Order of Business.

The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 10 – Motion re. Protocols Additional to Geneva Conventions; No. 11 – Motion re. Referral of Proposals for a Human Rights Commission Bill to Joint Committee; No. 12 – Motion re. Membership of Joint Committees; No. 26 – Motion re. Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act, 1980, Regulations, 1999; No. 28 – Immigration Bill, 1999, Second Stage (resumed); and No. 4 – Social Welfare Bill, 1999, Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 10, 11 and 12 shall be decided without debate; the proceedings on No. 26, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion after 35 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the opening speech of a Minister or a Minister of State and the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; (ii) Members may share time; and (iii) a Minister or a Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 12.30 p.m. on Thursday, 25 February 1999; and Private Members' Business, which shall be No. 48 – Enforcement of Court Orders Bill, 1998, Second Stage, shall be taken between 5.30 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. and the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. tonight.

There are four proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 10, 11 and 12 agreed?

No. 10 concerns Geneva Conventions. In his work at EU level, will the Taoiseach give some attention to the developing serious situation between Turkey and Greece as it affects Cyprus and, ultimately, as it affects the enlargement of the European Union which could be blocked by this dispute? Will the Taoiseach deploy his influence to ensure a specific resolution of the difficulties currently developing between those two friendly countries?

We cannot have a discussion on this.

I was not proposing a discussion; I was simply availing of this opportunity to make the point. I am quite happy if the Taoiseach does not reply.

Are Nos. 10, 11 and 12 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 26 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with the adjournment of the Dáil agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' time agreed? Agreed.

We never know when there will be a major drowning at sea. Is the Taoiseach satisfied that the Marine Emergency Service Bill, which deals with this issue, is not to be introduced in the House, according to a Government statement, until next year? Is this issue not more urgent given that we are so insistent on defending our coastal rights, our 200 mile limit and so forth? We should at least have proper modern legislation to deal with marine rescue rather than having to rely on other states to undertake marine rescue in our territorial waters.

We have a very good service which has developed substantially over the years, and the people involved in it do an excellent job. The heads of the Marine Emergency Service Bill, which is to develop marine emergency capabilities for the future, are being prepared in the Department. Publication is not expected before next year. I am sure the Departments are doing all they can in this regard. The general scheme is being prepared in the Department and will be circulated to the Government early next year for drafting authority.

On behalf of the Upton family, my parliamentary colleagues and myself, I express our deepest appreciation for the manner in which tributes were paid to the late Deputy Upton yesterday. It is very much appreciated on our part and I thank unreservedly every Member of the House and yourself, a Cheann Comhairle.

On promised legislation, the Taoiseach indicated to me last week that the Government was contemplating introducing legislation to enable asylum seekers work while their applications for asylum were being adjudicated upon. There is a report in one of today's newspapers that the Cabinet will meet next Monday and may introduce legislation to facilitate this. When the Taoiseach spoke to me about this matter he indicated it would be dealt with in the middle or second part of this year. Does the newspaper report indicate the Taoiseach has decided to bring forward this legislation and, if so, will he give an indication of the time?

What I told Deputy Quinn last week was correct; the Work Permits Bill to deal with the work permits regime in respect of non-EEA nationals working in the State will be introduced in the middle of or late this year. The gen eral issues are the subject of ongoing discussion at Cabinet and will be discussed again next Monday.

May I clarify this point? There are two issues here, one being the general work permit legislation which is subject to review and renewal. Do I understand the Taoiseach to say that a separate but connected issue to do with asylum seekers, is currently being considered by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which would allow them to work while here? Will that require legislation as distinct from a Government decision and, if so, when will it be introduced?

The Government has been discussing all of these matters for some time. Any changes made could be worked into the legislation currently in preparation.

(Mayo): Last Thursday, the Dublin District Court dismissed four drink driving cases on the basis that the prosecution could not prove that the specimens had not been interfered with between the time they were given to the Garda Síochána and the time they reached the State laboratory. Obviously, this has serious implications for section 18 of the Road Traffic Act, 1994. What is the legal advice in relation to the status of that section? Is it intended to appeal the decision?

The Deputy should put down a question to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The Minister and his Department have been discussing that court case, but I think it is more appropriate for a question.

May I ask the Taoiseach a question on item 73 on yesterday's Order Paper? Last week I raised the issue of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform making orders under section 5 of the Aliens Act, 1935, part of which has been found to be unconstitutional. Legislation currently before the House would retrospectively validate that, but the opinion of the Oireachtas on the legislation has not yet been tested. Is the Taoiseach satisfied that the orders made that purport to be constitutional are constitutional and has the Attorney General so advised the Minister?

That question is not in order.

The legislation is before the House, but the answer to that question is yes.

There is a serious lack of investment and under-resourcing both of the Naval Service and the Air Corps at present. When will the White Paper on Defence be published? It appears decisions are not being made in this area pending its publication.

