Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 1, Oil Pollution of the Sea (Civil Liability and Compensation) (Amendment) Bill 2003 [Seanad] – Second Stage (resumed); No. 23, Residential Tenancies Bill 2003 – Second Stage (resumed); No. 28, Aer Lingus Bill 2003 – Second Stage (resumed); and No. 24, statements on the European Convention – Intergovernmental Conference, to be taken not later than 4.45 p.m. and the order shall not resume thereafter.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings on the resumed Second Stage of No. 1 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1.30 p.m.; the proceedings on No. 24 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. and the following arrangements shall apply: statements of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; the statement of each other Member, who shall be called upon in the following sequence, shall not exceed ten minutes in each case – Government, Fine Gael Party, Government, Labour Party, Government, Technical Group, with the sequence to recommence; Members may share time; and a Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed 15 minutes. Private Members' business is No. 35, motion re equity in Irish society, resumed – to conclude at 8.30 p.m.

There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 1 agreed to?

While I am not objecting to the taking of this business, it is an example of bad practice. The Government should have anticipated the need for a proper debate on this Bill, yet it is proposed to guillotine it as it needs to be implemented by 1 November. Members will have to take Committee Stage debate tomorrow with Second Stage barely completed. This is not fair to the House, which will not be able to give proper, reflected consideration to the Bill. While we support the objectives of the legislation, this is bad practice and the Taoiseach should take steps to prevent it happening in the House.

This Bill was taken in a rushed manner due to a deadline. The relevant committee, the Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, was sitting at the same time as Second Stage was being taken in the House. I mentioned this case of bad practice to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. We received notice of the importance of the Bill well in advance. It could have been allocated more time and disposed of much earlier in the year.

I concur with the previous speakers. While relatively minor, the Bill allows us to indicate issues on which Government policy in this area is falling down, of which there are many. The Dáil cannot have an impact when speakers do not have the time to contribute on this important issue. Many areas of Government policy need to be tackled with regard to oil pollution of the sea and its prevention in future and this Bill is only part of that. We need more time to debate the issue.

I concur with the other speakers. I think I am correct in saying this is the first time the guillotine has been employed in this session and that is unfortunate. Members have indicated their general support for the proposals in the Bill. The Government should take account of the collective view of the Opposition and extend the time. That would meet the need for a full debate in the House.

I accept the point that it would have been better to have more time to debate the Bill. The original intention was to include this Bill and the compensation mechanisms it provides for in a wider Bill but the Minister had to take this course. However, there will be other opportunities to discuss the issues. They will be dealt with in a more detailed Bill which is due to be brought forward. When introducing this Bill, the Minister said that the Sea Pollution (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is more wideranging and will relate to and fulfil requirements regarding other aspects of the marine environment. However, the provisions relating to the increased limits were fast tracked and published separately to comply with the deadline of 1 November. The other issues will be taken again under different legislation. I accept the points being made and thank Members for their co-operation on this issue. We have to deal with this matter now in order to meet the deadline.

The proposal is agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 24 agreed to?

No. The proposal relates to how the statements will be taken. It cannot be called a debate because it will not amount to that. We will have two hours and 15 minutes to address one of the most important issues affecting not only this jurisdiction but the European Union. There will be no opportunity for a question and answer exchange with the relevant Minister and the Taoiseach and there is no motion before the House so there will not be a vote. This is a dead and inappropriate way of addressing something that will have far-reaching implications for every citizen of this country and the European Union. We are failing in our responsibility and the Government is failing in its commitment, given during the Nice treaty debate, to transparency and full assessment of all EU matters in future Oireachtas procedures. That is not happening in this instance.

Over the past fortnight the Government has been negotiating on behalf of the Irish people but the people know little about the Government's stated position or approach in its engagement with other EU representatives on such controversial issues as, for example, the common defence proposal. This Chamber is where we should discuss this issue. I regret that proper accommodation of that debate is not entailed in this proposal.

The foreign affairs committee is dealing with this on an ongoing basis. Both the Minister and the Minister of State have been before that committee on a number of occasions dealing with the detail and that process will continue. The new working arrangements mean that as the debate moves on, we will continue to report to the committee. I do not have a difficulty with debating it in the House either. It is not an issue that will end. The Intergovernmental Conference has started and the committee will continue to reflect on the debate as it happens. We will come before the committee at each stage.

Question put and declared carried.

I read today that the database on people with intellectual disabilities has been published and it shows that the number waiting for services has increased 9% in the last 12 months. It also shows that over 500 people with intellectual disabilities are wrongly placed in psychiatric institutions. What progress is being made in introducing judicable rights for people with a disability so they can go to court to have their needs addressed? The Government has promised to introduce a disabilities Bill but to date we have not seen what rights will be conferred and whether it will be possible to pursue them in court. Will the Taoiseach indicate the progress on and direction of this Bill?

The Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill is before the House. The disabilities Bill is being drafted, as are the necessary frameworks. Consultation is taking place on that. As I said last week, it involves an enormous number of officials across all areas of Government because the Bill affects up to eight Departments. Hopefully, the Bill will be ready in November but it is an enormous task. Drafting the Bill is one thing but getting the frameworks which the organisations want in place at the same time is difficult. We will publish the Bill as soon as we can.

The Labour Party brought the corporate manslaughter Bill before the House but I understood from the Tánaiste's interview yesterday morning that she is contemplating bringing forward her own measure. Did I hear the Taoiseach dissent from that yesterday? Might the Government not be as supportive of the notion of legislating for corporate manslaughter as the Tánaiste?

I did not make any reference to that.

It was in reply to my question yesterday. The Taoiseach said he would consider it whereas in the Tánaiste's view it was to be done.

Is legislation promised?

If the Tánaiste said she was bringing it forward, she must mean it.

About a week ago a notice of a motion from the Government was published which indicated that it would be the subject of a debate. It said that the Dáil approved ratification of the international treaty on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. Given that this is a pressing matter in the European Union and that there are clear differences between Commissioner Margot Wallström and Commissioner David Byrne, according to their public statements, is it not time to arrange a debate on this matter? Findings in the UK indicate that a distance of 16 miles is needed to separate genetically modified from conventional crops—

That matter can be discussed by the Whips. I call Deputy Allen.

Will there be a debate on it? This is a motion the Government is bringing forward which states that the Dáil approves but we have not had a chance to either approve or disapprove. What issue is at stake here? On 8 October it is stated that the Dáil approves of the motion but I do not recall any approval being given to that motion.

Is a debate promised?

I have had no notification of a debate on it or a request for a debate. The Whips can discuss the issue.

Does the Dáil approve it or not? When will it be approved—

The Deputy should submit a question to the Minister responsible. I call Deputy Allen.

I am trying to find out if there will be a debate on it.

The Deputy asked his question and the Taoiseach answered it.

I am sorry that I have to ask the question but there is no other way. Are we going to have a debate?

Can we have an explanation?

I do not have a list of issues the House is due to debate between now and Christmas.

That is why the Taoiseach's Whip is behind him. Is the Dáil going to debate this?

If the Deputy wishes to have a debate on a matter, he should raise it at the Whips meeting. That is the appropriate way to deal with it.

We did and I am trying to find out if the Dáil is going to debate it.

The Opposition was promised detailed information on the electronic voting system that has been developed and will be used nationally for the European and local elections next year. To date we have been given no information on aspects of security and the efficiency of the system. Disability groups have told me that they will not have access to the machines because of their height. Since the Government has spent tens of millions of euro on the new equipment, I would like to know when the Members of the Opposition will get the information they have sought over many months.

I will raise that with the Minister. I believe the work is now complete, so we should be in a position to brief the Opposition spokesperson.

Is it the Government's intention to introduce an amendment to the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act 2003 in view of its unsatisfactory nature? One would need to be a senior counsel to apply to the county council or the health board under—

Is legislation promised?

No legislation is promised.

Is it the Government's intention to introduce the ombudsman (amendment) Bill? If so, when are we likely to have it?

The heads of the ombudsman (amendment) Bill have been approved, and the Bill is due in the middle of 2004.

For the past three years we have been promised time and time again that the Government would announce a decentralisation programme. Can the Taoiseach tell us when he will do so and whether it will be included in the Civil Service regulation (1956 Act) (amendment) Bill, No. 11 on the clár?

The Civil Service regulation (1956 Act) (amendment) Bill is for this session.

Will it include—

The Deputy cannot discuss the Bill's content.

I ask the Taoiseach and the Minister sitting next to him when we can expect to see the promised restructuring of registration for commercial shipping vessels in Ireland under the mercantile marine (amendment) Bill, and whether the Government will use the opportunity to introduce a new registration system for recreational vessels on the water.

The Bill has largely been drafted and it will be here next year.

Regarding ongoing grievous concerns about high insurance costs, when will the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Bill be introduced to the House? What is the timeframe for its enactment? Is it still envisaged that it will become a statutory body on 1 January 2004? Is it intended that the linked legislation concerning perjury from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform will also be enacted this session?

The first is a priority Bill which it is intended to pass this session. We would also like to pass the second Bill this session, but I know that its drafting is going rather more slowly, and there are some issues with which people have been dealing that have delayed it. However, they still hope to get it through this session. They want to try to get both Bills through. I feel less certain about the second, based on what I have heard recently. It will be available shortly, but it may not get into and through the House before the end of the session.

