The Order of Business today will be No. 9, the Finance Bill 2004, Financial Resolution; No. 16, Private Security Services Bill 2001, Report and Final Stages (Resumed) to adjourn at 7 p.m. if not previously concluded; and No. 17, Ráiteisí ar an nGaeilge. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight. Business shall be interrupted not later than 10 p.m. No. 9 shall be decided without debate. The proceedings of No. 17 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10 p.m. and the following arrangements shall apply: the statement of the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and of 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 statements of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 10 minutes in each case; and Members may share time. Private Members' business shall be No. 4, International Peace Missions Deployment Bill 2003, Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, and the proceedings on the Second Stage thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 10 March 2004.
Order of Business.
There are four proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 9 without debate agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 17 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' business agreed? Agreed.
I note we have Ministers in China, New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong. Will the Taoiseach tell us what will emerge from the attendance of Deputy Ned O'Keeffe at the Oslo Aerospace Technology Exhibition?
The Deputy can submit a question on that matter. It is not appropriate to the Order of Business.
Flying pigs. This is Irish heritage month in the US. What official recognition is the Government lending to this initiative? On legislation, did the Government discuss the heads of the electronic voting Bill this morning? When are we likely to see that Bill presented to the House?
Yes, the heads of the Bill were cleared this morning and it has now gone for final drafting. In its revised form the Bill is very short but under the Supreme Court decision the entire Electoral Act must be re-enacted, so that work has to be done. Most of us will not be here next week so we will probably begin the week after next, on this day fortnight.
The Taoiseach did not answer my questions about the proposals the Minister for Finance pledged to bring forward to control the costs of tribunals of inquiry. Will those proposals involve legislation? Can the Taoiseach say when they will be brought forward? This is the same combination of parties which gave an additional €800 per day to the lawyers.
That issue does not arise.
When in front of the party faithful they profess to wanting to control the costs. Is there legislation or is this more old blather from the Minister for Finance? I believe it is.
Has the Cabinet agreed to the Bill to permit the implementation of electronic voting? If so, when is it likely to be introduced to the House?
I have just answered the second question.
The Bill dealing with the new format for inquiries is before the House and has reached Committee Stage. The Minister for Finance's view is that when that Bill has passed we should have a new arrangement for financing and we should not continue with the present scheme.
That Bill has nothing to do with this. It was debated here last Friday when the Minister was on his way out to City West. What kind of misleading of the people is being engaged in?
We cannot have a debate on the content of the Bill.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform had that Bill before the House. He published it nine months ago. It is before the House. What was being referred to? The Minister for Finance said he inherited these tribunals, which is untrue.
The Deputy is out of order. I ask him to resume his seat.
I may very well be but the Minister said he was bringing forward proposals to control costs. Is there any basis for that? Is it permissable that the Minister should conduct himself in this fashion?
It is not appropriate to be out of order. I ask Deputy Rabbitte to resume his seat. We want some order on the Order of Business. The Deputy asked his question and he got his answer. The Chair is not responsible for the answer. Allow Deputy Sargent to ask a question.
It is disgraceful.
The Deputy should resume his seat.
He said he inherited the tribunals, which is a complete——
We cannot have a debate on the issue.
It is a farce.
Deputy Rabbitte should resume his seat please.
Legislation has been promised which may, I hope, save many jobs in the wind energy sector which are threatened by the EirGrid decision not to allow any further wind energy on to the electricity grid. The energy Bill is due this year but I ask the Taoiseach if it could be brought forward as a matter of urgency because the energy regulator——
It is not necessary to make a statement.
——is, by his action, threatening many jobs in this country.
The energy Bill is to amend the powers of the Commission for Energy Regulation, CER, regulate assets not owned by the ESB, facilitate the development of an east-west Ireland-Wales electricity interconnector, increase the borrowing limits of the ESB and give the Minister power to give general directions to the CER. The heads of that Bill are being prepared and are expected by the Government shortly.
In what was probably the greatest miracle since the loaves and the fishes, I understand Sinn Féin alleges it ran a campaign in Northern Ireland on less than £25,000. In view of this and the fact that, according to himself, Mr. Adams is not and never has been a member of the IRA——
Has the Deputy a question on legislation?
——is the Taoiseach satisfied in regard to Vote 12, the secret service, that €767,000 is enough to discover the real activities of these people? Will an opportunity be found to discuss this matter in the House?
That does not arise on the Order of Business.
It must arise somewhere.
