It is proposed to take No. 12, pre-budget statements (resumed); and No. 1, Industrial Development Bill 2008 [Seanad] — Second Stage. Private Members’ business shall be No. 49, motion re Oireachtas reform (resumed), to conclude at 8.30 p.m., if not previously concluded.
Order of Business.
There are no proposals to put to the House.
Is it intended to hold a referendum on children's rights, as promised by the Government? The programme for Government 2007-12 includes a number of legislative commitments. What is the status of the programme given that it was predicated on an annual growth in the economy of 4%. Is it to be rewritten?
In respect of the disagreement that has apparently arisen between the Department of Finance and the Department of Education and Science in regard to third level fees, the former seems to view fees as an income stream in budgetary terms——
As he well knows, Deputy Kenny cannot raise the issue of third level fees on the Order of Business.
My question relates to legislative proposals which will be introduced through the Finance Bill after 7 April.
Questions on the Finance Bill are not in order.
The Fine Gael spokesman, Deputy Brian Hayes, has introduced a realistic set of proposals for graduate contributions. We will not support the reintroduction of third level fees or loans to students but we will support a graduate contribution.
We cannot discuss this issue on the Order of Business.
Will the Taoiseach comment on whether the reported disagreement relates to cash flow issues? We do not want the gates to be closed on young people's prospects of proceeding to third level——
There are no circumstances under which we can discuss higher education fees.
——which is so important in terms of the smart economy to which the Taoiseach has rightly referred on numerous occasions?
This is far too broad a subject to be discussed on the Order of Business.
The Ceann Comhairle has persisted in interrupting me.
I did so because the Deputy is not in order.
I asked the Taoiseach about a legislative matter.
Deputy Kenny knows we cannot have a discussion on higher education fees on the Order of Business. It is too large a subject and it is not in order.
Regarding the prospect of a constitutional referendum on children's rights, it has been our long-standing position to see whether a consensus can be arrived at through the deliberations of the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children. I understand discussions are ongoing and that a consensus has not yet emerged. The Minister of State with responsibility for Children, Deputy Barry Andrews, has spoken on this issue.
On the Deputy's second question, the legislative programme is as outlined in the list provided by the Whip at the beginning of every session in an effort to make progress on the issues in question, quite apart from those issues that may arise and which cannot be planned for. In regard to the programme for Government, the priorities that must be decided upon are best gauged from the annual statements Ministers are now providing based on the money that is available. In the current economic crisis, prioritisation is necessary in all aspects.
At the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis the Taoiseach promised legislation to provide for greater accountability and transparency of funding and the sources of funding by those participating in referendum campaigns in the State. When will that legislation be introduced? Is it intended to have it enacted in advance of any second referendum on the Lisbon treaty?
Are there any plans for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to make a statement to the House in connection with the resignation of the chairman of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority?
The Deputy's second question is not in order. The Taoiseach may respond to the first issue raised.
As the Deputy said, I made an announcement that it was necessary to make some changes to the law in this area so that there is a level playing field for everybody. The intention is that those changes will be enacted and effective before the next referendum campaign.
Ten months ago, in May 2008, the Dáil completed its deliberations on Second Stage of the Defamation Bill 2006, at which point a resolution was made that it be sent to committee. The Bill has not been seen since and seems to be in some type of limbo. If the Minister cannot inform me today of the intention of the Government in respect of this Bill, will he let me know as soon as possible when it is intended to progress it?
Allied to this legislation was the Privacy Bill 2006 which fell on the dissolution of the last Government and was subsequently re-enacted but has not since progressed. I understand it may be in the Seanad but this is not clear. Is it the intention of the Government to introduce a privacy Bill as promised in the programme for Government? It was certainly the intention of previous Ministers for Justice, Equality and Law Reform that such legislation should be enacted, but nobody has commented on it in recent times. Will the Taoiseach inform the House whether it is Government policy to proceed with it and, if so, when?
I understand the Privacy Bill 2006 is on Second Stage in the Seanad. As the Deputy observed, the Defamation Bill 2006 is awaiting Committee Stage. I will have to check with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform as to what the intentions are in that regard.
Legislation on estate management companies has been promised for some time and has been referred to by the Taoiseach and Tánaiste in the House. Has agreement been reached on the heads of a Bill? Are the provisions likely to be introduced, as has been indicated to the House, in a single Bill sponsored by one Minister?
The Bill is being drafted and that is the intention. It should be coming in next session.
I am getting worried. This must be the longest drafting in history because we have been promised this Bill for the past couple of years.
As we speak, severe hardship and anxiety have been perpetrated on unfortunate constituents who do not know what the outcome will be.
I cannot go into that now.
With due respect, I ask the Taoiseach that instead of promising the legislation he should bring it into the House so we can consider it. I have raised the issue of organised crime several times before, as has Deputy Charles Flanagan and other Members of the House. Organised crime in this country has clearly got out of hand. There is a series of proposed legislation on the list, none of which is moving. Nothing is happening. Why can we not bring in one of the Bills? For example, we could have the extradition Bill which would be useful. There is now clear evidence that criminals in this part of the country are supplying——
We cannot have commentaries now.
