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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 4 Jul 2007

Order of Business.

The Order of Business shall be No. 11, Roads Bill 2007 [Seanad] — Second and Subsequent Stages (Resumed); and No. 10a, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Agreement between the European Union and the United States of America on the processing and transfer of passenger name record data by air carriers to the United States Department of Homeland Security. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted on the conclusion of Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 15, motion re proposed incinerator at Poolbeg (Resumed), which shall be taken for 90 minutes at 7 p.m. or on the conclusion of No. 10a, whichever is the later; (2) the resumed Second and Subsequent Stages of No. 11 shall be taken today and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the proceedings on the resumed Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 4 p.m.; (ii) the proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 5 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Transport and the Marine; and (3) the proceedings on No. 10a shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. tonight and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the speeches of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; (ii) the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; (iii) Members may share time; and (iv) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes.

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 to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 11 agreed?

It is not agreed. It had been proposed by Government that the debate on the Roads Bill would go on until 7 o'clock. They are now proposing that the debate should be cut short by two hours and that is not acceptable. In effect, that means that Second Stage will go on until 4 o'clock, then leaving only an hour for all the Subsequent Stages. Since there are 26 amendments tabled to that Bill, it is not possible to deal with those adequately in the space of an hour and we are objecting to that.

I concur with Deputy Shortall. The truncated time does not afford Members the opportunity to engage properly. It involves Second Stage, albeit resumed, and the Subsequent Stages. Everything will crash here with the conclusion of the time ordered. It is simply unacceptable. We are entitled to the opportunity to properly engage on the measures involved and to consider carefully the amendments proposed.

Questions will not be taken by the Taoiseach today. Some of us tabled questions to the Taoiseach and now we are being told we must wait until the end of September. Why will the Taoiseach not come in tomorrow to answer questions? Why can he not be back here this afternoon to answer questions? It is a simple question. We have rights too and the Taoiseach is trodding on our rights.

We are discussingNo. 11.

There is no reference to questions in the Order of Business. It is really a point of order on the absence of Taoiseach's questions. If the Taoiseach is somewhere else this morning, why can he not return here?

Has he even made an apology for the House?

If he was opening a pub or a shop, he would be back here.

Deputy Allen is out of order.

The Taoiseach is treating the Members with disrespect, to say the least, and it is contempt of the House.

It is the Taoiseach who is out of order.

That is not correct.

On No. 11——

We must wait until the end of September to get an answer to questions.

——I understand that there was a debate on this on Thursday last. The Minister is anxious to ensure that the Bill is enacted before we rise. The principal purpose of the Bill is to provide the necessary statutory basis to facilitate the implementation of freeflow open road tolling on toll-based national road schemes. It also provides for redesignation of certain high-quality dual-carriageways as motorways, the provision of service and rest areas on the national road network, some technical amendments to various sections of the Roads Act 1993, a number of amendments to the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 and the making of by-laws to deal with the issue of parking at sport stadia on event days. We wish to take it today.

Is the proposal agreed to?

It is not agreed. We know what the Bill is about but there are 26 amendments which cannot be dealt with in one hour.

The Deputy should ask a question.

I suggest to the Tánaiste that we shorten the debate on Second Stage and increase the time available on Committee and Report Stages.

Subject to the agreement of the Whips, that is acceptable.

Is the proposal agreed?

Yes, subject to agreement of the Whips.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 10a, motion re agreement between the European Union and the United States of America on the processing and transfer of passenger name record data by air carriers, agreed?

I realise the importance of this motion. I understand the Cabinet dealt with it only yesterday and that it must go before the Council for signature next week. While notice is short, the issue is relevant. The second point on the briefing document given to Deputy Mitchell and Opposition spokespersons refers to the number of EU passenger name records being reduced from 34 to 19. The Minister might provide information on what is collected. I do not know what are the 34 points of information collected and what 19 points will remain after the reduction. This is important because the information is stored for up to 15 years, either live orin situ, available for recall as necessary.

