Order of Business.

Thursday, 29 November 2001

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 545 No. 3

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The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 24, motion re approval of terms of the Treaty between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the United States of America on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters – returned from Committee; No. 24a, Motion re Leave to Introduce Supplementary Estimate [Vote 32]; No. 24b, Motion re Referral of Supplementary Estimate [Vote 32] to Select Committee; No. 25, Supplementary Estimates for Public Services [Votes 2, 33 and 34] – returned from Committee; No. 1, European Communities and Swiss Confederation Bill, 2001 [Seanad] – Second and Remaining Stages; No. 26, motion re Approval of terms of Agreement between the European Community and its Member States, and the Swiss Confederation, on the free movement of persons, to be taken on the conclusion of all Stages of the European Communities and Swiss Confederation Bill, 2001; and No. 7, Road Traffic Bill, 2001 – Second Stage (resumed).

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) Nos. 24 and 24a, and subject to the agreement of No. 24a, Nos. 24b [Vote 32] and 25, shall be decided without debate and any division demanded on Nos. 24a, 24b and 25, shall be taken forthwith; (2) the Second and Remaining Stages of No. 1 shall be taken today and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) Second Stage to conclude at 12.30 p.m. if not previously concluded; (ii) the Remaining Stages to conclude at 1 p.m. if not previously concluded and the proceedings thereon to be brought to a conclusion by one question in each case which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Foreign Affairs; and (iii) No. 26 shall be taken immediately upon the conclusion of No. 1 and shall be decided without debate.

[580]

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There are three proposals to be put to the House. The first is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 24, 24a and 24b. These are motions for the approval of the terms of the Treaty between the Government of Ireland and the United States of America on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters and the introduction of Supplementary Estimates. Is that agreed?

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  The Estimates are not agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  This is a proposal to deal with these matters.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  We are not agreeing to deal with the Supplementary Estimates for the Department of Health and Children without debate.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Before agreeing to curtail debate on the items listed in the first proposal put forward by the Tánaiste, what is the Tánaiste's view on the taking of the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill?

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

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  If I may put this question? It will decide whether we divide the House. I understand Report Stage is to be taken on Tuesday and Wednesday next. The debate on Report Stage can only be based on matters raised on Commitee Stage and it is unlikely that the Official Report of the Commitee Stage debate will be printed by Tuesday. Before we decide on the matter before the House, can the Tánaiste assure the House that the full transcript of Committee Stage will be available before Report Stage commences, and adequate time be available for consideration of these matters before Report Stage amendments are required to be tabled?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Only one speaker from each group may speak on this motion.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  What about the brothers?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  And sisters.

It is important and desirable that the transcript of the Committee Stage debate be available. The Chief Whip has informed me that he will endeavour to make sure that happens.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Is the proposal agreed to?

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  A Cheann Comhairle—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There is a motion before the House. I cannot allow two contributions to the same motion.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Can we have an assurance that the [581] Official Report of matters which will continue until 6 o'clock this evening, which have divided the select committee seven members against seven, and with many important matters being decided on the casting vote of the Chairman, will be available before Report Stage begins? If we have that commitment we will not divide the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I will allow a brief question from Deputy Jim Mitchell.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  Are we dealing with the Supplementary Estimates, Votes 2, 33 and 34?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We are deciding how to take them. They are to be decided without debate and any division demanded taken forthwith.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  We do not agree to the Vote on the Health Estimate being taken without debate. We are dissatisfied and angry to learn that, as part of the Government's much vaunted health strategy, people on just over half the minimum income will not be entitled to medical cards. The House will divide on this issue. I ask the Tánaiste to allow at least one hour for a debate on the Supplementary Estimate for the Department of Health and Children.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I must put the proposal.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  With regard to Deputy Howlin's request, every effort will be made.

[582]Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Government should delay Report Stage until the report of Committee Stage is available. Can we have a commitment?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  That is the commitment. If it is humanly possible it will be done.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Report Stage should not be taken until Committee Stage has been considered.

(Interruptions.)

