Order of Business.

Tuesday, 14 May 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 465 No. 3

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The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It is proposed to take No. 27 — Health (Amendment) Bill, 1996 — Second Stage (Resumed); No. 28 — Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 1996 — Second Stage (Resumed) and Remaining Stages, and No. 29 — Statements on the Report of the Task Force on the Travelling Community (Resumed).

[781] Private Members' Business shall be No. 39 — Motion re. Establishment of Regional Boards of Education (Resumed).

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  On the matter of Dáil reform, the Taoiseach informed me almost a year ago he would examine the possibility of allowing the Opposition to table parliamentary questions in the months of July and September when committees of the House sit, but said later he could not facilitate us last summer because the notice was too short. Having raised the issue again in October last, today I received proposals for discussion between the Whips to examine the possibility of allowing such questions in the forthcoming summer. Since I understand it is envisaged that committees will meet in the months of July and September, what is the Taoiseach's response to my reasonable proposal that written questions be tabled to Ministers on the days such committees meet. Failure to allow such a facility would make a mockery of the committee system and render it unworkable for the Opposition. Will the Taoiseach say whether that suggestion has been omitted from the list or whether he is refusing to allow parliamentary questions be tabled in the months of July and September?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Government proposes to allow written questions on days when plenary sessions are held but not otherwise.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  That is a cop-out.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  According to my information, there will be plenary sessions on two days only, one in July and another in September. If we are to have any openness or accountability in respect of anything when committees are sitting, Ministers should answer relevant questions during that summer period. Either the Taoiseach and Government are serious about the work of the 25 committees or we are wasting our time. My party will not sit around here, without any information, in the months of July [782] and September endeavouring to facilitate Ministers to process various Bills. Will the Taoiseach consider my proposal?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  These matters are before the Committee on Dáil Reform.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Government has made its decision on this matter. We will provide for answering parliamentary questions on days when there are plenary sessions of the House and written questions during the recess if and when plenary sessions take place.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  The Taoiseach is refusing.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  We have decided we will not provide for any parliamentary questions, oral or written, on days when there are committee sessions exclusively. There never has been and there will not be such a provision.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  The great Dáil reformer.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  On 31 January last the Taoiseach informed the House that he expected the Cabinet to finalise its consideration of the bail issue within six weeks, which would have expired on 11 March last. Will the Taoiseach say now whether the Government will put a referendum to the electorate to reform the bail laws?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I acknowledge what Deputy Harney said in regard to what I said on the matter previously. At this point the Government has not completed its consideration of the matter. Therefore, I cannot answer the specific question she has posed but I can assure her that it is at an advanced stage of consideration.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  That is what the Taoiseach told me on the last occasion. I put it to him that the Government has decided to long-finger this issue, and [783] that a decision will not be taken. Would it not be better to so inform the public rather than continue to pretend that there will be a constitutional referendum on the matter?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Deputy Harney's assumption is false. The Government will take a decision on this matter. It has not yet done so and I acknowledge there has been some slippage in regard to my anticipated timescale in terms of taking such a decision. A decision on this will be taken; it is not being long-fingered. Rather it is a question of ensuring the correct decision is taken on the basis of all the necessary information being available.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Will the Taoiseach consider allowing Government time to debate a motion of mine on the Order Paper in regard to the operation of the public examinations system, given today's discovery of a parcel of work by engineering students in the forthcoming leaving certificate examination in a bog in County Roscommon? Does he agree that that, coupled with the fiasco of the arts examination last year, warrants the Minister for Education accounting to the House for both incidents? Given the gravity of the position and the proximity of the forthcoming national examinations, will he agree to my suggestion?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  If the Deputy can wait, that matter is the subject of an Adjournment Debate this evening.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  While it is the subject of an Adjournment Debate this evening, does the Taoiseach agree that such a debate does not allow us the facility of asking questions and receiving answers?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  We cannot pre-empt this evening's business.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  I know that, but such a refusal is most unacceptable.

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  Since the Government [784] accepted the recommendations of the Hamilton report on crowd control and safety at public events, does the Taoiseach accept they will require some legislative change and, if so, when does he envisage them being introduced?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Is there legislation promised in this area?

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  Since the Government accepted its recommendations, it will necessitate legislative change. When can we expect it will be introduced?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That matter is also, in part at least, the subject of an Adjournment Debate this evening, when there will be a discussion on safety at events, with reference to the recent tragedy at the Point Depot. I have no doubt the most up-to-date information will be provided to the Deputy on the procedures that need to be adopted to improve the position.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Will the Taoiseach say whether the promised Electricity Bill will be introduced on schedule, bearing in mind that the EU Council of Ministers has effectively overruled Cabinet announcements of June 1995 in regard to competition vis-à-vis electricity supply? Does he still foresee its introduction in the lifetime of this Government?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Yes, that legislation will be produced. The Deputy is wrong in saying the European Commission has overruled the decision of the Irish Government on this matter. The proposed legislation contains a wide range of proposals virtually all of which are unaffected by the EU decision. In regard to one aspect only, some changes will be necessary to take account of the EU decision but the legislation is proceeding in the normal way and will not be delayed by that European decision. I expect it will be introduced here in the first half of next year.

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  In view of the horrific [785] events at Dunblane and in Tasmania, will the Taoiseach say whether the Government has any intention of amending the Firearms Act, 1925?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Is legislation promised in this respect?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am not aware of any legislation having been promised on this matter. As no doubt the Deputy is aware, our firearms legislation is particularly strict, a good deal more strict than that applicable in the Australian province of Tasmania.

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I take it the Taoiseach does not intend to review the Firearms Act.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Let us hear the Taoiseach's response.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The position is that legislation is not promised in this area.

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Given that the Taoiseach does not intend to do anything to amend the Firearms Act, will he ensure at least that the Government ceases to act illegally in granting firearms licences to tourists without going through the normal procedures. People such as the persons who were involved in the shootings in Dunblane and Tasmania can get licences to shoot here and I am asking the Taoiseach to do something about it.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  I seek permission to raise on the Adjournment the tragic death of Bernadette O'Brian, a young person from my constituency. In view of the unfortunate events in the Point Depot, are there plans to introduce new legislation on hosting rock concerts in indoor venues or will there be a review of the existing legislation? By their nature, there will always be difficulties at rock concerts, but we must try to make them safe.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  The matter will be raised on the Adjournment tonight and we must not pre-empt the business of colleagues.

[786]Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  In view of the Taoiseach's reply last week and the effects the continuing strike by CPSU members is continuing to have on thousands of farmers, has he considered calling a meeting of the Central Review Committee to allow the people who represent farming interests to put the seriousness of the position to him or does he view social partnership as a meeting of one element of the social partnership on issues that affect all?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I may not call the Taoiseach to respond. The Deputy has made his point, perhaps he will find another way to raise it.

Mr. Killeen: Information on Tony Killeen  Zoom on Tony Killeen  Why has the Government decided to engage a British company to provide an executive jet for the duration of the EU presidency in spite of the fact that an Irish jet is available.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  The Deputy will surely find another way of dealing with this matter.

Mr. Killeen: Information on Tony Killeen  Zoom on Tony Killeen  Will he ensure that contract conditions——


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