Order of Business.

Thursday, 23 November 2000

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 526 No. 5

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The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 46, National Stud (Amendment) Bill, 2000 – Second Stage, resumed; No. 7, Youth Work Bill, 2000 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 47, Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2000 – Second Stage, resumed.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There are no proposals to put to the House.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Does the Tánaiste agree the way in which ordinary commuters are being treated by the providers of public transport is appalling and that public transport under the Government is a shambolic monopoly which is not working and which the Government has shown particular unwillingness to confront, especially in the delay in dealing with the taxi issue for three and a half years? Does she further agree there are some who question whether the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Molloy, who has at last on behalf of the Government taken a decision on this matter, has the support of all his senior colleagues in the ministerial hierarchy?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  On the same topic, is the Government prepared at this stage to enter into negotiations with the representatives of the taxi drivers to bring about some resolution to the blockade across Dublin? A decision has been made, which has been welcomed by all of us in terms of the increase at last in the number of taxis. but the manner in which it was made was seriously undemocratic and contrary to the spirit of social partnership that has animated all the Government's press releases. There is an urgent need to get the blockade off the streets and that will come about if negotiations are entered into by representatives of the Government and taxi drivers. I urge the Tánaiste to open those negotiations as a matter of urgency.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I share the frustration expressed by Deputies Bruton and Quinn in regard to the ongoing blockade by taxi drivers and I hope it can be brought to an end quickly because it is discommoding, inconveniencing and causing great hardship to the public. With regard to negotiations, a decision has been made. The Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, is happy to hold dis[1099] cussions with taxi representatives but negotiations are not in order because a decision has been made and it will be implemented.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Does the Tánaiste agree that road blockades are not a legitimate form of industrial relations action, that they are illegal and impermissible and should not be the basis for negotiation or resolution, and that the House should clearly say that blockades should stop? Will she comment on suggestions by some taxi drivers, which may not have been authorised, that they will not pick up disabled people even though their taxis are adapted for disabled people as a means of protesting against the Government decision? Does the Tánaiste agree that any form of targeting of disabled people in that fashion in an industrial dispute is unacceptable and ought to be condemned with equal strength as one should condemn the blocking of roads?

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  It is disgraceful.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Does the Tánaiste agree that while a decision has been made in respect of this matter, much of the detail of the decision and how it will be implemented has yet to be finalised or communicated adequately to the people directly affected? No other group in this country has had its livelihood altered in such a dramatic and precipitous way. This group is at least entitled to discussions in respect of the implementation of that decision and I urge the Tánaiste to contact SIPTU, which negotiates on behalf of some taxi drivers, to begin negotiations today so that the blockade can be ended voluntarily by the people carrying it out.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I agree with Deputy Bruton that the blockades are illegal. Everybody is entitled in a democracy to protest but they are not entitled to engage in blockades such as those we have witnessed over the past two days. I have total confidence that the Garda will implement the law without fear or favour and I believe that is already under way.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  After 24 hours.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Government has made clear what the package is and no one could be in any doubt about that.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  There is either negotiation or there is not.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I remind Deputy Quinn that no one is taking anyone's livelihood away. There is more than enough work for all existing taxi drivers and many more in Dublin, as he knows well. There is no question of livelihoods being taken away. The Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, has announced his intentions regarding the £15,000 licence fee that was paid. The people of Dublin [1100] have been frustrated for many years as a result of indecision in this area. We now have a decision and the Government—

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  The indecision is on the part of the Government.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Deputy's Government passed the buck to the local authorities.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We must have order.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It did not grant any licences when it was in power.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Order, please.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  People paid big money based on a nod and a wink from Fianna Fáil Deputies. That is where responsibility lies.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Order, please. Allow the Tánaiste to speak. We cannot have a prolonged debate on this issue.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The decision will be implemented. If the blockade is called off, the Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, will be happy to have discussions, but not negotiations.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  We welcome the fact that at last a decision has been made but we deplore the manner in which it was made. It has resulted in chaos but it can be resolved very quickly by opening up discussions today with the representatives of the taxi men and women to clarify the implementation of the decision and to fill in details which are not apparent to the people directly affected by them. That is all I ask.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot have a prolonged debate on the issue. The Deputy has made his point.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I am assured they will end their blockade if an undertaking is given—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should resume his seat.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  —that that will happen and I am confident this blockade, which affects everyone, will come to an end.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I know the Tánaiste had a number of questions to answer, but she omitted to answer one of my questions which concerned statements by some taxi representatives that they would not take a single disabled person unless they were satisfied with the Government's decision. Does the Tánaiste agree that is not an acceptable means of promoting any cause, does [1101] damage and should be condemned? Will she make clear on behalf of the Government and the House that that type of comment should not be made? I have no doubt it was not a representative comment but it was made publicly, could be construed as representative and should be condemned.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I deplore any threats of that nature or the private threats made to some individuals in the House. Everyone would have to deplore that type of behaviour. It is not acceptable. If the law is upheld and the blockade is called off, there will not be any difficulty in having discussions.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  Will the Tánaiste respond to Deputy Quinn's reasonable request?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We must move on to the next item. I call Deputy Boylan on the Order of Business.

