not in any way answer what I have requested. No. 16 is absolutely relevant to No. 10. The two should be taken together and there should be a full debate on the floor of the House. That is the least to which we are entitled. We are entitled to the right to participate fully and ask the Taoiseach questions during Leaders' Questions.

I was trying to be helpful to the Deputy. Even though his party has only four Members in a House of 166, he was allowed to speak last week in a debate on the European Council.

Standing Orders provide for that; it is not a concession.

I am afraid the Deputy will just have to accept, as I would have to in similar circumstances, that his party has four Members. He can no longer expect the concessions his party received when it was part of a larger group. That situation has changed. His best bet is to be nice to the Chief Whip and hope he will allow him additional speaking time.

Perhaps the Taoiseach will facilitate us in calling another election.

If the Deputy wants us to play by the rules, he will have no flexibility.

A Deputy

Deputy Ó Caoláin can blame the Green Party.

Since an immediate general election is unlikely, I will put the question.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 10 be agreed to."

Deputies

Votáil.

Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?

Deputies Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Arthur Morgan, Martin Ferris and Tony Gregory rose.

As fewer than ten Members have risen, I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 68, the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

Question declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 1, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill — Second and Subsequent Stages, agreed to?

I oppose the proposal for the reason we have set out so many times previously, namely, the entirely unnecessary guillotining of the time available for discussing the Bill. To avoid having to stand on my feet later, I note that the Government will resort to the guillotine on no fewer than three occasions this week. None of the measures is urgent and there is no imperative in terms of timing. The arrangement is purely for the convenience of Ministers. The time available for Deputies from this side of the House to contribute to the debate has been abridged, with the time available to the main speakers cut from 20 minutes to 15. The impact of a similar arrangement last week was that some colleagues who were making their maiden speeches had three minutes in which to do so. It is entirely unnecessary. While the Bill may grind to its natural conclusion by 7 p.m., for the Government at the beginning of a term to resort to the regular use of the guillotine is entirely unsupportable in parliamentary terms. Whatever about a Government in its dying days needing to have legislation under its belt, there is no excuse for it in the opening days of the term of a new Government and Dáil. The abridgement is unjustified and I am opposing it for that reason.

I also record my opposition to the proposal that a guillotine apply to the Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2007. As Deputy Rabbitte has pointed out, it is absolutely unnecessary. We should allow for a proper debate and Deputies to have the opportunity to properly participate on all Stages, even those of us who, unfortunately, have to beg to be given a few minutes to speak on Second Stage.

It is a very short Bill. It is not that we are trying to guillotine every Bill, but there are no amendments tabled for this one. While there are a number of urgent Bills that we want to clear this week, it is not our intention to follow through and try to guillotine every Bill.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 1 be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá 77; Níl 64.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Behan, Joe.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Áine.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Browne, John.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Flynn, Beverley.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Hanlon, Rory.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Christy.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coonan, Noel J.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Mahony, John.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Sherlock, Seán.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Tom Kitt and John Curran; Níl, Deputies Dan Neville and Emmet Stagg.
Question declared carried.

Last week I asked the Tánaiste, in the absence of the Taoiseach, whether the Ethics Bill that was proposed last October to keep the Progressive Democrats in power would be taken or dropped. The Tánaiste said that it would probably be taken in the Seanad this week and that it would then return to this House, but I do not see it listed on the Order of Business for tomorrow or Thursday. Will the Bill be taken in the Seanad and, if so, will it then come back here or will we have to wait for it until the autumn?

Has the Taoiseach finalised a date for a referendum on the revised European treaty? Does he intend to hold the proposed referendum on children's rights on that date or before then? Obviously the former Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, was dealing with that issue but I wish to know its current status.

Is it proposed to amend the appropriate Act to give effect to the result of the referendum held in Dingle-Daingean Uí Chúis? The Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív, dealt with this matter. The people voted for a change and either a ministerial order or legislation is required to deal with that.

Is it proposed to change the legislation dealing with accreditation in the health services, where there are currently 83 different organisations dealing with acute care hospitals? Many of those organisations are funded by the State. There seems to be an extraordinary number of organisations dealing with a central feature of our public hospital system. Is there any proposal to change that situation to provide greater clarification?

The Ethics Bill will be taken in the Seanad either today or tomorrow and then it will come back to us.

Will that be this week or in the autumn?

This week. It is in the Seanad this week but it is not scheduled to come back here this week.

The Tánaiste thought it might also be dealt with in this House this week.

I do not think so. The most likely time for the EU referendum would be next summer. The intention is that if the IGC completes its work by Christmas, the treaty would become effective by the European elections of 2009.

