Order of Business.

Thursday, 7 December 2000

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 527 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. 23b, motion re Referral to Joint Committee of proposed approval of United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; No. 22, Supplementary Estimates for Public Services [Votes 6,10, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 33, 34, 35, 41, 42 and 44] returned from committee; and No. 21a, Financial Motions by the Minister for Finance [2000] (Motion 4, resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 23b and 22 shall be decided without debate [1094] and in the case of No. 22, the Supplementary Estimates [Votes 6,10, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 33, 34, 35, 41, 42 and 44] shall be moved together and decided by one Question which shall be put from the Chair and any division demanded thereon shall be taken forthwith; and the following arrangements shall apply in relation to the resumed debate on No. 21a: the speech of the main spokespersons or a Member nominated in his or her stead for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and of the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 40 minutes; the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 30 minutes; and Members may share time.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There are two proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 23b and No. 22, Supplementary Estimates, agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 21a agreed?

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  On the taking of all the Supplementary Estimates together without debate, perhaps the Tánaiste would obviate the need for a division on this matter. I am informed that Vote 42(e) concerns scéimeanna feabhsúcháin sa Ghaeltacht, the scheme for improving strategic roads in the Gaeltacht. Two Gaeltacht areas have been specifically excluded from this, namely the Meath Gaeltacht—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot debate the matter.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  —and the Waterford Gaeltacht. No money has been allocated for road improvement schemes in these areas. We will certainly vote against the Supplementary Estimates if these areas are excluded from the schemes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The first proposal was agreed and we are now dealing with the proposal for No. 21a. Is that proposal agreed? Agreed.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Why did the Minister for Finance omit the Government's planned increases in motor taxes from his Budget Statement? These were announced by means of a press release after the budget. Was the Minister afraid the party atmosphere would be destroyed? Is that why he allowed the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to announce these increases by press release?

Mr. Yates: Information on Ivan Yates  Zoom on Ivan Yates  They were announced in the middle of the night.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Is this something which will never happen, like some of the other announcements made by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  This issue relates to the debate on the budget. Deputy Bruton is well aware that motor tax revenue goes directly to local authorities. The Minister for Finance dealt with many [1095] issues in the budget which cannot all be delivered in a speech of a reasonable length.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  It is a tax increase.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Labour Party called for this last night. That is what it voted on.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  No, that is not right.

(Interruptions.)

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

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Is the Tánaiste satisfied that a financial resolution is not required for the imposition of an additional charge on the people? Is it not the case that this increase in motor taxation is being decided by the Government and not by local authorities? The Government is accountable to this House and if it wishes to impose an additional charge on the people it is obliged in this democracy, as I understand it, to put that proposition before the House. Why was the proposition of the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, not put before the House last night with the financial resolutions and why was it not announced by the Tánaiste's friend, the Minister for Finance, in his Budget Statement? As the Tánaiste is, I believe, sincerely concerned to maintain the standing of this House as the place where important announcements are made and decided, can she excuse or explain the unwillingness of the Minister for Finance to make this announcement in the budget?

Mr. Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  There is no room for bad news.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Tánaiste is a great person to stand up for standards when in Opposition. There are certain standards regarding the way this House should be treated in the matter of the imposition of taxes on the people. Why did the Minister for Finance not announce this tax measure in the budget yesterday? Why was it kept secret?

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  Tell the truth.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Why was it not announced until late at night?

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  On the same issue—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy cannot speak on the same issue. It is a Leader's question.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  The Chair is very touchy today.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  There is a fundamental issue at stake.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot have speeches.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  That was a one sentence preamble to a question that the Chair normally allows. It is [1096] important that the full fiscal parameters of the budget are presented to the House. Without exception, that is always done in the Minister's speech. If this is a departure, are there other fiscal measures we will hear of when other Ministers speak in this debate? We must know the full parameters of the budget before Members are asked to speak.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  More midnight announcements.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  Spin doctors on £75 an hour must do their job.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  If there are other fiscal measures will the Tánaiste indicate them to the House now? Does this fiscal measure, the motor tax issue, require a resolution of the House? If so, how will it be put?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  All the appropriate financial resolutions that were necessary were put to the House last night and voted on. There are several features of the budget, many of them allocating substantial money for social inclusion which were—

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Tánaiste should answer the question she was asked.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  It is another spoof.

