Order of Business.

Wednesday, 14 November 2001

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 544 No. 1

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The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Order of Business shall be No. 49, Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill, 2001 – Second Stage (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Question Time tomorrow shall be taken at 3.30 p.m. until 4.45 p.m. and in the event of a private notice question being allowed it shall be taken at 4.15 p.m. and the order shall not resume thereafter. Private Members' Business shall be No. 114, motion re housing (resumed), to conclude at 8.30 p.m. tonight.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal in relation to the taking of Question Time tomorrow agreed to? Agreed.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  The Taoiseach will probably recall the last general election campaign when his party gave a commitment to zero tolerance and when the current Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform travelled the land like a latter day angel of death. Arising from this and, in particular, the crime survey carried out at the direction of the Minister by the National Crime Council of Ireland, is the Taoiseach aware that only one crime in four committed in Ireland is recorded as being reported? The other three are not recorded as being reported and do not appear in official statistics. Will the Taoiseach take measures to ensure all crimes are reported and that victims of crime are supported?

[4]Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  There has been more than a 200% increase since the 1950s in reported crimes. Will the Taoiseach disown the silly remark of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who indicated with pleasure that crime was now at 1950s levels?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I note the crime levels in the recent report, but also note the official figures which show that crime is down by 21% in the last reported year. Crime was down 25% last year on the projected figures. There were around 81,250 indictable offences in 1999, the lowest in over 20 years. Of course, we will continue to make sure that crime is reported, in so far as this is not being done.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  Lies, damn lies and statistics.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  There is a general view, even in this House, that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is one of the best we have ever had.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  That view is certainly held by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, but is not universal. The report establishes that the principal reason crime is so under-reported is the fear of victims to report crime and their belief that if they report crime, nothing will happen or be done to assist them. Does the Taoiseach agree that this is an appalling indictment of the criminal justice system in terms of those most hurt by crime? What will he do to ensure official crime statistics reflect reality? Second, what will he do to remove the fear of victims afraid to report crime to the Garda Síochána and their belief that if they report crime, it will be totally ineffective because nothing will happen as a result of the report?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  There is an excellent criminal justice system and a very good independent courts system. We have increased the numbers of gardaí and resources. I do not accept that anyone would be fearful or concerned about reporting crime. People are satisfied to report crime, even in areas with the highest crime levels. We must continue to encourage them to report crime. We have a good Garda Síochána and criminal justice system and people should report crime. It is a question of the reason they do not do so.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  The Taoiseach is out of touch.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Order, please. The Taoiseach to continue without interruption.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  From my experience in so-called disadvantaged areas, areas more marginalised than most, the reality is that people have faith in the Garda Síochána and the courts system and use it fully. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has been extremely helpful in regard to victims of crime. A network is now set up throughout the country whereby [5]resources are made available to try to engage with the victims of crime. There are victims of crime who are severely traumatised. We saw such a case last night in regard to a young girl. There are systems and schemes in place which should be supported. The Minister is providing the resources to support them.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Does the Taoiseach accept that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform's proposals in the House yesterday to deal with the huge public alarm concerning allegations of Garda misconduct in County Donegal are wholly inadequate? Does he accept that there have been three private internal inquiries lasting for a considerable time which neither resolved these matters nor even allowed them to be fully ventilated in the public domain? Does he accept that yet another behind closed doors inquiry by an individual with no statutory authority can achieve nothing other than to bury this issue, as the Minister intends, until after the next general election?

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  My party has on several occasions expressed its fullest confidence in the Garda Síochána, a force founded by the founders of this State in 1922. I put it to the Taoiseach that nothing undermines public confidence in the Garda Síochána more than a Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who refuses to take action when it is quite obvious that action should be taken. Rather than appointing an eminent legal person to examine the situation in County Donegal, in circumstances where he has had all the files available to him for the past three years, is it not time for the Cabinet to consider a full tribunal of inquiry into the matter?

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Would the Deputy try due process?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Minister dealt with this issue in the House. In reply to Deputy Noonan, the House will be aware of what the Minister stated. He said the legal advice from the Attorney General was to look at what options are available and carry out an appropriate examination into these matters. He has already indicated that these issues create an enormous level of concern and has been more forthright than anyone on the issue. The advice he received pointed to the serious difficulties that would arise while civil and criminal proceedings are still pending and that these proceedings should be allowed to run their course. That is the legal advice which must be followed.

