Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 12, statements on the European Union reform treaty, and No. 13, Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Bill 2006 [Seanad] — Second Stage (resumed).

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted on the adjournment of Private Members' business which shall be No. 20, motion re road safety, which shall be taken for 90 minutes at 7 p.m. tonight, or on the conclusion of No. 12, whichever is the later; and (2) the proceedings on No. 12 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 8 p.m. tonight and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the statements of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case; (ii) the statements of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; (iii) Members may share time; (iv) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes.

There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 12 agreed to? Agreed.

Today is World Food Day with 150 countries around the world signing up to a commitment on The Right to Food at a time when some 850 million people are dying from chronic hunger and others are suffering from obesity. Is there in place a legislative proposal to mark Ireland's contribution to this crisis which continues to worsen as the population increases?

No. 36 on the Government's legislative programme is the George Mitchell Scholarship Fund Act 1998 (Amendment) Bill which proposes to facilitate an increase in Ireland's contribution to the fund during the next five years. Surely this does not require a legislative base and there exists another mechanism through which funds to a scholarship can be increased. No. 49 on the legislative programme is the mental health amendment Bill. I read recently reports of young children with psychiatric problems being placed in adult mental health institutions. This is not the type of Ireland we want in 2007.

In this regard, when will provision be made for children with psychiatric problems who do not deserve to be placed in adult psychiatric institutions? This should not be happening in this day and age.

On the first issue, Deputy Kenny is aware that a task force on world hunger has been established. A number of prominent people are working in this area. The task force is doing useful work with the resources contributed by Ireland through the ODA budget. Our current contribution is more than 0.5%.

On the two legislative measures, the George Mitchell Scholarship Fund Act 1998 (Amendment) Bill is to allow for an increase in resources. It is a five year programme and it requires a statutory base.

The mental health amendment Bill seeks to empower the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, to monitor and ensure compliance with the standards of assessment based on the 2001 report of the review body of mental health. Quite a number of centres cater for adolescents on a day basis and allow them home again rather than institutionalise them.

The programme for Government contains a commitment to a carbon budget in addition to the normal finance budget delivered each year. Related to this are suggestions or indications in respect of the introduction of carbon taxes. Is it intended that the carbon budget will be introduced by the Minister for Finance as part of the overall budget or will it be introduced separately by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government? Arising out of this does the Government intend such carbon taxes to be introduced to the House by the Minister for Finance or the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government? When is this likely to happen? We know on what day the budget will be delivered. Will the Taoiseach indicate what will be the timetable and choreography in this regard in terms of the arrangement of business in the House?

As I indicated previously, the Standing Order is quite specific. A question may be raised on promised legislation. This applies equally in respect of a Supplementary Estimate or the seeking of a debate. The question must relate to promises made.

It is promised in the programme for Government.

If it is promised in the programme for Government, I will allow the Taoiseach to answer the question.

The programme for Government states the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance will present an outline carbon report, referred to as a carbon budget, in conjunction with the annual financial budget. It also states the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will follow the carbon budget with a report that outlines to the House our use of energy in the preceding year, the progress made in meeting the reduction targets and Government plans to meet the targets in the following year. This is what is stated in the programme. The Minister for Finance will announce details of the 2008 budget on 5 December. There will be no further discussion on the matter prior to this date.

I wish to raise two issues. Does the Taoiseach agree that the collection of fines by gardaí is a waste of Garda time? Will he agree there is a need to bring forward the enforcement of fines Bill, which is No. 67 on the Government's legislative programme? I urge that this be done.

Does the Taoiseach condone the removal of a home help from a person who has been in receipt of it for the past ten years?

The Deputy's question does not relate to promised legislation.

This type of action drives people into nursing homes. In this regard, will the Taoiseach facilitate the introduction, as quickly as possibly, of the nursing home support scheme Bill?

The Taoiseach, on promised legislation.

The nursing home support scheme Bill will be introduced this session. I do not have a date in respect of the enforcement of fines Bill.

There has been reference already to the programme for Government. Will the Taoiseach facilitate a debate in this Chamber on the programme for Government? The Taoiseach would have to acknowledge that never has a programme for Government been so low key in its introduction. There has been little fanfare or heralding of it.