Mr. Boylan: Information on Andrew Boylan  Zoom on Andrew Boylan  On a follow up to the Tánaiste's reply—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy cannot follow up on that matter.

Mr. Boylan: Information on Andrew Boylan  Zoom on Andrew Boylan  —will the Tánaiste not agree with me—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I will close the Order of Business if Deputies will not be orderly.

Mr. Boylan: Information on Andrew Boylan  Zoom on Andrew Boylan  —that the issuing of the last batch of taxi licences was in clear breach—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  If the Deputy does not resume his seat, the Order of Business will close.

Mr. Boylan: Information on Andrew Boylan  Zoom on Andrew Boylan  —of the equal status laws? Does the Tánaiste agree that this has resulted in the statement made this morning by the taxi owner that wheelchair users were a damned nuisance?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Deputy Boylan, please resume your seat.

Mr. Boylan: Information on Andrew Boylan  Zoom on Andrew Boylan  I want a clear and categoric statement from her that she totally rejects that and that she does not support that policy.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Deputy Boylan should resume his seat. I call Deputy Rabbitte on a new subject. We must move on.

Mr. Boylan: Information on Andrew Boylan  Zoom on Andrew Boylan  It is outrageous.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Is the Tánaiste aware that her Department is colluding in drawing invidious distinctions between job initiative participants in terms of the Christmas bonus and will she take steps to sort that out?

[1102]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is not an appropriate question on the Order of Business.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  In respect of promised legislation, does the Tánaiste recall her undertaking in the House that the Bill dealing with part-time workers, which was designed to implement the EU directive, would be put through this year? From memory, June was the last date on which it was supposed to be transposed into Irish law. Will that legislation be enacted in this calendar year?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  There were parliamentary questions on this matter yesterday. The legislation is being finalised. I am not certain when it will be enacted but it will be published soon.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Will it be published this year?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The intention was that it would be published this session. I understand it may be after Christmas, unfortunately.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  What is the position of the disabilities Bill which sets out the rights of persons with disabilities and which I understand is to be brought before the House some time next year? Will the Tánaiste ensure it is fast tracked and that any inclusion in it to ensure disabled persons have an equal right to access to taxis is put in place so that there is a firm legislative response to the remarks to which Deputy Boylan drew the attention of the House?

Ms O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  On the same subject, under current equal status legislation, that right should exist.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot discuss the content of legislation.

Ms O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  The announcement made by the Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, may be in contravention of current legislation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot comment on the legislation. This is the Order of Business.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It would be helpful if the Tánaiste would clarify this because there appears to be in the Minister of State's proposals, a degree of tolerance of a situation which would not be in accordance with the law with regard to equal respect for the rights of people with disabilities.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I again point out that we cannot go into the detail of legislation.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  As further legislation is contemplated in this area, any doubts should be removed and any lapses in enforcement should be addressed promptly.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  As the Deputy knows, existing law in the form of the equality legislation covers [1103] this matter but the Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, made it clear that all taxis would have to be wheelchair accessible by the end of December 2003, which is three years from now.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That is a long time away.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  We must be practical.

Mr. Boylan: Information on Andrew Boylan  Zoom on Andrew Boylan  It should be in force from day one.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  There are 120,000 cars sold this year in Dublin alone.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  We all know the increased expense and time taken in making a car wheelchair accessible. If we want to be practical and have more taxis on the road quickly, it will not be possible to do the two together. Everyone knows that.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  In light of the discussion we have had, and I appreciate the Ceann Comhairle's facilitation of it, will the Government recognise the necessity for the regulations to be published in full, that is, those which will come in under the necessary legislation under which they operate? Will the Government give an undertaking that the regulations will be debated in the House so that all the concerns surrounding the implementation of the decision can be fully discussed and debated in the House? That would serve a very useful purpose. Will the Government give positive consideration to that as a matter of urgency?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The regulations were made two days ago.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Can we debate them?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  There has been a debate for the past two nights on Private Members' time almost exclusively on this issue.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Will the Tánaiste allow the regulations to be debated?

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  The Government must do that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I call Deputy Stanton.

Mr. Stanton: Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  The Minister of State with responsibility for consumer affairs, who, in case he has forgotten, is also responsible for labour affairs, promised last year to bring forward legislation to regulate advertising by airlines and tour operators. Is anything happening with that legislation?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Minister of State, Deputy Tom Kitt, is preparing proposals in this area.