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

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Tánaiste is a serious politician. This is a serious question. Answer it seriously.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Allow the Tánaiste to conclude her remarks.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I am a serious politician and the Deputy is also. We will have—

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Answer the question.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Stop shouting.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am not shouting.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  All the appropriate resolutions were put to the House last night. The budget debate will begin shortly and Deputies can make whatever points they wish.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  It was a big increase.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There will be ample opportunity to comment. We cannot have a debate now.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  We are debating the financial statement of the Minister for Finance. This measure is not included in that so the debate is starting under a false pretence. Will the Tanáiste give an assurance that no other tax announcements will be made by the Minister for the Envir[1097] onment and Local Government, or any other Minister, that were not included in the budget?

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  So that at least we are talking about the same matters.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Yesterday I raised the resignation of an inspector investigating the Ansbacher issue and the Taoiseach responded. The Tánaiste has direct ministerial responsibility for the matter. Will she indicate the circumstances surrounding the resignation in so far as she knows them, the proposals she has to bring these matters to a conclusion and when the reports will be available for scrutiny by this House?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That matter was raised. The Tánaiste may make a brief reply.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  On 23 November, Judge Declan Costello came to see me and informed me that, on medical advice, he had to, unfortunately, stand down from the inspectorate. He very much regretted that. I am very grateful to him, as I am sure is the House, for the outstanding work he has done over the past year. He has worked seven days a week on many occasions to try to bring this inquiry to a conclusion. I have been in discussions with the Attorney General for the past two weeks seeking to have an inspector or inspectors appointed to replace Judge Costello. It is important to ensure there is no conflict of interest and that inspectors have not worked for any of the people under investigation. We are now in a position to put names to the High Court and I hope that will be done tomorrow. I stress Judge Costello stood down on medical advice and solely on that.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  In relation—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot continue this matter. It was raised yesterday and I allowed a question on it today. We must continue with the Order of Business proper. The Deputy should resume his seat.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Chair usually gives some latitude. I wish to ask one supplementary.

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

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Tánaiste has announced for the past three Christmas times that the contents of this report will be shocking and that it will be made available as soon as she can—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should not make comments.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  When does she envisage the report will be available to the House? What is the Tánaiste's best guess?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It went to the inspectors in September 1999, as the Deputy knows. I expect that by next summer the inspectors will be in a posi[1098] tion to make a final report to the High Court. That will be—

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  After the next election.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The election will not be for 18 months or more.

(Interruptions.)

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  We are four budgets down and one to go. The Opposition never thought it would be four.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Does the Tánaiste intend to implement the report of the commission on the private rented sector? When will the legislation that is required be prepared and published?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  That is the intention. The Minister brought proposals to the Cabinet and they were discussed this week. An announcement will be made on that matter shortly.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  What is the position on two issues of promised legislation on which there was much squealing from these benches when the parties opposite were in Opposition, the adoption contact register and mandatory reporting?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I understand legislation on the adoption register will be in mid-2001.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  Four years later.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  No comments, just questions.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  I hope this will not take four years. Legislation has been promised to establish a compensation tribunal for the victims of abuse while in institutional care. When will that be introduced bearing in mind that many of those victims are now in advanced years?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I am sorry I am not in a position to tell the Deputy now. I will inform him of that later.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Will the Tánaiste intercede with the Taoiseach to arrange for a full day debate on developments in Europe arising from Nice? It is an important issue. As Chairman of the European Affairs Committee I have been asked to request this as a matter of urgency.

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

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is intended to have a debate on that matter next week. It is right that we should do so given the changes that will take place.

Ms Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  What is the status of the part-time workers' legislation? What is the operative date for the directive? The VEC (Amendment) Bill was promised during this session but there is no sign of it. When may we expect it?

[1099]The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Both are scheduled for this session. Unfortunately the legislation on part-time workers may not be until the beginning of January. It is almost completed. I cannot say if it will be published before next weekend or the one following that. However, its publication is imminent and the same applies to the VEC Bill.

Ms Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  What is the operative date of the directive?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I do not know.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Last week in response to a parliamentary question the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform promised an amendment to the Solicitors (Amendment) Act to implement the EU establishment directive which refers to barristers and solicitors who have qualified in another jurisdiction practising here. He said primary legislation would have to be amended. What is the status of that legislation as it is urgently required?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I understand the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is preparing legislation in this area but I am not in a position to say when it will be finalised.