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  With regard to Deputy Mitchell's request, the Ceann Comhairle has indicated that he will give favourable consideration to a Private Notice Question on the matter. Therefore I cannot agree to an hour being set aside for a debate. Everyone in the country has welcomed the health strategy except the Opposition.

Mr. Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  That is not true.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 24, 24a and 24b agreed to?

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  The Tánaiste should ask the poor woman in Kildare who cannot afford to go to a doctor.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  The Government will get its answer.

Question put: “That the proposal for dealing with Nos. 24, 24a and 24b be agreed to.”

Ahern, Michael.
Ahern, Noel.
Aylward, Liam.
Blaney, Harry.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Brennan, Matt.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Callely, Ivor.
Carey, Pat.
Collins, Michael.
Coughlan, Mary.
Cullen, Martin.
Daly, Brendan.
Davern, Noel.
de Valera, Síle.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dennehy, John.
Doherty, Seán.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Fleming, Seán.
Flood, Chris.
Foley, Denis.
Fox, Mildred.
Gildea, Thomas.
Hanafin, Mary.
Harney, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Healy-Rae, Jackie.
Jacob, Joe.
Keaveney, Cecilia.
Kelleher, Billy.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael P.
Kitt, Tom.
Lenihan, Conor.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McDaid, James.
McGennis, Marian.
McGuinness, John J.
Martin, Micheál.
Moffatt, Thomas.
Molloy, Robert.
Moloney, John.
Moynihan, Donal.
Moynihan, Michael.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Flynn, Noel.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Malley, Desmond.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Seán.
Roche, Dick.
Ryan, Eoin.
Smith, Michael.
Wade, Eddie.
Wallace, Mary.
Walsh, Joe. Wright, G. V.[583]

Allen, Bernard.
Barnes, Monica.
Bell, Michael.
Belton, Louis J.
Bradford, Paul.
Broughan, Thomas P.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Bruton, Richard.
Carey, Donal.
Clune, Deirdre.
Coveney, Simon.
Creed, Michael.
Currie, Austin.
Deasy, Austin.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
Dukes, Alan.
Durkan, Bernard.
Enright, Thomas.
Finucane, Michael.
Gilmore, Éamon.
Hayes, Brian.
Hayes, Tom.
Higgins, Jim.
Higgins, Michael.
Howlin, Brendan.
Kenny, Enda.
McCormack, Pádraic.
[584] McDowell, Derek.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Gay.
Mitchell, Jim.
Mitchell, Olivia.
Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
Naughten, Denis.
Neville, Dan.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
Owen, Nora.
Penrose, William.
Perry, John.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Reynolds, Gerard.
Ring, Michael.
Ryan, Seán.
Shatter, Alan.
Sheehan, Patrick.
Shortall, Róisín.
Stagg, Emmet.
Stanton, David.
Timmins, Billy.
Upton, Mary.

Question declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Is the proposal for dealing with No. 1, European Communities and Swiss Confederation Bill, 2001 [Seanad] – Second Stage (resumed) and Subsequent Stages agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 26, motion re Approval of terms of agreement between the European Community and its member states, and the Swiss Confederation, on the free movement of persons, agreed to? Agreed.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  In the past week the Tánaiste made a statement that the Government would be unable to exempt all those on the minimum income from income tax in next week's budget. Last night we learned that the Government, despite all the wealth earned in the past few years, will be unable to give people with little more than half the minimum income a medical card. Will the Tánaiste say whether this is the sort of economics the Taoiseach learned in London?

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Will the Tánaiste accept the Government will be remembered for widening the gap between rich and poor? Why has the Government reneged on its commitment to provide medical cards for the weakest and most vulnerable group in society? Will she accept the survey results published today which show that 25% of families said they could not avail of primary health care for cost reasons, which is a scandal in a time of plenty?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I will not anticipate what may be in the budget, but there was never a minimum wage in the country until this Government took office. This is the first Government to recognise that people are entitled to a minimum return for their efforts.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  It is a minimum return.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Listen to the facts. When the Government took office a single person paid tax on £77 per week. Currently a single person earning £144 per week pays no tax.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  The cost of a £40,000 house has increased to £200,000 during the same period.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  After the budget that will—

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  The increase in wages will not pay for increased house prices.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The number of homeless people has doubled.

