Order of Business.

Thursday, 13 December 2001

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 546 No. 5

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Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke): Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  The Order of Business today shall be No. 22, motion re Fourth Protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam (a proposal for a Council Regulation (EC) on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matters of parental responsibility (O. J. No. C 332, 27.11.02 page 269)), back from committee; No. 23, motion re Fourth Protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam (the proposal for a Council Directive on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purpose of paid employment and self-employed economic activities), back from committee; No. 8a, Appropriation Bill, 2001 – Order for Second Stage and Second and Remaining Stages; No. 24, motion re approval of the disposal of shares in ACC Bank plc to Rabobank Nederland; No. 50a, Transport (Railway Infrastructure) Bill, 2001 [Seanad] – Order for Report and Report and Final Stages; No. 2, Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Bill, [1050] 2000 – Amendments from the Seanad; No. 8, Public Health (Tobacco) Bill, 2001 – Second Stage (resumed); and No. 52, statements on the Middle East, to be taken not later than immediately following the announcement of matters on the Adjournment under Standing Order 21 and the order shall resume thereafter.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 4.45 p.m. today and business shall be interrupted not later than 10.30 p.m, and the sitting shall be suspended between 1.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m. and from 6.30 p.m. to 7 p.m; (2) Nos. 22 and 23 shall be decided without debate; (3) the Second and Remaining Stages of No. 8a shall be taken today and shall be decided without debate by one question 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 Finance; (4) the proceedings on No. 24, shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 12.30 p.m. and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; (ii) the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 10 minutes; (iii) Members may share time; (5) the Report and Final Stages of No. 50a shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1.30 p.m. by one question 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 Public Enterprise; (6) the proceedings on No. 2, shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 30 minutes and any amendments from the Seanad not disposed of shall be decided by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments to the Seanad amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform; (7) the proceedings on No. 52, shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the statements of a Minister or Minister of State, the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party and of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 10 minutes in each case; (ii) Members may share time; (iii) following statements, the Minister for Foreign Affairs shall take questions for a period not exceeding 30 minutes; (8) the resumed Second Stage of No. 8 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10.30 p.m; (9) the Dáil shall sit tomorrow at 10.30 a.m. and shall adjourn not later than 4.30 p.m, there shall be no Order of Business, that is, within the meaning of Standing Order 26(2) and (3) and, accordingly, the following business shall be transacted in the following order: No. 25, motion re Planning and Development Regu[1051] lations, 2001, back from committee, without debate; No. 7, Social Welfare (No. 2) Bill, 2001 – Order for Report and Report and Final Stages, which shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 11.30 a.m. by one question 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 Social, Community and Family Affairs; No. 53, State Authorities (Public Private Partnership Arrangements) Bill, 2001 – Second Stage (resumed) and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1 p.m.; No. 19a, Referendum Bill, 2001 – Order for Second Stage and Second and Remaining Stages and the following arrangements will apply: Second Stage to conclude after 90 minutes if not previously concluded; Remaining Stages to conclude after 30 minutes if not previously concluded; and the proceedings thereon shall 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 the Environment and Local Government; No. 9, Horse Racing Ireland (Membership) Bill, 2001 – Order for Second Stage and Second and Remaining Stages and the following arrangements shall apply: Second Stage to conclude after 60 minutes if not previously concluded; Remaining Stages to conclude after 30 minutes if not previously concluded; and the proceedings thereon shall 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 Agriculture, Food and Rural Development; (10) the Dáil on its rising tomorrow shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 30 January 2002. Questions today shall be taken at 2.30 p.m.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There are ten proposals to put to the House. Are the arrangements for the late sitting agreed?

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Listening to the Minister reading out all the guillotines, I am reminded of the remark that people who like sausages and respect the law—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We are dealing with the proposal for the late sitting now, Deputy.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  In relation to the late sitting, Sir, if I may, can I ask, despite the list of guillotined Bills, in relation to the time allocation, whether it is the Government's intention to formally bring an Order commencing a code of conduct for Members, now that the Standards in Public Office Bill—

[1052]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Is the late sitting agreed?

