Tuesday, 12 February 1991
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take Nos. 7, 8, 17 and 18. It is also proposed,  subject to the agreement of the House, that: (1) No. 7 shall be taken without debate and (2) Nos. 8 and 17 shall be taken together for the purpose of debate. Private Members' Business shall be No. 36.
Mr. J. Bruton: In regard to promised legislation, when will the National Roads Authority Bill be circulated? Is there any significance in the fact that there was no mention of this promised legislation in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress which was published? Is he aware of statements from those concerned — who are road users — that in the long run we are losing out on EC funds because of the failure to enact this legislation?
Mr. J. Bruton: Is the Taoiseach not aware that we are behind programme in using up fully resources available to us under this programme as far as road building is concerned and we will, by our failure to achieve our targets under this five year programme, lose out in subsequent five-year programmes as well?
Mr. Spring: Prior to the Christmas  recess the Taoiseach intimated to the House that he would be having discussions with Deputy Peter Barry, who was then the Fine Gael spokesman on Foreign Affairs, on the setting up of a foreign affairs committee of this House. Last week he intimated that he would be having discussions, to quote him correctly, immediately. May I now ask him if he intends to have those meetings on the setting up of this committee and if they can be held as soon as possible?
Proinsias De Rossa: May I ask the Taoiseach if he will provide this House with an opportunity to review its position on the Gulf War? We debated this matter some weeks ago and a decision was made in relation to the United Nations——
Proinsias De Rossa: The decision was made by way of a vote of the House and what I am asking is if the Taoiseach will provide this House with an opportunity to review that decision in the light of the fact that a war which was launched on the basis that it would be over in three days is now entering its fourth week——
Mr. S. Barrett: I am sure the Taoiseach shares with me and thousands of other people throughout the country complete frustration, at the inadequacy of our criminal laws to deal with the kind of situation highlighted by today's Supreme Court decision in the Gallagher case. May I ask him therefore if he will make arrangements for the immediate introduction of amending legislation to deal with this matter to ensure there will not be a recurrence of what has happened during the past number of months?
Mr. S. Barrett: I tried under proper parliamentary procedures to table a Private Notice Question on this matter. It is a matter of extreme urgency on which the Government and the Minister for Justice face a problem. I am sure the Taoiseach would like to use the opportunity to give his views on this problem and to state — if it even appears on the “C” list — whether new legislation will be introduced to deal with this matter.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Barrett appreciates that the question of likes, felt or attributed to some other Deputy in the House, does not justify the asking of a question on the Order of Business. It must be connected with promised legislation.
Mr. Howlin: Arising out of the reply given in the House last week by the Minister for the Environment in relation to an announcement on social housing which I understand is to be made to local authority chairmen on Thursday next, may I ask the Taoiseach when the announcement and the details of this social housing package will be given to this House?
Mr. Howlin: In recent times many Members of the House have referred to the growing tendency to make announcements, which ought properly be made in this House, in orchestrated assemblies in Dublin Castle, Kilmainham or elsewhere. If an announcement is to be made on an important issue like social housing which every Deputy in this House is concerned about, It should be made in this House. Public funds are involved.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: If Deputy Howlin is making an allegation that there has been some abuse elsewhere, that does not justify him abusing the time allocated for the Order of Business to make his point which is what he is endeavouring to do.
Mr. Howlin: Finally, may I ask the Taoiseach if he will consider allowing the Minister for the Environment to make an announcement on Thursday in this House prior to making an announcement elsewhere? That is a simple question.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair, Deputy Quinn, always endeavours to carry out the wishes of the House in respect of rules and regulations agreed to by the House. The Chair must insist on doing so until changes are made.
Mr. McCartan: I, too, tabled a Private Notice Question to the Ceann Comhairle relating to the decision of the Supreme Court this morning with regard to the verdict of guilty but insane and I was advised that it was ruled out of order on the basis that it lacked urgency. I accept the ruling but it does not avoid the urgency of the matter. May I ask the Minister for Justice if he intends to bring before the House legislation promised on this matter in response to previous parliamentary questions when he stated he would await the Supreme Court judgment? Legislation is urgently required. At least an undertaking should be given that no one will be released from the custody of the State until such time as this House has considered the legislation, in particular a person who is regarded as being responsible for the perpetration of two killings.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am not going to have a debate on this matter. The Deputy has encouraged the Taoiseach to be slightly out of order by his  courtesy in responding to him but we are not going to allow a continuation of that. I call on Deputy Jim Mitchell.