Mr. Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  What about medical cards?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  After the budget that will be substantially increased. The Government will be remembered for the fact that an extra 340,000 people are at work, with 120,000 additional people at work in the Dublin area.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  Who is the Tánaiste codding?

A Deputy:  What about the number of hospital places?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Tánaiste without interruption.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is a question of priorities.

[585]Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  We know the Government's priorities.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  When the Government took office we were spending £2.5 billion per year on health; we are now spending £6 billion per year on health.

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  Shame on the Opposition.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  Do the decent thing and resign.

(Interruptions.)

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is a question of priorities. The Government cannot do everything it wishes to do. Everybody over 70 years of age, the most vulnerable group from a health point of view, has been given a medical card.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  A retired judge can get a medical card but a person on—

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Some 31% of the population have a medical card.

Mr. Finucane: Information on Michael Finucane  Zoom on Michael Finucane  Things have gone backwards under this Government.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Tánaiste without interruption.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Government has produced a health strategy for the next decade to transform the health services—

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Why did it not produce the health strategy four years ago?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is not possible to pull a strategy out of the air.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Order, please. An Tánaiste, without interruption.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  This is clearly a budgetary matter. The Government has set out this week, its priorities for next year in the health area and, as Deputy Mitchell knows, a huge amount of additional money has been given to the health services for this year and next year.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Deputy Jim Mitchell, without interruption.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  It is true that a great deal of extra money is being spent on the health services, but with what results? Here are the guidelines: [586] People on £100 a week, if they have to go to a doctor, have to pay £25 to £30—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  A supplementary question, not a statement.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  Will you allow me to ask my question, without interruption, A Cheann Comhairle?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Chair does not interrupt.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  Why should a person on £100 a week have to pay £25 to £30 to go to the doctor? Does the Tánaiste not know that people cannot afford to go to the doctor on £100 a week? Can she tell us now that next week's budget will respond to this pressing need?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I can tell Deputy Mitchell that next week's budget will be fair and balanced.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  A leader's question from Deputy Howlin.

(Interruptions.)

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

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  To continue with the issue of equity and the abandonment of any pretence of establishing equity by this Government, will the Tánaiste to respond to the characterisation by the social policy officer of the St. Vincent de Paul Society as obscene, the Government's decision to abandon its commitment on medical cards? In relation to the full page advertisement from Focus Ireland, what is the Tánaiste's response, in terms of equity, to the fact that there are now 120,000 people on local authority waiting lists? That is double the figure when she came to office. How will she respond to the 5,000 people who are homeless in this city, including 1,000 children? Can she stand any argument in relation to equity or equality or will she now absolutely concede that the policy direction of this Government for four and a half years, continued by today's decision, is simply to enrich the rich and abandon the poor?

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Deputy Jim Mitchell, without interruption.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  Would the Tánaiste accept that the policy of this Government is to let the poor wait, whether it is for houses, orthodontic treatment or for an increase in their widow's pensions? Would she agree that the real issue facing [587] the people in the next election, as in the last one, is which side of the House cares about the poor?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Well, Deputy Mitchell—

(Interruptions.)

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

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  In relation to the old age pension, I am surprised to hear it mentioned because it should embarrass the Opposition. An increase of £28 has been given on the old age pension—

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Order, please. An Tánaiste, without interruption. We are on Leaders' questions.

Mr. Finucane: Information on Michael Finucane  Zoom on Michael Finucane  The Government should get its priorities right.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is about priorities—

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Penrose: Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  The allowance of 80 pence per hour for carers is a disgrace. The Government should be ashamed of itself.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is not 80 pence per hour. They are paid the minimum wage, as the Deputy well knows.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Penrose: Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  The Government has cut taxes for the better off while neglecting the poor.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Order, please. An Tánaiste without interruption.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The tax cuts have produced unprecedented revenues. I know there are some ideologues who would like high rates and low returns. The Government has not abandoned its commitments. In relation to social and affordable housing, over the period of the national development plan the Government will spend £7 billion—

(Interruptions.)