I will communicate with the Minister to ensure the query is dealt with.

Sinn Féin is opposed to this motion which arises from an option open to the Government in the Treaty of Amsterdam. Late last evening these documents were placed in our pigeon holes and we had very little time to examine and consider the elements involved. Members need to know what is involved. We see the proposal in respect of an extension of time with regard to the personal data that can be retained by the US authorities, from 3.5 to 15 years. They have the opportunity to present the data to a range of agencies without limitation. There is no robust legal mechanism for EU citizens to challenge the misuse of data concerning their personal details. These points have been highlighted by the European Data Protection Supervisor and we have a responsibility to give Members the opportunity to properly inform themselves and prepare for a debate on a measure that has serious implications for each of us as citizens of this State. What is proposed is preposterous. Not only is it being rammed through in the closing days of this short session after the general election but Members are not being given the opportunity to properly inform themselves. I oppose the notion that this be progressed today and when the opportunity comes to address the substance of the proposal, I will also oppose it.

This is not an acceptable way of conducting Dáil business. Late last night Opposition spokespersons were provided with a one and a half page briefing document. We still have not seen the agreement and I ask the Tánaiste to clarify whether it is available. It is not acceptable to expect Members to debate and vote on an agreement that has not been seen. I remind the Green Party members of the Cabinet that Deputies Ryan and Cuffe spoke strongly against it when we debated this issue and agreed an interim agreement last October. All of the Green Party Members voted against it.

The Green Party took the shilling.

Does the motion and the manner of its proposal have the agreement of the entire Cabinet? It is a motion which has serious implications for air travellers. It is not acceptable to be bounced into this or for Members to find the document and have to read and consider it and make a decision within a short time. The Labour Party is utterly opposed to dealing with the matter in this manner and asks the Government to hold off on it until we have time to consider it.

The Government decided on this issue yesterday.

Were the Green Party members at that meeting?

Unlike elements of the Labour Party, the Government speaks as one. The current EU-US interim agreement on the use of passenger name record data will expire on 31 July. It was approved by the Dáil and Seanad on 11 October 2006, as required under Article 29.4.6° of the Constitution. Earlier this year the European Commission was mandated by the Council to negotiate a new agreement in accordance with negotiating directives agreed by the Council. The agreement was reached on 26 June, the text of which was considered by the Committee of Permanent Representatives to the European Union, COREPER, on 29 June. The proposal will be submitted to the Council on 10 July for approval and signature by the EU Presidency on behalf of the European Union. It is important that there should be no legal vacuum on the expiry of the current agreement on 31 July that would affect the ability of carriers to continue operating transatlantic services. Since Aer Lingus is the only Irish operator of such services it is important that the company is not put at a disadvantage, which is the implication of not proceeding in this way.

Will the United States provide us with information on its passengers?

Given what we have seen in London and Glasgow, there are security issues, of which we must be mindful. We must ensure the safety of passengers is paramount.

Since the Tánaiste has replied to the discussion, no other speaker may be called.

In that case I will raise a point of order. Why has the agreement not been placed in the Oireachtas Library, in accordance with constitutional procedures? We could have anticipated many of these issues yesterday. The Tánaiste has described how COREPER has agreed a draft that will be signed without the assent of Parliament. The European Parliament had an opportunity to ask for information on this serious issue, but it had no right to change it because it was an intergovernmental matter, in respect of which there should be accountability to this House. The agreement which has serious content is being rammed through without the opportunity for debate. No joint committee of the Oireachtas will examine it and no committee will be in session until late autumn. In the usual, appalling way it is suggested that those who desire proper parliamentary scrutiny are damaging Aer Lingus or affecting security. This is an outrageous abuse of Parliament. Members should object to the procedure.


Hear, hear.

I wish the Ceann Comhairle well in his new office but this is not the way this matter should be handled. It should be withdrawn and the Minister should consider with the Whips how it can be properly examined and considered. It deserves this. To say this is not anti-American; it is pro-democracy.