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  My concern is—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy must address his remarks to the question before the House.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I am asking that the late sitting be extended to allow time for the adoption, under the Standards in Public Offices Act, which was commenced on the 10th of this month, of a code of conduct for Members so that we can apply standards to Members who defy orders of this House in tribunals set up by this House. Will the Minister, on behalf of the Government, agree to provide time, today or tomorrow, to formally adopt the code of conduct for Members already laid before the House by the committee that deals with Members' interests?

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  I support Deputy Howlin. This matter has been agreed by the Members' interests committee and I believe there is broad consensus. In the wake of recent events, there is clear urgency about having such a code adopted and I ask the Government to make the time available for that in the next two days.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  I am opposing the late sitting on the basis that it is obviously not late enough to deal comprehensively with the business laid down. I ask that the Minister withdraw the referendum Bill so that we can deal with it more properly in the New Year and deal with the other business more fully as well. Apart from that, we need to extend the late sitting and, therefore, I oppose the proposal.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Is the late sitting being opposed?

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Would the Government allow—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy cannot speak twice to a motion. I am asking the Minister to comment.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  Could I—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy cannot speak now under Standing Orders. Deputy Richard Bruton has already spoken.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy must resume his seat. He is out of order. Does the Minister wish to reply to the opposition to the late sitting?

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  On the matter raised by the opposition parties, in February of this year the Labour Party introduced a Private Members' Bill on a code of conduct and the Government sup[1053] ported it. It required the Members' interests committee to draw up a code of conduct and the committee reported in May 2001 on a draft code of conduct. The Standards in Public Office Bill was passed by this House, it provided for a code of conduct and that Bill came into effect three days ago, on 10 December.

Question, “That the proposal for the late sitting be agreed to”, put and declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 22 and 23 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 8 (a) agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 24 agreed? Agreed.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  May I clarify—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Is the Deputy opposing the proposal?

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  No, I just want to clarify a point. Members on this side of the House are concerned that if the Order of Business drags on the time will be very limited. Will the Minister agree to at least provide an hour and a half to deal with this issue which is of considerable concern?

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Could an hour and a half be provided if the Order of Business takes up close to the conclusion time as ordered?

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  I understand the Order is made and must stand.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  The House is now making the Order.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  If the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Woods, was here, he would agree to it.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  We are simply trying to ensure that there will be sufficient time to debate this issue.

Question, “That the proposal for dealing with item No. 24 be agreed to”, put and declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Is the proposal for dealing with No. 50 (a) agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 51 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 52 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 8 agreed? Agreed. Are the proposed arrangements for tomorrow's sitting and business of the Dáil agreed?

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  I wish to raise a point of clarification. There are four issues being rolled up into one. Will we be afforded an opportunity to deal with each one in turn? I hope this is not an omnibus attempt by the Government to introduce all its proposals for tomorrow in one proposal.

[1054]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  It is an omnibus proposal.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  I regard this as an infringement on our entitlements on this side of the House. Not only are we having a guillotine but there is an attempt to prevent even comment on the individual motions which include the Social Welfare Bill, the imposition of charges on people making objections to planning applications, which is fundamental to our democracy, and a referendum Bill which is being put through at an extraordinary speed for an issue of significance. That is not the way to handle this and, on this side of the House, we will oppose this Order. We will, very specifically, oppose the introduction of charges for members of the public – even public representatives – to make objections to planning proposals. This has gone to the heart of the way the public—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should confine his remarks to the principle.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  The principle is that it is undemocratic to impose a guillotine on four items without even an opportunity to deal with them individually. Fine Gael will certainly oppose this Order.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  My first question is a matter for you, a Cheann Comhairle. I consider it wrong that four completely different items – the full Order of Business for tomorrow – are being put in a single motion. We do not have a chance to address the individual components that are being guillotined tomorrow. Therefore, I have to deal with them individually now, in one go. On No. 25, the motion on planning and development regulations, can I ask the Minister whether that is being pursued tomorrow? It is our understanding that a number of Government backbenchers had a meeting with the Minister for the Environment and Local Government this morning and that yet another climb-down by the Minister is imminent.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy's question will be more appropriate when that matter comes up tomorrow.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Given that we are ordering business for tomorrow, I wish to know if adequate time be provided to debate other matters and if the Government has again changed its mind. It is difficult for the Opposition to deal with today's Order of Business because there have already been six revisions to it this morning.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should confine his remarks to the question before the House.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Ceann Comhairle has some responsibility in respect of ensuring that [1055] Members are adequately informed about proposals on the Order of Business.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  A representative of the Government, not the Ceann Comhairle, announces the Order of Business.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  In relation to the motion—

