Order of Business.

Wednesday, 16 June 1999

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 506 No. 3

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Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Dr. Woods): Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. 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.

Private Members' business shall be No. 54, Whistleblowers Protection Bill, 1999, Second Stage (resumed), to conclude at 8.30 p.m. tonight.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. a6, b6, c6 and d6 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 8 agreed? Agreed.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora 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?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot debate the matter.

[475]Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  The Government may have a proposal to make. I also seek a debate on the report.

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

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Does the Minister have any idea of the cost of paying back the pensions?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot debate the matter.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  It is a very urgent issue because pensioners are getting older and they are concerned about it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy must realise that this is the Order of Business and we cannot go into detail.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  The Minister was obviously prepared to answer questions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot debate the matter.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan 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.

Will the Minister inform us whether the irregularities on the register of electors for Castleblaney are being investigated, as it was indicated that might be the case?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That item is not appropriate to the Order of Business. There are a number of ways that matter—

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It was raised on the Order of Business prior to taking the poll.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  It is not appropriate.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Comments were made by the Taoiseach at that time. Are there any investigations of the matters raised by the RTE programme on register irregularities?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That matter is not in order on the Order of Business.

[476]Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  In the first instance I presume that is a matter for the registrar in that area. As you say, a Cheann Comhairle, it is not a matter for legislation at this time.

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: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora 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: Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie 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.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  This is not appropriate. The Deputy should put down a parliamentary question.

Mr. Penrose: Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  I have done so. Lip service is being paid to the farming community.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy has other ways of dealing with that matter.

Mr. Penrose: Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  What other way?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  By way of parliamentary question.

Mr. Penrose: Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  The Minister for Agriculture and Food is here; he professes to know the problems.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda 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?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The second question is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

[477]Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  It is planned to take Second Stage of the Bill on 22 and 23 June. The other matter is currently under examination, but not for purchase as a residence.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. 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?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That question is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. 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: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. 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: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin 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?

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  It is very normal.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  I will ensure a copy is delivered to the Deputy this morning. It was placed in the Library before it was given to the media.

Mr. Deasy: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin Deasy  Why was it not delivered to Members?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  It was placed in the Library for Members.

Mr. Deasy: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin Deasy  This matter was initiated by Deputy Finucane two months ago. As a matter of courtesy—

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

Mr. Deasy: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin Deasy  The media are more important than Members of this House.

[478]Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  It was on the table of the House first. One needs to visit the Library.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora 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: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  The report mentioned by Deputy Owen is a published, printed report. The other is published but it is not a fully printed report.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Is it a CD?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  There are only a limited number of copies at this stage.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  It sounds like the book Sweetie.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  It will now go for formal printing.

Mr. Deasy: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin Deasy  Is there any writing in it?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Because we promised the Fine Gael spokesperson, Deputy Finucane, that we would produce a copy of the report with urgency—

Mr. Deasy: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin Deasy  He raised the matter.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. 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. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Minister is sinking.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  Keep digging.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  This is the new Government policy. It gets a report, publishes it for itself, puts the spin in the media—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot discuss the matter further.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  James Joyce had the same problem with a book, which is set on this day.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim 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: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. 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[479] committee had a number of meetings recently. The guidelines are at the final drafting stage and will be before the House shortly.

Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin: Information on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Zoom on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Is legislation to rate bed and breakfast premises being prepared in the parliamentary draftsman's office at present?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  As I understand it, there is no specific legislation at this stage. I understand there may be consultation in that regard but there is no specific legislation.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  No legislation?

Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin: Information on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Zoom on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Is the Minister aware that it has been widely reported that such legislation is in the draftsman's office? Is it Government policy to put rates on bed and breakfast premises?

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It is a simple question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot discuss policy on the Order of Business.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It is legislation.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  A valuation Bill is being prepared.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  The Deputy may be referring to a valuation Bill, which is a different issue.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  That was not the question.

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

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is not a point of order. The Deputy should resume his seat.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  The Chair's rulings are completely inconsistent.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  If the Deputy is critical of the Chair—

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  I am asking the Chair to be consistent.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should resume his seat.

[480]Mr. Finucane: Information on Michael Finucane  Zoom on Michael 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: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. 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.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Is that an unsigned copy?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  I have not signed it but I will do so later if the wishes. I will ask the attendant to pass it to him with my best wishes.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan 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: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. 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.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Minister will not tell us anything.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  It is not normal or appropriate to comment at this stage.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It is often done.

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

[481]Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. 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: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor 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—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  This is not relevant to the Order of Business.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor 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.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  It is not in order to ask a Minister to explain what anything means. This refers to promised legislation and the timing of that legislation.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Where does the legislation lie?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  There is promised legislation and there is no proposal to withdraw the promise.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  It is not on the list of promised legislation.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I congratulate the Minister on the Bill he prepared when in Opposition to abolish ground rents. Will that Bill be introduced before the summer recess?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  That is not likely to happen before this summer. I thank the Deputy for his congratulations.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  The Minister will do the same as he did with the report.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  I know that some of the complicated issues are being considered by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard 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?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  The Deputy will know that rela[482] tively recently legislation to deal with anti-social behaviour was introduced—

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  It was not implemented.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  —-so he is effectively talking about management, which he mentioned. The report is a matter for discussion.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe 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?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We have gone beyond the time for the Order of Business.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): These are legitimate questions.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  On that issue, amendments will be brought forward in the normal way. Any Bill is open to amendment and that is a matter for discussion in the context of the Bill.

Regarding the Deputy's first question, I understand that a High Court judgment is being considered in this context.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That concludes the Order of Business.


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