The Order of Business is No. 5, Mental Health Bill, 1999 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, and No. 6, Sex Offenders Bill, 2000 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
Order of Business.
Does the Government propose to publish the report mentioned in the newspapers today concerning the use of children as guinea pigs by drug companies in the 1960s and 1970s? Will the Taoiseach curb the "champagne Charlie" attitude of his Minister for Finance who—
That does not arise on the Order of Business.
—in the course of an interview which immediately followed a report that medical services were not available to sick people, insensitively pretended that all is well? The economy is working—
Deputy Owen, that does not arise on the Order of Business..
—but the Government is not working. It is time the Minister for Finance realised that there are many people in this coun try who are not getting the services to which they are entitled.
Will this report be published and will the Taoiseach be more sensitive to the people of this country?
Does the Taoiseach wish to answer the question about the report?
On a point of order, when the Chairman is on his feet is the microphone in front of the person who is interrupting to be turned off?
The Deputy does not like it being on.
I understood it should be turned off.
The Deputy does not want to hear that people cannot get medical services.
No. The Deputy's microphone should not be switched on.
Pity the Deputy's is not switched off.
Good news is bad news for the Opposition.
What about the services people cannot get?
The Deputies are begrudgers. They do not want to see people getting their money back.
Tell that to the people on hospital and housing waiting lists.
Nothing is being done for them.
They will not be miserable this week when they get their pay packets under the new tax regime.
Fianna Fáil decided to vote against the Private Members' Bill on joyriding last night, much to the discomfort of many Government backbenchers. Will the Taoiseach indicate when No. 67 on the legislative list, the criminal justice Garda SMI Bill, will be brought forward so the issues that were discussed and agreed upon last night can be debated with a view to improving the services of the Garda Síochána for communities which, notwithstanding the views of the Minister for Finance, have miserable lives due to the Government's incompetence?
They are not celebrating.
The heads of that Bill were approved in February and the drafting is ongoing. It will be later this year or early next year before the Bill is completed.
What about the report on the use of vaccines?
The report by the chief medical officer of the Department of Health and Children into the vaccine trials in the 1960s and 1970s is in final draft stage. Discussions are ongoing between the Department and the office of the Attorney General regarding the arrangements for the report's publication. Counsel has advised that draft copies of the report should be sent on a confidential basis to the Eastern Health Board, Southern Health Board, Glaxo and Professor Irene Hillery for observations on the contents prior to its publication. That is because people are mentioned in the report.
The draft report will be sent to the office of the Attorney General by the end of this week. When cleared by the Attorney General it is intended to issue the report to the people I mentioned and they will be given time to respond. The Minister has no difficulty with the report being debated in the House in due course. Legally, we must go through due process because people are mentioned by name in the report. That process would have to take place by resolution of the House.
When does the Taoiseach think the report will be published?
The Attorney General's involvement should be finished this week. Since people are named, the report must be given to them. One would have to give them a reasonable period although it should not be more than a few weeks. The Minister was anxious to discuss the report in the House next week but legally he cannot do that.
It has already been written about in the newspapers. Somebody has the report.
Will the Taoiseach order an investigation into the leaking of the report? The voluntary organisations have been waiting three years for it.
That does not arise on the Order of Business.
They are now looking for the report. It is causing serious concern to parents of vaccine damaged children. They are concerned that somebody has leaked the report's contents without them getting sight of it.
I appreciate the tolerance the Chair has shown the House on this issue. It is because of the leak that the normal procedure outlined by the Taoiseach must be accelerated. Given that 19 Bills were promised during this session and so far only five have been published – we are very close to the Easter recess – is the Taoiseach satisfied that the Government system of legislation formulation, drafting and publication is meeting its own targets because there seems to be quite a degree of slippage? This is a legislative House and there is much talent in it. Last night the Government voted down a Bill which could easily have been amended on Second Stage. Proper laws, which our community needs, could be put on the Statute Book. The system is not working at the moment.
Deputy Quinn knows that in the past 12 months a record number of Bills have gone through this House.
