Order of Business.

Tuesday, 15 May 2001

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 536 No. 2

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The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Order of Business shall be No. 46, Euro Changeover (Amounts) Bill, 2001 – Second Stage (resumed); and No. 47, Agriculture Appeals Bill, 2001 [Seanad] – Second Stage (resumed). Private Members' Business shall be No. 112, motion re industrial relations.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  There are no proposals to be put before the House.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  On a point of order, the Labour Party was promised by the Government last [235] week, on 8 May and 10 May, that Report Stage of the Children Bill, 1999, would be taken.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That does not arise.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It does.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Can I just clarify the matter?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Under Standing Order 26—

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  We were promised specifically.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  —it is the prerogative of the Taoiseach to announce business for the day.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I know that.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  No other decision of the House is required.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  There is an obligation to enforce—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Not at this stage.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  We were told when we raised this matter that it would—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  There will be an opportunity to do so, as we are moving on to Leaders' questions and the Deputy will be able to do so then.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I think the Taoiseach wants to be orderly and to communicate on this to the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy will have an opportunity to raise this matter on Leaders' questions.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  We were promised specifically on the Order of Business—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  This matter does not arise at this stage.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I know it does not arise, because it is not here – where is it?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy may raise the matter by way of Leaders' questions.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  As the House is aware, the Government failed to take any decision to tackle the growing crisis in the health services yesterday despite the fact that, as it faces into its fifth year in office, there are still people on waiting lists who were on them when it came into office four years ago. Waiting lists numbering some 28,000 persons are unacceptably high. The national cancer strategy is in disarray. Accident and emergency departments are in chaos. Bed shortages [236] mean that patients are being denied life saving treatment. Services for children are woefully inadequate. The Government cannot agree on what to do next. Will the Taoiseach use the same excuse as his predecessor, Mr. Haughey, used in the 1989 election campaign, “nobody ever told me how bad it was”?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  In view of the collective responsibility provisions for Cabinet decisions in our Constitution, will the Taoiseach explain the extraordinary repudiation, if not a downright declaration of no confidence, proclaimed yesterday by the Minister for Finance in the Minister for Health and Children when he not only said extra money would not be available but that the money that had already been given to the Minister had been badly spent?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  In reply to Deputies Noonan and Quinn, the country knows we did a useful day's work yesterday in looking at a number of the important issues with which we must deal in the health area.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  If members of the Government were being benchmarked, they would not get a rise.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  Why did it take four years to do so?

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  The Government will have to have the next meeting in Lourdes.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Allow the Taoiseach to answer the questions raised.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  In reply to the questions raised by the two Deputies, the Government is continuing to work on the health strategy, which has continued over the winter months. We will benefit greatly in the short term and into the future from that detailed background work in which the Minister for Health and Children has been engaged to deliver our policies. That follows on from the last review in 1994. We have examined areas such as hospital bed capacity—

Mr. Finucane: Information on Michael Finucane  Zoom on Michael Finucane  The Taoiseach should not list all the reports.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  Will he examine the capacity of his Minister?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  —hospital doctor working practices, primary care needs, training, deployment and rewarding of nurses and the use of resources within the system. Yesterday we heard of the progress that has been made by the Minister for Health and Children. More than 80,000 more hospital treatments are being carried out than were carried out a few years ago, 1,300 more nurses are working in our hospitals, 250 more consultants are delivering medical care and there are 1,250 more residential places. At last we are [237] dealing with the areas of mental, physical and sensory handicap.

(Interruptions.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I ask Members to refrain from interrupting.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  How can we keep quiet when those comments are being made?

