Wednesday, 31 May 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 16a, Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill, 1999 – Instruction to Committee; No. 40, International Development Association (Amendment) Bill, 1999 – Order for Report and Report and Final Stages; No. 41, Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill, 1999 – Order for Report and Report and Final Stages; No. 42, Copyright and Related Rights Bill, 1999 [Seanad] – Order for Report and Report and Final Stages; and No. 38, Intoxicating Liquor Bill, 2000 [Seanad] – Second Stage, resumed, to be taken not later than immediately following Private Members' business and to conclude at 11 p.m. if not previously concluded, and the order shall not resume thereafter.
It is also 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 p.m.; (2) in the event of the motion for the by-election for Tipperary South being moved, it shall be taken without debate; (3) No. 16a shall be decided without debate; and (4) the proceedings on the resumed Second Stage of No. 38, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 11 p.m. tonight. Private Members' business shall be No. 98, motion re Eircom shares, resumed, to conclude at 8.30 p.m. tonight.
An Ceann Comhairle: There are no proposals on that. The question before the House relates to the late sitting. Is that agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with the by-election for Tipperary South, should it be moved, agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 16a agreed?
Mr. Howlin: That is not agreed. No. 16a is a motion from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to broaden yet again the scope of the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill, which has already been broadened substantially on Committee Stage. Committee Stage has concluded, yet a raft of new amendments not proper to that Bill are to be grafted onto it and the Minister seeks the approval of the House to do so. A number of outside groups have made submissions to the select committee, but their views will not be heard if this broadening of the Bill is allowed. The Minister proposes that the full House will deal with Committee Stage today so that there will be no submissions from external bodies. The  entire immigration legislation is a bad patchwork quilt, amended and stitched as we go along, and I am fundamentally opposed to the way this is being done.
Mr. Higgins: (Dublin West): I support Deputy Howlin on this matter. It is utterly unacceptable that matters are being inserted into the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill willy-nilly to deal with immigration, asylum seekers and people who are not criminals, who are here genuinely, unlike traffickers. It is wholly unacceptable and the Dáil should not allow this to happen.
Mr. Higgins: (Mayo): Yesterday on the Order of Business we put down a clear marker on the way in which procedures in the House have been subverted. We have already had this in relation to the Refugee (Amendment) Bill and the Immigration Bill and now it is happening with the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill. On each occasion we debated what we understood to be the main substance of the Bill on Second Stage, but subsequent to that, on Committee Stage, sometimes near the conclusion of Committee Stage, the thrust of the Bill was changed, particularly in the case of the Immigration Bill, and now it is happening with the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill. Having reached Report Stage, a group of Committee Stage amendments is being parachuted in. That is unacceptable.
Mr. Higgins: (Mayo): The amendments alter the thrust of the Bill so the goalposts have been changed. The Bill should be returned to Second Stage and be properly dealt with. Proper procedures should be adopted and adhered to, as happens with normal legislation, particularly with a Bill such as this which deals with fundamental human rights.
The Taoiseach: As I stated yesterday, these amendments were clearly signalled by the Minister several weeks ago. If the legislation is to be passed in this session, it is necessary to proceed it in this way. There is no guillotine on Report Stage and Members will have an opportunity to make their points. The amendments are necessary. This is an evolving situation and the Minister brought forward proposals which were  debated at length both inside and outside the House in recent years.
Mr. J. Bruton: I will make a constructive suggestion in order to reach agreement on the matter. The Taoiseach said there is not a guillotine. However, there is a guillotine in the sense that Members can only speak once on Report Stage amendments and may not make further points on the amendment. Will the Taoiseach agree to Report Stage being conducted in Committee Stage format whereby Members can speak more than once? It is a compromise means of dealing with the issue and would facilitate more interchange.
Mr. Howlin: I cannot agree with that proposal. The House has a select committee system to allow Members with an interest in legislation to voice their views. It is a fundamental assault on the rights of the House to introduce basic legislation on Report Stage. It is not germane to the original Bill and has been simply grafted on.
de Valera, Síle.
| Keaveney, Cecilia.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Wright, G. V.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).Bruton, John.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Mr. J. Bruton: Before agreeing to the proposal to deal with this Bill which seeks to facilitate the economic interests in the alcoholic drinks business, will the Taoiseach agree that we should conduct a parallel study on the premature deaths caused by alcohol through illness, the association between alcohol and the commission of many violent crimes and the association between alcohol and domestic and family break-up? Will he agree that, while we should proceed with this Bill, a parallel scientific study should be carried out on these issues which are of great social long-term importance? We talk about the damage done by other drugs—
The Taoiseach: These matters are relevant, even though they are not part of the Bill. An enormous amount of research has already been carried out by the health boards and the Department of Health and Children. The Minister for Health and Children, including the previous Minister for Health, cited many case studies on the effects of alcohol on people, including young people. The amount of hardship, violence, difficulties and the number of working hours lost are also issues. Surveys have been carried out by IBEC, chambers of commerce and others on the effects of alcohol.
