The Order of Business is items 1 and 2. Item 1, Second Stage, to be taken today with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 15 minutes and all other Senators ten minutes. Senators may share time. Item 2, Report and Final Stages, to be taken today.
Order of Business.
The Order of Business is agreed. Will the Leader indicate, as he said he would last week, the business he intends to bring before the House between now and the end of the session, the business he expects the House to complete between now and the end of the session and when he expects the session to end?
I thank the Leader for providing time for statements on the Shannon River Council to coincide with the Budget Statement in the Dáil. It is a masterstroke.
It will get great media attention.
When speaking on the debate I will reiterate my call for a Fianna Fáil Bill on the matter. We look forward to developments beyond tomorrow.
With regard to the proposed debate on the budget tomorrow, is it envisaged that there will be a longer discussion at another time? The debate tomorrow will not provide Members with adequate time to make a sufficient response on mature reflection. Will the Leader indicate that another debate will be held before the Finance Bill?
Item 19, motion 17, calls for the retention of duty free status at airports and ferries. Will the Leader obtain clarification from the Minster for Public Enterprise on the present status of duty free which is due to be abolished next July? There appears to be a conflict between the remarks made by President Santer in his recent address to the House — when he indicated there was little hope for duty free and that his sole role was in respect of the implementation of the decision taken in 1991 — and the stance taken by the Minister, who today appears to hold out the strong prospect that the decision will be overruled. The employment consequences of the abolition of duty free is a matter of considerable concern among various sectors. Will the Leader clarify matters or ask the Minister to return to the House early in the new year to address the matter?
Will the Leader indicate if the Government is considering new legislation regarding city and council development plans? Yesterday Dublin Corporation proposed a five year development plan. However, it was suggested that An Bord Pleanála could overrule a decision not to rezone 105 acres of agricultural land. That is an anomaly which must be addressed because it is the prerogative of the councillors to determine their development plan for the given period without infringement from an external body which would not know all the details of the integrated aspects that go into the preparation of the plan. I would appreciate if the Leader of the House could find out if legislation is being planned in that respect.
When will the debate on homelessness, which the Leader promised, take place? Last weekend Dublin looked like Calcutta. We need a meaningful debate with realistic proposals on how to tackle this complex issue. I hope the Leader will respond in a positive manner. I have asked three times recently for a debate on disability. The Leader assured me that there would be a Bill before the House shortly. Will he indicate when that will be?
I invite the Leader to consult with the Minister for Education and Science and make a statement on the disparity in the dispersal of third level grants to VEC students throughout the State, which is very unfair. Many hardpressed families are totally dependent on these grants to keep their children in third level education. It is shocking that the payments are arriving so late. I would like to know who is responsible for this delay.
I ask the Leader of the House to bring to the attention of the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, the need expressed in the House last Thursday for another full debate on the rail safety report and to call on her to bring before the House the draft report, the final summary and the final report. This a matter of great public importance.
Will the Leader ask the Minister for the Environment and Local Government the plans he has to celebrate 100 years of local government next year? We are all aware of the contributions which local authorities and councillors have made to the furthering of this country over the past 100 years. We talk about celebrating the millennium; it is important also that we mark in a fitting way the centenary of local government in 1999. It would be nice if the Minister would outline his proposals to celebrate this special year in the history of local authorities.
Senator Manning asked about proposed legislation. The Tourist Traffic Bill will be before the House on Thursday; the George Mitchell Scholarship Fund Bill will be before the House next week; the Scientific and Technological Education Investment Fund (Amendment) Bill will be in the House on 17 December and the Appropriations Bill will be in the House on 18 December. Other Bills which will come before the House are the Comptroller and Auditor General Bill and the Bretton Woods (Amendment) Bill. The mental health Bill is at an advanced stage and will be published before Christmas, as will the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill. In reply to Senator O'Toole there will be statements tomorrow between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m on the Shannon River Council Bill. I hope Senators will agree to a sos from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. so that Members can join colleagues in the Dáil to make themselves aware of the proposals in the budget.
I agree with Senator Costello's views regarding the issue of duty free. I understand that Germany, France and the UK are of the view that duty free sales should be retained indefinitely. I compliment the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, who played a major part in formulating the thoughts of our European colleagues and pointing out the serious consequences of the abolition of duty free sales. I hope the Minister for Finance will be successful in his deliberations in the coming days. I will inform the Minister for the Environment and Local Government of Senator Costello's views regarding the city and county development plan. An Bord Pleanála is an independent authority.
Senator Ridge asked for a debate on homelessness and disability. A Bill is in the pipeline and I will have further information for the Senator on the Order of Business tomorrow morning regarding this matter. There is no problem making time available for a debate on homelessness.
The Minister for Education and Science will be available in the House today and tomorrow and Senator Coghlan can put the question of third level grants to him.
Senator O'Dowd called for another debate on the rail safety report. There will be a debate on this matter early in the next session. I will make whatever time is required available for this debate. The Senator can also avail of Private Members' time to debate the matter. There was a lengthy and contentious debate on this matter last week. Many Senators are extremely anxious to make progress in this matter as soon as possible.
Senator McDonagh asked me to pass on his request to the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to see what plans the Minister has to celebrate 100 years of local government. I assure the House that there will be a one day debate in this House to celebrate 100 years of local government. I will ask the Minister what are his plans to celebrate this momentous occasion.
On a point of order, we need to have that debate immediately. We cannot wait until the next session.
That is a matter for next week.