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Far more is being done than when the Deputies opposite were in office.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Some 2,100—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Before the Taoiseach continues, I remind the House that Deputies Noonan and Quinn were afforded the courtesy of putting their questions without interruption and I ask Members on each side of the House to afford the same courtesy to the Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Deputies do not like to hear that 1.2 million people are receiving treatment in accident and emergency facilities—

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Why are patients left on hospital trolleys?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  —500,000 people have been in receipt of excellent in-patient services and there are 250,000 day patients. Some 14,000 more people are working in the health services. We have put in place the necessary resources. There was criticism of the cancer strategy, but the difficulty was that there was no cancer strategy in place. Such a strategy in now in place. The area of disabilities was not dealt with in the past, but we are now dealing with it.

I remind Deputy Noonan that in the period during which his party was in Government, numbers on waiting lists increased by 27%, but they have now fallen by 9%. We will continue to deal with all these issues. Resources will continue to be put in place to try to improve the health service. The excellent work being done in the Department of Health and Children and by the Minister will continue.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  The Deputies opposite are all ready for the accident and emergency department at this stage.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  The Taoiseach believes his own propaganda.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Never was so much spent by a Minister for so little return. Did the Taoiseach watch his Minister on the 6 o'clock News yesterday evening? When he was pressed as to why decisions were not made at Ballymascanlon he said it was not a decision-making meeting, it was a meeting for reflection on ongoing policy and the third of a series of meetings, the previous [238] ones having been similar and having been called by the Taoiseach last year on the housing crisis and on the traffic chaos in Dublin. Can we expect the same progress to be made on the health service as has been made on the housing crisis and on the traffic chaos in Dublin arising from the Cabinet's reflective days away last year?

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  We have made progress.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Minister for Health and Children should be congratulated by everybody in this House. Yesterday he organised a detailed presentation on the serious issues affecting the health of this nation into the future. Unfortunately, very little reflection was done in previous years as there were very few resources available.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  Why did the Government not do it four years ago?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The work of the past four years is in place and the Minister is building on it.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  He is building on what he has done for the past four years. I repeat information some Members do not want to hear. There are 80,000 more hospital treatments, 14,000 extra staff in the health services, capital programmes are at an all time high, an enormous amount of money has been put into the area of physical and sensory disabilities, for the first time ever the area of mental handicap is being dealt with, there are more nurses and services available and more is being done for the health of this nation than ever before.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  The Taoiseach is beginning to sound like his character on “Bull Island”.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  This is a pathetic PR exercise.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  Why are patients left on trolleys?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I am delighted the Taoiseach has such confidence in our health system, but I wonder if it is shared by all the citizens of this State. Does the Government accept the judgment of the European Court on Human Rights on the Loughgall killings that found, in essence, it is an absolute right of citizens to have an independent mechanism for the investigation of police complaints? When will legislation be introduced to provide for an independent Garda complaints service or authority?

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Will the Taoiseach agree there is an emerging need for an Garda ombudsman with an independent inspectorate?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform referred to these matters recently and about that necessity, but legislation on it is not currently before the Govern[239] ment. The Minister indicated that in dealing with cases in the future, such as the Abbeylara case, we will have to move from the position we had. The Government will have to consider how that will best be done, on the far side of the investigations currently before the House and cases we will have to deal with.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The Taoiseach seems to be misinformed as to what the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform said. He rejected proposals for a legislatively based independent complaints system. Is it the Government's position that for as long as it lasts in office we will have to wait until we are dragged before the court in Strasbourg, given that our system is at variance with the findings of the judgment? Is it correct to assume that the Government is not prepared to bring forward legislation which would provide for an independent complaints board or procedures for citizens who have complaints against the Garda, and that we would remove the current system where the gardaí investigate complaints against themselves by themselves?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  My understanding is that what the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform said was that at present these investigations are not on a statutory basis and that he would not bring forward legislation but he would seek to put a more independent element into the current investigations' system. I presume his view is that he can do that without putting it on a statutory basis.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Not so.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  That is what he indicated.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The Taoiseach will regret this statement.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  On the Order of Business, I will take Deputy Quinn first. He had a question earlier which I ruled out at that stage.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Thank you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Last week on 8 and 10 May this House was promised by the Government that Report and Final Stages of the Children Bill, 1999, would be scheduled for today. It was on a preliminary schedule for business but we were told that, due to conflict among Departments and the Attorney General's office, the matter had not yet been resolved. Is there any hope of us ever seeing this legislation?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Children Bill was to be before the House this week, but unfortunately, the amendments were not completed. The Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Health and Children had been working on amendments. There are 25 Government amendments. They were only circulated today and that would not have given the Opposition a [240] reasonable chance. We will try to get the Bill rescheduled as soon as possible.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  Within the past half an hour I had a telephone call from a constituent who is numb from the hips down, sitting in a hospital accident and emergency ward and they do not even have a seat for his wife.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That is not relevant to the Order of Business.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  I will send him the Taoiseach's comments in the House today.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Please, Deputy Mitchell, have you a question relating to the business of the House?

