Wednesday, 10 March 2004

Ceisteanna (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

1 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach his Department’s legislative priorities up to the summer recess; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1284/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

2 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach the legislative priorities of his Department for the current Dáil session. [1832/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

3 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach his legislative priorities for the current Dáil session; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2851/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

4 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach his Department’s legislative priorities for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2900/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

5 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach his legislative priorities for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5627/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (27 contributions) (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together.

My Department has two items of legislation for the current Dáil session: the National Economic and Social Development Office Bill 2002 and the Interpretation Bill 2002. The National Economic and Social Development Office Bill is awaiting Committee Stage. The Interpretation Bill, which has passed all Stages in this House, is awaiting Second Stage in the Seanad. My Department also has one Bill included on the C list of the Government's legislative programme. This is the statute law revision Bill 2004, which will repeal irrelevant statutes and will be published in 2004.

The legislative priorities of the Taoiseach coming up to the summer recess will be of interest to many, particularly in an area which is relevant to a number of Departments but which he was asked about a couple of minutes ago, namely, electronic voting. There are statutory instruments to be published which must be in the Dáil for 21 sitting days before they can come into effect. Is this legislation expected to be passed and in effect before the June elections?

We are speaking specifically about the Taoiseach's Department. Perhaps a question to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government would be more appropriate.

That will be done anyway.

Perhaps the Deputy will wait for that.

I want to ask the Taoiseach about this matter because, as Leader of the Government, he must deal with the area of elections, which is relevant to all Departments.

The questions we are dealing with refer to the Taoiseach's Department, including the Deputy's own question, which is to ask the Taoiseach his Department's legislative priorities up to the summer recess.

They are not very extensive, so it is important that we know the answer to the question I asked.

I answered that question yesterday on the Order of Business, when it was in order.

The Taoiseach has already told us about his legislative programme. In accordance with the Ceann Comhairle's very strict ruling, I will not ask anything further.

The Chair's ruling is in accordance with Standing Orders. If Deputies want to change the Standing Order they know how to do it.

Apparently the Taoiseach does not think so.

The Taoiseach said there was one Bill before the House and another pending. In the matter of the Laffoy commission and the suggested conflict whereby the sponsoring Department is at the same time being investigated, is there not a case for introducing legislation to ensure this matter is dealt with by his own Department rather than the Department of Education and Science so that the commission may be successful?

Naturally I will help the commission and its work in every way but the relevant Department to bring forward legislation is the Department of Education and Science. I and my officials, along with the Office of the Attorney General, will be helpful in every way to the commission, as we have been over the last number of months.

In the Government's White Paper on regulatory reform there is a list of actions relating to the legislative process. There is a call for better information on new legislation. Can the Taoiseach state whether it is intended to follow through on the promise that Departments and offices will provide such improved information, including the heads of Bills to be published, where feasible and appropriate?

In the matter of legislation to implement the Hanly and Prospectus recommendations on the health service——

The Deputy should address his question to the Minister responsible.

——is it intended that the heads of these Bills — including one about which I asked the Taoiseach recently, the statute law revision Bill — will be released in advance to Deputies so we can judge and assess the range and scope of the legislation under consideration?

The statute law revision Bill identifies 100 statutes to be repealed, subject to the consultation taking place, and a further 400 statutes that need further consideration as candidates for repeal, re-enactment, consolidation, restatement and other actions. Perhaps it would be useful if Deputies asked me about the heads. In a case such as this perhaps it would be useful to consult the Office of the Attorney General and the statute law revision unit about releasing at least the titles of Bills. In normal circumstances I would have no difficulty in releasing the heads of Bills. I know it can be helpful to the House. I will consult the Office of the Attorney General about this matter. It may be of assistance to us to release the list of the statutes identified as being in need of amendment.

Could the Taoiseach indicate whether it is intended to address any repressive legislation, such as the odious Offences against the State Act?

The Deputy knows he is out of order. The questions we are dealing with are addressed to the Taoiseach's Department.

I am asking about the statute law revision Bill, which is under the remit of the Taoiseach's Department. My question is in line with what the Taoiseach has said. I do not know the scope of what is being addressed in the preparation of this Bill and I am asking a reasonable question. The Taoiseach will recall that he has already made a commitment to repeal all repressive legislation under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

I am not responsible for the Offences against the State Act, but I would not repeal it anyway.

That is contrary to what the Taoiseach has previously indicated. I hope he is not rowing back on commitments that have already been made.

I intend to get rid of more than 100 old statutes.

The Offences against the State Act goes back to the 1930s.

I suggest the Deputy submit a question to the appropriate Minister.

I am also sorry. I am more sorry than the Ceann Comhairle realises.