The Order of Business shall be No. 21 – motion re: Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income and Capital Gains) (Kingdom of Norway) Order, 2001 (returned from Committee); No. 22 – motion re: Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income and Capital Gains) (Republic of India) Order, 2001 (returned from Committee); No. 23 – motion re: Referral to Select Committee of proposed approval of the terms of the Treaty between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the United States of America on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters; No. 48 – Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill, 2001 – Second Stage (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 21, 22 and 23 shall be decided without debate. Private Members' business shall be No. 114 – motion re: Housing.
Order of Business.
There is one proposal to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 21, 22 and 23 without debate, motions re: double taxation relief and motion, re Referral to Select Committee of the terms of the treaty between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the United States of America agreed? Agreed. I now proceed to leaders' questions. I call Deputy Noonan.
With your permission, Sir, I wish to acknowledge the huge contribution by the Defence Forces to peace keeping in the Lebanon in the past 23 years, now that their mission has come to an end. I especially acknowledge and remember the families of the 46 personnel who lost their lives during that period.
Yesterday's tragic aeroplane crash in New York was a cruel coincidence for a city that has suffered enough already. It will have adverse consequences for the aviation industry world-wide. In that context will the Taoiseach report progress to the House on the state of Aer Lingus, the rescue package and if the Government is still pressing the case in Brussels for an investment of equity in the company?
I join the leader of the Fine Gael Party in saluting our Defence Forces and their contribution in the Lebanon. We are mindful not only of those who died but also of the one person who is still missing. By way of supplementary question to Deputy Noonan's, will the Taoiseach indicate if, in view of the additional burden this second dreadful event in New York will have on the aviation industry, it is time for a developed domestic tourism policy to be promulgated by the Government to offset what will be a disinclination by many people to travel by air?
I also congratulate and thank all our soldiers who have served not only in the recent past but over the past 23 years in Camp Shamrock and Tibnin. The Minister for Defence has already done so. They provided a huge service, not only to this country but to the flag of the United Nations. I also thank their families for allowing them to make that contribution. I also remember the 46 members of the Defence Forces who tragically lost their lives during those years. Some years ago I had the opportunity to visit Tibnin and acknowledge the enormous work undertaken by the soldiers, not only in the service of the United Nations but also on humanitarian issues, in the orphanage and other child welfare issues. They brought great service to the country and built up a special relationship with the local population.
I also join Deputies Noonan and Howlin in, once again, extending my sympathies to the United States, to Mayor Giuliani and the citizens of New York. One accident is bad enough but on top of the atrocities of 11 September it is appalling for those affected. The tragedy will not help the aviation industry. It has already affected share prices and has been a shock to aviation companies.
Like other airlines, Aer Lingus is going through a difficult period. Our concern is to help it. All negotiation lines remain open and we must continue to work to try to ensure the company can be sustained through this difficult period. The Minister for Public Enterprise will continue her efforts in this regard.
Does the Taoiseach agree that the likelihood of attracting private equity to Aer Lingus is diminishing? At close of business yesterday, British Airways lost £120 million of its value on the price of its shares quoted on the stock market and aviation companies world-wide had similar or greater mark-downs. Does the Taoiseach agree that Aer Lingus is weeks from a major crisis while the Government stands idly by without any strategy for providing equity for the company? We are all agreed the company needs equity.
I call the Taoiseach for a final reply on this question.
The company needs assistance and we must work out the best way to provide it. We have made our case in the European context and will continue to do so. We must also deal with other matters. The Labour Relations Commission is now actively involved with Aer Lingus management and unions, assisting in the creation of an agreed process and timetable for discussions on the survival plan. We must monitor these discussions and will continue to look at equity aspects. However, nobody wants us to provide equity at any cost which might damage the company's sustainability.
Some of those involved in the aviation business are offering equity for the purpose of asset stripping companies to their base requirements. If that was to happen to Aer Lingus the result would be much worse for the company in terms of the survival plan the Government is seeking to achieve. We must continue to try to assist the company, the unions and the management through what is a very difficult period while continuing to make the case for the obvious need for equity.
Can the Taoiseach do something about the inadequate redundancy package?
This is Leaders' questions. I call Deputy Howlin.
Has the Taoiseach considered the implication of last Thursday's Supreme Court decision regarding waste charges? The court ruled that a local authority could not refuse to collect refuse from a customer who had not paid a charge. Does the Taoiseach accept this will have an enormous effect on the waste strategies of many local authorities, on the systems in place and that it could lead to a waste crisis in the near future?
(Dublin West): Abolish the charges.
I call Deputy Noonan.
Does the Taoiseach agree that waste management has been proceeding on the fundamental principle that the polluter pays? The Supreme Court appears to have decided that in so far as the polluter generates domestic refuse, the polluter does not have to pay. What does the Government intend to do to ensure local authorities may continue in a solvent manner and collect domestic refuse?
