Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 26 — Prompt Payment of Accounts Bill, 1997, Second Stage (Resumed) and Remaining Stages; No. 9 — Motion re. Approval of Dispatch of Irish Contingent to participate in the UN Authorised Stabilisation Force (SFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina; No. 10 — Dublin Institute of Technology Act, 1992 (Assignment of Function) Order, 1997; No. 2 — Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal Bill, 1997 — Committee and Remaining Stages.

It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. and business shall be interrupted not later than 12 midnight; the resumed Second Stage and Remaining Stages of No. 26 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 1.15 p.m. today by one question which shall be put from the Chair, and which shall, in relation to amendments to the Bill, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Enterprise and Employment; the proceedings on No. 9, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 5.45 p.m. today and the following arrangements shall apply: the opening speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fianna Fáil Party and the Progressive Democrats Party shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case; the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; Members may share time; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes; the proceedings on No. 10, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 6.45 p.m. today and the following arrangements shall apply: the opening speech of a Minister or Minister of State of the main spokespersons for the Fianna Fáil Party and the Progressive Democrats Party and of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; Members may share time; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a reply which shall not exceed five minutes; and the Committee and Remaining Stages of No. 2 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 11.45 p.m. tonight 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 Health.

Private Members' Business shall be No. 59, motion No. 23 re. legal action brought by the late Mrs. Brigid McCole (resumed).

There are five matters to put before the House. Is the proposal for a late sitting tonight satisfactory?

I note the Minister for Finance has published the ICC Bank (Amendment) Bill. This is enabling legislation and is due to be taken tomorrow. However, due to other events which may take place tomorrow that Bill may not be processed through the House. If the Minister wishes to put it through today I am sure the Whips could come to an agreement.

This legislation will be taken tomorrow.

Is the Taoiseach going to keep us here the whole day?

Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 26 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 9 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 10 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 2 agreed? Agreed.

We should record the generosity of our Finance spokesperson who wished to give the Bill a hearing today if there was not time for it tomorrow and thank him for clarifying the Taoiseach's intentions as to the exact time we will break up tomorrow.

During Taoiseach's Question Time yesterday, the Taoiseach told Deputy Ahern he had spoken to the British Prime Minister about the case of Róisín McAliskey. He said he did not have the up to date position as of yesterday but that he had raised the matter. The House was glad to hear that. In the light of allegations and revelations from a former prisons Minister about how her superior, the former Home Secretary Michael Howard, ran the UK prison service, as a matter of urgency would the Taoiseach again take up the case of Róisín McAliskey in whom it was alleged Mr. Howard took a personal and vindictive interest?

Since yesterday, I received a detailed report from a member of the Irish Embassy staff who visited Róisín McAliskey in recent days. The report is generally positive in terms of her position but the Government remains concerned about her health and wishes to ensure that everything is done medically and psychologically to assist her at this important time in her life, the birth of a child.

The Taoiseach's interest is appreciated by the House. However, this raises a further question, namely, the handling of the prisoners issue by the former Home Secretary. Would the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste raise the matter through the Anglo-Irish conference or in a more immediate way?

I indicated yesterday that this is a matter that ought to be looked at. There are constitutional obstacles to some of the things that one might wish to do in this area but there is no commitment other than to look at the matter in a serious and open minded way. It deserves to be looked at because of the changes in trading patterns.

On the matter raised by the deputy leader of my party, the Taoiseach will be well aware that our law prevents anybody from being extradited merely for questioning. That is what is happening to Róisín McAliskey who is being held in a British jail and is wanted for questioning by the German authorities. On the second last day of this Dáil, will the Taoiseach with the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs take the opportunity to contact the German Chancellor and Foreign Minister and ask that Róisín McAliskey be either charged or released rather than subjecting her to ongoing victimisation in holding her in jail pending extradition for questioning? That is not allowed here in the case of an Irish citizen.

I hesitate to rule rigidly on the matter. If the Taoiseach wishes to intervene, he may do so.

There is a distinction between the administration of a prison regime, a matter for which there is political responsibility, and decisions in regard to the handling of prosecutions. It is important that, where political responsibility is exercised in another jurisdiction, we should make representations for the most humane treatment possible of Irish people in that situation. As the House knows well, in this jurisdiction it is important that decisions about prosecutions should be made independently of the political process. I regard that as a sound principle for all jurisdictions in Europe.

Does the Taoiseach have a timescale in mind?

The Taoiseach will be aware of the excellent reports published yesterday by Aer Rianta, the management and staff of which have to be congratulated on having had a very successful year. The Taoiseach will be aware also of the views and concerns expressed by the chairman and chief executive of the company about the abolition of duty free sales and the effect this will have on employment and fares for the travelling public. As the Government failed to place this item on the agenda when it held the Presidency of the European Union, will the Taoiseach assure the House that he will take action immediately at EU level to ensure duty free sales will continue?

That is a matter that might be raised at a more appropriate time.

