Order of Business.

Tuesday, 4 April 2000

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 517 No. 3

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The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is proposed to take No. 13, motion regarding Agreement between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the Russian Federation on co-operation in combating illicit trafficking; No. 14 – motion regarding Agreement between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the Russian Federation on co-operation in fighting crime; No. 15 – motion regarding referral to joint committee of proposals to approve Agreement between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the Republic of Hungary; No. 35 – Children Bill, 1999 – Second Stage (resumed).

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 13, 14 and 15 shall be decided without debate and Private Members' business shall be No. 56, Road Traffic (Joyriding) Bill, 2000 – Second Stage, and the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 5 April 2000.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  There are two proposals before the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 13, 14 and 15 agreed to?

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins   (Dublin West): No. 14 should not be agreed without debate. It relates to the agreement between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the Russian Federation on co-operation on fighting crime. In view of the appalling record of the Russian Federation on civil rights matters in Chechnya in recent months, under cover of fighting so-called terrorism, there should be a discussion on any co-operation between this State and the Russian Federation. No such agreement should be signed until abuses of civil rights cease forthwith. Will the Tánaiste put the matter back for discussion?

[461]

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  The point made by Deputy Higgins would find resonance in the Fine Gael Party. The matter should be discussed in the House and I will continue to raise it until there is a satisfactory explanation. When one contrasts the way the Russians have been treated with how the Austrians have been treated, it is evident that we are not being consistent. It should be discussed. I do not wish to prevent the motion going forward but I am anxious for an explanation of what we are doing about this through this country's chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The Deputy raises a good point which should be aired.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  At the meeting of the Whips, we asked that it be indicated on the Order of Business whether these items had been debated in committee. Will the Tánaiste indicate which of them was debated?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Two of them were debated in committee and the third is being referred to a committee.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins   (Dublin West): I still do not agree to the order.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  On a point of order, Sir, this issue was debated in the justice committee at which I raised the points mentioned by the Deputy. It is open to any Member to attend that committee's meetings. These matters have been debated.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is Deputy Higgins pressing the issue?

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): Yes.

Question, “That the proposal for dealing with Nos. 13, 14 and 15 be agreed to”, put and declared carried.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' business agreed to? Agreed.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  I am pleased the Tánaiste is taking the Order of Business. Is she aware of the extreme concern expressed throughout the country by small shopkeepers and food stores regarding the proposal to abolish the Groceries Order, 1987? Has she considered the matter and will she confirm retention of the order, given the effect of the abolition of the below cost ban on small businesses?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That matter does not arise on the Order of Business. It would be more appropriate to a parliamentary question.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  If she wants to keep the order she will have to lay it before the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I accept that, but it is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

[462]Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Has she any legislative proposals in this regard?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I call Deputy Quinn on a separate issue.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  We express our condolences to the Ceann Comhairle who cannot be with us today because of the death of his mother. The House should note that. Section A of the list of Bills expected to be published from the start of this session up to the Easter recess contains 19 Bills. Those yet to be published include the Teaching Council Bill, the Youth Work (Amendment) Bill, the Nitrigin Éireann Teoranta Bill, the Local Government Bill, dealing with local government reform, the Customs and Excise (Mutual Assistance) Bill, the Health (Amendment) Bill, the Health Insurance Bill, the Courts and Court Officers Bill, the Criminal Justice (Fraud Offences) Bill, the Criminal Justice (Illicit Traffic by Sea) Bill, the Sea Pollution (Hazardous and Noxious Substances) Civil Liability and Compensation Bill, the Aviation Regulation Bill, the Electronic Commerce Bill and the Gas Capacity Allocation Bill.

All these Bills are promised for publication between now and the Easter recess. At the outset of the session 19 Bills were promised but only five have been published, one as recently as today. Will the Tánaiste indicate when the others will be published?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I join with Deputy Quinn in extending my sympathies and that of the Government to the Ceann Comhairle on the death of his mother. Deputy Quinn has read out a long list. Most of the Bills will be published. Today the Cabinet cleared the Electronic Commerce Bill and the Nuclear Weapons Bill. The Chief Whip advised me that of the 19 Bills promised 14 are on target.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Nuclear Weapons Bill is on target.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Yes.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  In what way are they pointed?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I would not like to speculate, but they are not pointed in the direction of Deputy Stagg. In response to Deputy Owen—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  It is not appropriate to answer questions raised which are out of order on the Order of Business. The matter raised by Deputy Owen is more appropriate to a parliamentary question. I call Deputy Quinn.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  This Government list is a long one. In view of what the Tánaiste has said; is it the case that all 14 of the outstanding Bills to which I referred, promised for publication between now and the Easter recess, will be published?