Mr. J. Mitchell: May I ask the Taoiseach if the report in The Irish Times today is correct? It indicates that the Minister for the Environment and the Government have accepted my proposal that they should amend the provisions in law dealing with postal ballots for the disabled by deleting the provision that requires that a medical certificate indicating that a person is of sound mind be furnished. Will such legislation be introduced in the present session and will it include any other provisions?
Mr. J. Mitchell: As clearly there was a prompt from the Minister's information officer, I want the Taoiseach to confirm in this House if it will be included in the legislative programme for this session and in time for the local elections.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy appreciates that it would be a sad day for the House if he reacted to every prompting, alleged or otherwise, from any Minister's secretary. I call on Deputy Gilmore.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy, on his own presentation of the question, is acknowledging that legislation is not promised so far as he is asking if it will be promised. That defeats the question.
Mr. Gilmore: I seek clarification regarding the circulation of the promised Local Government Bill. Previously the Taoiseach indicated on the Order of Business that it would be circulated either this session or next session; the Minister for the Environment at Question Time last week indicated it would be circulated this session. I would like to know whether it will be circulated this session or next  session. If it is to be circulated next session, it will clearly not be in time for the local elections in June.
Mr. Currie: In view of the fact that Dublin has been designated the Cultural Capital of Europe in 1991 and in view of the Taoiseach's acknowledged interest in cultural matters, will he use his good offices to intervene in the dispute involving the RTE Symphony Orchestra and RTE Concert Orchestra? It will be a very bad introduction to this year of culture in Dublin if we do not have a national orchestra.
Mr. Spring: Let me seek information from the Taoiseach on promised legislation. In the past decade we discussed a Bill entitled the Shannon Estuary Authority Bill on numerous occasions. The Bill seems to have got lost somewhere in the temporary little arrangement the parties in Government have. I have asked the Taoiseach about this Bill on numerous occasions. Let me ask now if the  parties in Government have resolved the differences in relation to the Shannon Estuary Authority Bill and if it is proposed to have that Bill before this House.
The Taoiseach: Strictly speaking, it has not been promised by this Government in this House. Nevertheless, I am sure, Sir, you will encourage me to be helpful and courteous. This Bill is still being processed but at the moment, because of very important and urgent legislation in other areas, it is not taking precedence over more important and more significant urgent social legislation.
Mr. Spring: I appreciate the Taoiseach's attempt to be forthcoming in his reply and I am sure the order of priority he is giving to that Bill will be noted by the people in Clare, Kerry and Limerick. Has the Bill been discussed by Cabinet in recent months?
Mr. Creed: Let me draw the Taoiseach's attention to a commitment entered into in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress which states that the Minister for Agriculture and Food will bring forward the new National Milk Agency Bill in the next Dáil session. Perhaps the Taoiseach can inform the House whether any of the other contents of this programme have become mere  aspirations rather than significant commitments given to the social partners.
Mr. J. Bruton: Is the House approving that document on the basis that the legislation in regard to the milk agency will  be introduced in this session as the programme says, or not in this session as the Taoiseach says? What will we be asked to approve next week, the Taoiseach's promise last week or his promise this week?
Mr. McCartan: In respect of legislation promised in the House on Thursday last, I asked the Taoiseach about the Criminal Evidence Bill and the Taoiseach — as he attempted to indicate earlier and prompted by his Whip to that effect, indicated that it was not promised legislation. I have two references from the Official Report last year when the Minister of State, Deputy Connolly, and the Minister for Justice, Deputy Burke, both in answer to amendments in my name with regard to criminal evidence, indicated that a Bill would be introduced in this House and was in preparation. I can read the reference to the House if needed, unless the Taoiseach has clarified the matter in the meantime.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: No, it is not in order to read references. If the legislation is promised, not by means of any casual reference, but if it is promised legislation in the sense Deputy McCartan knows how legislation is ordered——
Mr. McCartan: I knew that last Thursday but for some reason the Taoiseach indicated that was not promised. It was, most definitely, by his Minister for Justice and his Minister of State — I think I see the Minister nodding agreement.
The Taoiseach: There may be some confusion here between two pieces of legislation, the Criminal Evidence Bill and the Criminal Insanity Bill. I will be glad to give the Deputy an update on the position of both.
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