Mr. Stanton: Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  When will we see them?

[1104]The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I will come back to the Deputy. I do not know.

Mr. Wall: Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  What efforts are the Tánaiste and the Minister for Health and Children making to resolve the ongoing industrial dispute between the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the South-Western Area Health board which is causing major and grave problems for people who cannot obtain information about appointments, medical cards and so on?

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

Mr. Wall: Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  It is a major problem that senior citizens cannot get information from the relevant health authorities in Kildare, Wicklow and Dublin.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should resume his seat. I call Deputy Crawford.

Mr. Wall: Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  It has been ongoing for some time and there has not been any response.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I call Deputy Seymour Crawford.

Mr. Wall: Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  It is a disgrace.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I have pointed out to the Deputy that this is the Order of Business and the Deputy has other ways of raising matters such as that. He should not raise it on the Order of Business.

Mr. Wall: Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  We were not allowed to bring it up any other way either.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There are other ways of raising the matter, Deputy.

Mr. Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Will the Tánaiste arrange for time to be provided to debate the total collapse of the cattle trade and the new EU regulations?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is a matter for the Whips and not a matter for the Order of Business.

Mr. Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  It is a very serious matter for thousands of livestock producers.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  When can we expect legislation dealing with the deregulation of intoxicating liquor licences, in accordance with previous statements by the Tánaiste?

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That is being kicked to touch, also. Another taxi forum, not to report for two years.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Ask Deputy Healy-Rae.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that I will have to win more seats to [1105] get all of my proposals implemented. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has established a commission to look at the licensing trade.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It will be a long, lingering look.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  On a number of occasions, the Minister for Public Enterprise has promised amendments to the Transport Act, 1932. Given that 200 applications have been made to her Department for private bus routes, and given the co-operation that was promised from this side of the House to bring that amendment before the House quickly, where is the amending legislation to the Transport Act, 1932, to allow competition on bus routes so that people, particularly those living in remote areas, can get a bus service?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  That legislation will be forthcoming towards the middle of next year.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  There are many applications but the Minister will not decide on them.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  They will be around before Christmas; time for the Deputy to take the bus home.

Mr. Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Yesterday, I questioned the Tánaiste on the ability of the Government to deliver on the national development plan. Given that local authority planners decided yesterday to initiate industrial action—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should not elaborate. A question on the Order of Business, please.

Mr. Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Following the decision by the planners to take industrial action, and as regards No. 66 on the Order Paper, will the Tánaiste allow time to debate housing, planning and transportation, all of which will be compromised if this industrial action takes place? It will compromise the Government's ability to deliver the national development plan.

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

Mr. Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  May I have a reply?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is a matter for the Whips to decide what debates we have. Perhaps the Deputy should consult his Party Whip with a view to having a debate on that matter.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  When will we debate the Human Rights (European Convention) Bill that was promised to be enacted several months ago?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Obviously in this session.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It will be debated in this session?

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

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It has not yet been published.

[1106]Mr. Coveney:  Is the Tánaiste aware of the unprecedented number of murder and rape trials awaiting hearing in the Central Criminal Court?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Does the Deputy have a question?

Mr. Coveney:  I do. Will the Tánaiste provide an update on the status of the Court and Court Officers Bill? When will the legislation come before the Dáil and be implemented?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It will be published this session.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  A great deal of publishing.

Mr. O'Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  The Government has promised legislation to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights which recognises freedom of expression, including media comment free of official censorship. Section 19 of the Refugee Act—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot discuss the contents or sections of a Bill.

Mr. O'Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  An urgent point has arisen, a Cheann Comhairle, and I would ask your indulgence to express it in a couple of sentences.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Is it just a question on the timing of when the Bill will be before the House?

Mr. O'Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  It is a question about a conflict that has arisen between two Bills.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Very briefly, Deputy.

Mr. O'Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  This week, section 19 of the Refugee Act was brought into operation. Effectively, that means the media cannot report on the circumstances of a refugee if that person can be identified, unless there is prior consent by the applicant concerned and—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We are discussing the contents of this legislation again.

Mr. O'Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  Could I finish this sentence?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Will the Deputy ask a question?

Mr. O'Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  Yes, I will ask the question but let me finish the point. Basically, the prior consent of the applicant and that of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is required. Bearing in mind the fact that the legislation has been overtaken by events, will the Tánaiste give the House an assurance that the Refugee Act will be reviewed in the context of this conflict?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  If there are any difficulties, I am quite certain they will be addressed in forthcoming legislation. The legislation to which the [1107] Deputy refers was brought in by his own Government.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Ask Deputy O'Donnell about it, she knows.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I must conclude the Order of Business. We must proceed to the next business of the day.


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