Deputy Ó Caoláin must ask a question on the Order of Business.

I doubt if I have ever seen a photograph of the Taoiseach and his colleagues, the leaders of the respective parties in the coalition Government, namely, Deputy Mary Harney of the Progressive Democrats and Deputy John Gormley of the Green Party, together. I would nearly defy the photographic media to present such a photograph at this point.

This coalition exists in name only: it does not present itself in this Chamber very often.

Does the Deputy have a question on the Order of Business?

What we need is for these three alleged parties to a programme for Government to come in here and be party to a debate so that we on the Opposition side can listen to and scrutinise what they are saying and establish once and for all whether they are all singing off the one hymn sheet.

The Deputy is not in order. I call Deputy Brian Hayes.

It is clear to many of us that they are not singing off the one hymn sheet. I put it to the Taoiseach that an opportunity exists to establish whether this programme for Government represents all parties.

The Deputy is not in order.

Will the Taoiseach facilitate a debate at the earliest opportunity?

The Deputy is not in order. I call Deputy Brian Hayes.

A debate on the programme for Government is completely in order and the Taoiseach should indicate when he intends to facilitate such a debate in this House. I have no doubt that colleagues in the other parties——

No, a debate is not in order.

The Deputy should get some rosin for his fiddle. He is out of tune.

Brian will fiddle while Bertie burns.

The Deputy should vary it a bit.

I call Deputy Brian Hayes.

It is fair to say the staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas and the Ceann Comhairle should be congratulated on the establishment of a new parliamentary education programme due to be rolled out during the next 12 months or so.

However, may I ask as a matter of courtesy to all Members of Dáil Éireann that the Ceann Comhairle's office inform the relevant Deputies of an impending visit by him on behalf of this House to their constituency? It is not acceptable for the Ceann Comhairle to visit a constituency promoting work with which we all agree while Deputies from that constituency are not present. In the interests of the Ceann Comhairle and of this House this should become standard practice before the roadshow continues in other parts of the country.

I am glad the Ceann Comhairle came to Dún Laoghaire first.

That courtesy will be extended. However, we will not be putting up posters. I call Deputy Jan O'Sullivan.

With respect, I do not want the Ceann Comhairle to find himself in the same compromising position in which he found himself last week in Cabinteely.

The courtesy will be extended.

This is an important issue.

The courtesy will be extended. I call Deputy Jan O'Sullivan.

The Cabinet will have had a chance to meet and to realise that the HSE embargo is hurting patients. Another example is that of the National Rehabilitation Hospital not being able to admit a person to its hospital today.

Deputy O'Sullivan must ask a question.

I want to again raise the issue of a possible Supplementary Estimate for the HSE because of the direct effect of the embargo on patients. The Minister for Health and Children said it would not hurt patients, but it is clearly hurting them. Has the Taoiseach considered introducing a Supplementary Estimate, given that the HSE embargo on recruitment is having a direct effect on patients?

It is a matter for the Deputy posing the question to establish that a Supplementary Estimate has been promised but I am not aware that such an Estimate has been promised.

We were promised that patients would not be affected.

We were promised that patients would not be hurt, a Cheann Comhairle. We now know that patients are being hurt.

I am merely implementing the rules. I am not aware that a Supplementary Estimate has been promised in this matter. Perhaps the Taoiseach will confirm whether there was and that will dispose of the matter.

Perhaps the Taoiseach will tell us if that issue will be addressed?

It is quite clear there are constant examples every day of patients——

No, there is not. That statement is out of order. I cannot do anything about it.

I acknowledge the Ceann Comhairle's reply to Deputy Hayes. It is important that the Office of Ceann Comhairle is not perceived as partisan and politicised because of the manner in which he tours the country.

Will the Taoiseach confirm that the privacy Bill which was closely associated with the Defamation Bill currently before the Seanad, has now been decoupled and will not appear before the House, in accordance with a statement made by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform at the weekend?

It is ordered for Second Stage, but I do not know when it will be taken.

In response to a public statement made by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, it appears that the Bill is not being proceeded with. Will the Taoiseach seek clarification from the Minister and inform the House as to what is the present position?