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  It is outrageous that—

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

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  In relation to the planning and development regulations—

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Order, please. Deputy Howlin should proceed.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I am trying to, but I am being barracked from both sides. In relation to the order in question, will it remain in place or has there been another climb-down? Government backbenchers appear to have recognised that it is totally undemocratic to require public representatives and members of the public to pay 20 to make objections.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot discuss the issue now, we are dealing with the proposal.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It is totally undemocratic and unprecedented for a Social Welfare Bill to receive so little scrutiny in the House. There was a truncated two hour debate on Second Stage and, under this omnibus motion, Report and Final Stages are to be guillotined in the morning.

The final matter to which I wish to refer is the Referendum Bill. Are there no standards left in this House? This Bill, which will define the conduct of referenda, was published 48 hours ago. When answering questions from the leader of the Labour Party yesterday, the Taoiseach stated that the Bill would not be taken until after Christmas. However, we have been informed that all Stages will be taken tomorrow and that a guillotine will apply.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  It is a disgrace.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Bill is the mechanism that will be used to conduct referenda. Are there no standards left among the members of the Government? I ask that the Bill be withdrawn, otherwise we will vigorously oppose this omnibus resolution.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  It is sad that tomorrow's business is being dealt with in the form of one motion. This is turning what ought to be a season of good[1056] will into one of deception and underhandedness on the part of the Government. Various Bills will be guillotined tomorrow. Dealing with the Referendum Bill in this way will leave a bad taste in the mouth. The All-Party Committee on the Constitution gave a great deal of consideration to the issue of referenda and stated that variance with judicial interpretation would require constitutional amendment. This has enormous implications when one considers that all Stages of the Bill will be rushed through before the end of business tomorrow. In the interests not only of the House but of democracy it is important that we re-establish some form of standard by ensuring that the Bill will not be taken tomorrow, that it will be given the consideration it requires, that people inside and outside the House will have the opportunity to debate it fully and that it will be the subject of a constitutional amendment when, and if, it is enacted.

It is stated that the Planning and Development Regulations, 2001, will be taken tomorrow without debate. This will leave a bad taste in the mouths of many of those concerned with the planning process, particularly because the Christmas and holiday periods are renowned for the sharp practice of making cloak and dagger planning applications in the hope that people will be away from home or will not be paying full attention to what is going on. To add insult to injury, people will be asked to pay money to articulate their concerns and display their interest in the common good. The Ceann Comhairle must re-establish the kind of standards people expect by not allowing the Bill—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Chair has no function in the ordering of business.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  I ask that the Ceann Comhairle give the Government an opportunity to change the Order of Business thereby ensuring that we will have adequate time to debate the measures before us. These measures should not be taken tomorrow and, if they are, a guillotine should not be applied. The Social Welfare Bill requires far more time for debate than that which is being provided. The State Authorities (Public Private Partnership Arrangements) Bill will have ramifications not just for this generation but for future generations who will be expected to pay for public services they might otherwise have expected to have been paid for by the State. This should be dropped from tomorrow's business and the other measures should not be guillotined.

Deputy Higgins (Dublin West) rose.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Deputy Joe Higgins is offering but, unfortunately, Standing Orders, which are quite explicit in this regard, prevent me from calling him. Three Members have already [1057] spoken on this matter. I cannot call the Deputy. I call on the Minister to reply.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  I wish to—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I have called the Minister. The Deputy is being disorderly and should resume his seat.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  I wish to raise a brief point of order.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  What is the point of order?

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  When the Minister is replying, in the context of the Referendum Bill, which it is proposed to take tomorrow, will she clarify whether the advice of the Attorney General—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is not a point of order. Deputy Shatter should resume his seat.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  This is an important and fundamental constitutional issue. The advice of the Attorney General on the provisions in the Bill should be made available to Members.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I call the Minister to reply on the motion before the House.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  The first matter raised related to the Planning and Development Regulations, 2001, which are coming back from committee. I understand that the committee is meeting the Minister at present.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Is the committee going to deal with this matter? Is the Minister for the Environment and Local Government going to withdraw the proposal?

[1058]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Minister should not reply to interruptions.

(Interruptions.)

