Order of Business.

Tuesday, 21 May 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 465 No. 6

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The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It is proposed to take No. 14, Health (Amendment) Bill, 1995, Order for Report, No. 5, motion re. Agreement Amending the Fourth ACPEC Convention of Lomé, 1995, and No. 15, Criminal Law Bill, 1996, Second Stage (Resumed). It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings on No. 5 shall be brought to a conclusion within one hour and the following arrangements shall apply: the opening speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fianna Fáil Party and Progressive Democrats Party shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed five minutes in each case; Members may share time; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes. Private Members' Business shall be No. 37, motion 11, concerning the Defence Forces.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  There is but one matter to be put to the House. Are the proposals for dealing with No. 5 agreed? Agreed.

[1730]Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  May I ask the Taoiseach, due to the grave difficulties in agriculture and particularly in the beef sector from the BSE crisis, if the Government has any legislative measures or other procedures to promote the sale of Irish beef to outside markets and, if so, will he make them known to the House?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  As the House is probably aware, we are proposing to extend the membership of An Bord Bia to include consumer representatives.

(Interruptions.)

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

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  This is designed to restore consumer confidence in the area generally. I do not believe legislative measures are what is necessary. What is necessary are scientific statements that will be of assistance in restoring consumer confidence in continental markets. Confidence has been substantially restored in the Irish market, which is the area where the Irish Government can take action. The matter concerning confidence on continental markets has to be dealt with.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  What action is the Government involved in to try to restore that confidence by ministerial visits and the visits of people from the Department of Foreign Affairs? It is some weeks since this matter arose and we are heading into a deeper crisis every day. Despite our efforts to raise this issue in the House we have got nowhere.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Strictly speaking this matter does not arise on the Order of Business but if the Taoiseach wishes to respond he may do so as he has done in the past.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  If the Deputy wants information of this nature it would be better if he would give notice of his [1731] intention to raise the matter. This matter has been raised without any notice whatsoever. Second, it would be more appropriate if the matter were the subject of a parliamentary question to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry. However, in deference to the fact that the Deputy has raised the matter I will obtain information for him on the matter generally that may be of assistance to him. It is better, given that it is important that statements made here should be authoritative, that notice should be given. No notice whatsoever was given of this line of questioning.

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  We are living in the real world.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I note from media reports that the Minister for Justice has circulated her proposals in relation to bail to her Cabinet colleagues. Has the Government finalised its views on this issue and can we take it we will have a referendum later this year on the issue of bail?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Is it a matter of promised legislation?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  This question is in order. That matter is under consideration by the Government, as the Deputy has been told on a number of occasions. As soon as a conclusion is reached on the matter an announcement will be made.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Since I raised this matter with the Taoiseach last week I saw extensive media reports at the weekend that the Minister for Justice had now finalised her view and had circulated that view to the Tánaiste and to the Minister for Social Welfare and perhaps to other Cabinet colleagues. Given that the Taoiseach gave a commitment here three months ago that the Government would finalise its view in six weeks, when can we expect the Government to make up its mind on this important issue?

[1732]The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I have already acknowledged that the Deputy raised this matter last week. There has been some slippage in terms of time in regard to my anticipated time frame which was, as the Deputy said, six weeks. That six week period has more than elapsed at this stage. The matter is currently under consideration and I have nothing to add to my earlier reply.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I am sorry for interrupting again. Since last week, this side of the House is ready to make an agreement on raising issues on the Order of Business but unfortunately the Taoiseach has turned that down.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  In view of the reply by the Taoiseach to the leader of the Opposition regarding the need to table parliamentary questions, will the Taoiseach agree that the interests of everybody in this House would be best served by a debate in this House on the present state of affairs in Irish agriculture? We had a debate on the BSE crisis, following the announcement in the House of Commons on 20 March, and we got some semblance of activity from the Government benches as a result. I ask the Taoiseach, given the deteriorating situation for beef farmers, of which he is aware in his constituency and right across the country——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  It does not arise now, Deputy.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  ——if he will allow Government time for a debate on matter which concern the livelihoods of thousands of beef farmers? Cattle prices have been falling by between £50 and £100 per head in the past two weeks. Will the Taoiseach——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Please, Deputy Cowen. The Deputy has had some latitude on this matter.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It is in order to ask the Taoiseach if he is prepared, given the wide significance of this issue, to allow a [1733] debate in Government time. The people and the farming community——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  The Deputy has asked a question. He need not and may not elaborate further now.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  May I ask the Taoiseach to reply?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  The Deputy may ask the Taoiseach to reply.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Deputy and his party has available to them virtually every week Private Members' Time——