[463]The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I understand that 14 of the 19 Bills promised at the beginning of the session will be published and five will probably not be published.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Item 22 on the Government's legislative programme set out on list B refers to the Company Law Enforcement Bill. Does the Tánaiste propose to retain the groceries order, in place since 1987, under this Bill?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  It is inappropriate to raise the detail of what can be included in legislation.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  When will the Bill be published?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The legislation will be published shortly after Easter.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  It would be helpful if questions were answered, but we must have an orderly Order of Business. It is unfair if Ministers do not obey the Order of Business.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  This matter is to be raised at the meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party tomorrow, but I want the Tánaiste to advise the House today of her intentions.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy, I ask you to submit a parliamentary question to the Tánaiste on the matter.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  If I may answer the Deputy.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I do not approve of Ministers answering questions that are not in keeping with the Order of Business, nor do I approve of any Member raising questions that are not appropriate to the Order of Business.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  On promised legislation, last week the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform announced that he proposes to exempt the Office of Public Works from planning permission to provide accommodation for asylum seekers. When will we see the legislation covering this?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I understand there is no need for legislation in this area. May I remind Deputy Owen that neither she nor I will be attending the meeting tomorrow to which she referred.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Will section 2 of the 1993 Act allow for the Minister's intentions?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I understand from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform that is probably the case, but we can clarify that later.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Does this mean that section 2 of the 1993 Act will be used in respect of an exemption order, which is a security matter?

[464]The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The best thing to do is to make contact with the Minister or put down a parliamentary question to him, but I understand that is the case.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  I have looked at section 2 of the 1993 Act and it is clear it relates to the building of prisons, Army installations and courthouses. They were the exemptions envisaged under the section. Is the Tánaiste aware that the section requires that legislation be introduced to deal with the exemption of any development and that it requires the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to introduce regulations to allow mobile homes and prefabricated buildings to be erected without planning permission? While primary legislation may not be required, regulations are.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  This is part of the Government's coherent plan on immigration.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  I see why the Minister did not want to hold a press conference on the matter.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Barrett, on a point of order.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  There is a Standing Order which prohibits the announcement of details on proposed legislation outside the House. The ongoing announcement of legislation outside the House leads to arguments on the Order of Business. If people are going to announce details of orders or legislation outside the House contrary to Standing Orders, surely we are entitled to ask questions on the Order of Business?

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  It was no different when the Deputy was in Government.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Will the Chair read out the relevant Standing Order?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Chair has no control over statements made outside the House. With regard to questions that may be raised at the discretion of the Chair, Standing Order 26(3) provides that following the announcement of proposals under paragraphs (2), the Chair may permit, at his or her discretion, questions about business on the Order Paper, the taking of business which has been promised, including legislation promised either within or outside the Dáil, the making of secondary legislation, arrangements for sittings when Bills or other documents on the Order Paper needed in the House will be circulated, and subject to the provision that the Taoiseach may defer replying to a question relating to the making of secondary legislation to another day.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  That is not the Standing Order I had in mind.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Thank you, Sir, for clarifying that. [465] I was probably in order to ask about secondary legislation on the Groceries Order, 1987. Will the Tánaiste tell the House if she intends to abolish or retain the order, which all the members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business endorse, including the Members behind her? I hope the Tánaiste will listen to that committee and to small grocers throughout the country and retain the groceries order, which is secondary legislation.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  As Deputy Owen said, the groceries orders covers many matters, including below cost selling and hello money. A number of concerns are involved – those of consumers, of competition in the economy, and of small suppliers who tend to get a raw deal from large multiples. All these concerns must be taken into account. The mergers and review group established by my predecessor, Deputy Richard Bruton, three and a half years ago has now reported. I had hoped to have the report published by now but there was a major logistical delay. Nonetheless, I hope to have it published quickly. We should then reflect on what it says. There are no plans to make any changes in this area at present.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Is it intended to introduce an amendment to the architectural heritage Bill which would allow the State to take action where the roof of Mountjoy House in the Phoenix Park has collapsed in which the Commission for Placenames is located and where State material of archival importance is in danger of being lost? Why have we arrived at such a stage?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That matter in the Deputy's name is listed for the Adjournment and we would not want to anticipate the debate on that.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I was looking for some material.