There will be questions on defence tomorrow.

In the middle of the week.

Has the Government plans to bring in legislative measures to deal with the phenomenon whereby insurance cover is apparently now to be dictated by place of residence and size of car? It is an unconscionable situation that the concept of what is being called burdened borrowing will determine who gets insurance cover and who pays the penalty for not getting such cover.

The Deputy should come and live in County Louth.

He does not like the accent.

Is legislation promised on this matter?

No, but the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment has ordered officials in her Department to contact the company with a view to clarifying the situation. The Tánaiste's comments are in the public domain. We will have to see precisely what the company is about in this instance.

It is a form of cherrypicking. It is simply not acceptable that if one is living in Tallaght or certain other areas one will pay 25 per cent more for insurance, or cannot get it at all, whereas those in more affluent circumstances will be treated more favourably.

The Deputy is making a comment but it is not in order to do so.

Unfortunately, there is a loading.

That was the case when the Deputy was in Government.

I wish to ask a question concerning promised legislation on behalf of many charities of good standing in the country that have been seeking such legislation. Recently we were told that the Fundraising for Charitable and Other Purposes Bill would be taken shortly. What is the Taoiseach's explanation of "shortly"? Has a date been set in this session for that legislation?

Will the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill definitely be taken this session in light of the legal action pending in Europe against Ireland? Ireland has the worst record on habitat protection in Europe.

As I said recently, work on preparing the general scheme of the Fundraising for Charitable and Other Purposes Bill is proceeding in the Department as quickly as possible. It is a question of legislative priorities but work is proceeding on it. I do not have a definite date but I have asked that the legislation be moved on. The Wildlife (Amendment) Bill will be ready, hopefully, by Easter.

As it appears the issue of hello money is in contravention of legislation, will the Taoiseach clarify whether the Tánaiste will be instituting an investigation?

That matter is more appropriate to a parliamentary question.

It appears there is a potential impact. Will the Tánaiste be carrying out an investigation?

The Local Elections (Disclosure of Donations and Expenditure) Bill was published yesterday. When does the Taoiseach expect this Bill will come before the House? Is there some inadvertent mistake in the publication of the Bill? Do I understand the position correctly to be that a candidate in a Dáil or European election will be limited in his or her expenditure while candidates for an urban council may spend as much as they like?

We cannot discuss the contents of a Bill on the Order of Business, just the timing of the legislation.

The legislation was published yesterday and it will be introduced in the Seanad.

There is no Cabinet decision?

The expert group's report on child care was published two or three weeks ago, but for some reason it has not been circulated to Members. Will the Taoiseach arrange to have that report circulated to Members?

I will check it.

It is the exception that proves the rule.

(Dublin West): I note the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs has come in from the cold.

The Deputy must have a question on the Order of Business.

(Dublin West): I have a question on the Order of Business, but I feared the Minister was the victim of a multi-agency coup d'état.

Comments of that kind are not in order on the Order of Business.

(Dublin West): Has the Government reconsidered the urgency of the Ground Rents Bill with a view to advancing it from the list where it languishes at the moment?

It is with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur arís i dtaobh reachtaíocht atá geallta, sé sin an Bille chun Acht Údarás na Gaeltachta a leasú. An bhfuil sé ar intinn ag an Taoiseach an reachtaíocht seo a chur ar ais agus é a thógaint arís an bhliain seo chugainn toisc go bhfuil deacrachtaí aimsithe ag an Aire Stáit in a leith?

The reason I am asking this specific question whether the Taoiseach and the Government will consider postponing the Bill to amend the Údarás na Gaeltachta Act is that it will not deal with boundaries for the Údarás elections. There are many complex matters which the Minister of State decides.

The Deputy has to give a reason for asking these questions.

Is that possible?

In our constituency it is very difficult. Given the widespread anxiety that there will not be time to deal adequately with the question of boundaries, my question is whether the Taoiseach and the Government will accede to requests to postpone the amending legislation to give the Aire Stáit and the Aire an opportunity to have meaningful consultations with those affected.

The heads of the Bill have been passed and, hopefully, legislation will be ready after Easter.

A press release is causing great disturbance in the west.

We cannot pursue this matter further on the Order of Business. The Deputy may pursue it in another way.

My question is simple. When will the actual text of the legislation be published?

After Easter.

Is the Taoiseach prepared to provide Government time for a meaningful debate on the current position regarding duty free?

That is a matter for the Whips. It was the subject of an Adjournment debate only last week. The Deputy should find another way to raise this matter which was raised only last week. It is not in order on the Order of Business.

Matters have developed since then. It is important.

What is the current position in regard to the promised Defamation Bill?

I do not have a date but I will communicate it to the Deputy. The Bill is still under preparation.