The Taoiseach: That is why many of the calls to have licensed premises open until as late as 4.00 a.m. in line with European models were resisted in the Bill. My view is that we are still giving more than we should, but there is a lobby—
Mr. Higgins: (Dublin West): There is a proposal to guillotine debate on the Intoxicating Liquor Bill at 11.00 p.m. The Dáil should have information on the possible ill effects which will result from the extension of opening hours.
Mr. J. Bruton: Regarding the Nursing Bill, is the Taoiseach aware of the proposed one day strike by psychiatric nurses which will affect 1,000 psychiatric nurses and 600 patients in four hospitals next week? These patients are already the most adversely affected of all recipients of health services. The likelihood of a series of rolling strikes by psychiatric nurses is a matter of grave concern and I ask the Taoiseach to indicate the action being taken to deal with this very serious matter.
The Taoiseach: The Bill is due next year. Industrial relations machinery exists to deal with the issue raised by the Deputy. It seems the issue is about the implementation of last October's agreement.
Mr. Quinn: Has the Taoiseach plans to meet the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland  today? Will he convey to him the sense of urgency all parties in the House have about the necessity of reconstituting and re-establishing all the institutions provided for under the Good Friday Agreement?
The Taoiseach: I will meet him later this evening as will Opposition leaders. The Minister has a long agenda for his meeting with the Secretary of State. I will emphasise that we must move quickly, not only in relation to the institutions but also with the full implementation of the Patten Report in line with the understandings given to us all when the report was accepted last Christmas.
Mr. Finucane: On 5 April last the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development was requested to attend a meeting of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Will the Taoiseach instruct the Minister to attend that meeting to discuss a specific issue which is important to the committee?
Mr. Sargent: As today is world “no tobacco” day, will the Taoiseach say if urgency is being given to the issue of allowing nicotine replacement therapy, perhaps under the Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill, for medical card holders?
My colleague, Deputy Gormley, raised the important issue of GM contamination. Will the  EPA amending legislation, or some regulation prior to its publication, be introduced to ensure that contamination is located and removed so the country's reputation in terms of agriculture is not further tarnished?
Regarding the second issue, I understand trials were undertaken on two sites farmed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development and one site farmed by Teagasc. The total area planted was one-tenth of an acre, the size of a garden. The area planted in the UK was 32,000 acres. Only seed certified and entered into the national catalogue or the EU common catalogue of agriculture plant varieties may be imported for commercial use. Following the conclusion of the trial the variety in question was not entered into the national catalogue and further applications were not received for evaluation of the seed variety.
Is the Taoiseach, a former Minister for Labour, aware that almost two months after the introduction of the minimum wage there are serious complaints that it is not being enforced? Will legislation be introduced to ensure proper enforcement is brought to bear on all companies?
The Taoiseach: The company law enforcement legislation will be before the House this session. As I stated yesterday, the inspectorate is now dealing with queries and complaints about implementation of the minimum wage.
Mr. Rabbitte: Yes. A simple Bill will be neces sary. Having regard to the advanced years of most of these workers and the fact that some are in ill health, will the Taoiseach give an undertaking that the legislation will be enacted prior to the summer recess?
The Taoiseach: I understand legislation is required, but I am not sure about the extent of it. The Government would certainly like to introduce legislation quickly and with the co-operation of the Opposition, we should be able to get it through in the next month.
Mr. Rabbitte: That co-operation will be forthcoming. My understanding is that it is a very simple issue in comparison to the Irish Shipping situation, for example. It is important that legislation is enacted before the summer recess and I am quite sure I speak for Deputy Owen in terms of the co-operation of the Opposition.
Mr. Higgins: (Mayo): Some time ago the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform set up a review group to examine the outdated Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1956, with a view to recommending amending legislation. Has the report been concluded and when can we anticipate the introduction of legislation?
The Taoiseach: The report will shortly be with the Government and we will then have to prepare legislation. The EU Commission requirements in this area are also being examined, so I hope legislation will be introduced in the autumn.
Mr. Quinn: Will the Taoiseach help the House and the many people who have litigation pending and who are dependent on us completing consideration of the statute of limitations legislation which is currently in the Seanad and which will return to this House with amendments? I am told the Bill could be disposed of in perhaps little more than half an hour. If it is not passed cases will begin to pile up at the end of the year and beyond. I am aware that the Taoiseach answered this question yesterday but perhaps he has had an opportunity to reflect on the matter. The Labour Party will co-operate fully with the Government Chief Whip in dealing with what are effectively non-contentious matters.
The Taoiseach: I did not have to reflect on the matter because the answer is the same. The Bill will be taken this session and I thank the Deputy for his offer of co-operation in dealing with it quickly.
The Taoiseach: Work is continuing on the Bill. While I hope it will be completed quickly, there is an enormous amount of legislation to be processed. I hope the public will abide by the existing legislation.
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