Mr. Penrose: Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Will the Tánaiste clarify for the benefit of the House and, more importantly, the residents of the Shannon catchment area how the Government intends to deal with the various Bills which have been introduced in this House and the Seanad for the establishment of a single statutory authority for the Shannon river, which have cross-party agreement and for which a sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Public Enterprise and Transport has been established? The Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, promised that the issue would be referred to this sub-committee. The Government is in disarray. Will someone please clarify what is happening?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is legislation promised in this regard?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I understand that, in terms of legislation, there is a Private Members' Bill in the Seanad, but the Government has no plans to introduce legislation in this area.

[466]Mr. Penrose: Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  What will happen to the subommittee the Government set up? Will it be disbanded?

Mr. Higgins: Information on Jim Higgins  Zoom on Jim Higgins  (Mayo): Given that the High Court yesterday suspended 50 deportation orders against asylum seekers, underlining once again the shambles of our immigration policy, what is the up to date situation regarding the immigration and residence Bill?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I understand it will be taken later this year.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  I, too, would like clarification on the status of the sub-committee on the Shannon flooding as it has not met for some considerable time. I wish to raise a grave matter regarding the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill which is still awaited by the House. Two environmentalists are on their sixth day of a hunger strike in Cloverhill over the delay of that Bill and a decision on free legal aid. If the Bill is not to come before the House, will this matter be dealt with singly as lives are being put at risk?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I understand the House will deal with the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill the week after next.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  Given the ongoing situation in the Horn of Africa and the potential disaster which could befall 10 million people in Ethiopia, could time be found this week or early next week for a short debate in the House on this important matter?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  That is something the Whips could consider.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Arising from the Tánaiste's earlier reply to Deputy Quinn in which she indicated that 14 of the 19 promised pieces of legislation are on target and that five are off target, into which of these categories does the local government reform Bill fall? Will it be published before Easter?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I understand it will be published during the Easter recess, that is, the week after Easter.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  That is about the sixth time the publication of this Bill has been postponed. It was postponed until the Christmas recess before this.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We cannot have a discussion on it.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  This legislation has been promised ad nauseam at this stage. What does the mid-Easter recess mean and is a specific date in question?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  As I understand it, the Easter [467] recess will last for two weeks and the Bill will be published during those two weeks.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Has the Tánaiste a date?

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  Regarding the working of the Committee on Health and Children, will the Tánaiste clarify the position regarding the inquiry into the disposal and retention of organs of babies because it is not clear how the inquiry will be conducted? Is the Tánaiste aware and have the parents been informed that the committee is already embarking on a major inquiry into the activities of tobacco companies, which is likely to take some time?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  A relevant question, please.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  My question relates to the workings of a committee of the House and undertakings which have been given to parents who are obviously affected by the outcome of this inquiry.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Government considered these matters this morning and it was decided to set up on a non-statutory basis a committee to report within six months which would investigate the situation and which would be chaired by Ann Dunne, SC. When she completes her report in six months, that report will go to a Dáil committee similar to that which was established to examine the DIRT issue and which was very effective.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): On the Order of Business on 22 March the Taoiseach told me there were no proposals or legislation envisaged to bring a significant section of the Dublin Bus service into the hands of private operators. Over the weekend, the Tánaiste flatly contradicted the Taoiseach. In the words of Percy French, it appears that, on this issue, the Minister for Public Enterprise does not know if she is at a ball or a bath.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  I know a lot more than the Deputy.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  A question appropriate to the Order of Business.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): What is the intention of the Government with respect to the 1932 Road Transport Act? Will amending legislation be introduced and, if so, what is the timescale?

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Are you right there, Joe, are you right?

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): No, I am left.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  There is no doubt about that.

Mr. Finucane: Information on Michael Finucane  Zoom on Michael Finucane  The Minister has been derailed.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  She is not right; she is wrong.

[468]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Allow the Tánaiste to speak without interruption.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I am sure we are all delighted that the dispute was resolved and I pay tribute in particular to the Labour Relations Commission for the excellent work it did in conjunction with the Minister and others. The Minister is reviewing the 1932 Act. What I said is that I would like to see competition. Ownership is not that important, rather it is competition.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): What is the Government's intention?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That is more appropriate to a question.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  I wish to be associated with the votes of sympathy to the Ceann Comhairle on the death of his mother which were expressed by the Tánaiste and the Labour Party Leader.


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