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Yes, £7 billion, over the period of the plan.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Order, please. A supplementary question from Deputy Howlin.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Does the Tánaiste accept that, if there is any equity or a shred of an aspiration to equality left in this administration, the medical card commitment should be restored immediately [588] and the 43 million in next year's Estimates for Campus Stadium Ireland would be a good place to start to find the money to give to those who will go without basic health care while the Taoiseach provides a monument to aggrandise himself?

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  An Tánaiste, a final reply.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  As Deputy Howlin knows, there is no money in the Estimates for a national stadium this year. The Deputy knows that.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Does the Tánaiste not know what is going on?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Tánaiste, without interruption. Will Deputy Rabbitte please resume his seat. Deputy Howlin has asked his supplementary question. Will Deputies please allow the Tánaiste to reply?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  There is money to complete the pool for the Special Olympics, that is true, but there is no money for a stadium – that is what I said.

(Interruptions.)

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  In relation to support for those at the bottom, I am very proud that there is an additional one third of a million people at work in Ireland since this Government took office.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I will now take relevant questions on the Order of Business. I call Deputy Michael Creed.

Mr. Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  Many Members will have seen the “Prime Time” documentary last night on child abuse by members of the Christian Brothers, particularly in Australia. The House is currently considering the Residential Institutions Redress Bill and some Members may have seen evidence given to the relevant committee yesterday by victims of abuse. Will the Tánaiste give a commitment that the Committee Stage of that debate will not be taken until we see the colour of the Government's money in respect of the proposed compensation? This issue has been kicked to a committee, established by the Government, which will report, as envisaged now, after the Bill has completed its passage through this House. That will perpetuate abuse on victims of institutional abuse. Will the Tánaiste give a commitment that we will not be asked to take the Committee Stage of the Bill until after that committee reports.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I did not see the “Prime Time” programme last night but I heard of the har[589] rowing story that was revealed there. I know that individuals on whom abuse was inflicted in Ireland are coming to tell their own story and that is a good process. I am glad we have legislation in this area. Not all of the money has to be paid by Government – others have to make a contribution towards compensation in this regard and the Government believes that is very important.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  Can we be sure that is happening?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It should and must happen. In relation to Deputy Creed's request, I am not in a position to give a commitment but I will ask the Whip to consider the matter and I will discuss it with the Minister for Education and Science.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  On the timing of legislation, will the Tánaiste make arrangements to bring forward the legislation on the International Criminal Court which is promised? This legislation is necessary in view of the disgraceful breach of the Geneva Convention by the slaughter of several hundred prisoners—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should confine himself to a question on promised legislation.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  —in the full gaze of members of the Northern Alliance, with no statement from the security—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  It is not in order to continue with a statement at this stage. The Deputy will have his opportunity when the Bill comes before the House.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I have listened to the Tánaiste.

She will agree her party's Minister of State will want to know what we will do. Amnesty International has called for an inquiry. All the international lawyers have—

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

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  It is a matter of life and death, a Cheann Chomhairle. Let the man finish.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I am not in a position to say when the legislation will be ready. In relation to the request Deputy Higgins made earlier, the Minister for Foreign Affairs is in Rome today and tomorrow will attend a meeting of the British-Irish Council in Dublin. However, he will be involved in consideration of the Estimates for his Department next week and the issue should be discussed in that forum.

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

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  That is most unsatisfactory.