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  Is it intended to re-introduce the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill so that the House can be given an opportunity to discuss the failure of the Cabinet meeting at Ballymascanlon yesterday to address—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  On the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The answer is this week.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  —the urgent health issues which this country is facing?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I understand it is being taken in the House tomorrow. We will move on to a question from Deputy Fitzgerald.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  Will the Taoiseach provide an opportunity during that debate—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Mitchell, you are out of order. You have asked your question.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  —to discuss the failure of the Cabinet meeting to reach any conclusion on these important issues?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I call Deputy Fitzgerald.

Ms Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Is the Taoiseach aware that there has been a sharp decline in the number of wheelchair accessible taxis available in this city over the past few weeks and we have also had stories—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is the question on legislation?

Ms Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  It is on legislation.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Will you come to the legislation please?

Ms Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  There have been stories of people with disabilities travelling in the engine [241] rooms of trains. What priority is the Taoiseach giving to the legislation on disability? When will a strong disabilities Bill be brought forward so that rights can be enshrined for people with a disability?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The work on the heads of the Bill is almost completed and the Bill is due later this year.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I want to ask about four Bills which have been published by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government but which have not yet been brought through this House, the Local Government Bill, the Waste Management Bill, the Road Traffic Bill and the Electoral Bill. When will each of those Bills be brought to this House for Second Stage?

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  That is a long list of Bills.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Local Government Bill is due this month.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  It has started already.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It has already started its passage through the House.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Three months ago.

A Deputy:  It did not go very far.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  It has gone into a siding.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It will be ready later this month and it will be taken again in the House later this month.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Are they back on side?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Waste Management Bill will be taken in mid-June. The Electoral Bill and the Road Traffic Bill will be taken in this session.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Jim Higgins  Zoom on Jim Higgins  (Mayo): On promised legislation, last Thursday the Minister for Public Enterprise told the House at Question Time that CIE was refusing to make available information and documentation for the inquiry on the Kiltoom rail crash and that she was consulting the Attorney General—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Have you a question on legislation?

Mr. Higgins: Information on Jim Higgins  Zoom on Jim Higgins  (Mayo): It shows an appalling contempt for the Minister. Why has the Rail Safety Bill not been brought forward as a priority? This would certainly eliminate any possibility of contempt being shown by CIE for the right to an independent inquiry?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The legislation is due this summer.

[242] Mrs. Owen: I want to ask the Taoiseach about legislation, No. 60 on the list of promised legislation, the Medical Practitioners (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, and about an announcement in the budget which is relevant to this legislation. Is the Taoiseach aware that in the budget the Government announced that everybody over 70 would be eligible for medical cards from 1 July next? Is the Taoiseach aware that there is no clarity about this matter?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That does not arise.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  There are no application forms available.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  On No. 60.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Nobody knows whether their doctor will be able to deal with them and it is a complete mess. Not even the doctors know.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That does not arise on your question, Deputy Owen. On the first part of the question, the Taoiseach to reply.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  I want to know about the medical practitioners Bill and whether we will get clarity about the doctors participating in this scheme of medical cards.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I will allow the first part of the question on the medical practitioners Bill.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  The Taoiseach should bend the Minister for Finance's ear.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The medical practitioners Bill will not be available until next spring but the issue which the Deputy is raising will be taken in the House tomorrow.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  When will the Family Mediation Service Bill be taken? I was present earlier this afternoon when the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, launched the service. Is the Taoiseach disturbed by the reports today that—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Have you a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  —73,000 lone parent families are living in poverty in this State?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Family Mediation Service Bill is due before the summer recess, as the Minister stated in his press statement today.