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  We used it twice.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  ——and have chosen not to use it this week for this topic. I have already indicated to Deputy Ahern that I will obtain a comprehensive statement in regard to the matter which I will forward to him. If questions are posed without notice it is not possible to give comprehensive replies.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  What about briefing farmers on the matter?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  When information that may be slightly different from the facts is given here, Members are quick to accuse us of misleading the House.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  On a point of order, does the Taoiseach regard a motion on the Agreement Amending the Fourth ACPEC Convention of Lomé 1995 as more urgent for Government consideration than the thousands of farmers——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  That is not a point of order.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  ——who are demanding a debate in this House?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Thank you, Deputy Cowen, please desist.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Is the Taoiseach suggesting that we cannot have a debate in this [1734] House unless in Private Members' Time or is the Government prepared to give some of its time to debate the issue?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Deputy Cowen should resume his seat.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It is worth pointing out to the Deputy that there is a facility available to his party——

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  And to the Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  ——if it wishes to seek a debate on a subject and that is to communicate through the Whips with the Government Whip. Deputies Ahern and Cowen have demonstrated a lack of seriousness by raising this matter without giving notice——

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  ——or seeking a debate through the Whips. They have come in here with manufactured outrage on this matter——

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Excuse me, Sir——

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  ——without having taken the necessary preparatory steps.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  As a Member of this house, am I allowed to ask for a debate in Government time without giving notice to the Taoiseach or another member of the Government?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Please, the Deputy should not elaborate at this stage.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  This is a serious matter.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  If the Deputy were serious he would have gone through the Whips.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Taoiseach should answer my question. This is a serious matter that affects beef farmers.

[1735]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Deputy Cowen should resume his seat.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I have asked a simple question and the Taoiseach should be prepared to answer it. May we have a debate on the matter next week?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I will ask the Deputy one more time. I am loath to ask him another question.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Can we debate it next week? Let the farmers know that at the insistence of the Government there will not be a debate on this House on this issue.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  A number of Deputies are offering whom I wish to facilitate. I will accept only an orderly debate, otherwise I will proceed to other business. Deputies should raise relevant matters or I will move on.

Mr. Hilliard: Information on Colm M. Hilliard  Zoom on Colm M. Hilliard  I want to ask the Taoiseach two simple questions to which I hope he will reply. Is he aware of An Bord Bia's plans to improve the position in the beef market?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Please, Deputy, that is not relevant now.

Mr. Hilliard: Information on Colm M. Hilliard  Zoom on Colm M. Hilliard  If not, when will he know? Has the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry contacted An Bord Bia or had discussions with the board about this matter?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Deputy Hilliard may not pursue that matter now.

Mr. Hilliard: Information on Colm M. Hilliard  Zoom on Colm M. Hilliard  These are two——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I am sure they are very important matters but they have been raised by the Deputy's colleagues.

Mr. Hilliard: Information on Colm M. Hilliard  Zoom on Colm M. Hilliard  I have to assume the Minister made no contact.