Yes, all aspects arising from the decision of the Supreme Court will be examined. It is a serious matter and will have to be looked at. Penalties is one issue but the liability remains. It is incorrect to say liability now ceases as my advice is that it does not cease. The Department of the Environment and Local Government will get a full assessment of the full judgment as speedily as possible and we will then have to act on that. I emphasise that liability remains.
What advice has the Government given to local authorities in the interim? Are local authorities to continue to enforce the systems in place, such as that in Cork Corporation? Cork Corporation has indicated it will continue with its policy. Has the Government considered the necessity for amending legislation in this regard?
There is no amending legislation being considered at this stage. It will not be considered until the legal assessment has been completed by the Department of the Environment and Local Government. Regarding the Deputy's first question, liability remains and advice to local authorities is that they should collect the charges. Their onus to do that has not changed in the context of penalties.
When will the Greater Dublin Area Land Use and Transport Authority Bill be introduced? This is legislation which will challenge theHarry Potter movie currently on release. It is supposed to make provision for transport planning in the greater Dublin area. It is a great misnomer to say there is transport planning. When will somebody take control of the transport systems in Dublin so people can move and not have to sit in cars for two or three hours?
The first part of the question is in order.
The heads of the Bill are expected prior to Christmas and the legislation will be introduced in the New Year.
Arising from the near rail disaster last Thursday in Arklow when two locomotives uncoupled and rolled down the track in the path of an oncoming passenger train, when will the rail safety Bill be introduced?
It will, I hope, be published within the next few weeks, certainly before Christmas.
Things are changing rapidly in Afghanistan. The Minister for Foreign Affairs still represents us on the Security Council. Can we have a debate and be updated on the situation by way of statements this week?
Yes, if that is possible, I would agree to it.
Is the Taoiseach aware that this week old age pensioners are getting letters—
That does not arise. Has the Deputy a question relating to the Order of Business?
—from the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs saying their pensions will be cut by £10 or £20 per week?
Has the Deputy a question relevant to the Order of Business?
What is the Taoiseach going to do about it?
I call Deputy Rabbitte.
The most vulnerable sector of the community is being hit.
The Order of Business has been very orderly up to now and we would like it to continue that way. I call Deputy Rabbitte.
When will the competition Bill be brought before the House?
The Bill to give effect to the recommendations of the competitions mergers review will be brought before the House this session. The heads of the Bill have long been passed and it should be ready in the next few weeks.
When will we finally take Second Stage on the Courts and Court Officers Bill, which has been published for some considerable time?
As soon as the Whips agree. The Minister is ready to take it.
On the campus-stadium Ireland Bill, given the current economic downturn, will the Taoiseach accept the Bill should be dropped, that it is a luxury we cannot afford? Will he agree that a far better gesture would be to give a half day on Thursday so school children can watch the match?
The Deputy is moving from the Order of Business.
Work is progressing speedily on the Bill.
Is the Taoiseach aware that a work to rule is taking place in the offices of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development in Galway because of poor working conditions?
That does not arise under the Order of Business.
Is he aware of the inconvenience this is causing for all farmers in Galway? Can the Taoiseach do something to solve it?
The Deputy will have to find another way of raising the matter.
The Minister for Health and Children indicated there would be a scheme of orthodontic subsidy which would require legislation, but he has refused to introduce the legislation and has abandoned the scheme, though many parents' hopes were raised. Will the Taoiseach arrange for legislation to be provided for this scheme, or has the Minister for Health and Children bungled it?
People had started to spend money on it.
That is a question for the Minister for Health and Children, but I will raise the Deputy's question with the Minister.
(Dublin West): The Good Friday Agreement obliges the British Government to complete incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into Northern Ireland law, but the internment legislation requires them to opt out of Article 5 of the convention.
The Order of Business applies to legislation in this House.
(Dublin West): The Good Friday Agreement was passed in the House and by vote of the Irish people. I am in order. I want to ask the Taoiseach about the legislative implications for the Dáil and this jurisdiction—
That certainly does not arise on the Order of Business. I suggest the Deputy submits a parliamentary question. I call Deputy Clune.
(Dublin West): I am very disappointed with your ruling. It relates to an agreement voted upon—
The matter is within the Agreement and it is proper that it should be the subject of a parliamentary question rather than the Order of Business.
At the weekend an exercise was carried out to establish how safe we are in the event of a nuclear accident. What steps is the Taoiseach taking to ensure additional security measures are placed—
That does not arise on the Order of Business.
Where is the fact sheet?
Mr. Higgins (Mayo): We have a great habit of signing up to conventions willy-nilly and then allowing them languish. In 1997 Ireland signed the revised Eurocontrol Convention and we still have not seen the legislation to give effect to it. When can we expect the air navigation eurocontrol Bill?
Early next year. The heads of the Bill are expected at the end of this year and the Bill should be introduced next year.
The Taoiseach is aware that parents around the country continue to feel they have to vindicate the rights of disabled children through the courts. What is the current timetable for the disability Bill?
It is still committed for this session. I understand the Department is under some pressure to achieve that, but it is still aiming to publish it this session.