Tuesday, 11 February 1997
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take the report of the Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs on the Central Bank Bill, 1996; No. 1, Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1996 [Seanad], Second Stage, and No. 2, Children Bill, 1996, Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. Private Members' Business shall be No. 10, Prisons Bill, 1997, Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
Mr. B. Ahern: Arising from the statements allegedly made by officials of the Department of Finance last evening, is it proposed to bring forward amending legislation or an amending Order to increase hospital charges?
The Taoiseach: That announcement was overtaken by events. The courts legislation which will provide for the matter to be dealt with on a statutory basis rather than on a non-statutory basis which gave rise to difficulty will be introduced in April.
Mrs. O'Rourke: Has the Taoiseach made representations on humanitarian grounds to the British Prime Minister, Mr. John Major, with regard  to the perilous and delicate state of health of Roísín McAliskey who has now passed the sixth month of pregnancy?
Mr. S. Brennan: When will we see the turf development Bill? There was a statement from Brussels last week to the effect that the midlands peat-fired station project might be cancelled. Will the Taoiseach confirm that the project will go ahead or is it proposed to cancel it?
Mr. Martin: What legislative provisions does the Government intend to introduce following the Supreme Court's decision last week in the O'Donoghue case? There is the obvious consequential need to provide for an increased number of teachers to meet the needs of children with a mental handicap and other extensive implications. Will the Taoiseach ensure the Minister will meet the parent associations involved? There was an unfortunate incident in Cork on Saturday involving the Minister and the family concerned. A more generous response from the Government is called for.
Dr. McDaid: On national charities legislation, the Tánaiste informed me last week that the matter was being considered by a select committee. I have since learned that it will be 1998 before the legislation finds its way onto the Statute Book. Will the Taoiseach inquire of the Minister for Justice if she will make a ministerial order to raise the cap for the Rehabilitation Institute before it is too late?
The Taoiseach: The Deputy is raising policy matters. The report of the advisory group which contains proposals for legislation is being considered by the select committee in question. It would be more appropriate for the Deputy or representatives of his party to raise the issue at the select committee.
Mr. Dempsey: In view of his interest in the price of a pint and the licensed trade, does the Taoiseach consider it appropriate that the head of a supposedly independent inquiry into the licensed trade in Dublin should make a statement clearly outlining his views on the matter before the inquiry starts? I refer to an article in The Irish Times of Saturday last.
Mr. B. Ahern: Is the Taoiseach aware that by not bringing forward the electricity Bill the restructuring of the company cannot proceed thereby preventing the workers gaining the 5 per cent of shares promised in the agreement negotiated last year? There is no reason the Bill cannot be brought forward. The Government is reneging on the commitment given to staff.
The Taoiseach: I will not be drawn into a commentary on this matter which is being dealt with in the normal way by the board of the ESB in the context of the industrial relations processes within the company and its obligations under EU rules. I should not be drawn into the tendentious questioning into which the Deputy is seeking to draw me.
Mr. B. Ahern: For the Taoiseach's information, the board of the ESB, the workers and everyone associated with the company want the Bill as soon as possible. The workers have already voted on the matter, management is in favour and the board has requested it. I fail to understand why it will not be ready until the second half of 1998. It is not complex legislation. It will allow the company to become a plc. It has nothing to do with the company's obligations under EU law. That matter will be dealt with in the other Bill.
The Taoiseach: If the Deputy wishes to pursue the policy issues, he should table a question to  the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications who will answer all questions on the matter adequately.
Mr. B. Ahern: I was not going to raise this matter, but in reply to Deputy Molloy the Taoiseach referred to the second ESB Bill which will deal with competition. Deputy Molloy asked about the electricity Bill which will provide for the restructuring of the ESB, as part of which the workers will gain shares under the agreement negotiated last year. The board is awaiting this legislation.
Mr. Callely: While I am aware it is proposed to publish the offences against the persons Bill prior to Easter, will the Taoiseach agree to introduce emergency legislation to address the appalling abuse and increased use of syringes in attacks, given the gravity of the issue?
The Taoiseach: The Deputy must not have being paying attention to what his fellow northside party colleague and leader, Deputy Bertie Ahern, said when he raised this matter in the past two days. I provided answers to the Deputy on that matter. The Government has proposals.
Mr. Callely: If the Taoiseach listened to the beginning of my question, he would be aware I referred to the offences against the persons Bill which is due to be published prior to Easter. Will he agree to introduce emergency legislation without delay and, if not, will he give Government time to other parties to allow them do so? This is a serious issue that could be easily addressed.
Dr. Woods: As regards promised legislation on charitable lotteries, the committee decided that legislation should be introduced to remove the cap on charitable lotteries and it recommends that, in the meantime, the Government should raise the ceiling by regulation. Will the Taoiseach and the Government stop fiddling with the issue and do something for charitable lotteries?
Dr. Woods: This is a simple legislative matter. Why is the Taoiseach running away from it? People who depend on charitable lotteries are being cast aside. The Taoiseach talked about an advisory committee. It has reported and recommended that the cap be removed.
Mrs. O'Rourke: I thank the Taoiseach for his earlier reply. Will he communicate today or tomorrow with John Major on the plight of Róisín McAliskey who is in a perilous state of health and is more than six months pregnant? As an Irish citizen, she deserves representation from this Parliament.
The Taoiseach: I have already answered the Deputy's question. As she knows, promised legislation may be raised on the Order of Business. There is not any promised legislation on this matter but, out of courtesy to the Deputy, I indicated that the Government had taken up this matter. I also indicated I did not have the file on this matter to hand, that I will get further information on it and I will supply the Deputy with any available information. This is a period for asking questions on promised legislation and this matter does not come under that heading.
Mr. Power: Will the Taoiseach guarantee that every effort will be made to ensure that the peat station proposed for the midlands goes ahead, as it is vital for the area? The previous Minister was very busy but that was no excuse for neglecting this matter in the manner in which he did.
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