Tuesday, 30 June 1998
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Tánaiste: It is proposed to take No. 7, motion re Bovine Diseases (Levies) Regulations, 1998; No. a21 on a Supplementary Order Paper, Investor Compensation Bill, 1998 [Seanad] — Order for Report and Report and Final Stages; No. 21, Parental Leave Bill, 1998 [Seanad] — Order for Report and Report and Final Stages; and No. 3, Defence (Amendment) Bill, 1998 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
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 12.00 midnight; (2) pursuant to Standing Order 78(3), and in the case of the proposed meeting of the Select Committee on Enterprise and Small Business to consider the Industrial Development (Enterprise Ireland) Bill, 1998 today, the Dáil shall waive its instruction that not more than two select committees shall meet to consider a Bill on any given day; (3) the proceedings on No. 7, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion after 75 minutes and the contributions shall be as follows: (i) the opening speech of a Minister or Minister of State and the speeches of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; (ii) the speech of the main spokespersons for the Democratic Left Party and the Green Party shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; (iii) Members may share time; and (iv) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes; (4) the Report and Final Stages of No. a21 on a Supplementary Order Paper shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 9.00 p.m. tonight by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Finance; (5) the Report and Final Stages of No. 21 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 10.30 p.m. tonight by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform; and (6) the Second Stage of No. 3 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, shall brought to a conclusion at 12.00 midnight.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: There are six proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Standing Order 78(3) agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 7 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. a21 agreed?
Mr. J. Bruton: This proposal concerns investor compensation. There are a number of investors in Irish Life who are entitled to compensation because of the practise of churning that apparently has been used legally by that company. I know the Tánaiste would wish to make it clear that legislation will be introduced to ban this practice and, obviously, this should be dealt with in the context of compensating those who have been the victims of it. May I have an assurance from her on this point before we agree to limit the time for dealing with this Bill?
The Tánaiste: The Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, who has responsibility for insurance matters in the Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment has met representatives of the company. Two officials of the Department went to the company's offices on Friday, yesterday and again today with a view to overseeing the remedy Irish Life intends to put in place to make restitution to the affected investors. If extra powers are required, they will be used. I have not had an opportunity to study the legislation yet but, if necessary, we will correct any anomalies or deficiencies that exist in insurance legislation. We are determined to ensure the policy holders affected by the decisions taken by the sales staff are fully compensated as soon as possible.
Mr. J. Bruton: Does the Tánaiste agree it would be better not to conclude this investor compensation legislation today in case we need to amend it to cover compensation to Irish Life investors who have been the victims of churning?  Does she agree we should not rush this legislation through today? While I have no doubt about her good intentions in the matter, if the Dáil goes into recess it will not be possible to pass legislation on this matter. Perhaps we should not conclude the legislation for another day or two so that any legislative powers that are needed to ban churning, to enforce compensation or to appoint inspectors to deal with the problem in Irish Life would have the necessary statutory authority from this House before it goes into recess.
The Tánaiste: As Deputy Bruton knows, the Investor Compensation Bill is required by virtue of an EU Directive. If changes are required on foot of the matters to which he referred, amendment to the insurance Acts would be more appropriate. The Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, will shortly introduce regulations that will lead to more transparency in respect of the rights of policy holders, the commission they are charged and so on. This will not only improve the regulatory environment but lead to greater transparency so that people know exactly what they are paying for. If legislation is required, it should involve the main insurance Acts which would necessitate separate legislation.
The Tánaiste: We have to accept in good faith the company's commitment to compensate. Some of the matters have been referred to the Garda Síochána. If legislation is required after further consideration of the matter, the insurance Acts should be amended.
