Order of Business.

Thursday, 30 March 2000

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 517 No. 2

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The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is proposed to take No. 16, motion re report of the Committee of Public Accounts – Parliamentary Inquiry into DIRT, first report. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings on No. 16, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 4.45 p.m. and the following arrangements shall apply: the opening speech of the Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts and of the main spokespersons for the Government and the Labour Party shall be called upon in that order and shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case. The speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case. The Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts shall be called upon not later than 4.35 p.m. to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There is one proposal to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 16 agreed? Agreed.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Has the Taoiseach anything to tell the House this morning about progress in resolving the current transport chaos?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Will the Taoiseach, on his visit to Egypt next week, be the only Dubliner travelling in the remaining form of public transport available or will the Government invoke any of the consultative processes available to it, such as the Public Transport Partnership Forum, as set out in the recently agreed programme, or alternatively does the Government intend to convene an emergency meeting of the central review committee of social partnership to see what progress can be made to achieve a satisfactory resolution of this chaos?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Iarnród Éireann management and senior SIPTU officials held discussions through most of last night and into the early hours of the morning. These discussions will continue today at 11 o'clock – they will start in [262] about 25 minutes – with a view to ending the unofficial strike and enabling the negotiations on the substantive issues to get under way. Pickets have been placed today on a number of depots and there are still difficulties with services but many of the other services are operating normally today. When the unofficial action is ended, I hope later today, there still will be some disruption because all the tracks have to be inspected. I hope that will happen throughout the day.

On the Dublin Bus strike, the Government's position remains unchanged. Agreement is possible provided its basis is genuine productivity and restructuring measures. The negotiations that took place on that matter had the capacity to lead to agreement and if they were resumed within the normal industrial relations machinery, they would prove successful. Proposals by the company and the NRBU in that regard can provide a basis for the resumption of the negotiations and the Government hopes that at an early time they will take that course because it is the only course that will resolve this matter.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Is the Taoiseach aware that the people who are suffering most from the current traffic chaos are the most vulnerable sections of our community, people who cannot get to hospital, who have no car of their own and are isolated as a result of the strike. Is the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Minister responsible for the industrial relations machinery of the State, taking steps to ensure that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which is the guarantor on the union side of the partnership agreement, is using its good offices, along with her, to find a resolution to this in the interests of the most vulnerable sections of our community who are suffering while others are merely being slightly inconvenienced?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Will the Taoiseach clarify what he has just said? Do I understand him correctly to have said that as far as the Government is concerned there is now the basis of a possible solution and settlement consequently between the NRBU and CIE? If that is the case why can the negotiations not commence immediately? The unofficial strike relating to the rail matter does not affect the NRBU and the Dublin Bus dispute. Am I correct in my understanding that within the framework of the PPF the basis of a solution is now in sight? If that is the case can that not be pursued vigorously with the help of congress, if necessary, or the institutions of the Labour Court or the Labour Relations Commission?

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins   (Dublin West): A Cheann Comhairle—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  This is confined to the leaders of the two main parties.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins   (Dublin West): If we are to discuss this—

[263]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I made a ruling on this matter on 14 October and I intend to stick to it. The Deputy should resume his seat.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins   (Dublin West): They are completely out of order.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Chair has made its position clear.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I have already spoken about the unofficial action and I acknowledge the efforts being made by Iarnróid Éireann management, senior SIPTU officials as well as the Minister and officials of the Department of Public Enterprise. On the separate matter of the Dublin Bus strike, to reiterate what the Minister has been saying for days, we believe agreement is possible. As always, the labour relations mechanisms of the State are available. The Minister has outlined how there can be a resolution time and again and everyone is available at all times, as she outlined in response to two Special Notice Questions and a debate under Standing Order 31 in the past week. I hope people take account of what she has said.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  When will the next meeting of NRBU representatives and CIE management take place? Will it be in the context the Taoiseach has mentioned?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I would be very glad if the NRBU heeded what the Minister is saying. The only way an industrial dispute will ever be solved is through negotiation.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  So. a meeting is not fixed?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The best way to negotiate is to have those directly involved engage in discussions. They know how to contact each other and I hope they will as soon as possible.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  So, a meeting is not fixed.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  I agree with Deputy Bruton on the damage this is doing. Many people are not getting to work—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  This is not in order.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  This matter is work-related. The day before yesterday the Government announced a system of work permits for non-EU citizens to come to Ireland. Have any regulations been drawn up on this? One of his Ministers seemed to imply that new legislation was not needed. What are the mechanics of the system that will enable those who need workers to get permits? Has any system been put in place?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Work permit legislation is due at the end of the year. As I said on Tuesday, to make the necessary changes the Tánaiste will have to extend what is an ad hoc system. The [264] whole matter will, however, be the subject of legislation at the end of the year.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Is any legislation planned to deal with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform? People not only need a work visa but they need a visa from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to enter the country. Are the two Ministers working together to ensure that people will not be refused permission because they do not have an entry visa even if one of the Ministers has organised his or her end?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Visas will apply to the workers but their families will be refused entry by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. That is the current regime and it is totally unacceptable.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot go into the nature of the legislation.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Will regulations be laid before the Oireachtas Library?