[590]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy cannot comment on that. This is the Order of Business.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  On the Order of Business, I would be ashamed to be a Member of this House if it decided it could wait for another week to ten days for the Geneva Convention to be respected in relation to the safety of prisoners. There is a clear international obligation on us—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy has ways of raising the matter but it is not in order on the Order of Business.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  What is not in order is taking shoes and gold teeth fillings from prisoners who are being slaughtered. It is not in order to have 160 prisoners slaughtered on the side of the road.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy can raise the matter in other ways but not on the Order of Business. I ask the Deputy to resume his seat. He should raise the matter through the correct procedures.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I have made every effort to raise it. I tried to raise it under Standing Order 31 this morning.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There are other ways to raise it. It is not in order to raise the matter on the Order of Business.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  The Members put Ireland on the Security Council and it has not even sought an investigation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is being disorderly and I ask him to resume his seat. I will have to ask the Deputy to leave the House if he does not resume his seat.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Will the Tánaiste give a guarantee that this matter will be raised—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I have ruled the Deputy out of order so he must resume his seat.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  The Ceann Chomhairle will not have to ask me to leave this House. I would not be part of this—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should not continue with his statement.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I will leave the House for my own sake.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should leave.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  It is appalling.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins withdrew from the Chamber.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  We fully support the request [591] by Deputy Higgins. With regard to the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill, will the Tánaiste indicate what is the timetable for the passage of that Bill through both Houses of the Oireachtas and is the Government irrevocably committed to holding the referendum? If so, when is it likely to be held?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Deputy will be aware that Report Stage has been ordered for next week. A request was made earlier about the transcript of Committee Stage. I hope it will be available. I cannot give a commitment on the Bill's passage through the Seanad, which is a matter for the Upper House. The Government has not yet set a date for the referendum.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  On the same subject, does the Tánaiste still hold to her expressed view that this matter should be dealt with by consensus? Will she accept that the Committee Stage division result of seven for and seven against and the Bill being voted through on the casting vote of the chairman shows that there is no consensus?

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

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The Taoiseach told the House again this week that the heads of the Housing (Private Rented Sector) Bill would be agreed by Government before Christmas. Has the Minister for the Environment and Local Government circulated a memorandum in connection with the Bill to the members of Government and to Departments? If not, how does she expect the heads of the Bill to be agreed by Government before Christmas?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The intention is that the heads of the Bill will be agreed before Christmas.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Has the Minister for the Environment and Local Government circulated a memorandum about the Bill yet?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  No.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  How will the heads be agreed before Christmas? This is the last week in November.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The heads of the Bill will be circulated to the Cabinet and dealt with by the Cabinet before Christmas. That is my understanding.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  We will see.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  The matter I wish to raise has been raised on a few occasions in recent weeks. Due to the strike action in Letterkenny, a large number of families will not receive any child benefit payments before Christmas and they are [592] depending on those payments. What will the Government do about this strike?

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

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  It should be. It is a matter of public interest.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  It affects everybody across the board.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  The Tánaiste should respond. It affects many families.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  People cannot get their eyes tested.

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

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  It should be answered in the House.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  On the timing of the Companies Bill, in relation to the audit commission, I understand it is scheduled for early next year. The Tánaiste assured me privately a few weeks ago that there would not be job losses at General Electric. She said I was wrong and that her early warning system was correct. Does the Tánaiste have an early warning system or any method of assessing the job losses being experienced on the north side of Dublin? We got bad news again this morning from Aer Lingus—

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

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  What will the Tánaiste do with her famous early warning system and her famous committee, which are not working with regard to jobs on the north side?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  With regard to the Companies (Amendment) (Audit) Bill, I cannot say exactly when it will be published. I hope it will be in the early part of next year. As to the early warning system in my Department, as I have said in the House on many occasions—

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  You were wrong.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is the last private conversation I will ever have with Deputy Broughan. That private conversation was misrepresented and a public statement was issued yesterday which seriously defamed me, as the Deputy knows. That is the reason it was not carried by anybody. The Deputy indicated certain matters to the Dáil in relation to a company and I told him my view at that time. I have no reason to repeat it here—

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  The jobs are being lost.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  —for confidentiality reasons.

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

[593]The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Seventy five jobs are going through a voluntary redundancy programme—

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  There used to be 600.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  —to save the wider number of jobs, which is 225. Let us put things in context.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  There used to be 600.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  We have the best early warning system one could possibly have within the Department and between the Department and the various agencies that work with companies.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  They are going to be busy.