|Ahern, Dermot.||Collins, Michael.|
|Ahern, Michael.||Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.|
|Ahern, Noel.||Coughlan, Mary.|
|Andrews, David.||Cowen, Brian.|
|Ardagh, Seán.||Cullen, Martin.|
|Aylward, Liam.||Daly, Brendan.|
|Blaney, Harry.||Davern, Noel.|
|Brady, Johnny.||de Valera, Síle.|
|Brady, Martin.||Dempsey, Noel.|
|Brennan, Matt.||Dennehy, John.|
|Brennan, Séamus.||Doherty, Seán.|
|Briscoe, Ben.||Ellis, John.|
|Browne, John (Wexford).||Fahey, Frank.|
|Byrne, Hugh.||Fleming, Seán.|
|Callely, Ivor.||Flood, Chris.|
|Carey, Pat.||Foley, Denis.|
|Fox, Mildred.||Moynihan, Michael.|
|Hanafin, Mary.||Ó Cuív, Éamon.|
|Harney, Mary.||O'Dea, Willie.|
|Haughey, Seán.||O'Donnell, Liz.|
|Healy-Rae, Jackie.||O'Donoghue, John.|
|Jacob, Joe.||O'Flynn, Noel.|
|Kelleher, Billy.||O'Hanlon, Rory.|
|Kenneally, Brendan.||O'Keeffe, Ned.|
|Killeen, Tony.||O'Kennedy, Michael.|
|Kirk, Séamus.||O'Rourke, Mary.|
|Kitt, Michael.||Power, Seán.|
|Kitt, Tom.||Reynolds, Albert.|
|Lawlor, Liam.||Roche, Dick.|
|Lenihan, Brian.||Ryan, Eoin.|
|Lenihan, Conor.||Smith, Brendan.|
|Martin, Micheál.||Smith, Michael.|
|McDaid, James.||Treacy, Noel.|
|McGennis, Marian.||Wade, Eddie.|
|McGuinness, John.||Wallace, Dan.|
|Moffatt, Thomas.||Wallace, Mary.|
|Moloney, John.||Walsh, Joe.|
|Moynihan, Donal.||Woods, Michael.|
|Wright, G. V.|
|Barnes, Monica.||Hogan, Philip.|
|Belton, Louis.||Howlin, Brendan.|
|Broughan, Thomas.||Kenny, Enda.|
|Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).||McCormack, Pádraic.|
|Bruton, John.||McDowell, Derek.|
|Bruton, Richard.||McGahon, Brendan.|
|Burke, Liam.||McGrath, Paul.|
|Burke, Ulick.||McManus, Liz.|
|Carey, Donal.||Mitchell, Gay.|
|Clune, Deirdre.||Mitchell, Jim.|
|Connaughton, Paul.||Mitchell, Olivia.|
|Cosgrave, Michael.||Neville, Dan.|
|Crawford, Seymour.||Noonan, Michael.|
|Creed, Michael.||O'Keeffe, Jim.|
|Currie, Austin.||O'Shea, Brian.|
|De Rossa, Proinsias.||O'Sullivan, Jan.|
|Deasy, Austin.||Owen, Nora.|
|Deenihan, Jimmy.||Perry, John.|
|Dukes, Alan.||Quinn, Ruairí.|
|Durkan, Bernard.||Rabbitte, Pat.|
|Farrelly, John.||Reynolds, Gerard.|
|Finucane, Michael.||Sargent, Trevor.|
|Fitzgerald, Frances.||Sheehan, Patrick.|
|Flanagan, Charles.||Shortall, Róisín.|
|Gilmore, Éamon.||Stagg, Emmet.|
|Gormley, John.||Stanton, David.|
|Hayes, Brian.||Timmins, Billy.|
|Higgins, Jim.||Upton, Pat.|
|Higgins, Joe.||Wall, Jack.|
Mr. J. Bruton: I understand the Government has not completed its work on the Firearms Bill, yet it wants the Dáil to take it tomorrow. Given the serious nature of firearms legislation, the Government's proposal to introduce a more favourable regime in terms of issuing firearms to visitors to this country than applies to people who live here and that such discrimination should be based on law if it is not to run contrary to the Constitution, what is the Government doing that it has not produced this legislation which it wants to debate in the House tomorrow?
Mr. Stagg: We were promised at a Whips' meeting that we would be given a draft of this Bill at an early stage. However, it has not yet seen the light of day. We are expected to discuss this serious measure as if it is an emergency over the next two days. I will oppose it being taken at all unless we receive the Bill as quickly as possible.
Ms McManus: The Tánaiste should be aware that there is great concern about this Bill. The fact it has not been published yet makes it  extremely difficult, if not impossible, for us to debate it properly and to give it the attention it deserves. I ask her to consider moving the debate until later tomorrow to give us an opportunity to examine the Bill's provisions and to deal with this extremely important measure in a way that is appropriate to this House.
The Tánaiste: I apologise to the House for the failure to produce the Bill. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has been working on this over the weekend and I understand it will be ready later this evening. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform intends to arrange for Opposition spokespersons to be briefed. Deputy McManus made a valid suggestion. The Government would be prepared to discuss this Bill later tomorrow. I regret that it has not been published yet, but Deputies will be able to see it later in the evening. If the House is agreeable, we can discuss it later tomorrow.
Mr. J. Bruton: Is there not a great risk that the Dáil will make another mistake if it rushes this legislation through? It is not just a matter of having consultations with the Opposition or postponing it for a few hours.