Hear, hear.

The efficacy of the situation must proceed.

Deputy O'Higgins is out of order and I must put the question.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 10a be agreed to.”
The Dáil divided: Tá, 65; Níl, 59.

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


  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coonan, Noel J.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Sheehan, P.J.
  • Sherlock, Seán.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Tom Kitt and John Curran; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.
Question declared carried.

While answering questions last week, the Tánaiste indicated that the Ethics Bill that was produced last October would go before the Seanad. The Ethics in Public Office (Amendment) Bill is before the Seanad today, seven Government amendments have been tabled and it will be guillotined at 4.30 p.m. Is it intended to bring it before the Dáil tomorrow and to amend the Whips' proposals to deal with it or will it be hived off until the autumn?

The Taoiseach responded yesterday to questions on the European reform treaty referendum and the referendum on children's rights. Can the Tánaiste confirm whether the Government has decided whether both will be held on the same day? The Taoiseach was unsure of the timing, which may be in May or June of next year. Has it been agreed they will be held on the same day?

I refer to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, which deals with the business of facilities and staff for Members of the House. As no committees will be appointed until September, does this mean the decisions that must be taken with regard to staff and facilities within the House must be taken by the Ceann Comhairle himself as the sole member of the commission? Some important decisions must be taken in this regard.

As Deputy Kenny noted, the Ethics in Public Office (Amendment) Bill 2007 is before the Seanad today. My understanding is that it will not be taken in the Dáil tomorrow but if the Deputy wishes, it will be taken on the Dáil's return. It will be taken as soon as it is sensible to so do and when Members are available to take it. Were it to be taken all day tomorrow and subsequently guillotined, another problem would arise. It is a question of taking it as soon as it is practicable.

As for the referendum, no formal Government decision has been made yet in respect of any of these matters. My understanding is that to be helpful, the Taoiseach indicated that were two referendums to be held next year, one should consider the efficacy of having them on the same day. Obviously, this will be examined and considered by the Taoiseach with the Cabinet.

I understand a vacancy has arisen on the Government side in respect of membership of the commission. I refer to the need to find such a replacement on the commission for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Brian Lenihan. The Taoiseach is putting his mind to this matter immediately in order that there would be a sufficient quorum for the commission to meet, were that required, in the interim period between now and the Dáil's return. I understand it will not be left to the Ceann Comhairle to take on this responsibility on his own.

There has been no discussion with the parties about this matter. Fine Gael gained 20 seats and obviously there will be a change in representation.

I had assumed that others would retain the same people on the commission as had served on it heretofore.

Deputy Paul McGrath is no longer a Member of the House.

To be helpful in this regard, there is a membership of four on the commission at present who are allex officio members. This constitutes a quorum for the purpose of the business. I assure the Deputy that I would be far too humble a man to make ex cathedra decisions and they will not be made.

So many changes in one week.

I would not doubt the Ceann Comhairle for a second.

Yesterday I raised an issue with the Ceann Comhairle, namely, the apparent shutting down of the facility of parliamentary questions, with questions being transferred to one quango or another. I have a letter to hand that the Ceann Comhairle sent to my colleague, Deputy Quinn. He had sought information from the Taoiseach concerning the maintenance of records in the offices of the Attorney General and the Chief State Solicitor regarding certain specified judicial reviews. The question was ruled out of order because the Taoiseach has no official responsibility in this regard and it was suggested that Deputy Quinn should go to the Courts Service.

I have another letter to hand, dated 3 July, from the Ceann Comhairle to me. I had a simple question to ask of the Taoiseach as to when the Cabinet Handbook was last updated and whether he would make a statement on the matter. The Ceann Comhairle has informed me that the Taoiseach has no official responsibility to Dáil Éireann for this matter as it impinges on matters internal to the Cabinet. It is fantastic that a simple question on when the Cabinet Handbook was last updated should be ruled out of order. It is manifestly not a matter internal to the Cabinet only. Furthermore, when an almost identical question was asked on 12 November 2002, it was replied to by the Taoiseach.