It is a very important matter.

Where is Bertie?

It is my understanding that it was the leader of the Deputy's party who allowed this proposal to become European Union policy at the European Council.

The Taoiseach never raised the matter during the six month period when Ireland held the EU Presidency.

In view of the fact to which I refer, the Deputy's attempt to make a political issue out of the matter is not creditworthy. The Minister for Finance is seriously concerned about the matter and has initiated a study——

Another study.

More consultants.

——of the implications of the decision taken by the leader of the Deputy's party when in Government.

What is the position on the legislation under which staff of Telecom Éireann will be allowed to buy up to 15 per cent of the shares in the company? I understand that overnight, in consultation with party leaders on the opposite side of the House, the Taoiseach may have had a miraculous change of mind.

Not entirely unknown to the Deputy.

The legislation is not the crucial issue. What we are seeking is an agreement between all the interests concerned on a partnership basis to ensure that those employed in Telecom Éireann gain the maximum benefit from their contribution to the increased efficiency of the company and that everything is done to ensure the company as a whole is competitive, thereby securing the employment of everybody concerned.

That is very clear.

As I said yesterday in the House and on previous occasions when the Deputy raised it, the matter is the subject of ongoing detailed and intensive negotiation in a spirit of partnership by all the interests involved.

Gobbledegook.

Will the Taoiseach confirm that the Government will go to the country without having put in place the long promised and long overdue juvenile justice Bill?

The Deputy's party spokesperson would not take it.

The Government will probably get a red card.

How can the Government demonstrate to young people——

There can be no speeches now.

The future of children——

The matter must be raised at another time. We are dealing with the Order of Business now.

How can we secure the future of this most at risk category of young children——

Let us hear the Taoiseach's reply.

It is a gross dereliction of duty.

The Deputy must listen to the Chair. Let us hear the Taoiseach's reply.

I will consider the Deputy's representations in the matter. As she knows, I always pay attention to what she says.

She has been asking this question for four years.

That is a flippant answer to a serious question.

He is being patronising.

The legislation in question is with a committee of the House and the committee may wish to meet to clear it.

I will take it today.

The Committee Stage of the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal Bill will be taken later today. Will the Taoiseach ensure that the Minister for Health will attend the meeting of the Select Committee on Social Affairs at 2.30 p.m. to answer questions?

Let us await the measure which will come before the House.

The Committee system was set up to enable Members of the House to hold members of the Executive to account on certain matters. Will the Taoiseach do the members of the Select Committee on Social Affairs the courtesy of letting them know if the Ministers for Health will attend the meeting at 2.30 p.m. to answer questions? We still have to get a response from him.

This is primarily a matter for the committee.

The Minister is present.

Given the importance of the issues raised in correspondence with the Minister and his publicly stated position, will the Taoiseach agree that it would be nice to know at 10.50 a.m. whether his Minister for Health will attend the meeting of the Select Committee on Social Affairs?

Is there a Government position on the matter?

The matter is currently being dealt with on the floor of the House as a result of the decision by the Deputy to table a motion to have it dealt with in this way. A matter being dealt with on the floor of the House is never dealt with simultaneously in committee.

On a point of order, since when has it become the norm for the Standing Orders of a committee of the House to be changed because a notice of motion has been tabled in plenary session?

There has been no change in the Standing Orders.

The chairman of the committee sent an invitation to the Minister, antecedent to the tabling of a motion. His presence is required at the meeting at 2.30 p.m. I would like to know if the Minister for Health will attend the meeting.

The committees either mean something or they do not.

The matter is tabled for discussion today and Members can ventilate their views on the subject at that stage.

The Deputy and his party chose freely to deal with this matter on the floor of the House, not in a committee.

As well as in committee.

This is a distortion of the truth.

It is a well established cannon of parliamentary procedure that one does not deal simultaneously with a Bill on the floor of the House and in committee. It is dealt with in one place.

We are not dealing with a Bill.

The Deputy's party has chosen to deal with this matter on the floor of the House and the Minister has given an account of the issue on the floor of the House. On the general matter, the Committee Stage of the legislation will be taken in the House later today.

A Cheann Comhairle——

I cannot allow this to continue especially as the matter is tabled for discussion——

I do not wish it to continue.

I ask the Deputy to desist from making any further reference to the matter.

Am I to take it from what the Taoiseach said that the Minister will not attend the meeting of the committee at 2.30 p.m.? Is that the final word from the Taoiseach on the matter?

Please, Deputy.

I assure the Taoiseach that the Minister will attend the meeting as the committee will sit until he arrives.

It is not my intention to interfere in the affairs of a committee of the House.

On a point of order, I wish to point out to the Taoiseach that I, on behalf of my party, requested that the Committee Stage of the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal Bill be taken in committee and that the Report and Final Stages be taken in the House but my request was refused by the Government Chief Whip.

In the event of the Taoiseach being returned to office, will he consider providing a new category on the Order Paper to include Bills which the Minister for Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Taylor, referred to the Supreme Court?

