Order of Business

I am sure every Member of the House will join me in expressing our sympathy with our fellow European citizens, the parents and relatives of the Belgian children killed in yesterday's tragic accident. Perhaps we might convey our sentiments to the Belgian ambassador on behalf of the House.

It is proposed to take No. 21, statements on symphysiotomy. It is proposed that, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, the proceedings on the statements on symphysiotomy shall, if not previously concluded be concluded at 1.30 p.m. today and the following arrangements shall apply: the statement of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokesperson for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin 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 ten minutes, Members may share time, and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes.

There is one proposal to put to the House today. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 21, statements on symphysiotomy, agreed? Agreed.

When will the Central Bank regulation of credit union Bill will come before the House? The Government made a number statements expressing concern over the governance in a number of credit unions. The Central Bank and the Financial Regulator have moved on a number of them, but this obviously needs to be established on a statutory basis.

I presume the Deputy is referring to the Central Bank consolidation Bill. Work is continuing to finalise the draft of that Bill. It is not possible to indicate when it will be taken.

The programme for Government and the Labour Party manifesto contain a commitment to legislate for workers' rights. Today in Cork, the Vita Cortex workers are entering their 91st day of occupation to get what was promised to them. One of the most honourable things about those workers is that they are not just doing that for themselves, but also for other workers. They have said repeatedly that they want to see legislation brought before this House that prevents any other employer doing to his or her workers what their employer has done to them.

Is legislation promised on this?

What legislation will the Government introduce to prevent such a case from happening again?

I am told nothing is planned specifically to address the matter the Deputy has raised regarding the situation in Cork. I suggest the Deputy should table a parliamentary question to the Minister for a detailed reply.

The Minister will be aware of the significant oil find off the coast of Cork. Does the Government plan to introduce legislation to deal with the current tax and licence arrangements, which, because of capital write-offs and low tax rates, will mean that the State will get virtually nothing from this natural resource that is being developed?

I think the Deputy should table a parliamentary question on the matter.

There is no legislative requirement to give that supply to the State. Does the Government plan to introduce legislation or to review existing legislation so that the people benefit from the exploitation and development of our natural resources?

It is very early days to be contemplating the likely flow from that particular oilfield, although its discovery is more than welcome. I assure the Deputy that the Government will take every step necessary to ensure we maximise the return to the people from such an oil flow. I will bring the Deputy's question to the attention of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Rabbitte, who has direct responsibility for these matters.

Regarding the upcoming European Communities amendment Bill, I have listened to a number of Ministers express concern that if the people reject the upcoming treaty we will not be able to access the European Stability Mechanism funding. The Government holds a veto over putting this forward in terms of Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which the Government apparently intends taking through. Will the Government now refuse to take that through, follow through the concern it has expressed and block it going through these Houses?

The legislation to which Deputy Mac Lochlainn refers is in preparation and will be taken later this session. The points the Deputy wishes to make can be made at that time.

What is the current position of the promised Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill? What is the current position of the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Bill given the ongoing difficulties in accessing legal aid? When will these Bills likely come before the House? Have the heads been discussed at Cabinet? What progress can be reported?

I understand the DNA Bill will be taken later this year. Will the Deputy repeat the question on the criminal justice matter?

I asked about the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Bill.

That will be in the middle of this year.

The Minister will be aware that the first phase of competition law has already been dealt with under the Competition (Amendment) Act passed in the last session. When can we expect to see the next phase including the consumer and competition Bill? Will the Bill deal with the question of media ownership?

The consumer and competition Bill has 139 heads. It is in the course of preparation. I am informed that it will be the middle of this year. What was the question on media ownership?

Will media ownership be a part of the Bill?

That matter is still being discussed between the two Ministers.

What is the position of the licensing of health care providers Bill? I understand the Minister, like me, was contacted by representatives of the Poly Implant Prothèse, PIP, action group, a group of women campaigning for 1,500 women constituents who received PIP breast implants and who have called for the private clinics involved to replace these implants where necessary. Will the Minister for Health and the Government take strong action on this such as the action taken by the Scottish Government?