Yes, but not on the Order of Business.
We have been taken for a walk one time too many.
The Taoiseach will be aware of the difficulties schools are having getting Garda vetting for personnel such as caretakers and special needs assistants. The interdepartmental group was due to report on the register of persons considered unsafe to work with children Bill. This matter cannot be let go on any longer given the seriousness of the issue.
That is a statement. Does the Deputy have a question?
When will the register of persons considered unsafe to work with children Bill be published and brought before the House? There are lessons which have been learned in Britain that we do not want to learn here.
It is important matter. The cross-departmental working group has been working on this for some time to put forward proposals for the reform of vetting of employees by the Garda. The final meeting of this group has taken place and a report will be presented to the Garda Commissioner in the near future.
In a reply to me last week, the Minister for Health and Children indicated that he would bring to Cabinet shortly proposed terms of reference for the non-statutory inquiry into the conduct of affairs at the obstetric and gynaecology unit at Our Lady of Loudres Hospital in Drogheda. Will we have an opportunity to discuss those terms of reference in the House as there is grave concern which has already been expressed to me by people who were victims of malpractice at that unit?
The Deputy does not have to make a statement on the matter.
While it is a non-statutory inquiry, will the Taoiseach accommodate a full exposure to the detail of the terms of reference by bringing them before the House?
I will have to raise the matter with the Minister. I will send a note to the Deputy.
The Health Insurance Authority has decided not to bring in risk equalisation at this stage which is likely to cause the VHI to seek an increase in premia yet again. Given the concerns among VHI subscribers——
Does the Deputy have a question relating to legislation?
I would not be standing here if I did not have one.
The Deputy cannot make a statement or a Second Stage speech.
There is legislation.
The Ceann Comhairle should give Deputy McManus time to come to it.
Legislation is promised in this area and it is of concern to VHI subscribers because——
What is appropriate on Second Stage of legislation cannot be debated on the Order of Business. We must move on.
The legislation promised——
The legislation promised is the Voluntary Health Insurance board (corporate status) Bill. We do not know what its contents are——
The Taoiseach on the legislation.
——because they are a secret. Can that legislation be published so we can see what will happen to the VHI?
The legislation is due this year. I do not have a more accurate time.
Will the Government parties allow time for a debate on our roads policy following the——
Is a debate promised?
May I put a concept to the Taoiseach?
The Deputy has asked a question. He is allowed to ask a question on debates that are promised.
There is a serious issue of order which I tried to raise with the Ceann Comhairle last week. I asked the Minister for Transport a question——
The Deputy cannot raise that on the Order of Business.
I asked him a question as to when the Government approved a specific road project. He told me he had no interest in the matter, yet last weekend he announced it as a great Government decision at the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis.
It does not arise on the Order of Business.
That shows contempt for the Opposition. Will the Government allow time for a debate on roads policy? We cannot ask the National Roads Authority.
That does not arise. Is a debate promised?
We cannot ask the Minister and there is no time.
No debate is listed.
No debate is promised. I call Deputy Gilmore.
The contempt shown is disgraceful.
Allow Deputy Gilmore or I will move on to the next business.
In his reply to Deputy Kenny, I understood the Taoiseach to say that the legislation which has been approved by the Government in respect of electronic voting is not specifically on that issue but re-enacts the entire Electoral Act. Will he clarify that? Does that mean the entire Electoral Act, including those Parts which do not relate to electronic voting, is to be re-enacted? Are there any other changes to electoral law to be included in that Bill other than those specifically allowing for electronic voting in the local and European Parliament elections?
The first question is in order.
The Deputy correctly repeated what I stated. The Electoral Act, or most of it, must be re-enacted — I think there are some aspects of it which do not — but there is no change in it. It is as a result of the Supreme Court judgment on the Carrickmines case.
Will the Government bring forward the ground rents Bill promised seven years ago?
If Deputy Woods is brought back to Cabinet.
It is not possible to indicate when at this stage.
We figured that out.
On Thursday we will debate the final Stages of the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. Will the Taoiseach insist that the Minister for Social and Family Affairs reverse the draconian and right-wing measures she has introduced in this Bill which have left people homeless and have cut back on payments to widows, the most under-funded group in the country——
That does not arise on the Order of Business.
——and on whose side Fianna Fáil insists it is? For a woman to take these measures is disgraceful. This is International Women's Day. I know now why the Minister will not come to the House. She is a disgrace.
That does not arise on the Order of Business. We must move on to the next business.