——arms to execute people in other jurisdictions. There is evidence to that effect.
We cannot go into that now.
We are doing nothing about it. A Cheann Comhairle, it is our duty to raise this issue and the Taoiseach should respond.
The Deputy has raised it and I will ask him to respond. That is it then.
Good. The question is which piece of that proposed legislation he will move as a matter of urgency to combat organised crime.
The Deputy cannot ask a multiple choice question.
Will I read them all out? I do not want to do that.
There is no need.
No multiple choice questions are allowed on the Order of Business.
The criminal justice (amendment) Bill will be introduced later this year. The heads of the extradition Bill have been agreed and it has gone for drafting. In the interest of being able to get detailed and accurate information, I can simply continue to refer to the time schedules every morning I get up here to speak. A parliamentary question and interaction with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on these matters would be a far better use of the procedures we have.
We do not always get correct replies.
It is the same answer. The Minister for Finance did not reply to Deputy Kenny.
The House needs to reflect on whether the same questions are being asked every morning.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is never around.
We depend on the Taoiseach to give the right answer.
I know that Deputy Mattie McGrath yesterday raised the issue of the abuse of alcohol. In that light, when will the sale of alcohol Bill be brought into the House? We have been promised considerable support regarding consumers and competition. That particularly affects those of us in the Border area. When will the consumer and competition Bill be introduced in order that we can discuss the issue in the House? Finally and by no means least, Pathways rehabilitation centre in the Cavan hospital complex has been closed down.
We are beginning to stray.
No. When will the eligibility for health and personal social services Bill be introduced so that people will know their entitlements?
The first Bill should be available in the middle of this year. No date has yet been fixed for the other two Bills.
I again ask if the Taoiseach has any information on the regulation of management companies Bill.
As I told Deputy Durkan, it will be in the next session.
I call Deputy Reilly.
I thought Deputy Durkan was asking about estate management.
What was the Deputy asking about?
Estate management is different from the regulation of management companies.
Is it the property services Bill?
We are not sure.
There is a multi-units development Bill and a property services Bill.
Will that cover the issues?
We cannot go into the content.
We do not know, a Cheann Comhairle.
When are we likely to get the——
Next session, as I was saying to Deputy Durkan.
If he does not know it is difficult for me to know. This is the problem we have.
Estate management is different from the regulation of management companies.
He was talking about the multi-unit development Bill.
They are different Bills. I am asking about the regulation of management companies. When will we get the Bill?
There is no such Bill as the regulation management companies Bill. There is no Bill with that name.
There may not be any such Bill, but when will we get legislation to regulate management companies.
I thank the Taoiseach.
There we go.
Two weeks ago I asked the Taoiseach whether in the upcoming finance Bill he would consider reducing the VAT from 21.5% to the lower rate on cervical cancer vaccines.
It was not allowed two weeks ago either.
I am sure the Taoiseach would like to reassure people that there is some help for children and the parents of children who want to get them vaccinated against cervical cancer.
The Deputy knows the rules.
The education patronage Bill does not mention Educate Together and only the VECs are mentioned regarding their ability to become patrons.
That would be a good point to make on the Second Stage.
In accordance with an EU directive, we are supposed to regulate and control so-called "party drugs" which are available in so-called "head shops" around the country without any control and with very dubious side effects. This was to have been done by the end of March. I have raised the matter a few times on the Order of Business. At one stage I was told it would be addressed. I do not know whether primary or secondary legislation is required. Does the Taoiseach have any information as to when it is intended to control such drugs?
Is anything promised regarding that matter?
Some measure will be brought to Government next week.
As the Taoiseach also seems to be getting frustrated with the procedures here, perhaps he will at some stage encourage and support Dáil reform. However, we will move on from that. When will the health (miscellaneous provisions) No. 1 Bill be published? What is happening with the local government Bill to give effect to the €200 charge on non-principal private residences? Will it be published shortly or will it be subsumed into the budget? People are concerned about the road traffic and transport Bill to amend the blood alcohol content level.
The road traffic and transport parts have been split. I understand the road traffic aspect of it will come forward this session. The first——
What about the rest of them?
I am coming to them. I am moving along. The first Bill was published on 19 March. The Deputy should check his cubbyhole. We cannot give a date for the second one at the moment.
As the Taoiseach probably knows, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport has meet many of the stakeholders in Dublin Airport to discuss the SR Technics issue. One of the issues that has emerged is that the Minister for Transport, who is beside the Taoiseach, and his Department seemed to know of the closure of SR Technics early last November.
The Deputy raised this matter on the Adjournment.
Did the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, inform the Taoiseach and the Cabinet? Will the Taoiseach now ask him to make a statement to the House? We had five months——
I cannot allow that.
——either to get ready for a succession industry or to try to prevent the closure.
The Deputy can find another way to raise that matter.
We have not heard from the Minister who is sitting beside the Taoiseach.
We cannot go into that now.
Would he make a statement to the House? Somebody did not do his job, not for the first time.
If every Deputy came in with matters of concern like that, we would unfortunately spend the entire day discussing each Deputy's complaint. I cannot do that. I am now moving to pre-budget statements.