[1736]The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Deputy should make no such assumptions. He should neither assume nor presume.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I will proceed to the other matters unless I get order.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  I welcome the consumer representation proposed for An Bord Bia. Will amending legislation be necessary in that regard? Why did the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry not travel to Libya? Is there truth in the rumour that he failed to get a visa after waiting four months and that preference was given to the Tánaiste?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Please, Deputy O'Keeffe.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  Does the Minister deny this? This is an important matter for the farming community.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I ask Deputy O'Keeffe to resume his seat. Let us not make a farce of the Order of Business and its regulations.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  I am sorry, Sir. Will you assist me?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I can work only within existing regulations. The Deputy will resume his seat.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  We must expose the failure of the Government which is destroying the farming community.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I ask Deputy O'Keeffe to resume his seat.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  Is the Taoiseach aware that the period of assistance for the rendering industry will expire today, for which £2.5 million was provided by a Supplementary Estimate recently passed by the House? What steps does the Government propose to take after midnight tonight? If the rendering industry——

[1737]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  This is not the appropriate time to pursue that matter. The Deputy has made this point.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  Will a Supplementary Estimate be required if further assistance is to be provided?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I am calling Deputy O'Dea.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  Minister De Rossa's permission will be necessary.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  Will a supplementary——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I ask Deputy O'Malley to resume his seat because the matter he raised is irrelevant on the Order of Business.

Mr. J. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe Walsh  It is very relevant.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  It is very relevant because a Supplementary Estimate should be introduced tomorrow.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Will the Deputy resume his seat, please.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  Will a Supplementary Estimate be introduced tomorrow for this purpose?

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  I would like to hear a reply to that.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  The Taoiseach does not appear to know.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Is it true that it is proposed to impose a levy?

Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  The Taoiseach should call in Minister De Rossa and seek permission from the Left.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  I am surprised the Taoiseach does not know of the crisis in the beef industry. I want to ask him about a promise the Government made today [1738] by way of a press release from the Minister for Justice to set up by statute an independent agency to manage the courts. When will the appropriate legislation be introduced? Will the Government move with the speed and decisiveness with which it dealt with the bail issue?

Mr. Lowry: Information on Michael Lowry  Zoom on Michael Lowry  The Deputy did nothing for eight years.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The position in the beef industry is serious and deserves to be approached in a serious manner.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  And debated.

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  So the Taoiseach will give Government time.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Raising matters without notice and seeking a debate without going through the normal channels in order to stage a manifestation in the House is not a serious way to deal with a serious problem.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  That arrogance will get the Taoiseach nowhere.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Provisions are not being made for a Supplementary Estimate at this stage, but the position is under review. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry is aware of the matter and is in frequent contact with An Bord Bia regarding its plans on the matter. Deputy Hilliard need not be concerned in that regard. Whenever it is necessary for the Minister to brief me on a matter regarding An Bord Bia'a plans for the beef industry, of course he will do so.

In regard to Deputy O'Dea's question, the Government decided this morning to accept in principle the recommendations that have been made. As the report was accepted in principle only this morning, work has not yet started on drafting the necessary legislation and I cannot give a timeframe for its introduction at this juncture.

[1739]Mr. O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  Will the report be published?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It will be.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera  Zoom on Síle de Valera  Does the Government intend to introduce amending legislation to deal with the crisis in the TB scheme which has been outlined by the ICMSA and other farming groups? Will the Taoiseach at least enlighten us as to whether the Government intends to take action on the matter?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Legislation has not been promised in this area but that does not mean promised action will not require legislation.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera  Zoom on Síle de Valera  When will that be forthcoming? Will the Taoiseach give an answer?

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  On 5 April 1995 the Taoiseach said that the fisheries amendment legislation would not be ready until later in this year. What is the present position in regard to that legislation?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That legislation has been approved by the Cabinet. I expect it will be available in the second half of that year.

(Interruptions.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I will allow a final question from Deputy Connolly but then I will move on as I cannot facilitate the number of Deputies who are questioning and I may not go on indefinitely.

Mr. Connolly: Information on Gerard C. Connolly  Zoom on Gerard C. Connolly  When will the Turf Development Bill come before the House for debate? This is a serious matter. The board requires financial assistance.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Are we talking about promised legislation?

Mr. Connolly: Information on Gerard C. Connolly  Zoom on Gerard C. Connolly  Yes.

[1740]The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It will come before the House in January to February 1997.

Mr. Connolly: Information on Gerard C. Connolly  Zoom on Gerard C. Connolly  So we will not have it before the election.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  On a point of order——

(Interruptions.)


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