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  The committee is meeting—

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Has Deputy Healy-Rae been informed?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  If Deputies do not give the Minister the opportunity to reply, I will be obliged to put the question.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Does Deputy Healy-Rae know about this?

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

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  The committee is meeting—

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  On a point of order. How can we agree to taking an item tomorrow when it is currently being debated by the committee?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is not a point of order. The Deputy should resume his seat.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  If Deputies do not allow the Minister to reply, I will be obliged to put the question.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Do the members of the committee know that people will have to pay 20 to lodge an objection?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I will put the question.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  No, Sir, you cannot.

Question put: “That the proposal for the sitting and business of the Dáil for tomorrow be agreed to.”

Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Michael.
Ahern, Noel.
Ardagh, Seán.
Aylward, Liam.
Blaney, Harry.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Brennan, Matt.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Byrne, Hugh.
Callely, Ivor.
Carey, Pat.
Collins, Michael.
Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
Coughlan, Mary.
Cullen, Martin.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dennehy, John.
Doherty, Seán.
Ellis, John.
Fleming, Seán.
Flood, Chris.
Foley, Denis.
Fox, Mildred.
Gildea, Thomas.
Hanafin, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Healy-Rae, Jackie.
Jacob, Joe.
Keaveney, Cecilia.
Kelleher, Billy.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael P.
Lenihan, Conor.
McGennis, Marian.
McGuinness, John J.
Moffatt, Thomas.
Molloy, Robert.
Moloney, John. [1059] Tá–continued
Moynihan, Donal.
Moynihan, Michael.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Flynn, Noel.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
O'Malley, Desmond.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Seán.
[1060] Roche, Dick.
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Treacy, Noel.
Wade, Eddie.
Wallace, Dan.
Walsh, Joe.
Woods, Michael.
Wright, G. V.

Bradford, Paul.
Broughan, Thomas P.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Bruton, Richard.
Burke, Ulick.
Clune, Deirdre.
Coveney, Simon.
Crawford, Seymour.
Creed, Michael.
Currie, Austin.
D'Arcy, Michael.
Durkan, Bernard.
Enright, Thomas.
Finucane, Michael.
Fitzgerald, Frances.
Gilmore, Éamon.
Hayes, Brian.
Hayes, Tom.
Healy, Seamus.
Higgins, Jim.
Higgins, Joe.
Howlin, Brendan.
McCormack, Pádraic.
McDowell, Derek.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Gay.
Mitchell, Olivia.
Naughten, Denis.
Neville, Dan.
Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
Owen, Nora.
Penrose, William.
Perry, John.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Reynolds, Gerard.
Ring, Michael.
Ryan, Seán.
Sargent, Trevor.
Shatter, Alan.
Sheehan, Patrick.
Shortall, Róisín.
Stagg, Emmet.
Stanton, David.
Timmins, Billy.
Upton, Mary.
Wall, Jack.

Question declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Is the proposal for dealing with the Adjournment of the Dáil tomorrow agreed?

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  The way business is being handled this morning brings the House to a low level of public esteem. Essentially, three huge issues have been dealt with by a single guillotine motion. They involve charging people for making democratic representations about planning, raiding the social insurance fund into which people have put their hard earned money over the years and the rights of citizens to vote in a constitutional referendum. These are fundamental issues and the way they have been dealt with this morning, where Members did not even have their questions answered, is a disgrace.

We should not allow the final day of the session to be handled in such an abrupt way. The Government has a duty to all sides of the House to allocate reasonable time to deal with these issues. The proposal to adjourn after such a debacle is unacceptable.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Four important issues will be dealt with tomorrow in a truncated way. There is no logic in adjourning the House until the end of January. It could resume at least a week earlier and deal in a rational way with, for example, the Referendum Bill. Members would like time to reflect on that Bill with a view to improving it so that the conduct of referenda, which is a critical part of our democracy, can be sane and rational. Many Members have experience and useful ideas to bring forward in relation to the conduct of referenda, none of which can be entertained because of the Bill being guillotined tomorrow. Can we adjust the date for the recess and return at least a week, if not a fortnight, earlier to deal with business in a rational way so progress can be made? That would accord some respect to Members of Parliament and to the parliamentary process.