The Deputy's standard is deteriorating all the time.

They are mounting up.

I am calling Deputy Davern.

Deputy Davern's position is unchallenged as the Opposition wit.

They are running out of ideas.

The Deputy is running out of votes.

The farmers are chasing the Deputy.

I wish to give the Taoiseach one last chance. Where is the greyhound Bill? I understand a legal problem has arisen but that legal problem also applies to the Racing Board. Let us be clear about this. Is legislation needed for the Racing Board also just because, the Taoiseach alleges, a problem has arisen in regard to Bord na gCon, or is the Tánaiste still holding back the traps on this one?

The Bill in question is in trap 1, coming into the first bend and in a very good position.

The Taoiseach is on the run.

If I may continue the racing parlance, the Minister for Health is currently running unsighted on the white collar after a very short slip.

I am talking about track racing, not coursing. I am not familiar with that other activity.

I understand the Tánaiste attends the coursing meetings on the Taoiseach's behalf. Is it now politically incorrect to attend a coursing meeting? At least the Tánaiste is loyal to something.

I trust greyhounds.

Will the Taoiseach confirm that it would be in order for the Minister for Health to attend a parliamentary committee in relation to the impact aggravated damages will have on the 1997 Health Estimate and successive Estimates? That matter is not under discussion now. It is a totally different subject.

Deputy Cowen, this is not Question Time.

The Taoiseach answered me in relation to another matter. Will the Taoiseach confirm that the Minister will attend for that reason, which is a totally different issue?

Please desist, Deputy.

Will the Minister attend in relation to the impact aggravated damages will have on the 1997 Health Estimate? It is one of the terms of reference of the committee.

The Estimates for all Departments will be available soon and the House will have an opportunity to debate them.

It is on today's agenda.

The Deputy should realise it is a well established parliamentary procedure that the same subject is not discussed in a committee that is also being discussed on the floor of the House.

I am not seeking to discuss the same subject.

I am surprised that Deputy Cowen, with his comparative experience——

I am surprised at the Taoiseach.

——would not understand that when he decided to initiate a debate in the House on a particular matter, that removed it from any committee. That was his own choice.

Nonsense. This is a separate matter.

The Deputy misled the Chair earlier by referring to a different matter and he continued in the same train of thought.

That is a very serious charge.

It is true. The Deputy said he was raising a different matter and he continued. Let us hear it.

The different matter is the discussion of the 1997 Health Estimate. I can raise a matter in relation to the Health Estimate on the Order of Business. I am bringing to your attention a Cheann Comhairle, on behalf of other Members, that a discussion will take place on the 1997 Health Estimate in relation to aggravated damages. I am asking the Taoiseach to ensure his Minister attends.

This is quite disorderly.

It can be raised on the Order of Business.

The Deputy has raised the matter umpteen times.

As the Deputy knows, the Bill to provide for the extra reparation is currently before the House. There will be an opportunity in the discussion of that Bill to discuss the impact the Bill may have on the Estimates. That is also before the House and it would be inappropriate for a committee to do the work of the House.

I ask the Taoiseach to consider this matter carefully with the other party leaders before 2.30 this afternoon.

Will the Taoiseach comment on the fact that health services administrators have been summoned to the Department of Health and asked to make additional savings which will further impact on already inadequate services? Is he aware that one of the main Dublin hospitals, the Mater Hospital, has had to close its doors to ambulances and emergencies?

A good question, Deputy——

Deputy Woods is looking for the Deputy. He wants a word with him.

Shame on you.

I have just come from that hospital and it is in crisis.

The Deputy must raise the matter properly.

May I raise it on the Adjournment?

I will consider the matter.

Deputy Woods is only their court jester.

The other side of the House can laugh but it is serious.

Deputy Woods is at his brother's funeral today. Stop your jocose references.

The Government's attitude to the health services is a disgrace and a scandal from every point of view, whether it is hepatitis C or hospitals.

The atmosphere is becoming disorderly. I will proceed to the business of the House.

Does the Taoiseach agree that one of the greatest failures of the outgoing Government, from Galway's perspective, is the failure to organise the building of a sewage treatment plant on Mutton Island to tackle the environmental crisis?

That is not in order, Deputy.

He has made up his mind on it at last.

It is an environmental crisis and the Government sat on the sidelines.

It is all right. He has £23 million to spend on it.

Galway has never enjoyed more prosperity than it does under this Government.

The Deputy and his party stayed silent for three and a half years and he has made up his mind now.

There has been nothing but U turns on the issue.

Will the Taoiseach accept that a unanimous decision was taken by the Select Committee on Social Affairs to invite the Minister for Health to come before it today to discuss a specific item on the agenda? No one party can override the right of all parties to ask a Minister to appear before a Dáil committee. The committee should be independent of such action. The Taoiseach and the Government are making a decision to ignore the committee's questions.

I am proceeding with item 26.

The cover-up continues.