Taking into account the difficulties identified by the Attorney General and addressing what Deputies Noonan and Howlin have said in regard to public concern about these matters – no one denies there is public concern – the Minister has decided that the best way to proceed is to ask an eminent legal person to examine all the papers available, including the progress on the investi[6]gations generally. Given that expert independent advice, he will then consider what measures he might take to bring matters to finality sooner rather than later. He hopes to be in a position to appoint the person concerned shortly and will inform the House of the circumstances of those conclusions.

I remind the House that, based on the same advice, we have taken that view in regard to many other issues in recent years. We did so some years ago when in the process of sifting. We did so in regard to Mr. Justice Buchanan and Mr. Justice McCracken, which later led to tribunals. We received the same appropriate legal advice in regard to those issues. The Minister has served the public well.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Taoiseach indicated, as did the Minister yesterday, that the Government wishes to bring these issues to a conclusion and get at the truth. Does he know that the inaction of the Minister has resulted in one of the civil cases being delayed for more than six months? Given the myriad of inquiries, one after another, in secret, with no information coming into the public domain, does he accept that the public would quite properly come to the conclusion that the Minister is engaged in ensuring the matter is buried until beyond the next general election?

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I stated that the Minister said the legal eminent person would begin work shortly and, I hope, complete it fairly quickly. The papers are available.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I am talking about deliberately—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Taoiseach to continue without interruption.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The conclusions will be made public in the House just as the Minister made a statement in the House yesterday. The House and the general public need an authoritative independent assurance that everything possible is being done to bring these unsatisfactory matters to a conclusion. That is what the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is doing. The action now proposed will achieve this without running the risk of jeopardising the civil and criminal proceedings.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Minister achieved nothing.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  That would not serve the public interest in this case. I thought Deputy Howlin would congratulate the Minister on taking this action, the correct one in the case.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Jim Higgins  Zoom on Jim Higgins  (Mayo): On a cover up.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That concludes leaders' questions. We will now take other relevant ques[7]tions on the Order of Business. I call Deputy McGinley.

Mr. McGinley: Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  I am sure the Taoiseach is aware of the deep concerns and anxiety among archaeologists and other conservationists at the neglected state of many of our national monuments and heritage sites. When will the promised consolidated national monuments Bill be published?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The heads of the Bill were approved on 16 October and it has now gone for full drafting, which will take some time. I am not sure how many heads there, but work will now proceed.

Mr. Wall: Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  May I ask the Taoiseach and, in particular, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, what plans are in place to avoid the major crisis developing in the farming community?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  This is the Order of Business. It is not in order at this stage to raise that matter. The Deputy may have other opportunities to do so, but he is not in order. He should resume his seat.

Mr. Wall: Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  I beg to allow the Taoiseach—

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

Mr. Wall: Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  There are 1,000 jobs under threat.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is being grossly disorderly and should resume his seat.

Mr. Wall: Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  A Cheann Comhairle—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is being grossly disorderly and should resume his seat.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I call Deputy Gay Mitchell on the Order of Business.

Mr. Wall: Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  I want to hear—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I ask Deputy Wall to resume his seat. If he does not resume his seat, I will ask him to leave the House.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I ask Deputy Wall for the last time to resume his seat. I call Deputy Mitchell.

Mr. Wall: Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  There are 1,000 jobs under threat in Munster and Leinster.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Will Deputy Wall please leave the House? The Deputy has left the [8]Chair with no option and he must leave the House.

(Interruptions.)

Deputy Wall withdrew from the Chamber.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  The Irish Medical Council has admitted it was aware that a doctor who applied for a job in the south east was under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct in Britain, but did not notify the authorities—

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

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  Yes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should proceed with his question.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  It appears that if a paedophile applied for a job as a paediatrician, the Medical Council would not feel obliged to notify the authorities—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Will the Deputy, please, put his question?