Mr. Quinn: Has the Government, in the light of its experience, any proposals to establish on a separate basis the Department of Justice and the Department of Equality and Law Reform given the overload of work which is bearing on the shoulders of the Department of Justice?
The Tánaiste: There has been an unprecedented legislative programme this year with over 40 Bills having been introduced by the Government. As Deputies know, the Firearms Bill arose from a High Court decision two weeks ago. It is urgent that we deal with it for the tourist season.
Proinsias De Rossa: The Government should remember the rod licence issue and the way things came unstuck. It was rushed through this House and it was bad legislation. It is not a good idea to rush legislation through the House, particularly legislation relating to firearms.
The Tánaiste: The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has informed me that he has just received a copy of the Bill. The Opposition will be able to get it later. As regards the immigration legislation, I understand we do not have a date for that at present.
Proinsias De Rossa: On a point of order, we were informed some months ago by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform that he was dealing with the immigrants trafficking Bill as a matter of urgency. The Tánaiste now tells us there is no date for it.
Mr. G. Mitchell: In view of the fact that the electoral boundaries will be known some time this week or next week and the Minister for the Environment and Local Government has promised legislation on the direct election of county council chairpersons and mayors, will the Government ensure that this legislation is published soon so that we have it well in advance of the local elections next year? I ask the Tánaiste to tell the House when the Bill will be published.
The Tánaiste: It is important that the legislation is published as quickly as possible, but the Minister for the Environment and Local Government wants to wait for the report before he introduces the legislation. I understand we will have it later this year which will be in plenty of time for the local elections.
Mr. Sargent: In light of the recent Central Statistics Office figures which show that the price of basic foodstuffs has increased more than the rate of inflation, when will the Government's promised report on guaranteed basic incomes be published?
Mr. Neville: When will the Government introduce a Bill to set up a register of child sex offenders in view of the allegations by the team leader of Crosscare's support unit that hundreds of boys are being abused by an extensive paedophile ring which exists from Belfast to Dublin and which is co-ordinated in Dublin?
The Tánaiste: I understand that issue is dealt with in the Minister's discussion paper on child  sexual offences. When discussions have taken place and responses have been received, the Minister will consider the matter.
Mr. Stagg: On foot of the letter issued by Magill, the statement made by the Minister of State at the Department of Public Enterprise, Deputy Jacob, in the House and the contradiction between the two, will time be made available for the Minister of State to correct the record? I presume the Minister of State will be anxious to make a personal statement to clarify this situation.
The Tánaiste: In relation to Deputy Stagg's question, I understand that issue was dealt with in the House last week and the Minister has responded today to a question on the Order Paper. Hopefully, that will deal with the issue.
Mr. Quinn: Is the Tánaiste in a position to indicate whether the Government will have to introduce emergency legislation to provide for contingency arrangements in view of the failure of the gardaí and the Government to reach a satisfactory outcome on the pay negotiations?
The Tánaiste: No, I do not believe legislation will be necessary. That will be an operational matter. The Government is hopeful we can resolve this issue. We do not want to contemplate contingency regulations.
Mr. Rabbitte: Before the prisoners' Bill is due to be taken in the House, will the Tánaiste ensure that the present arrangement, whereby all Stages are taken together which does not facilitate any discussion on Committee Stage, will be reconsidered to ensure some time lapse will be permitted to enable Committee Stage to be taken subsequently?
The Tánaiste: It would be helpful if the Chief Whip and the Whips of the other parties discussed that matter. We want to pass that legislation before the Houses of the Oireachtas go  into early recess because of the construction work that has to take place here.
Mr. Kenny: Will the Tánaiste confirm if the Government has considered the memo on broadcasting prepared by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands and as she has recommended digital terrestrialism as a method of digital transmission, is it intended to appoint a broadcasting regulator before that Bill is published? Will she confirm when the Bill will be published?
Mr. Howlin: During the passage of the Local Government Bill, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government indicated that its provisions to provide for a retirement package for councillors would be published in June. Is it envisaged they will be published today? The scrappage programme.
Ms McManus: The Minister for Health and Children promised to publish a Green Paper on Abortion and he undertook to have it published in June, but it is no surprise there has been a delay in its publication. Will the Tánaiste clarify when it will be published?
Ms McManus: This proposed Green Paper is of major importance and likely to lead to some sort of legislation. The Minister gave an undertaking to publish it, but since then we have not heard a word about when it will be published. Will the Tánaiste clarify the position?
The Tánaiste: As the Deputy knows, submissions were invited from the public on this issue. A large number of submissions were made and they are being considered by the Cabinet sub-committee which met about ten days ago to discuss this issue. It will be some time yet before the Minister is in a position to publish a Green Paper.
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