Tuesday, 22 June 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 7, the technical motion re further Revised Estimates [Vote 35]; No. 39, the Architectural Heritage (National Inventory) and Historic Monuments (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1998 [Seanad], Order for Report and Report and Final Stages; No. 2, the British-Irish Agreement (Amendment) Bill, 1999, Order for Second Stage and Second and Subsequent Stages. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 7 should be decided without debate and that any division demanded should be taken forthwith. Report and Final Stages of No. 39 should be taken today and proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion after 60 minutes by one question which will be put by the Chair which shall, in relation to amendments to the Bill, include those set down and which are acceptable to the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. Private Members' Business is No. 57, the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 1999, Second Stage. The debate on Second Stage if not previously concluded shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 23 June 1999.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 7 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 39 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' Business agreed? Agreed.
Mr. J. Bruton: I understand the Government wants to introduce legislation conferring ex-gratia pensions on two former judges. I understand a committee of the House is considering the matter. Will the Taoiseach give an undertaking that we will not be asked to consider the legislation until the report of the committee is available to the House?
The Taoiseach: As I understand it, the legislation is to be taken tomorrow. I do not know whether a report of a committee of the House is due. I presume if such a report is to be presented, this will be made clear to the House tomorrow.
Mr. Howlin: Yes, if I could finish the sentence. As you, Sir, were courteous enough to allow the Taoiseach and the Leader of the Fine Gael Party to debate the matter, I, as a member of the committee, simply want to conclude with a sentence. It would be helpful, since the committee has worked diligently on an all-party basis, if the House had the report before we discussed the legislation.
On another matter, I want to ask the Taoiseach about a report that there is a potential health scare in Limerick Prison. Will the Taoiseach arrange for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to make a statement to the House on that matter to allay the fears being voiced in the Limerick area?
On promised legislation, will the mental health Bill be published before the end of this session in light of the water contamination and archaic plumbing in St. Ita's Hospital which is causing a genuine health problem? The mental health Bill is urgent.
Mr. Naughten: When will the Criminal Justice (Fraud Offences) Bill be published? Will it include provisions to prevent concert promoters from charging up to 20 per cent above the face value for tickets? When will the Criminal Justice (Garda SMI) Bill be published? Will it include structures for the administration of a national ID card scheme to combat underage drinking?
The Taoiseach: The Criminal Justice (Fraud Offences) Bill will be ready later in the summer. It will amend and up-date the law on fraud offences with preference to recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission. The Criminal Justice (Garda SMI) Bill, to amend the criminal law and procedure in the light of the report of the Garda SMI group, will be available towards the end of the year.
Mr. Howlin: At the beginning of this session 17 Bills were promised for publication. To date, only seven have been published. When will we see the ten Bills which were promised for publication in this session? Some of them were promised the previous session.
The Taoiseach: I understand there are eight Bills in total on the list. About four more are to be published and four or five others have been published. There is still an effort being made, as always at the end of session, to get as many as possible of these Bills published so they may be sent to committees during the summer. In a few days I will be able to tell the House the Bills that will be published by the end of the session.
Mr. Kenny: Following the Order of Business, the House will deal with the Architectural Heri tage (National Inventory) and Historic Monuments (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1998 [Seanad]. It is a number of weeks since the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Deputy de Valera, gave detailed replies to a number of questions from various Deputies on Committee Stage. We still have not been circulated with those committee reports. To deal effectively with Report Stage amendments, it is necessary to know exactly what the Minister said on Committee Stage. Will the Taoiseach examine the ability of committees to produce reports for Members more quickly so they have access to the Minister's contributions and do their business more efficiently?
Mr. Higgins: (Mayo): The section of the Road Traffic Act that deals with drunk driving offences has been found by the District Court and the High Court to be invalid and, as a result, no drink driving charges are being processed through the courts. They are all being adjourned. What is the position regarding the Supreme Court judgment which is anticipated? Is the Government preparing contingency legislation in the event of the Supreme Court upholding the High Court decision?
Mr. Higgins: (Mayo): It was. We discussed this at Question Time this day last week and it was one of the issues raised with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It is being mooted in anticipation of the Supreme Court upholding the High Court decision. What is the situation? Otherwise, it will be open season for drunk drivers.
The Taoiseach: There is an issue here. The Department is examining the implications of the court's decision. It has not completed that yet and does not know whether it will require amending legislation or may be dealt with in another way.
The Taoiseach: That legislation is to provide a framework to develop the seaweed industry to full potential. A seaweed forum is sitting at present. As soon as that is completed, we will proceed with the legislation.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: On promised legislation, in light of the latest revelations regarding RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan, who told the UN special rapporteur, Mr. Cumaraswamy, that some lawyers in the Six Counties are working to a paramilitary agenda and, given the serious implications for the Rosemary Nelson case and human rights in general, can the Taoiseach state what lead is now being given by the Government, and will the Human Rights Commission Bill be published before the recess?
Mr. J. Bruton: Will the Taoiseach agree that in October 1997 he told the House the valuation Bill would be published in the second half of 1998? In April 1998, oddly enough on 1 April, he stated it would be produced at the end of 1998. When will the valuation Bill be published? Is it not relevant legislation given the level of property transactions?
Mr. Hayes: The Taoiseach, more than most, will be aware of the problem of anti-social activity in some local authority housing estates. Given the challenge which seems to have been mounted to the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1997, has the Government any plans to introduce  amending legislation to ensure that menacing tenants will be evicted from local authority houses?
Mr. Higgins: (Dublin West): The serious exploitation of very young people – pre-teens and early teens – has recently been revealed, particularly notoriously in the pub trade with its late working hours and exploitative wages. What legislation will the Government introduce to deal with this abuse?
The Taoiseach: The Bill will amend the law on defamation, drawing on the reports of the Law Reform Commission and the commission on the newspaper industry. I do not have a date for the Bill at present.
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