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  To enable this matter to be discussed in the House will the Taoiseach arrange to have the Estimates for the Department of Health and Children brought forward? This is a matter of great concern which the House needs to address. We can no longer leave it to the Medical Council.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Estimates will be published tomorrow, but, subject to correction, the matter raised by the Deputy was discussed in the House last week on the Adjournment.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  On previous occasions the Taoiseach informed the House that the heads of the Housing (Private Rented Sector) Bill would be approved by Government before Christmas. I understand the Minister responsible has not yet circulated a memorandum to Government on the Bill and, in view of the short time remaining before the end of the year, is the Taoiseach still confident that the heads will be approved by Government before Christmas?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  As I stated previously, the heads of the Bill are still expected to be completed before Christmas.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Deputy Jim Mitchell – sorry, Deputy Jim Higgins.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Jim Higgins  Zoom on Jim Higgins  (Mayo): I am not deputy leader yet.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Higgins: Information on Jim Higgins  Zoom on Jim Higgins  (Mayo): Now that we are flying [9]high, may I ask the Taoiseach a question on aviation? Has a decision been taken to allow Ryanair to build a second terminal at Dublin Airport? If so, will it be necessary to amend the existing legislation in relation to Aer Rianta in order to give effect to that decision?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That matter would be more appropriate to a parliamentary question.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Jim Higgins  Zoom on Jim Higgins  (Mayo): I understand it will be necessary to amend the existing legislation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Is there legislation promised on this matter?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  No.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Will the Government make time available this week to discuss the world trade talks in Doha, Quatar? My second question is related, to some extent. You, Sir, will have received notification from the Interparliamentary Union asking for parliamentary time to be made available to discuss the preparations for the international conference on financing for development. Have the Whips agreed to make time available, in the short-term, for that matter?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  In response to Deputy Noonan's request yesterday, there is a debate tomorrow on Afghanistan. It will not be possible, therefore, to have a debate on Doha this week. I suggest to Deputy Higgins that it might be more appropriate next week because the Irish Ministers attending, Deputies Joe Walsh and Tom Kitt, expect the session to conclude tonight or tomorrow. They will then return home. Perhaps we can look at it for next week. The other issue can be discussed with the Whips.

Mr. Deasy: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin Deasy  The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy O'Donnell, has indicated that she is anxious to have Afghan refugees accepted by Ireland. What refugees is she considering, since those who were heading for Australia are no longer—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy's question would be more appropriate to a parliamentary question. Has the matter any connection with promised legislation?

Mr. Deasy: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin Deasy  The only likely refugees from Afghanistan, at this stage, are the Taliban.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I call Deputy Gormley for a relevant question on the Order of Business.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle. I have a very relevant question on promised legislation. Given that the Director of Traffic in Dublin has described the situation in relation to road works as a “State sponsored free for all,”[10]will the Government speed up the introduction of the control of road openings Bill?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Work is in progress on the Bill. The heads have not yet been completed. The Bill is due next year.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  As the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development is, unavoidably, out of the country, will the Taoiseach take responsibility for resolving the beet dispute?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That matter is not in order on the Order of Business. The Deputy can raise it under leaders' questions. I have already ruled on the matter and cannot allow the Deputy break the rules.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  I am not breaking them.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is, if he pursues that line of questioning.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  I am pursuing a different line of questioning.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  It must be related to promised legislation.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  It is in relation to the Order of Business in the House. I am asking the Taoiseach, due to the fact that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development is out of the country and that there is a crisis in the beet harvest, if he will take responsibility for the matter and ask the Whips to make arrangements to have statements in the House, either later today or tomorrow, on this crisis?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Does the Taoiseach wish to comment?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Yes, if that is in order, a Cheann Comhairle. Since early this morning, the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Deputy Davern, and officials of that Department have been meeting Dr. Seán Brady and John Broderick of Irish Sugar, plc. That meeting should be completed about now and will be followed by a meeting with Tom Parlon, Michael Berkery, Willie French and Elaine Farrell of the IFA. I hope these developments will be successful and I am sure the Minister of State would be glad to report, whenever those deliberations are concluded. In accordance with normal procedure in industrial relations matters, I do not consider it would be useful to report to the House while the talks are in progress.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  The Taoiseach will be aware of concern in relation to the cost of litigation and its impact on the delivery of health care. A Bill is promised to provide hospitals and their clinical staff with indemnity against the cost of settling claims for personal injury arising from clinical [11]negligence. The Health (Medical Indemnity) Bill was promised for some time in 2002 and I have already expressed concern at the delays in publication of legislation from the Department of Health and Children, resulting from the long awaited health strategy work. Will the Taoiseach give a commitment that this Bill will be published before the Government goes out of office?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Health (Medical Indemnity) Bill, which is to establish new arrangements to provide hospitals and their clinical staff with indemnity against the cost of settling claims for personal injury arising from clinical negligence, is at a preliminary stage in the Department and it will be some time before it comes before the House.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  A Cheann Comhairle, I received a letter from your office this morning, informing me that a question I have tabled to the Minister for the Environment—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Deputies cannot raise disallowed questions on the Order of Business. The Deputy knows there is a procedure whereby he can seek an explanation from my office, but he cannot seek an explanation on the Order of Business.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  I want an explanation in the House. This is the place for explanations—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is not the procedure. There is long-standing precedent for the arrangement which I have suggested and the Chair will not depart from it.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  I wish to ask the Taoiseach, through you, a Cheann Comhairle, on the Order of Business in this House, to confirm that the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, the Taoiseach and his Government have no role or function—