Mr. O'Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  Will the Tánaiste confirm that the Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill, 1999, is being withdrawn and explain why?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The first part of the question is in order but the second part is not.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Bill is being merged with other legislation and will be published next year.

Mr. O'Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  With what is it being merged?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The second part of the Deputy's question is not in order.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  With what is it being merged?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is being merged with another telecommunications Bill, so instead of two Bills there will be one. This is a much more efficient use of our time.

Mr. O'Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  Why were we not let in on the secret?

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  We are telling the Deputy now.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  Has the Government plans for a special debate on the crisis—

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

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  The Ceann Comhairle should at least allow me to finish the sentence. Has the Government plans for a debate on the crisis in the agricultural sector? The Tánaiste was at one time very fond of the Department of Agriculture, [1100] Food and Rural Development when she hid in it one day when the press was looking for her.

Ms O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  The sex offenders' register legislation completed Committee Stage about two months ago and was on a preliminary list to return to the House for Report Stage, but was then taken off that list and has not reappeared. When will Report Stage of the Bill be taken?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is a matter for the Whips, but the Government Chief Whip tells me it will be after Christmas.

Ms O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  Is there a reason for the delay?

Mr. Coveney:  When will the court and court officers legislation be brought before the House? A number of weeks ago the Taoiseach promised it would be introduced this session. Will it be introduced this session to relieve the overload on the courts?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is in discussion with the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government in relation to it and the intention is, if possible, to introduce it before the end of the session.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  I am sure the Tánaiste is aware that the group of people whose rights have been least attended to are psychiatric patients in mental hospitals. The mental health legislation was to be passed this session. It is now due for Report Stage and I wonder if there is any chance this can be taken in the coming week.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  That is a matter for the Whips to discuss, but I agree that it is a priority. I am not certain if Report Stage can be taken before the end of next week. It has been ordered for Report Stage and it is a matter for the whips to decide whether to allocate time to it.

Ms Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Given the Tánaiste's commitment to more openness in appointments being made by Government, why did the Government go to the trouble of appointing an authority to recommend names for the human rights commission and then reject the names proposed by the group?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is not in order on the Order of Business.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Michael Joe Cosgrave  Zoom on Michael Joe Cosgrave  Can the Tánaiste state the current status of the Aer Lingus legislation and when it will come before the House?

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  It has been withdrawn.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  No.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  It is dead as a doornail.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Next session.

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  When will the private security [1101] industry legislation be introduced? It has been promised for three years. On a weekly basis people are being abused by doormen in night clubs.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I understand it will be published in early January.

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  On ten occasions the Taoiseach promised it would be published in the second half of this year. It is disgraceful.

Mr. Stanton: Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Will the Government introduce any special measures to assist the beef industry? The Minister referred to this yesterday.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  There is no promised legislation.

Mr. Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Will time be given next week for a full and proper debate on the demise of agriculture? If something is not done—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is a matter for the Whips. It is not in order on the Order of Business. I call Deputy John Bruton.

Mr. Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Can I get an answer?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I have called Deputy John Bruton. The matter should be taken up with the Whips.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  It is about time the Tánaiste answered the question.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I grew up on a 39 acre farm and I know something about agriculture. The budget debate will provide Deputies, as the resolutions did last night, with an opportunity to discuss agriculture.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  That is a cop out.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The amount of financial provision in the budget for the farming community was ludicrous in light of the problems they face.

In view of the necessity to promote competition and deregulation as a means of keeping prices down, why have the proposed amendments to the competition legislation, recommended by the Collins report and recently by the Deloitte & Touche report, not been included in the Government's legislative programme, even though I understand the Competition Authority has been led to believe the legislation is a priority in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment? Why is it not in the programme and when will it be introduced?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Strictly speaking that question, apart from the timing of the legislation, is not in order.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  As the Deputy is aware, the mergers review group was established by my predecessor and reported to me last May. The heads [1102] of the Bill have already been approved by the Government and legislation is being drafted as a priority. The Deloitte & Touche report relates to resources for the authority. I know the Deputy was speaking with the chairman this morning and that Deputy Owen was speaking with him yesterday. I am sure he told the Deputies that we intend implementing the report. It is important that all the staff required by the Competition Authority are provided so that we can enforce competition in the economy.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Why is the legislation not listed on the Order Paper?


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