A record number of delays.
Recently, the Finance Bill, the Social Welfare Bill, the Planning and Development Bill and the National Minimum Wage Bill have gone through the House, all of which are extremely important. By the end of this session, 14 of the 19 Bills will be published, so that is an enormous amount of work.
In reply to the question about times, I have seen the leaks in the newspapers and the Minister is very conscious of them. The advice from the Attorney General's office is publication in the Dáil, maybe by way of one of the following three options. First, presentation of the report to the Dáil to avail of whatever level of qualified privilege attaches to such a course. We would have to take account of that and it would need to be discussed by the Whips. Second, to publish the report by way of a Dáil resolution to attract Article 15.12 privilege. Third, to send the report to the Oireachtas Committee in order to avail of privilege under section 22 of the Committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Privilege and Procedure) Act, 1976. Before we do that, we would have to get to the stage where we finish the process but we will do that as quickly as possible.
Before the rest of it is leaked.
I raise the same issue – this report. Although the Taoiseach has dealt with the matter, in the context of his response, it is of the greatest importance for the children and parents of these children that there is no delay. Is the report, as reported, in a first draft stage? Is the Taoiseach in a position to tell the House when it will be finalised because that is not clear from what he said? There is great public interest in this report being fully available and not leaked in stages and in the Government indicating what actions it will take on foot of the report.
The report by the chief medical officer of the Department of Health and Children on the vaccine trials in orphanages in the 1960s and 1970s is the final draft. Discussions are ongoing between the Department of Health and Children and the Attorney General regarding arrangements for the report's publication.
Does the Taoiseach have any idea how this report was leaked?
We cannot have any more discussion on that. I call Deputy Michael D. Higgins.
The Taoiseach might be able to tell us.
Deputy Owen, I have called Deputy Michael D. Higgins. I ask Deputy Owen to resume her seat.
With, I hope, agreement from all parties, will the Taoiseach make time available for a debate on the threatened famine in Ethiopia? There are two aspects which are very important.
Deputy Higgins, it is not entirely in order but if the Taoiseach wishes to answer your question, I will allow him. If you persist in making a statement, I will have to rule you out of order.
I am not making a statement. The two aspects for which I ask that time be made available for debate are, what steps are being taken to resolve the Eritrea-Ethiopian conflict, which is impeding the aid, and whether we could have—
Deputy Higgins, that is out of order. The question of a debate in the House is a matter for the Whips.
I have raised this matter in the House in recent days. A very serious situation is developing in the horn of Africa, particularly in Ethiopia. In the Taoiseach's absence, the Tánaiste indicated that the Whips would consider making time available next week.
As I stated yesterday, I am in favour of a debate as soon as time can be arranged by the Whips.
What progress has been made on the Bill to establish a tribunal so that Army deafness compensation cases can be taken out of the courts? There has been a long delay in removing them from the courts to a tribunal. It was one of the Bills promised this term. Is it still likely to be published in this session?
It will not be published in this session but I hope it will be published in May or June.
In his reply, the Taoiseach said the report on vaccines would be sent to the health committee—
Deputy Gormley, we are not reopening that matter. I call Deputy Sargent.
It is an important matter. The committee is overwhelmed. Will the Taoiseach ensure it is properly resourced?
Deputy Gormley, please resume your seat. We are not reopening that matter.
It is a point the Taoiseach—
I hope the Taoiseach heard that point even if he cannot reply to it.
The Taoiseach will not reply to it. The Chair will decide.
I understand that. I would like to ask a ceist faoi Bhille na Gaeilge. Tá neart daoine ag lorg an Bhille agus tá moill air de réir dealraimh. An féidir leis an Taoiseach a rá an bhfuil sé glacaithe ag na Ranna éagsúla gur féidir leis dul ar aghaidh? Go bhfios dom tá sé leis na Ranna faoi láthair.
The position is the same. The draft memorandum has been to Government and is out for observations. The Bill will be published in the autumn.