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

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  Your office told me, a Cheann Comhairle, that the Minister has no function in this matter. I do not accept that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should come to my office. That is the clear procedure.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  I am not accepting that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That may be the case, but the Deputy cannot raise it on the Order of Business.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  I am asking the Taoiseach to confirm the content of your letter.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is not in order.

[12]Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  On a point of order, Sir, yesterday the Taoiseach addressed this issue on the Order of Business. It is a matter of some controversy and the Taoiseach explained his position. On a point of order, and in the interests of an orderly House, Deputy Flanagan should be entitled to raise the same issue and conclude this matter satisfactorily.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There can be no comment on the Taoiseach's statement. That, again, is in accordance with precedent and the rules of the House.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  This was not a personal statement by the Taoiseach. It was an intervention by the Taoiseach prior to the Order of Business.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  It was a personal explanation on which there is no debate, questions or comments. That has always been the case and will continue to be the case until the House decides otherwise.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  I thought we lived in a democracy.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  In the context of the Taoiseach's explanation—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy cannot refer to the Taoiseach's explanation. Any personal explanation is without question or comment. That has been the rule of this House and will continue to be the rule until the Members change it.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Why can you not extend the same latitude to Deputy Flanagan, who is exactly—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  If Deputy Flanagan wishes to make a personal statement, there is a way of doing it and he will be accommodated. However, this is not the way to proceed.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  I do not wish to make a personal statement. I want the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to come out of hiding.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should table a substantive motion to the House. That is the way to proceed.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  On promised legislation, I wish to ask about the Prison Service Bill. When was a policy decision taken to use packed train carriages as places of detention?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is not in order on the Order of Business. The Deputy is being disorderly and should resume his seat.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  As regards the Social Welfare Bill, will the Government introduce legislation to ease the cruelty of what happened last week with old age pensions being slashed by—

[13]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should put down a parliamentary question unless it relates to promised legislation. The Deputy is being disorderly.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  To do this to the old age pensioners is a disgrace. The Minister is acting as a private detective.

Mr. Browne: Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  (Carlow-Kilkenny): I ask the Taoiseach to treat with the utmost urgency the Industrial and Provident Societies Bill, which aims to modernise legislation in the food industry, in view of what is happening in Carlow and the serious implications for the farmers and the beet industry.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Industrial and Provident Societies Bill is to facilitate structured change in the food co-operative sector and modernise the legislation. The authority to draft the heads of the Bill was given on 13 July. The legislation is still with the Attorney General for drafting.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  On the Social Welfare (No. 2) Bill, as the Taoiseach is aware approximately 700,000 social welfare recipients will receive their benefits in euro almost two months late. Can he confirm that they will receive interest on those arrears?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is not a question on promised legislation.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  It will be central to the legislation. Some 700,000 people will receive their benefit two months late.

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  They will receive it two months early.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Social Welfare Bill will be published in the next session and Deputy Broughan has slightly misread the issue. Instead of the pensions being paid in July as they used to be, this year they will be brought forward by four months.


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