Order of Business.

Wednesday, 22 January 1997

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 473 No. 4

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The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It is proposed to take the Report from the Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs on the European Parliament Elections Bill, 1996; No. 16 — European Parliament Elections Bill, 1996 — Order for Report and Report Stage; and No. 17 — Financial Motions by the Minister for Finance, which shall be taken on the conclusion of Questions to members of the Government. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the sitting shall not be suspended at 1.30 p.m. today; the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. today and the motion for the General Financial Resolution shall be moved not later than 12 midnight whereon business shall then be interrupted and the Dáil shall adjourn forthwith; the Report Stage of No. 16 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, shall be adjourned at 2 p.m.; following the Budget Statement of the Minister for Finance and the statements by the main spokespersons of the Fianna Fáil Party and the Progressive Democrats Party, the sitting shall be suspended for 30 minutes; and there will be no Private Members' Business this week.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  There are five matters to put before the House. Is the proposal that the sitting shall not be suspended at 1.30 p.m. today satisfactory? Agreed. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Are the arrangements for dealing with No. 16 satisfactory? Agreed. Is the proposal for the suspension of the sitting following the Budget Statement satisfactory? Agreed. Is the proposal that there will be no Private Members' Business this week agreed? Agreed.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Will the Taoiseach arrange for statements to be made to the House by the relevant Ministers regarding the industrial disputes in the transport and nursing areas?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  That matter is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I will consider that request.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Will the Taoiseach outline the legislation the Government intends to bring forward [887] as a matter of priority between now and the time he declares a general election? On this first day of the new session is the Taoiseach in a position to give an absolute guarantee that whatever priorities he sets will be passed into legislation this session? As a matter of interest, perhaps the Taoiseach will tell the House the number of days in this particular session.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Government legislative programme has been or is in the process of being circulated to Deputies. It sets out the legislation we intend to advance in this session, the next session, the session thereafter and so forth.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  It is very light.

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Is he a permanent dictator?

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Given that the investigation into the Dunnes Stores payments affair has made such little progress, will the Government consider bringing forward a motion to establish a tribunal of inquiry?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I would prefer if the Deputy dealt with that matter another way.

Mr. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Can the Government deal with it another way?

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is eight weeks since this matter came to public attention and it is not unreasonable to ask this question on the first day of the new session.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That inquiry is ongoing at this stage. It is not the case that any Member has sufficient information to make a statement of the type made by the Deputy. When the report from Mr. Justice Buchanan is available it will be furnished to the appropriate committee of the House which will then institute inquiries into the matter.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Can the Taoiseach say how long that might take? Does he have any idea when it will happen?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Obviously I cannot do so because only Mr. Justice Buchanan can determine the length of time he requires for the task he has been given. The committee will in turn determine the length of time it requires to perform its functions. Neither will be acting at the direction of the Executive.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  A proposal will be made to the House tomorrow in relation to the setting up of the Lowry/Dunnes Stores committee. For example, it is proposed that the quorum will be three of five members. Has the Government examined this proposal? Will it be proposed tomorrow? There is some doubt whether it is a [888] good idea to have only three people attending a meeting or if it would be preferable if all members were present during all the committee's deliberations. If some members are missing from time to time, it could be open to subsequent legal challenge.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I appreciate the Deputy's points. I understand the proposal has been put forward by official sources in the Houses of the Oireachtas. The most appropriate course of action for the Government to take is a discussion between the Whips, and I understand the Government Whip will initiate a discussion on the matter. The Deputy will have an opportunity to raise his concerns at that level. When the matter returns to the House there can be public discussion if it is required.

Mr. O'Donoghue: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Have any of the State's agencies investigated this matter or reported to the Government on it?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  This is not Question Time.

Ms O'Donnell: Information on Liz O'Donnell  Zoom on Liz O'Donnell  That is the problem.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Can the Taoiseach indicate when the legislation relating to vocational education committees will be brought before the House?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Education Bill has been published.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  It is separate legislation regarding the 1931 vocational education committee Act——

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  Following the Education Bill.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That legislation will follow the principal Education Bill.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  It should be before it.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am not in a position to give the Deputy a timeframe.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  The Government is not in a position to do anything.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  A High Court ruling yesterday will have severe implications for sports clubs throughout the country. Does the Government intend to introduce legislation to improve the position for sports clubs which has been worsened by the High Court decision yesterday?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  That should be dealt with another way. There should not be circumvention of the business at this time.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It is too early to state whether legislation is necessary to remedy problems which may have arisen for clubs as a result of the [889] judgment, which must be studied. However, it may be that non-statutory solutions are the best.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  When does the Taoiseach plan to bring forward legislation to overcome the administrative errors which have occurred regarding the three months notice period under the Family Law Act? Approximately 50 marriages are in limbo. Will the legislation be introduced as a matter of urgency?