Would that be in May or June of 2009?

We would have to have it through by that stage. The Portuguese Presidency hopes to finish negotiations by October but even if one allows slippage to Christmas, it would then have to go forward for ratification by everybody in 2008. I assume they will say we must have the ratification process finished by the end of 2008 if it is to be effective for the 2009 European elections.

The health issue was in the reform paper but I do not know if it requires legislation. The plan was to cut down all those organisations to a small number, as outlined in the original reform paper which was published in 2001.

We have not had any discussion on the children's referendum but we had made a commitment that it would take place within a year from the time we postponed it. If we were doing so, it would make sense to have both referenda together, otherwise one would be asking people to vote twice in 2008.

What about the question of Dingle-Daingean Uí Chúis?

I will have to refer to the experts on that issue.

There is an application from Kerry County Council to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, which is examining it.

Is the Minister happy with that?

I have no problem with that.

He has never had a problem with it anyway.

Deputy Healy-Rae said that the name would be reinstated before he reached Dingle this summer.

He is the chairman.

They have put back the situation at the moment.

I will have to talk to Deputy Healy-Rae to check that.

A rose by any other name.

My colleague, Deputy Ciarán Lynch, tabled a parliamentary question to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to establish the number of prosecutions that have been taken in cases of suspected television licence evasion, and the number of convictions and penalties applied. Deputy Shortall tabled a question about the number of prosecutions taken by the Garda Síochána in respect of various motoring offences. I have received a letter from you, a Cheann Comhairle, claiming that the Minister has no official responsibility to Dáil Éireann for this matter and that Deputy Ciarán Lynch should go to the Courts Service. In the case of Deputy Shortall, I was told that the Minister has no responsibility and that she should go to the Central Statistics Office. It is an extraordinary situation that did not obtain until this Dáil. We are now being told that one cannot table a question to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform about the number of prosecutions in respect of different areas of the law. We are also told that we must approach the Courts Service or the CSO to establish that. We are rapidly reaching the situation where Ministers tell the House they have no responsibility so we should go to the HSE, NRA, CSO or the Courts Service. Either Ministers are redundant or the Opposition is redundant in terms of trying to obtain information because we must go from one quango to another. We will not be able to ask the Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, how we are getting on with integration, which we are all watching carefully. Will the Taoiseach agree to restore the normal service in this regard when we resume in September?

I am not aware of the change but it has long been the rule that if there is a statutory agency — and that applies to the ESB, for example — one goes directly to the agency rather than tabling questions. I do not know if it is the same with the Courts Service.

This is a change from the last Dáil.

I will check what changes have taken place.

To be helpful to Deputy Rabbitte, the precedent for this was established in the previous Dáil. It is not an innovation.

I am glad that you are not claiming paternity of it, a Cheann Comhairle. I appreciate that information. It must have been a recent innovation in the previous Dáil, which escaped me. In any event, I submit that my arguments stand.

In view of the fact that the electricity (transfer of transmission assets) Bill is likely to be published before the end of the year, have any discussions taken place between the Minister and his Department, or the Department of the Taoiseach and interest groups pursuing the concept of nuclear energy? If so, will they be encompassed in the development of the heads of the Bill when they appear before the House?

The electricity (transfer of transmission assets) Bill should come before the House next year.

The Dublin Well Woman Centre and others have raised serious concerns about cervical smear tests being sent to the United States for testing in laboratories there. The Minister for Health and Children dealt with questions in the House last week before this matter became public. In the absence of the Minister and the Minister of State, will the Taoiseach provide an opportunity to address the serious questions that have arisen on this matter? We have limited time over the remaining couple of days, but this matter is of such import that it needs to be addressed in this Chamber rather than being left until the late autumn when we return after the summer recess.

The Deputy should table a matter on the Adjournment.

Now that the European Commission has taken action against Ireland for failing properly to transpose the race equality directive into national law, will the Taoiseach bring legislation before the House to address the shortfall and properly transpose the directive into domestic law?

No legislation is listed in this respect but the Deputy can table a parliamentary question to the relevant Minister.

Last week, in the absence of the Taoiseach, I asked the Tánaiste about an update on legislation against human trafficking. He told me it was a matter for the Minister to prioritise it in the autumn. The Taoiseach has given me commitments on this issue on a number of occasions. The Government has also signed a Council of Europe convention on human trafficking. We have also made commitments at European Council level to introduce legislation in this area, yet we remain the only EU country not to have defined human trafficking in our law. Will the Taoiseach give a solid commitment that this matter will be prioritised early in the autumn?

The heads of the Bill have been approved and the Parliamentary Counsel is drafting the Bill, which is due in the autumn.