Wednesday, 5 March 1997
Dáil Éireann Debate
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): It is proposed to take No. 8a on a Supplementary Order Paper; motion re. ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; No. 4 — Social Welfare Bill, 1997, Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; No. 1 — Irish Takeover Panel Bill, 1996, Amendments from the Seanad; and No. 2 — Credit Union Bill, 1996, Second Stage (resumed).
It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) The Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 10.30 p.m.; (2) No. 8a on a Supplementary Order Paper shall be decided without debate; (3) The Second Stage of No. 4 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, shall be adjourned at 6.45 p.m. tonight; and (4) Private Members' Business shall be No. 53 — motion No. 20 re Water Charges (resumed) and the proceedings thereon shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. this evening.
An Ceann Comhairle: There are four questions to put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting this evening satisfactory? Agreed. Is the proposal that No. 8a be decided without debate satisfactory? Agreed. Are the proposals for dealing with item No. 4 satisfactory? Agreed. Is the proposal appertaining to Private Members' Business this evening satisfactory? Agreed.
Mr. Quinn: I could not possibly anticipate the co-operation of the Opposition in relation to a matter like that. Clearly it would be a matter for the Opposition Chief Whip with whom we shall be happy to discuss the matter in due course.
Mr. B. Ahern: As the Minister for Finance and I know, the Department of Finance usually preempts all these issues. No doubt the Minister has in his possession a note of when it is hoped to have the Finance Bill, 1997 passed and signed by the President. Perhaps he would give the House the benefit of that information.
Mr. Quinn: The Deputy will be happy to hear that the Department is under democratic control and subject to the wishes of this Assembly. As the House will be aware, the Finance Bill has to be passed and signed by the President no later than 90 days after the budget, which timetable will be met in the normal way.
Mr. Martin: In relation to promised legislation mentioned in the programme for Government, will the Minister for Finance say when and if it is the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill in respect of the financial bonding of third level private colleges? Can he report to the House on the Tánaiste's statement of yesterday, indicating whether any progress has been made or whether the Government has met the students involved?
Mr. Quinn: I was not here yesterday but I gather the matter was dealt with extensively then. The legislation to which the Deputy refers is contained in the programme for Government and is being considered at present.
Mr. Martin: The Tánaiste indicated that he would seek to do something for the students and college concerned. I received a letter from you, Sir, this morning in relation to this specific matter. I had tabled a normal parliamentary question. You wrote to me saying that because the Minister says she has no responsibility in the matter——
Mr. Martin: I am not challenging anything. As a Member of this House, how can I raise this issue when a parliamentary question I had tabled is ruled out of order and I am not allowed raise the matter on the Order of Business?
Mr. M. McDowell: Will the Minister for Finance inform the House whether the Government is willing to make time available to debate a report from the Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs on economic and monetary union? Its chairman, Deputy Jim Mitchell, is most anxious that we have a debate on the subject. It is most unfortunate that the whole issue should go by without debate. Will the Minister indicate whether Government time will be made available for such a discussion?
Mr. Quinn: I must take issue with the Deputy's remark to the effect that the whole issue would go by without debate. The Deputy will be aware that there was a debate within the relevant committee — if my memory serves me correctly — in March 1996. It is timely that that debate be updated. There will be a meeting of the Whips this afternoon. I will request the Government Chief Whip to discuss the matter with the Whips of the Opposition parties in order to decide whether such debate should take place within the  confines of the committee or, if the House so wishes, on the floor of the House.
Mr. O'Dea: Last week I asked the Taoiseach about two fundamental items of legislation promised in the Programme for Government and he admitted they will not be introduced in the lifetime of this Dáil. I refer the Minister for Finance to the programme for Government which promised to establish a parole board to ensure that prisoners will be discharged from prison in an orderly manner and not on an ad hoc basis. Is it the Government's intention to introduce the relevant legislation to provide for this board in the seven or eight weeks of parliamentary time left to this Government or will that commitment be jettisoned also?
Mr. Quinn: I was not aware the Deputy would decide the date of the next election. The matter to which he refers is being considered and as soon as the draft legislation is ready it will be brought before the House.
Mr. E. Ryan: Will the Minister who is a pragmatic and logical individual explain how the Government could send a senior Minister to the opening of the film festival last night and can have a Minister, Deputy Higgins, who promotes the film business——
Mr. L. Fitzgerald: May I ask your advice, Sir? I tabled a question to the Taoiseach and every Government Minister yesterday and the Minister for Finance decided to reply on behalf of everybody and gave me a smart alec reply. How can I go about seeking my democratic rights as a publicly elected TD and insist on getting a reply to parliamentary questions?
Miss Quill: What is the status of the long promised broadcasting Bill? Will it come before the House in this session or in the lifetime of this Government? Which Minister or Minister of State is making decisions in respect of the subject matter of the Green Paper on broadcasting? Is the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht concerned that a number of the students picketing outside are students of the Advanced Technology College?
Mr. Quinn: The matter of legislation and the heads of a broadcasting Bill will be before the Cabinet on Tuesday next when it will be disposed of. It is not possible to say when the Bill will be published.
Mr. J. Walsh: Has the Government plans under the programme for Government to provide adequate ferry services to transport cattle from here to other EU countries? We have a major crisis. No transport is available, the Government is doing nothing about it and farmers are in disarray. What does the Government propose to do about it under the programme for Government?
Mr. Callely: On promised legislation, what progress has been made with the licensed drugs Bill to deal with drug abuse in dance halls, pubs and at outdoor unlicensed dances and the likely time-scale for such legislation to be put in place?
Mr. Davern: The Minister will be aware of the greyhound Bill which has been promised. Is he aware the national headquarters of the greyhound industry in Clonmel does not have a dog track as of this week? What does the Government propose to do about this?
Mr. M. McDowell: When will the Government bring forward legislation, which has been promised on many occasions, to deal with the problem of long-standing tenants in domestic accommodation? The Minister is aware of people in his constituency who are awaiting some alleviation of the 20 year rule which allows them to be dumped out of their homes in the 19th year of their occupation, simply to avoid a rule of law.
Mr. Martin: Will the Minister for Finance indicate a time frame for the publication of the ministerial orders on upgrading regional technical colleges to institute of technology status, as indicated last week at Question Time? For example, Waterford would need a ministerial order. When the Tánaiste went to Cork for the Labour Party Conference it was promised to the students of Cork.
Mr. Molloy: Will the Minister clarify the difference between the reply he gave to my question and that which he gave to the leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Bertie Ahern, about group water schemes in regard to possible or pending legislation?
Mr. Quinn: The question put by Deputy Bertie Ahern, Leader of the Opposition, asked if legislation would follow the report which the Minister for the Environment was due to bring to the Cabinet. In reply I said that until such time as we saw that report I was not in a position to say whether there would be legislation.
Mr. Ellis: I rose to respond but another Member was in possession. I put down two statistical questions last week to the Minister for Health with regard to delays in the provision of orthodontic and spectacle services by the health boards. The Minister replied that he did not have the information on hand but would produce it in due course. I put down a further question but the Ceann Comhairle's office ruled it out of order.
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