The Government has allowed Ireland to become a participant in the global arms trade and has authorised substantial exports of dual use products to the military, security and police forces of regimes around the world which violate human rights. Given the Government's commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, and having recognised the problem and commissioned Forfás to review Irish links with the arms industry, when will it produce a military export control Bill that will introduce effective and transparent end use monitoring mechanisms?

We are all in favour of exporting guns.

I have two easy questions. When will the Government publish its proposals to replace the Official Secrets Act 1963? I hope it is not a secret. My second question is close to the Taoiseach's heart and relates to the Abbotstown sports centre authority Bill. The last reply I got was that no date had been set for its publication. Might it be possible to set one? One hopes that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will not be out there trying to upset the Taoiseach, who should not be too modest about it. Why not announce a date?

The Deputy has done very well and should let the Taoiseach answer.

Let us see what the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has to say.

The second Bill is not yet listed, though it is ready. What was the first Bill?

It was the Official Secrets Act 1963.

That is already on the Statute Book.

I asked when the Government proposed to replace the Official Secrets Act 1963. Legislation is promised.

If it is, I do not have it listed. I do not think legislation is promised, but if there is I will inform the Deputy.

I can assure Members that legislation has been promised.

Yesterday the issue of the Hanly report was raised in this House. It is to be published at 2.15 p.m. today and a press conference held. Deputy Olivia Mitchell yesterday made the very important point that there is a pending deadline of August 2004 for junior hospital doctors' working time to be reduced. Now that the matter has been raised, has the Taoiseach had time to consider precisely when we can have that debate in the House? It is an urgent matter. I appreciate that there are many demands for debates, but we must pin this issue down. I ask the Taoiseach to respond.

It would be good if there were a debate on the Hanly report. I will see if we can arrange that as soon as possible. The Minister wants it published today, and he is in a position to do so.

Deputy Rabbitte asked me yesterday to check about tobacco regulations. They will be before the Government next week and before the House in November. I hope that clarifies matters.

There is a problem with voluntary bodies and people working with children being vetted by the gardaí. I believe it cannot currently happen. When will the Bill dealing with a register of persons considered unsafe to work with children be published?

Regarding a register of persons considered unsafe to work with children, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has established a working group on Garda vetting of people with significant unsupervised access to children and vulnerable persons. The group's work is aimed at the enhancement of services provided by the Garda central vetting unit. Therefore the issues being discussed have a considerably wider impact than the education sector alone. The group has representatives from the Department of Health and Children, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, and the Office of the Attorney General. It is currently not possible to give a date.

As the Deputy is aware, the recommendations also give effect to the recommendations of the child protection joint working group, and that legislation arises from the North-South Ministerial Council. There have been delays in its work, but the working group is continuing to deal with that very important matter.

Last week I asked on the Order of Business when the decision to send troops to Liberia would come before the House, and the Minister for Defence told me that it would be soon. Perhaps the Taoiseach might be more specific and tell us if he intends sending troops to Iraq. There is continued media speculation on that. When will that decision come before the House?

On the second issue, there is no such proposal. On the first, I have not yet got a date, but I understand it will be shortly, since we must comply with the UN request, as we have stated we will.

I have a question for the Taoiseach arising from his remarks and the views he expressed on the need for proper mechanisms of accountability regarding reporting in the media and the commitment in the programme for Government for structures regarding defamation. Will the Taoiseach elaborate on his views and will he indicate when the defamation Bill is likely to be introduced?

Is legislation promised?

The report of the advisory group on defamation was published as a consultation document during the summer. The consultation process is due to come to a conclusion at the end of this year so the legislation will not be forthcoming until next year.

Today's Order Paper indicates that a question I had tabled to the Taoiseach for oral answer in respect of his meeting with the president of Shell has been allocated to the Minister of State, Deputy Hanafin, for reply.

That matter does not arise on the Order of Business.

Will the Taoiseach clarify why that is the case when the question was directed to him?

I call Deputy Broughan.

Surely it does not come under—

That matter does not arise on the Order of Business.

The question is on today's Order Paper and I am merely seeking clarification from the Taoiseach. Will he, rather than the Minister of State, reply to the question?

I wish to ask questions on two issues—

Is it another secret?

—one of which relates to the previous speaker's point. When will the petroleum and other minerals development (amendment) Bill be published? Will this legislation be far-reaching, particularly in view of the fact that some of the decisions relating to this area date back to the 1987-88 period when Ray Burke served as Minister?

During the past two months it has sounded like a bad night in Baghdad on many evenings in my constituency and that of the Taoiseach, with explosion after explosion. Did the Taoiseach raise with Mr. Blair and Mr. Straw the illegal export of what appears to be thousands of tonnes of fireworks into this country?

The first question is in order.

The heads of the petroleum and other minerals development (amendment) Bill are expected before Christmas. The legislation will then proceed to final drafting.