Order of Business.

Tuesday, 11 February 1997

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 474 No. 6

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The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  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: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie 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: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  No.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Given that the Taoiseach promised in the middle of November to provide for an independent courts service within a week, when will we see the legislation providing for its establishment?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  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.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill  A week is a long time in politics.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Has the Taoiseach made representations on humanitarian grounds to the British Prime Minister, Mr. John Major, with regard [1054] to the perilous and delicate state of health of Roísín McAliskey who has now passed the sixth month of pregnancy?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I understand the matter has been taken up with the British authorities but I do not have the details to hand.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Did the Taoiseach in his telephone conversations with the British Prime Minister, or the Tánaiste in the meeting held last week refer to the case directly?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  The matter should be pursued other than on the Order of Business.

Mr. O'Donoghue: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  What is the position on the bail legislation following the bail referendum in November? Is the delay due to a difference of opinion on the legislation or the paucity of prison places?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The legislation will be introduced before Easter.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus 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?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am answering questions about promised legislation. It is hoped to have the turf development legislation before the House in midyear.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál 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.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  No legislation has been promised in the matter but the Minister for Education is studying the judgment to see what provision is necessary.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James 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?

[1055]The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  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: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel 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. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  When does the Taoiseach expect the electricity Bill which has been promised on a number of occasions to be brought forward? It seems to be a moveable feast.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I have already answered that question. I indicated to Deputy Séamus Brennan that the legislation will be introduced in the second half of 1998.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie 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: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  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: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie 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: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I understand the legislation in question was first promised in 1993 when the Deputy had some influence on affairs.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  That is not correct. It arises from the agreement negotiated last year.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  If the Deputy wishes to pursue the policy issues, he should table a question to [1056] the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications who will answer all questions on the matter adequately.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie 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.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  We should not debate the matter now.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Which Luddites are involved?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Deputy only became “electrified” when he went into Opposition.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I cannot hear what the Taoiseach is saying.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  That is a very poor joke.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I was trying to humour the Deputy.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  He has failed to do that.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  The Deputy should take his pills regularly.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor 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: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  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: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor 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.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  This is not the appropriate forum to raise this matter.

[1057]The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That is why I told the Deputy's party leader we will introduce that legislation before Easter.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  When?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Before Easter.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It was announced on LM-FM.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. 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?

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

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Yes.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  There is legislation on charities, the timing of which I have dealt with. If the Deputy wishes to raise policy questions, I suggest he does so with the Minister for Justice.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. 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.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Thank you, Deputy Woods. I now call Deputy O'Rourke.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Why is the Government and the Taoiseach ignoring this matter?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  We cannot debate this on the Order of Business.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  He is too busy making records on LM-FM — Charlie Landsborough, my forever friend.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  I want to thank the Taoiseach for his earlier answer.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Some special sweets must have been handed out to the Fianna Fáil Front Bench speakers.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  There is a new disc jockey on LM-FM.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Let us hear the Member in possession.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  This is absolutely wonderful in glorious technicolor.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  The Taoiseach should look at his colour.

[1058]The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It is warmed by the Deputy's presence.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Because of all the outdoor walking.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary 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: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  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.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  The Taoiseach has gone into great detail on other matters on other occasions. We regard this as a very important issue.

Mr. Boylan: Information on Andrew Boylan  Zoom on Andrew Boylan  The Deputy is treating it as a political football, nothing else.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  The Deputy is pathetic.

Mr. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  We had that on television last night, it is called interference.

(Interruptions.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Please allow me to facilitate Deputy Power before I move on to the business proper.

Mr. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán 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.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I am sure Deputy Power will find other ways to raise that matter.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  The Deputy is criticising Deputy Cowen.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  He is criticising Deputy Lowry.

Mr. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  This is a very serious issue on which there have been conflicting Government statements.


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