Tuesday, 30 May 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 15 – motion re leave to introduce Supplementary Estimate [Vote 6]; No. 16 – motion re referral of Supplementary Estimate [Vote 6] to select committee; No. 38 – Intoxicating Liquor Bill, 2000 [Seanad] – Second Stage (resumed); No. 39 – Electronic Commerce Bill, 2000 [Seanad] – Second Stage (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that; (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 11.00 p.m. and (2) No. 15 and, subject to the agreement of No. 15, No. 16, shall be decided without debate and any divisions demanded on Nos. 15 and 16 shall be taken forthwith. Private Members' business shall be No. 98 – motion re Eircom Shares.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: There are two proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Are the arrangements for dealing with Supplementary Estimate [Vote 6] agreed?
Mr. J. Bruton: I have no problem with the late sitting. However, what is the urgency about an Intoxicating Liquor Bill? Given that the Government spends a great deal of time talking about how much it opposes intoxicants of other kinds, why is such great priority being given to facilitating the consumption of this form of intoxicant?
The Taoiseach: We have an enormous amount of legislation to pass in the next few weeks. I think we will be sitting late every week, not just for this Bill. However, the Deputy will recall that Members behind and beside him have been pressing me for weeks to have this Bill passed before the summer, for some reason.
Mr. J. Bruton: In regard to promised legislation, has the Taoiseach read the report that suggests Ireland is the fourth worst country in the European Union in terms of complying with EU directives? Does he have legislation in the pipeline to deal with some of those issues, before Ireland is fined in court for its failure to pass the relevant legislation to comply with EU directives, particularly in regard to such matters as value added tax imposed on roads and bridges, tolling and the discriminatory taxation on external and internal flights?
The Taoiseach: There is no particular legislation in this regard. Every year we introduce an enormous amount of legislation. Perhaps we have been a little slow in implementing some of the directives over the years. However, we are also very compliant when we do it.
Mr. Howlin: In relation to legislation before the House, Report Stage of the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill is scheduled for tomorrow. A raft of new amendments as published today to amend in draconian ways, the Immigration Act we enacted last year, which was a vehicle to amend the Aliens Act. This is the second time the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill has been used to graft on extraneous legislation. That is a bad way to deal with this issue. The Taoiseach gave assurances on Committee Stage it would not happen again but it is happening again. Will the Taoiseach recommit this Bill to Committee Stage to have a full debate on these matters?
The Taoiseach: The amendments fulfil the announcements made some weeks ago by the Minister. I do not think there is anything in them outside those announcements. He wants to enact them as soon as possible so that they become effective and operable.
Mr. Howlin: We do not legislate by announcement. The House has a right to have a look at the detail of amendments. Among the amendments circulated today is a proposal that a person who is about to leave the State on foot of a deportation order be arrested so that we can deport him or her properly, rather than leave the State in an orderly way. We need to debate these matters.
Mr. Rabbitte: In regard to the Intoxicating Liquor Bill, does the Government know that since the previous Government left office the price of drink has gone through the roof? Publicans are trampling on the rights of the drinking classes.
In regard to promised legislation, when will the Trade Union Recognition Bill be introduced to the House? A major dispute is starting in a company called Aldi, which this Bill would have avoided. In regard to the question raised by Deputy John Bruton on EU instruments, when will the EU directive on part-time workers be implemented?
Mr. Shatter: The Minister announced yesterday for the second time that he is banning advertising of cigarettes in newspapers and tobacco sponsorship. In the context of promised legislation dealing with tobacco issues, will legislation to effect this ban be brought before the House prior to 1 July, when it is to take place? Alternatively, does the Government intend to lay regulations before the House pursuant to existing legislation to give effect to this ban?
Mr. Shatter: The Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, to which the Taoiseach referred, has nothing to do with advertising or sponsorship. I am asking if the Government intends to lay any legal instrument, be it a new Act or a regulation made under existing legislation, before the House to ensure this ban is effective, cannot be challenged and comes into place as and from 1 July, as has been twice announced by the Minister.
Mr. Shatter: That happens to be my Private Member's Bill and it does not deal with this issue. Does the Taoiseach know what, if any, legislation is going to be enacted? If he does not know – tomorrow is world “no tobacco day”– perhaps he will find out for tomorrow morning's Order of Business.
Mr. Noonan: In regard to legislation, have the Tánaiste and the Minister for Finance, who seem to agree on so many things, agreed yet on the legislation for the financial services industry? If so, when will the legislation be published?
Mr. Howlin: In regard to the business of the House, does the Government intend to introduce a sessional order to make it clear that Members suspended under the Ethics in Public Office Act are debarred from attendance at committee meetings, to avoid doubt in this matter?
Mr. O'Shea: Arising from today's statement by the EU Commission that it intends speeding up the completion of the open market for postal services, does the Minister for Public Enterprise intend to make a statement to the Dáil explaining the implications of this for An Post?
Mrs. Owen: At a time when one cannot drive on any back road without seeing signs that say “No dump here” or “No super dump here”, has the Government any proposals for legislation to regulate packaging and increase waste minimisation, if that is not a contradiction? What happened to the Minister's announcement about a tax on plastic bags as an effort to reduce some of the plastic proliferating around the countryside?
Mr. Higgins: (Mayo): This is the second time the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill has been  mutilated since Second Stage. It happened first on Committee Stage in relation to judicial review proceedings and now in relation to deportation, as Deputy Howlin said. This is undermining due process in the House. It is completely subverting parliamentary—
Mr. Higgins: (Mayo): We should not have a repeat of this. It has happened time and time again. It happened last year with the Immigration Bill and is happening now with this Bill. It is not good enough.
Ms Shortall: On promised legislation, Deputy O'Sullivan inquired last week about the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Bill. There has been an undue delay in bringing that back with amendments from the Seanad. Can the Taoiseach tell us when this Bill will be finalised? The Children Bill was three years in gestation and it is now some time since it passed Second Stage. When is Committee Stage of this important Bill likely to be taken?
The Taoiseach: The Children Bill is in select committee and it is a matter for the committee to finalise its work. I hope the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Bill will be cleared before the end of the session.
The Taoiseach: Regarding the first matter, the legislation is enacted and there are inspectors to deal with complaints that arise. The Deputy should refer any complaints to the section of the Department dealing with the matter.
Mr. G. Mitchell: In view of the fact that foreign affairs Question Time is some time off and that approximately 2,000 persons of Irish origin are living in Zimbabwe, with perhaps 30 of them  white farmers, does the Taoiseach agree that it is important that time is found for statements on this issue? At the very least the Zimbabwean ambassador should be called in. It is a matter that should be dealt with in the House sooner rather than later.
Mr. Higgins: (Dublin West): Profiteering continues apace in the housing market, causing acute suffering. The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government suggested at the weekend that the Government must ensure that more land is made available for development and that new methods are used to acquire that land. He was referring to land banks being sat upon, presumably to manipulate the market.
Mr. Higgins: (Dublin West): Is the Minister of State speaking for the Government and is he talking about legislation that is to come forward? Will the Government finally grasp this problem and bring forward legislation to outlaw speculation in building land by controlling the price and taking the land into public ownership for further development? Is definitive legislation coming as a result of what the Minister of State said?
Mr. J. Bruton: In 1997 the Taoiseach was asked about the greyhound Bill and he said there were  legal difficulties concerning it. I understand those difficulties related to all-Ireland jurisdiction regarding the industry. Given the reconstitution of the Northern Ireland Executive, is the way now clear to proceed with that Bill?
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