Wednesday, 16 June 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Dr. Woods): It is proposed to take No. a6, Immigration Bill, 1999 – Instruction to Committee; No. b6, Technical motion re Further Revised Estimates; No. c6, motion re Leave to Introduce Supplementary Estimates [Votes 26, 38 and 39]; No. d6, motion re Referral of Supplementary Estimates [Votes 26, 38 and 39] to Select Committees; No. 8, motion re Council of Europe Agreement establishing the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO); No. 1, Road Transport Bill, 1998 – Amendments from the Seanad; No. 35, Sea Pollution (Amendment) Bill, 1998 – Order for Report Stage and Report and Final Stages; No. 36, Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, 1998 [Seanad] – Order for Report and Final Stages, and No. 2, Regional Technical Colleges (Amendment) Bill, 1999 – Second Stage (resumed).
It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) Nos. a6, b6 and c6, and subject to the agreement of No. c6, No. d6, shall be decided without debate and any division demanded on Nos. b6, c6 and d6 shall be taken forthwith; (2) the proceedings on No. 8, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion after 60 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the opening speech of a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; (ii) the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed five 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 five minutes.
Mrs. Owen: The Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources is a relevant Minister in terms of the issue I wish to raise. What proposals does the Government have to restore pensions to people who were disallowed pensions because the relevant Department did not go back sufficiently far? The report of the Ombudsman heavily criticises successive Ministers for this flaw. What will the Government do in terms of paying these pensions to the pensioners involved if they are still alive or their dependants?
Dr. Woods: The Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, recently announced a Government decision that improvements would be made with regard to those claims. A parliamentary question on this matter was answered on 2 June, in which the position was set out. The issue has been ongoing for many years and there were very limited back payments in a small number of cases. Following a previous report of the Ombudsman, the Government decided to follow the advice he gave on that occasion. That was introduced this year.
Mr. Howlin: Will the Minister, on behalf of the Government, join me in wishing well on this momentous day Nelson Mandela who is retiring from public office and who brought hope to the world in the last number of years? I wish him well and I wish the new President, Mr. Thabo Mbeki, success in transforming that part of the world.
I think the House would join us in conveying our best wishes to President Nelson Mandela on his phenomenal achievement in bringing peace and ending apartheid. We had the privilege of him joining us in Ireland and we saw his utter simplicity and dedication to the cause he pursued for so many years, for which he suffered so greatly. Not only has he made a fine contribution to the future development of South Africa, he has given an outstanding example to the world of the value of peaceful settlements, discourse and dialogue, the arrangements necessary to deliver peace and the compromises and give and take involved. It goes without saying that everyone in the House and in this country greatly appreciates his huge contribution. I wish the new President, Mr. Mbeki, every success in his task.
Mrs. Owen: I join the Minister and Deputy Howlin in conveying good wishes to President Mandela. He has been an inspiration to the world and is one of the best known politicians of the century. I hope he enjoys his retirement and have no doubt he will be kept extremely busy. He has already been asked to intervene in a number of places where his wisdom will be needed.
Mr. Penrose: Is the Government considering the introduction of a special buy-out scheme, similar to the 1993 scheme, for farmers who have major problems with Land Commission annuities? At this time of plenty there is a real threat to dry stock farmers and many are in arrears.
Mr. Kenny: Is it the intention of Government to introduce and complete Second Stage of the Broadcasting Bill for transmission to the select committee before the House rises for the summer? Has the Government given consideration to the acquisition of the Farmleigh estate, owned by the Guinness group, for State purposes?
Mr. Broughan: A revised Estimate for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment was published yesterday. Does that include funding for the wages and salaries of the 700 staff of the partnerships?
Mr. Broughan: Will a revised Estimate for the Department be introduced to ensure the partnerships can continue until the end of the year? Mr. Pádraic White has severely criticised the Taoiseach on this matter.
Dr. Woods: The Estimates will be dealt with in the normal way, if there is a requirement that it be brought before the House. I think the partnerships are doing excellent work and it is important that they should continue that work.
Mr. Deasy: Yesterday the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources issued a report making the licensing of adventure centres a statutory requirement. The report was issued to the media but we do not seem to have received a copy. That is highly irregular. Could the Minister say why?
Dr. Woods: I established an interdepartmental committee to look at the area following discussions with several Deputies and a Private Members' Bill. The issue has been under consideration for some time. I set up this special committee, chaired by an assistant secretary of my Department, to accelerate matters and bring the various views together. The report was placed before the House yesterday and at the same time I supplied copies to the spokespersons, Deputy Finucane and Deputy Bell. I will ensure that Deputy Deasy receives a copy.