At this early stage of the Dáil, if Members are to do their job in terms of holding the Government to account, I am greatly concerned that reasonable questions are being transferred to one agency of State or other and the relevant Minister or Taoiseach takes no responsibility in the House. Since I entered this House, it has been traditional that questions pertaining to the Office of the Attorney General would be answered by the Taoiseach. This is an absolute cardinal principle of accountability and Members will be obliged to pursue this issue in the new term.

While I am on my feet, since I raised the issue with him last week, has the Tánaiste given further consideration to the Government's response to the Standards in Public Office Commission's report on the matter of the funding of political parties?

No, I have not. In respect of that particular area of responsibility, I have been concentrating on the Bill that is before the Seanad at present. Obviously annual reports that are received from the commission are considered in due course in the context of any future legislation or consolidation of legislation that may be required in future or given consideration at that stage. I have not moved beyond the fact that the report arrived last week. It was published before being laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, which was unfortunate. While I will take up that issue with the commission at an official level, the report will be considered in due course, as are other reports.

In respect of the question raised by Deputy Rabbitte regarding the disallowance of parliamentary questions, I indicated yesterday that this precedent was set in a previous Dáil in respect of statutory bodies. However, I understand the frustration Deputy Rabbitte and other Members may feel regarding asking questions of Ministers and having the questions referred to statutory bodies. I hope to discuss the matter with the party Whips to ascertain whether there is some leeway or a mechanism whereby such frustration may be alleviated. I will undertake to do so in the course of the summer.

On the same topic, I received a letter from the Ceann Comhairle this morning. I had asked whether the Taoiseach was requiring Ministers to sign delegation orders to allocate functions to Ministers of State. From a parliamentary point of view in holding Ministers of State accountable, it would be appropriate to know whether their functions were allocated on a statutory or informal basis. My question was ruled out of order on what looked like spurious grounds, namely, that asking the question infringed on a matter internal to the Cabinet. However, it is central to Parliament holding Ministers of State accountable. This issue must be examined, as we cannot carry on like this.

All parties have agreed in submissions made to a committee of the House that Ministers should have responsibility for questions and should reply to them in respect of bodies within their remit. A simple adjustment of the Standing Orders would cure this problem and enhance democracy significantly.

We will discuss the matter with the Whips.

When does the Government intend to publish the programme for Government? I understand from the Government Press Office when I made the inquiry this morning that it is intended to publish the programme officially in the coming days. Does the Tánaiste agree that this is most unacceptable? The Dáil will have risen for the summer recess and the opportunity for Members to question Ministers on the programme's content will have been deferred until late autumn. Will the programme to be published mirror that published by the Green Party following its negotiations with Fianna Fáil? Is there a prospect that in the intervening period the Progressive Democrats have got into the mix? Will the Tánaiste instruct the publication of the programme for Government today to allow the House an opportunity to address it properly tomorrow before the summer recess?

The programme for Government will be published as soon as practicable. It will be in line with what has been published and debated in the public domain. The Deputy will have five years to hold us to account.

I would have liked it had the Government given the House a five-day viewing.


What does Deputy Finian McGrath know about it? Sweet Fanny Adams.

The EU race equality directive should have been implemented by 2003, but the Commission has indicated that the Government has failed to implement it under five headings. When will the Government implement the directive fully?

With respect, I cannot help the Deputy, as it is a question for the relevant Minister. I am sure it can be replied to. Like every directive, this one is subject to national law if it is to have effect in this jurisdiction. At this remove, I cannot say what the state of play is in respect of the preparation of legislation that will enable us to fulfil our requirements.

Five years have passed.

There may be a good reason, but I cannot say. The Minister should be able to answer.

Is legislation promised to deal with boy racers? It is becoming a serious issue nationwide, including in my constituency of Limerick East.

No legislation is promised.

