Wednesday, 28 February 1996
Dáil Éireann Debate
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): It is proposed to take items Nos. 6 — Motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; 13 — commissioners of Public Works (Functions and Powers) Bill, 1995 [Seanad], Report and Final Stages; 14 — Trade Marks Bill, 1995, Report and Final Stages; 15 — Refugee Bill, 1995, Report and Final Stages; 16 — Health (Amendment) Bill, 1995, Second Stage (resumed) and 2 — Metrology Bill, 1996, Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
Mr. B. Ahern: Before we agree the Order of Business, I understand from contacts with an official of the Taoiseach's office that we will have a debate on the Summit in the afternoon. Although not mentioned in the Order of Business, since it was communicated  to me, I assume it has been agreed. Perhaps the Minister is not aware of it.
We on this side of the House — as we always would in the event of any important meeting — wish the Government well and I hope more progress can be made today than over recent months. It is ironic that it is 18 months to the day since the announcement of the IRA ceasefire. We hope that whatever conclusion is reached or whatever communiqué is issued after today's meeting will specify definite dates to which we can adhere in the future. We wish the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and their officials well in their endeavours.
Mr. Quinn: I very much welcome the constructive comments just made by the Leader of the Opposition. On the precise matter he raised with me, he is correct, there have been discussions with the Government Whip but a time has not been fixed, as a timetable for the conclusion of the Summit meeting is not available. However, as soon as we have definite information in that respect, there will be a meeting with the Whips and arrangements made for statements in the House.
Miss Harney: I join Deputy Ahern in wishing the Government well today. I am delighted that the Summit is taking place. It is clear from this morning's opinion poll — not that an opinion poll is needed to confirm it — the vast majority of people North and South and in Great Britain want to see peace restored with a political settlement, that they have an open mind and are flexible on the way forward, which is as it should be.
I know there will be a debate on the Summit later today. Since it is my party's Private Members' time this week, we are prepared to allow time for that debate because it is important that it take place today. If we lose time or must move our Private Members' time to next week, we are prepared to do that. I understand and welcome the fact that the Government is prepared to brief the  Opposition parties early in the afternoon.
Mr. Quinn: I thank Deputy Harney for her supportive comments and generosity with her party's Private Members' time. If it is necessary to arrange for statements during that time, the Whips will consult her party's Whip. I can also confirm that the Opposition parties will be briefed as soon as we are in a position to do so.
Mr. B. Ahern: Yesterday I had been endeavouring to obtain some information from the Taoiseach on the third banking force. Since we are lucky in having the Minister for Finance to announce the Order of Business, perhaps he would inform the House of his position in relation to it.
Mr. Quinn: It is receiving the attention it deserves. When we have completed our deliberations, we will bring it to the House as soon as possible. However, I am aware of the need to move rapidly on this issue.
Mr. B. Ahern: Is the report I commissioned now defunct or may I publish it? Alternatively, is the Minister still working on it? The last time that report was mentioned in a Sunday newspaper the Garda were sent to my office to ascertain whether I had leaked it. I am afraid to do anything until the Minister gives me the all clear on it.
Miss Harney: I used to think there were people over there who had not either but it appears I have to represent their supporters here as well. Will the Minister confirm that the Trustee Savings Bank has been told officially there will be no change in the lifetime of this Government? If that is the case the Minister should put on the public record that the status quo will obtain for the lifetime of this Government because of its inability to take such a decision.
Mr. Kirk: Will the Minister for Finance intercede with his colleague, the Minister for the Environment, on a problem that has arisen for community alert committees around the country? Apparently, most local authorities are refusing to provide public liability insurance cover for them and whilst I can only speak specifically about the problem in my area, the work of these committees is in abeyance because public liability insurance cover is not available from the local authority.
Mr. Martin: Will the Minister for Finance confirm that all Ministers have read the Freedom of Information Bill as this legislation will help me in securing the report commissioned by the Department of Enterprise and Employment on early school leavers? Yesterday I tabled  a question seeking to have this report published and made available to me but the reply was in the negative. Reports of that type should be made available to Members. What is the reason for secrecy? Will the Minister for Finance ensure that a copy of this report is made available to me because this is an important document from the point of view of public debate.
Mr. O'Dea: In view of the fact that the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Bill, 1996, will be introduced tomorrow will the Minister for Finance confirm a report in this morning's newspaper that the section in the 1994 Act which enables cash to be seized on suspicion that it represents the proceeds of drug trafficking has not yet been brought into effect? If the answer is in the negative, will he explain why and tell me when it will take effect?
Mr. Quinn: I presume the Deputy is referring to section 44 of the relevant legislation. I am informed by the Department of Justice that the order to bring it into effect will be ready and brought to the House in the next two to three weeks.
Miss Harney: Pádraig Yates in an article in The Irish Times reported that the Government made a decision last week — obviously a well informed  source told him that — so I presume the Minister would be aware of it.
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