The Education and Training Boards Bill is on the clár of the Minister for Education and Skills in Marlborough Street. Some weeks ago I commended the Minister on withdrawing the DEIS programme cutbacks. However, I have found that in several schools I represent, including schools in Darndale and Bonnybrook, legacy posts are still being removed because of the way the Minister is beginning to operate the pupil teacher ratio.

The second point is not for the Order of Business. The Minister may answer the first question.

The Minister knows about it and he might be able to do something in that area.

No date has been set for the legislation on medicine to which Deputy Broughan referred. However, the Minister for Health has just informed me that the Chief Medical Officer in his Department is specifically examining the case raised by Deputy Broughan.

Irish campaigners for immigration reform in the USA hope to see progress on visa legislation which, if passed, will allow up to 10,000 Irish nationals annually to work in that country for up to two years. What legislation, if any, is proposed by the Government and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to assist in this work?

I refer to judicial appointments legislation. It has recently been reported that the Cabinet nominated 12 judges, seven to the Circuit Court and five to the District Court. Amazingly, they all have one common denominator.

That is not in order, Deputy.

They all have strong associations with the Fine Gael Party.

That is completely out of order. The Minister may answer the first question.

Must every judge appointed to the country in the next four years have strong Fine Gael links?

Deputy, please. You must not cast any aspersions on the Judiciary here.

I would prefer if the Minister answered the second question.

A Deputy

He was in Fianna Fáil at one stage.


He is not casting aspersions on the Judiciary.

The pick them themselves.

No legislation is promised with regard to the question ruled to be in order.

What about the second question?

A legal challenge to the household charge was reported yesterday. There is a query about the same legislation in respect of the legality or otherwise of an entity called "household charge". People are being asked to make payments to an entity called "household charge". Has this entity been established legally and, if not, is legislation required to do so retrospectively?

I do not know the answer to that question. I will try to get a reply for Deputy Collins. I have no wish to give a misleading answer.

Will the Minister comment on the status of the draft animal heath and welfare Bill which appeared on the Department's website yesterday? What does this mean for the timescale of the introduction of the Bill? Can we expect the Bill to be a replica of what is on display at the moment?

I am informed that the legislation is due this session.

Will it be the same as what is on display?

Some 49 countries have ratified the Antarctic Treaty internationally. With the exception of septic tanks, environmental issues have not featured highly on the Government's agenda. I realise discussions are ongoing between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government on this matter. Will the Minister indicate whether legislation is necessary to ratify the treaty? Is the Government committed to its ratification? If so, is legislation envisaged in this area?

I thank the Deputy for his question. Unfortunately, I do not have any detailed information before me. However, we will get back with a comprehensive reply.

Two matters arise. Several years ago a document was published entitled Better Regulation which aimed to ensure that legislation would be approached in a different way. For example, it was proposed that a regulatory impact assessment would be produced and that the heads of all Bills would be published in advance to allow a full discussion in committee.

I do not know what point the Deputy is making.

With this in mind, have the heads of the Further Education and Training Authority (SOLAS) Bill been passed by Cabinet? Will they be published in advance of the Bill given the urgency involved? Will the Minister be more specific about the timeframe indicated rather than simply stating that it is expected this year?

I hope to bring a memorandum for Government at the end of this month on the SOLAS legislation. Then we will move to the drafting stage. It is my intention to do with this legislation what I did with the local education and training board legislation, that is, to publish the heads in advance. That turned out to be a constructive and productive way of engaging not only with the Oireachtas but with the wider partners.

The Minister has only published a consultation paper on the Water Services (Amendment) Act with regard to the regulations that will apply for the inspection of septic tanks. During the week the Department appears to have been able to identify those households which will be targeted for inspection this year. A large number of homes in Donegal have already been targeted for inspection. However, the Government has been unable to specify what regulations these homes must comply with. Will the Minister provide an update? Since the Department is capable of publishing a list of those targeted, when will people be clear about what regulations they will be inspected under?

The Bill has been enacted. I understand regulations are required subsequently. I am unsure about it and I must get back to the Deputy on the matter but I presume this is part of a process and the regulations will be published and made available for everyone to see.