On proposed legislation, all proposals have been received from the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources since September 1998. Will the Taoiseach indicate when the Fisheries Harbours (Amendment) Bill will be published to introduce new management structures for the various fishery harbour centres?
The Bill will give new management structures to fishery harbours. The heads of the Bill are expected in mid-summer but the Bill will not be published until the autumn.
Has the Taoiseach had any report on last night's bomb in Northern Ireland? Does he have anything to tell the House? Has he concerns about it and does he know who might have set off the bomb?
I received reports of an explosion at the perimeter fence of Ebrington Barracks in the Waterside area of Derry. The explosion took place at around 6.30 a.m. this morning. Thankfully, there are no reports of casualties. We have raised the matter with the British authorities through the framework of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and have sought further details of the explosion.
I have no details about who was involved but I suspect – there have been a number of events recently – it is dissident republican groups, particularly in that area. It is very close to where the Ballykelly explosion took place some weeks ago. Needless to say, I take the opportunity to unreservedly condemn the futile and criminal bomb attack on the barracks this morning, which is also an attack on peace. Such actions are anti-republican and they will not overturn the democratic will of the people. I restate that the two Governments, all the pro-agreement parties and the parties in this House are determined to make sure such acts do not stop our efforts but, if anything, strengthen the efforts to try to find a resolution to the present difficulties.
Does the Taoiseach agree that the bomb in question further underlines the absolute urgency of all-party talks being convened as soon as possible to break the impasse in the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement? When will this House debate the Health Insurance Bill which is to give effect to the proposals in the White Paper on Private Health Insurance? It is one of the Bills due to be published in this session.
The Bill is still due this session.
Is the Government concerned about fulfilling the conditions of the Kyoto Agreement? Is the Taoiseach aware of the alarming report yesterday about the depletion of the ozone layer and our commitments to stop producing carbon gases? There was an announcement last week that we are to build two more power generating plants burning fossil fuels. That is in total contradiction to the agreement. What are we doing to play our part? This is also a major health matter.
That would be more appropriate to a parliamentary question. I call Deputy Hayes.
That will be news to Deputy Enright.
We have the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, playing politics with the issue.
Today's questions are to the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, when the issue can be discussed.
I will ensure that view from Fine Gael is sent throughout my constituency.
The Minister is a diplomat.
In 1998 the Government published the road safety strategy document on reducing road deaths. Since then it has promised to introduce legislation for a penalty points system for road traffic violations. Are we likely to see that before the end of this session?
Will the Government give the Garda a few more speed cameras?
The Bill will be taken this year, but it will be in the autumn session.
The public gallery is full of school groups but, unfortunately, all those will be denied a proper tour of the Houses of the Oireachtas because of staff shortages in the usher service.
That matter does not arise on the Order of Business. We cannot have a discussion on it. I call Deputy Jim Higgins.
It is an important matter for Members and their visitors. Will the Taoiseach take steps through the Minister for Finance to ensure all vacancies are filled as a matter of urgency?
Deputy Shortall should resume her seat.
We cannot operate properly with staff shortages. It is the responsibility of the Minister for Finance to ensure that staff shortages are dealt with as a matter of urgency.
It is not appropriate to the Order of Business. I call Deputy Jim Higgins.
There are too many vacancies. When will the situation be dealt with properly?
I ask Deputy Shortall to resume her seat.
The Taoiseach is too busy celebrating.
He has taken his eye off the ball.
(Mayo): Now that there will be longer opening hours for pubs, clubs and discos—
This is to help Charlie celebrate.
A question appropriate to the Order of Business.
(Mayo): Now that we are to have longer opening hours for pubs, clubs and discos, presumably we will have an increase in the employment of bouncers and an increase in their activity and brutality. With the Government having turned down two Fine Gael Private Members' Bills on the private security industry, when will we see the long-promised private security industry Bill from the Government? It should happen simultaneously with this Bill.
The heads of the Bill were approved by Government on 25 January and are now being drafted. The Bill will not be ready until later in the year.