Mr. Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Nine years ago the Government announced the decentralisation of the GRO to Roscommon town. As a result, the Registration of Births and Deaths Acts must be amended. In a reply I received from the Minister for Health and Children last Tuesday he stated that the first stage in amending these Acts will take effect in early 2002. When will this legislation be published? It is not on the Government's list of promised legislation. How will it be enacted early in 2002 if the heads of a Bill have not come before the Government?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Is the Deputy referring to the Land Registry Bill?

Mr. Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  No, the Registration of Births and Death Acts from 1863 to 1996.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The heads of the Bill were approved by the Government on 25 April and the Bill is expected to be published in the early part of next year.

Mr. Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  I am anxious that this Government be put out to graze.

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

Mr. Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  When will the Curragh of Kildare Bill be published?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I missed the introduction to that request, Deputy Ring. I am sure it was funny.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  It was not funny for you.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  It was true.

Mr. Bradford: Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  He said the Government was past its sell by date.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I like to see the Opposition laughing from time to time. I know it does not have much to laugh about. It will be published in 2002.

Mr. Penrose: Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Is the Tánaiste aware that in order to comply with the mechanism agreed with the EU for public service obligations costs in [594] relation to the construction of the replacement power station at Lanesborough in Shannonbridge the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999 must be amended? Will that be done in the Sustainable Energy Bill, 2001 and when will that Bill come before the Dáil? If not, those two projects will be greatly delayed.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Second Stage of that Bill will be taken next week.

Mr. Coveney:  When will the House receive the long awaited Education (Children with Disabilities) Bill? During a Private Members' debate on a Fine Gael motion recently, I was given to understand that it would be introduced before Christmas. Is that the case?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I cannot be specific but I think it might be after Christmas.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Is something delaying the Competition Bill? When will it be published? Is any legislative redress planned for the manner in which the Government misled 450,000 small shareholders who lost a great part of their savings—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should not make statements at this stage.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  —in the Eircom deal where the Minister for Public Enterprise misled them—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is disorderly.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  —as if it were State-backed and guaranteed. Many people have been hurt and lost their savings.

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

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I am sure the Tánaiste believes in a shareholding democracy. She will not get a share owning democracy after this. Can we expect measures of redress in the budget or in the Finance Bill?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  What measures will be in the Bill are not in order.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Competition Bill is imminent and I hope the Deputy will support it. When I first got to know Deputy Rabbitte politically, he was a big fan of nationalisation not privatisation. Shareholders were the last people on his mind.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  It looks like I was right.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  The Tánaiste has made a few u-turns herself.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I am delighted the Deputy is now [595] converted to the cause of shareholders, small ones in particular. The Deputy knows that there is no question of the Government being in a position to bail out people that invest in companies.

A Deputy:  What about all the poor people who invested their savings?

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  On the Order of Business, my question is addressed to you, Ceann Comhairle. I have had direct communication with a person who made an application under Standing Order 58, Mr. Doyle, who was seriously defamed in this House last week. What measures have you taken to ensure that a private citizen can have his good character restored?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  It is being examined.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  When will we be in a position to hear from you on this matter?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  It will be dealt with in accordance with the Standing Order.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  What will the time frame be?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  It will be dealt with in accordance with the Standing Order.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Would you accept that every day that passes—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I will not be cross-examined on this matter.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I am simply asking you if you accept that it is a most serious matter for a private citizen who is very worried about these matters.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  It will be dealt with strictly in accordance with the Standing Order.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  The Government published the pink list of 16 Bills which are expected to be published from the start of the Dáil session up to the Christmas recess, 2001. As far as I understand only one of these 16 Bills has been published. What has happened the legislative programme that allowed 15 of the 16 Bills to fall through the net somewhere? When can we expect to see the Bills? I can read out the list if the Tánaiste wishes. There are two in Defence as well.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  A number of Bills not promised were published. There will be a number of Bills published over the next two weeks.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Apropos a point raised by Deputy Rabbitte, I ask the Tánaiste if in the event of another flotation similar to the Eircom shares flotation whether a Government health warning will be attached to protect investors?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That concludes the Order of Business. We must proceed with the business of the day.


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