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  On legislation intended to amend the 1932 Transport Act, is it true this legislation will not come before the House until the NRBU accepts competition as part of the productivity deal and restructuring measures?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  That is not a correct interpretation. As the Minister for Public Enterprise has outlined, there will be discussions of that legislation and other matters. There are no preconditions as to when it will come before the House.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  When will it come before the House?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I do not have a date. The discussions are ongoing.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Late last year the Wildlife Bill stuck its nose up out of the ground before going back into hibernation. Will we see it before the summer? In the last month in Dublin, two 300-year old facades were demolished. What action does the Taoiseach propose to take under the appropriate legislation to deal with it?

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

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Will the Wildlife Bill be treated with urgency given that people who have been seven weeks in Cloverhill Prison are to go on hunger strike? They are defending European law and the Government is not. Will this be treated as a matter of urgency?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is not in order.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Wildlife Bill is before the House.

[265]Mr. Hayes:  Yesterday the Minister of State with responsibility for housing admitted to a committee of the House that house prices have more than doubled since the Government took office. When will the Government bring forward legislation to ban gazumping? The Taoiseach will be aware that the Government asked the Law Reform Commission to look at this matter and that body reported.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is embellishing the question. It is not in order to make a statement.

Mr. Hayes:  In view of the report from the Law Reform Commission, when will we see the legislation before the House—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is continuing with his statement.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The report is with the Director of Consumer Affairs and when that body finishes we will make a decision.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Since Christmas the Taoiseach has promised the publication of the Local Government Bill this session. When will it be published?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is still on schedule to be published this session.

Mr. Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Last night the Government made history when, for the first time in the State's history, it accepted the principle and contents of a Bill—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy cannot make statements on the Order of Business. He can only ask questions.

Mr. Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  The Government accepted the principle and content of the Shannon River Council Bill, yet Senators were frog-marched in to vote against it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is continuing to make a statement. He must resume his seat unless he has a question.

Mr. Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Does the Government have any plans to introduce legislation to regulate the Shannon?

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  It was promised in Athlone.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  There will be a new waterways authority Bill.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  What is the up to date position with reform of the ethics in public office legislation?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is due later this year, I hope, in the summer. We do not know if it will be ready [266] before the summer session, but we hope to have it ready by then.

Mr. O'Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  When will the Telecommunications (Infrastructure) Bill begin its passage through the Oireachtas? It was published early last year.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  That is before the Seanad. I think it is finished.

Mr. O'Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  It is not.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is before the Seanad.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  When will it start?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Bill is in the Seanad so it is a matter for that House.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  In view of the visit to Ireland today of Mr. Javier Solana and the ongoing surreptitious negotiations to abandon Ireland's neutrality, will the Whips consider a debate on the annual report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs to discuss these matters in the House just as they are being discussed in Brussels?

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

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Two Bills have been promised on pensions. One is to fund public service pensions and the other is to fund social welfare pensions. When will they be published?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Pensions Bill is for later this year; it will be dealt with in the autumn session.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Published before the summer?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Maybe not. It will be later this year. One Bill will be taken before the summer and one in the autumn.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  The Taoiseach's communication breakdown with the Minister for Finance seems to be ongoing.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): Will the Taoiseach take an initiative to get the Glen of the Downs protesters released from prison forthwith? It is outrageous that—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That matter is not appropriate to the Order of Business; the Deputy should seek another way of raising it.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  In view of the invitation issued by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to nurses to come into Ireland from abroad, will the Taoiseach ensure that student nurses' fees are paid?

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

[267]Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  Is the Taoiseach aware that we are facing the horrific vista of junior hospital doctors balloting to take industrial action which would have a crippling effect on our hospital services? The Labour Party published a Doctors in Training Bill—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should not proceed with a statement. She should put a question to the Taoiseach.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  Will the Taoiseach agree to take this Bill in Government time?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  No.

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


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