If the Deputy tables a question to the Minister, I am sure he will tell him. I am saying the legislation is included in the legislative programme and ordered for Second Stage.

Therefore, it is going ahead.

If the Deputy wishes to table a question to the Minister, he can do so.

He has asked a question on the Order of Business and the Taoiseach has responded.

Following another leak from the Department of Social and Family Affairs with the express intent of engaging in criminal activity, will legislation be brought before the House to ensure stricter penalties are imposed on civil servants who abuse their position? Has the Taoiseach sought a report from the Minister for Social and Family Affairs?

Is legislation promised in this area?

This affects the integrity of the entire Civil Service. I wonder has the Taoiseach sought a report from the Minister on the issue?

I am sure it does, but it is not in order now.

There is a need to clarify certain aspects of immigration law. At what time is it likely that the proposed Immigration Residence Bill will come before the House in this session? The Dublin Transport Authority Bill which will affect the greater Dublin area is also scheduled for this session. When is it expected to come before the House?

Both are listed for this session.

Between now and the end of January.

On a point of clarification, when the Ceann Comhairle says statements have been made on promised Supplementary Estimates, does he mean in this House or outside it? The problem we have is that major statements have been made outside the House and I cannot expect the Chair to know what promises have been made outside it.

The point I wanted to make — it is an awful pity that I did not know the Ceann Comhairle was coming to Dún Laoghaire last week because I would have been only too pleased to bring him to the National Rehabilitation Centre on Rochestown Avenue.

I am sure we will have the chance again.

A commitment was made to extend that national facility as people throughout the country are waiting months to be admitted to the centre. Stroke patients, people with head injuries——-

The Deputy has been in the House long enough to know that he could not possibly be in order.

A number of pieces of health legislation have been promised.

The Ceann Comhairle can take his choice.

Ask about one of them.

In regard to the Supplementary Estimate for this particular matter, may I ask the Taoiseach when it will be introduced?

Is there a Supplementary Estimate promised on that matter?

A commitment was given. We are all confused.

Does the Taoiseach intend to introduce amending legislation in respect of the Competition Authority Bill on the basis that the Competition Authority has declared that it is illegal for the Minister to consult or negotiate with the Irish Pharmaceutical Union, in spite of the fact that the Government negotiates with other bodies which are sole traders such as consultants, the legal profession, farmers——

I understand all that. Is legislation promised in this area?

Why have the pharmacists been singled out for special attention? Will the Taoiseach please amend this ridiculous legislation?

No legislation has been promised. The Deputy is not in order.

The programme for Government contains references to legislation in the area of animal welfare. Where does it come on the list of priority?

It is due in mid-2008.

I think the Taoiseach chairs a Cabinet sub-committee which minds the two Green Party Ministers Has he spoken to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, about the crisis in the construction industry?

That is not in order.

It is in order because I am asking about the building regulations——

The Deputy never said that.

——which have been proven to be grossly deficient, with builders disappearing, and a significant tranche of houses having to be rebuilt. Will the Taoiseach discuss this as a matter of urgency with the Minister?

That is not in order.

When will the Bill to regulate management companies be introduced?

I understand that legislation is being examined. I think at least three Departments are involved.

Will it be introduced in the next session?

There are problems trying to deal with all of the issues. There are issues for the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, as well as others. The matter is being examined.

They have not a notion of doing anything about it.

How is it proposed to deal with the outcome of the plebiscite held in Dingle on the name change from An Daingean to Dingle-Daingean Ui Chuis? Will it be done by primary legislation or ministerial order?

That is very interesting, but unfortunately it is not in order.

When does the Taoiseach intend to deal with it?

The Chair cannot allow that.

That shows how neutral I am.

The Taoiseach wants to answer.

Legislation is to be forthcoming.

The Deputy should table a question to the line Minister.

Will the Taoiseach indicate if he will bring forward an amendment to the Criminal Evidence Act 1992, given the outcome of the Laura Kelly case, where a girl with special needs had a traumatic experience? It is an offence to have sexual intercourse with a mentally impaired person but the law is not specific on any other form of sexual offence against a person with special needs. Is it intended to bring forward legislation to block that loophole? If so, how soon will it be?

I have no legislation listed. However, I suggest the Deputy table a question to the Minister.