I wish to raise a matter on tomorrow's agenda, namely, the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Bill 2007 and issues brought to my attention in that respect. Rumours abound of concerns about the Attorney General not being involved in discussions at the Cabinet or his legal advice not being sought. Will the Tánaiste clarify whether this is the case? Section 51 of the Bill is inherently unconstitutional and, if passed into law within the next two weeks, is likely to be subject to a serious legal challenge.

Unfortunately, we cannot discuss the contents of the legislation, but if the Deputy has a general question, the Tánaiste may grant a response.

I accept that and would appreciate it if the Tánaiste responded to my general query on the Attorney General.

The only general response I can give is to say the legislation will be dealt with tomorrow and that all Bills and amendments considered are passed by the Government with the advice of the Attorney General, which would be contrary to the Deputy's contention regarding section 51.

When is it intended to establish the committees of the House? Is it intended to increase their number?

I understand it is the intention to establish the committees of the House early in the next session.

How many will be established?

I am unaware of the details. The issue is for consideration as the Dáil goes on vacation.

Last week I asked the Taoiseach about the pressing matter of Dáil reform. He stated he would like to get through a number of priorities. Is it intended to detail those priorities to the leaders of the Opposition parties for discussion or perusal or will the matter be dealt with through the Whips? Can we discover what the priorities are reasonably soon in order that when the House returns in the autumn, there can be agreement to change the structures that badly need to be changed to make them more relevant?

The Taoiseach indicated in response to a query last week or the previous week that he was open to determining in which way the arrangements of the House could better serve all of us. He emphasised that when we discussed Dáil reform, it was a two-way street. We need an Executive that is accountable to Parliament and parliamentary time and procedures that enable Ministers to get on with their jobs without having to spend half of their working day attending the Order of Business, to procedural wrangling, arguments or votes that continue interminably, which does not serve the House well. If there is goodwill on all sides, we should be able to make some improvements to our arrangements. Sometimes I believe Dáil reform is characterised as the Government trying to deny the Opposition parliamentary time and the Opposition trying to use all of the time available. It is time for us to recognise in an adult way our various responsibilities and to sit down and come up with solutions to these problems. Successive Whips on all sides have made many efforts to improve the situation.

The first hour of the House's proceedings receives much attention, but the important work occurring in committees or in plenary session of the House is not covered. We need arrangements whereby the business of the House as ordered is dealt with quickly and effectively. If there are topical issues of the day that need to be addressed, we should find a means to do so rather than have everyone enter the House full of vim first thing in the morning and ending at 12.30 p.m. after a series of arguments during which light is not thrown on much and conveying this image to the wider public because of our arrangements and procedures. It is time to move beyond this to try to have arrangements that are modern and family-friendly.

Does the Chief Whip intend to circulate the list of priorities?

The Chief Whip will deal with his opposite numbers on this matter in the coming months. Let us try to get the show on the road better than we have done to date.

Since the formulation of the programme for Government, there have been discussions with RTE in respect of the broadcasting Bill, with particular reference to amending the provisions relating to RTE. Will this be reflected in the Bill when published?

I cannot tell the Deputy the details of the Bill which is expected to be published sometime this year.

I welcome the Tánaiste's reforming zeal in respect of our processes. Given that the committees will not be reformed until the autumn, there is an opportunity to examine their terms of reference to make them more meaningful. Until 1993 there was deep opposition to the committee I have served from the beginning, the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, and its scope remains limited. It is frequently the case that the work of this and other committees is as much influenced by the availability of a meeting room as by the subjects being discussed. Members are frequently told we must clear out of the meeting room because it is needed for another purpose. The committees are inadequately staffed and entirely neglected by the media, which regard them as less than important.

I call for a thorough review of the physical arrangements for committees, their staffing and resources, and their terms of reference. I do not wish to waste time on the Order of Business talking about the lack of accountability on foreign policy. There is no accountability in respect of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and a range of other matters arising in Europe and in this State. The Chairman of the Joint Committee on European Affairs has only a limited right of access to information that is denied to every other member of that committee and to the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. It will be a fruitful summer if consideration is given to the terms of reference, staff, resources and research facilities of the committees as well as the availability of rooms for meetings.