Mrs. Owen: When these reports are made public, it is normal practice that all members receive them. We all received the pensions report yesterday. I ask the Government to continue the practice and not to wait until the news has died down before giving us the report.
Dr. Woods: —we made it available to him and put it before the House. It will now go for printing and its findings will go to Government. It is a very open, transparent position. The Opposition is not able to keep up with this level of development in transparency, that is the problem.
Mr. J. Mitchell: The Committee of Public Accounts is given to understand that the Comptroller and Auditor General's report on Revenue matters will be available within the next few weeks. The committee will not be able to proceed without the necessary legal guidelines. Will they be ready in the next few days? The committee must be able to appraise itself of them.
Dr. Woods: As the Deputy knows, the compellability subcommittee of the House is required to bring forward guidelines, which must be approved by the House. I understand the sub committee had a number of meetings recently. The guidelines are at the final drafting stage and will be before the House shortly.
Dr. Woods: I answered the question. There is no specific legislation in that regard. Drafting is under way on a valuation Bill, which is in the parliamentary draftsman's office. There are issues regarding what will and what will not be included and that is why I said I understood there were consultations in this regard. There is no specific legislation on the matter raised by the Deputy.
Mr. Gormley: On a point of order, can the Chair explain why, when Democratic Left was in existence, it was called third or fourth on the Order of Business while the rest of us are indicating and cannot seem to get the Chair's attention? It is just crazy.
Mr. Finucane: I introduced a Private Members' Bill, the Activity Centres (Young Persons' Water Safety) Bill, 1999, on 30 March. I want to acknowledge the contribution of Mr. Michael Guilfoyle and his team in producing a report so swiftly. Having studied that report, what timeframe is envisaged for introducing the regulations to statutorily underpin a very effective report?
Dr. Woods: The Deputy will appreciate that we will move as quickly as possible and bring this to Government but the time left for completing this before the summer is too short. On that basis, the Deputy will have seen that there are proposals for interim measures which will be brought to the Government shortly. I have a copy of the report for Deputy Deasy.
Mr. Howlin: In relation to the valuation Bill being prepared, do the heads approved by Government include the provision to rate bed and breakfast premises? In relation to a Bill published this morning which provides pensions for two former judges, is it intended to enact that Bill before the end of the session, which would breach the normal two week publication period?
Dr. Woods: The heads of the valuation Bill have been cleared by Government and that legislation is expected for late 1999. The Deputy will be able to have a good look at it when it is published. We will make sure he gets a copy.
Dr. Woods: In rare circumstances. The legislation regarding pensions for judges was published today, as the Deputy will be aware. Hopefully it can be taken before the end of the session but that is a matter for the Whips.
Mrs. Owen: I want to return to a matter raised by Deputy John Bruton yesterday. Is there any further information on legislation to deal with the working hours of junior hospital doctors? The newspapers today carry a story that suggests battery hens are being given more consideration for release from cages than doctors are receiving for release from 100 hour working weeks. Has the Minister any information about Government decisions to reduce the the number of hours worked by junior doctors?
Dr. Woods: Deputy Owen may know that a meeting has taken place between the Department, the health services employment agency and the Irish Medical Organisation. It has been decided that a study should be undertaken to look at the hours worked by NCHDs and to try to advance that question in a practical way which would be of benefit to the doctors concerned. That is under way.
Mr. Sargent: I thank the Chair for allowing me the chance to exercise my leg muscles. On promised legislation, does the Minister support the call from both scientists and farmers for the abandonment of the Telecommunications (Infrastructure) Bill in the light of serious health concerns—
Mr. Sargent: Many people are concerned and want to know what the Government is doing about this. The Government has declared that the matter is under review. I wish to ask what that means; that is my right.
Mr. Allen: What does the Government propose to do in relation to the ESRI report on the mismanagement of public housing estates? The last Government introduced legislation to deal with troublesome neighbours but many local authority tenants are being driven from their homes by drug pushers and what they call neighbours from hell. What does the Government intend to do to address the contents of the report?
Mr. Higgins: (Dublin West): In the hope that the Proceeds of Crime Bill might deal with rampant landlordism and those who evict tenants to make a killing from speculation, which is a crime in my view, will the Minister say when that Bill will be dealt with?
Can the Minister tell us what is happening with the Telecommunications (Infrastructure) Bill? Today's newspaper carries a statement from a Department of Public Enterprise spokesperson which states that the Bill is under review in significant detail. This Bill provides for telecommunications operators to be able to purchase places against the will of landowners for mobile telephone masts. Is this Bill to be amended? Will we have a Telecommunications (Infrastructure) (Amendment) Bill before it even comes before the House?
|Last Updated: 20/05/2011 17:35:06||Page of 81|