Order of Business.

Wednesday, 2 December 1998

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 497 No. 6

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The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is proposed to take No. a9, Motion re: Leave to Introduce Supplementary Estimates [Votes 30, 31, 35, and 42]; No. b9, Motion re: Referral of Supplementary Estimates [Votes 30, 31, 35, and 42] to Select Committees; No. 3, George Mitchell Scholarship Fund Bill, 1998 — Order for Second Stage and Second and Subsequent Stages; No. c9, Financial Motions by the Minister for Finance [1998] shall be taken on the conclusion of Questions to members of the Government.

It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that:

(1) 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 12.00 midnight whereupon business shall then be interrupted and the Dáil shall adjourn forthwith;

(2) Nos. a9 and b9 shall be decided without debate and any division demanded thereon shall be taken forthwith;

(3) The following arrangements shall apply in relation to No. 3:

(i) The proceedings on Second Stage, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 11.30 a.m. and the contributions shall be as follows:

(a) The opening speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party shall not exceed ten minutes in each case;

(b) The speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed five minutes in each case;

(c) Members may share time; and

(d) A Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes.

(ii) The proceedings on the Committee [1190] and Remaining Stages, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 12.00 noon today 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 Education and Science; and

(4) Following the Budget Statement of the Minister for Finance and the statements by the main spokespersons of the parties in Opposition, the sitting shall be suspended for 30 minutes.

Private Members' business shall be No. 61, Motion re: Health (Physical Disability) (resumed).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There are four proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. a9 and b9 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 3 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for the suspension of the sitting agreed? Agreed.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Government has two Bills concerning the electricity industry — the Electricity Regulation Bill and the Electricity Supply and Reorganisation of the ESB Bill. Is this legislation affected by reports of substantial claims for disease, related to the presence of asbestos in ESB plants? Is the Government aware of potential problems with regard to liability there, which might affect the accounts of the ESB and, indeed, of other companies the Government might at some point wish to divest its interests in?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I have noted the reports concerning the issues the Deputy mentioned. They will not affect the Electricity Regulation Bill, which will be published on Friday, and I do not believe amendments to that legislation will be required. These reports are being considered by the Government.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Yesterday, the Minister for Health and Children announced changes in the drug refund schemes. Did the Cabinet agree such changes? Will the regulations to give effect to these changes — which basically involve an increase in the cost of drugs for people — be laid before the House in the normal way? Is it possible for the Government to make time available for a debate on them?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  This matter does not involve legislation. If there is a change in the regulations it is an administrative matter within the Department. These matters were discussed by the Government.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Will the Taoiseach indicate if the regulations have been laid before the House?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Regulations are not needed. They are administrative matters within the [1191] Department. The Minister for Health and Children outlined yesterday what they are.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  The expert group on changes in criminal law published a report last week. Will the Taoiseach provide time for a debate on that report, given the fundamental changes in criminal law procedures which are recommended in it?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  As I stated last week, these matters have not yet been agreed by the Government. However, if the House requires a debate on the report which is now being laid before the House, I will ask the Whip to see whether it can be fitted in.

Mr. Finucane: Information on Michael Finucane  Zoom on Michael Finucane  On 2 December 1977 we discussed the deferment of the regional fishery board appointments for a year to allow for a comprehensive review of the Central Fisheries Board. I note there is no timescale with regard to the extension. Could the Taoiseach clarify whether there is any deadline now as we have already allowed a year for the review?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The extension was for a year, but it is hoped the matter can be finalised early in the new year. There was no objection to the extension.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  When in 1999 does the Taoiseach expect the School Attendance (Bill) will be published? Will it apply to pupils in Steiner schools and to severely and profoundly mentally handicapped children?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I have to advise the Deputy against asking questions about the content of legislation.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  I asked about the publication date of the legislation.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The legislation is almost ready. I understand it will be ready early in January.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Last week on radio the Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív advocated the introduction of a tourist tax. A week previously, the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid, said he rejected the principle of a tourist tax. Could the Taoiseach clarify the situation? Does he intend to introduce legislation or regulations to bring in this type of tax——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I would remind the Deputy that taxation will be under discussion later today.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  ——or is this something like the suggestion about the commonwealth?

[1192]Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  We were hoping for the relief of taxes, not an extra tax.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  One Minister has said one thing and another Minister has said something else. Will the Taoiseach clarify the matter?

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Since the local elections are scheduled for next June, can the Taoiseach confirm that it is the Government's intention to have the Local Government (No. 2) Bill on restructuring local Government fully in place and enacted well in advance of that date so that people standing for the local elections will know to what structures they are seeking election?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is the intention to have the Local Government (No. 2) Bill, modernising local Government legislation and implementing a large range of reforms, presented early in the new year.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Jim Higgins  Zoom on Jim Higgins  (Mayo): What is the position on the Prison Service Bill, given that we have constant chaos and overcrowding in prisons, that ten prisoners escaped last year and that in recent weeks a mobile phone was found in Portlaoise prison, and a second mobile phone——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should not proceed along those lines. He should ask about the legislation.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Jim Higgins  Zoom on Jim Higgins  (Mayo): This is a high security prison with porous security procedures. A second mobile phone was found in a supposedly high security prison.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  What the Deputy now refers to would be more appropriate to a parliamentary question. I would ask the Taoiseach to comment on the promised legislation.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Ring zero.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Imagine the excitement there would have been if this had happened two years ago.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  You would have been hyperventilating at this stage.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  There are some interim measures. It will be some time before the Bill is prepared.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): Will the Taoiseach say when legislation providing for part privatisation of Telecom Éireann will be brought before the Dáil and whether the liberalisation of the telecommunications industry is a licence to bully the villagers of Kerrykeel, County Donegal——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should confine himself to questions about the legislation.

[1193]Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West):——for resisting a potential health hazard in the form of an Esat mast on a local Garda station? Will the Taoiseach comment on the bullying of villagers for fighting against a health hazard in this way?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is not in order in pursuing that. I call the Taoiseach on promised legislation.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Posts and Telecommunications Service (Amendment) Bill will amend the posts and telecommunications legislation to enable the State to reduce its interest in Telecom Éireann to a minority shareholding, and will deal with other related matters to facilitate the initial public offering in June 1999. The Bill will be ready in the early months of next year. The Deputy will be aware that the staff in Telecom Éireann have agreed totally with those proposals.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  Arising from the Commission on Taxis report to the Taoiseach and legislation which arises therefrom, the House will be aware of a proposal to have taxi-sharing in Dublin over the Christmas period. It seems that this is not lawful. Does the Taoiseach intend to introduce legislation before Christmas allowing for pooling of taxi services in Dublin?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  There is no legislation due before Christmas or, for that matter, after Christmas in relation this.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Can it not be done?

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Does the Government intend to make any response to the demand from the trade union movement to bring forward the national minimum wage, even on a phased basis?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  There is no legislation to bring forward the date from that originally agreed. Legislation is being prepared — the National Minimum Wage Bill — which is scheduled for May or June next year.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  On the Irish Nationality and Citizens (Amendment) Bill, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform indicated that this Bill may be published before Christmas this year. Can the Taoiseach indicate to the House whether that target will be met?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  That Bill is almost ready. It may be ready before Christmas but, if not, it will be directly afterwards.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  When will time be made available to discuss the report on reform of the Constitution, and will the debate on rejoining the Commonwealth run with it given that both are proposing honours lists and some people may want to wait for the Queen's list in the new year?

[1194]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is a matter for the Whips.


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