I agree with the Deputy. I am conscious that we do not spend all our careers on one side of the House. I have always been of the view that there is a need for better interaction between Ministers and committees. It is unfortunately the case that committee chairmen sometimes pursue a certain agenda and there does not seem to be much synergy between those agendas and that of the Executive, and there is little concern for the timeliness of discussions. This means there may be a disjointed view of events and an absence of sequencing in terms of what is happening at committees and where Government policy is in terms of execution or implementation.

It would be better to apply our minds to seeing how committees, which are independent of the Executive——

——can conduct their affairs in such a way that there is some alignment between what is happening at Executive level and what is happening at parliamentary committee level. That may not be possible in practical terms but there is a need, given the number of committees, to see how they can work at some level of alignment with what the Government is trying to do.

This will better allow the committee to hold the Executive to account in terms of the implementation of the programme for Government, its spending plans and so on. From next year, the budgetary reforms I have introduced will enhance accountability. By allowing for scrutiny of outputs as well as inputs, they will allow committees to question Ministers on what they expect to get for the moneys they propose to spend and to oblige them to return at the end of the year and set out whether those objectives were achieved. This process will help avoid the dialogue of the deaf that sometimes characterises the interaction between the Executive and parliamentary committees in a way that is helpful to neither. I enjoy debate and the intellectual rigour of meeting people such as Deputy Higgins across the plinth of parliamentary committees. We may disagree on many occasions but it is always interesting.

That attitude will get the Tánaiste far.

We cannot continue this discussion on Dáil reform.

What are the implications for the current staff of the various committees if those committees will in effect be stood down between now and the end of September? In his capacity asex officio chairperson of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, the Ceann Comhairle might consider the matter and report to the House tomorrow. I am sure there are other tasks to be done, but I would hate to think that, because of our inability to form committees, the resources of the House will be underdeployed.

My understanding is that the staff have a considerable amount of work to do and will be fully engaged with that work pending the formation of the new committees.

I ask for the Ceann Comhairle's forbearance in putting a simple question to the Tánaiste. An individual has been walking up and down outside Leinster House for the past 15 years. This person has a complaint in regard to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

I have the greatest respect for the Deputy's views but that is out of order.

The Dáil will adjourn tomorrow for 80 days. This man has been protesting outside the Houses of Parliament for 15 years and his daughter is now travelling from Northern Ireland to join him in his protest. Will an independent body be allowed to review whether he has a legitimate complaint? It is unbelievable that he has been there for 15 years.

The Deputy will have to put down a parliamentary question or raise the matter on the Adjournment.

I have done so but have received no answer.

I cannot allow him to raise it on the Order of Business.

It is an unbelievable situation.

I cannot allow this matter to be raised.

When will the Voluntary Health Insurance amendment Bill 2007 be published? Will it address the issue of equalisation and the quantum of equalisation?

The Deputy cannot ask questions on the detail of legislation.

I understand the Bill is on the Seanad Order Paper and will be dealt with in that House in the first instance before coming to the Dáil for debate. Community rating and risk equalisation are central to a viable and competitive private insurance market in Ireland.

Are there proposals to introduce legislation on drug testing for motorists to complement the drink driving legislation?

I am not sure whether specific legislation is promised. A parliamentary question to the Minister would indicate his intentions in this regard.

Given that hauls of cocaine are being found almost on a daily basis, it seems imperative that we introduce some type of drug testing for motorists.

I understand motorists can be tested for various substances.

I call the Minister of State, Deputy Tom Kitt, to move an amended order on the Roads Bill 2007.

In response to Opposition requests to amend the Order of Business, I move:

That, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders or the order of the Dáil of this day, the proceedings on the resumed Second Stage of No. 11 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 12.45 p.m.; and the proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 5 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Transport and the Marine.

Question put and agreed to.