Mr. Stanton: Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  When will the Irish National Petroleum Corporation Limited Bill be published? Will it be published before any deal is signed at the end of this month to sell the oil refinery to [243] Phillips/Tosco so that we will have time to debate the issue?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The first part of the question is in order.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  As I said last week, this legislation will be available later in the year. If it is required to be fast-tracked, it can be but at this stage it is due in the autumn.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  As the guarantor of Members of the House, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, do you intend to take steps to try to ensure that the practice of Ministers replying on the Adjournment and giving irrelevant, often contemptuous answers, which frequently miss the point of the issues being raised by Deputies might be addressed?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  It does not arise on the Order of Business but, as the Deputy is well aware, the Chair has no control over the replies.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  My understanding, Sir, is that you are the guarantor of the rights of us on this side of the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  According to the long-standing precedent, the Chair has no control over the replies from a Minister.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, will you take up the matter with the Ceann Comhairle because Deputies on this side of the House—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I suggest that you take it up with either the Dáil reform committee or the Committee on Procedure and Privileges which will meet tomorrow.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  —raise particular and specific issues and Ministers, usually Ministers of State, are sent into the House to reply.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I call Deputy Howlin.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  May I explain the point, Sir?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  There is no need to explain it in the House.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Ministers of State are sent into the House—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I call Deputy Howlin.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  —with meaningless replies which miss the entire point.

[244] An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Will the Deputy allow his colleague, Deputy Howlin, speak, otherwise we must move on to the business proper?

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I propose to have it raised at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges tomorrow.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  A promise was made in the House by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform subsequent to a court decision to establish the parole board on a statutory basis. Has work been completed on that and when will the legislation be published?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I do not believe there is legislation listed on the matter.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It is the Prisons Service Bill.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It will not be published until next year. The heads of the Bill are expected in June of this year but the drafting of the Bill, which will contain almost 70 heads, will take at least nine months.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Does the Minister intend to place—

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Bill will place the prisons board, the parole board and prisons inspectors on a statutory basis.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  Remarks at the weekend attributed to the Tánaiste quote her as saying she favours the introduction of legislation to ban strikes. Will the Taoiseach tell us when this legislation will be published?

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  It will be no bother to her.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  She will make the trains run on time.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  It is another kite.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  No such legislation is promised.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  This Government announced in the last century that it would transfer 10,000 civil servants. Will this take place in this century?

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  That was in the last millennium.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The question does not arise on the Order of Business. Deputy Olivia Mitchell.

Ms O. Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  In the context of the Road Traffic Bill, is it intended to bring forward amendments to allow political discussion and—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Taoiseach has already answered the question on the Bill.

[245]Ms O. Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  —political input into the formulation of some sort of national tolling policy to come before this House? We have seen in recent days—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That is not appropriate to the Order of Business. Deputy Rabbitte to ask the final question.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  The Minister of State with responsibility for consumer affairs is flapping about helplessly pleading with publicans to introduce voluntary price stability. Does the Taoiseach propose to introduce legislation to control the price of drink, having regard to the disproportionate contribution it makes to the inflationary spiral that the Minister for Finance—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We are moving on to—

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  No, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I think the Minister of State with responsibility for consumer affairs ought to be taken out of his misery. He is flapping around helplessly.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That does not arise on the Order of Business.


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