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  He was warned at the time.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I told him.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The legislation to deal with that matter is at an early stage of preparation.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  For the families in question this is a serious matter.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  In the context of that promised legislation, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Equality and Law Reform are aware that, for nine months, I had reservations about the difficulties which would arise in this area. I ask the Minister for Equality and Law Reform to ensure all the difficulties which could arise under the legislation are addressed. I draw the Minister's attention to the point that if the legislation is not enacted before 5 April, many couples who married since 1 August may find they are not entitled to the normal married persons' tax allowances and benefits.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  A little discord on day one.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  We all met people in that position. It is appalling and the Government was warned about it.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The points raised by Deputy Shatter are of such a detailed nature that they would probably best be pursued by means of a parliamentary question. As I said, it is the Government's intention to remedy the problems which have been identified.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill  What is the status of the promised charities Bill? Will it be before the House this session, or in any session in the lifetime of this Government?

Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Dukes): Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  Deputy McDowell will be the first person to use it.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I understand the legislation is likely to be produced in the second half of the year.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill  Which year?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The heads of the Bill are currently being discussed by a committee of the House.

[890]Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera  Zoom on Síle de Valera  Can the Taoiseach state whether the Government intends to introduce legislation regarding special areas of conservation before the habitats directive is signed in February by the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht? It is important that both Houses have an opportunity to discuss the implications of the directive before it is signed.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I will be in touch with the Deputy about that matter.

Mr. J. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe Walsh  On this day of the greatest give away budget of all time for the middle class, according to the Taoiseach,——

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  The Deputy is standing there in great anticipation.

Mr. Finucane: Information on Michael Finucane  Zoom on Michael Finucane  It is great to be in Opposition.

Mr. J. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe Walsh  ——will the Government restore the butter voucher scheme for the poor?

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  It would cost £9 million.

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  The Minister for Education announced the upgrading of Waterford Regional Technical College to institute of technology status, a decision of which everybody in Waterford is proud, but legislation is required to implement this decision. Does the Government intend to introduce a separate Bill to deal with the matter or will the Dublin Institute of Technology Bill be amended? When can such legislation be expected?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I congratulate the Minister on the decision. The people of Waterford city have sought this upgrading for many years and I am glad this Government and Minister made this decision.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Government took some of my advice.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  The Taoiseach is making an election speech.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am very appreciative of the support from this unexpected quarter — Deputy Cullen — on this matter.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  May I mention Deputy Deasy in that context?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  There is no room for debate now. I am calling Deputy Ó Cuív.

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  The Taoiseach did not answer my question. I am glad the Taoiseach followed on my party leader's announcement in October——

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I assure Deputy Cullen that all the requisite procedures will be put in place, whether by statute or otherwise, to give effect to [891] this decision for which I again congratulate the Minister for Education.

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  That is a weak answer. It is easy to make an announcement. I want to see the legislation.

Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  When is it proposed to introduce the Local Government (Financial Provisions) Bill, 1997, which might better be entitled the “Rural Taxation without Services Bill”?

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Is the Deputy against abolishing service charges?

Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Will that Bill address the issue of those living in rural areas having to deal with sewage and water without a system?

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Deputy is wrong again.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  No elaboration is required.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I wonder if Deputy Ó Cuív is indicating that his party will be opposing the abolition of service charges by the Government. He would be most welcome to take that course of action, if that is what he wants. I assure him that the legislation in question will be carried into law by this Government. We expect to have the legislation published before Easter. I look forward to Deputy Ó Cuív's contribution and that of his party on that legislation.

Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  On a point of order, I never said I was opposed to abolishing service charges.

Mr. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  We know where the Deputy stands on service charges.

Mr. T. Kitt: Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Will the Taoiseach be introducing legislation this session to allow for the sending of Irish troops to serve with the peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslavia?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  This matter has not come before Government. It is a matter for consideration as to whether any appropriate action should be taken. At this stage no decision has been taken.

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  Does the Taoiseach, in accordance with his usual practice, intend to institute an inquiry into a very serious leak from the Government last week regarding differences between the Minister for Finance and the Tánaiste on the question of public sector pay? Has the Taoiseach a list of suspects?

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Among the Bills to be published before Easter is the Equal Status Bill. When is it intended that the Bill be taken in the House?

[892]The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Soon after publication, and publication will be quite soon.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Will it be sooner than the election?

Mr. O'Donoghue: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Is it intended to introduce legislation to regularise the holding of District Court sittings at non-courthouse venues, or is the Government embarked on a course of surreptitiously closing down courthouses?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I understand this matter does not require primary legislation but can be dealt with by statutory instrument.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Does the Minister for Education intend to abolish Drogheda vocational education committee in the near future?

Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  I am glad the Taoiseach has given permission to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry to travel to various capitals to sell our cattle when the stable door is already open. Will he be back in time for the general election?


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