With regard to the conduct of referenda, we have had the experience of Nice and the grave concerns about how that referendum was conducted. It is nothing short of scandalous that we should try to amend the legal framework of the Referendum Commission in the way proposed and through a Bill that was published only 48 hours ago. It is wrong and if the Minister would give it a moment of reflection she would accept the logic of my remarks. Can a formal agreement be made to resume sitting one week earlier in [1061] January and to defer consideration of at least two of the four items to be truncated tomorrow so they can be dealt with in a sane way in late January? There is no earthly reason that the House cannot resume before 30 January.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  I feel punch drunk by the blunt, quick fire guillotine exercised by the Government with regard to the proposals before us. I am not sure whether to object because I believe the session should be elongated to provide more time or because there is no point returning in the new year since the Government has removed the basic role of this Parliament in deciding matters of legislation. In the process it has tried to sabotage the Referendum Commission and to ensure that not only must people pay to have a say in planning applications but also that no planning applications will be required for mobile phone masts. This is, essentially, government by diktat because Parliament is rendered ineffective by the Government's guillotining habits. This proposal must be [1062] opposed. Reason should prevail and the House should sit for longer and return earlier. We should deal with these matters without recourse to the guillotine and we should allow people to have a say, particularly with regard to the Referendum Commission. If there is a change in the judicial interpretation of the law, it should go to the people and be decided by referendum. That is a basic requirement and we should stand by it.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  It is the normal recess that occurs each year. The committee system will operate during January.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  The Government is frightened of being in the House.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  The Deputy's party did the same when it was in Government.

Question put: “That the Dáil shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 30 January 2002 on its rising tomorrow.”

Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Michael.
Ahern, Noel.
Ardagh, Seán.
Aylward, Liam.
Blaney, Harry.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Brennan, Matt.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Byrne, Hugh.
Callely, Ivor.
Carey, Pat.
Collins, Michael.
Coughlan, Mary.
Cullen, Martin.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dennehy, John.
Doherty, Seán.
Ellis, John.
Fleming, Seán.
Flood, Chris.
Foley, Denis.
Fox, Mildred.
Gildea, Thomas.
Hanafin, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Healy-Rae, Jackie.
Jacob, Joe.
Keaveney, Cecilia.
Kelleher, Billy.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael P.
Lenihan, Conor.
McGennis, Marian.
McGuinness, John J.
Moffatt, Thomas.
Molloy, Robert.
Moloney, John.
Moynihan, Donal.
Moynihan, Michael.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Flynn, Noel.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
O'Malley, Desmond.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Seán.
Roche, Dick.
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Treacy, Noel.
Wade, Eddie.
Wallace, Dan.
Walsh, Joe.
Woods, Michael.
Wright, G. V.

Boylan, Andrew.
Bradford, Paul.
Broughan, Thomas P.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Bruton, Richard.
Burke, Ulick.
Clune, Deirdre.
Coveney, Simon.
Crawford, Seymour.
Creed, Michael.
Currie, Austin.
Deasy, Austin.
Durkan, Bernard.
Enright, Thomas.
Finucane, Michael.
Fitzgerald, Frances.
Gilmore, Éamon.
Gregory, Tony.
Hayes, Brian.
Hayes, Tom.
Healy, Seamus.
Higgins, Jim.
Higgins, Joe.
Howlin, Brendan.
Kenny, Enda.
McCormack, Pádraic.
McDowell, Derek. McGahon, Brendan.[1063]

McGinley, Dinny.
McGrath, Paul.
Mitchell, Gay.
Mitchell, Olivia.
Naughten, Denis.
Neville, Dan.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
Owen, Nora.
Penrose, William.
Perry, John.
[1064] Reynolds, Gerard.
Ring, Michael.
Ryan, Seán.
Sargent, Trevor.
Sheehan, Patrick.
Shortall, Róisín.
Stagg, Emmet.
Stanton, David.
Timmins, Billy.
Upton, Mary.
Wall, Jack.

Question declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We will now take leaders' questions.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Will the Minister comment on the statement by a former director of Eircom that the shareholders were duped and on a report that the then chairman of Eircom went to the Minister directly to warn that the Government risked exposing small investors to significant losses? This advice proved to be prophetic with half a million investors losing on average £1,000 each. Why was this high level advice from the chairman of Eircom rebuffed by the Government?

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Is it true the Minister had an understanding with Eircom on State expenditure on the marketing and promotion of the sale of Eircom that we – that is, the State – would get back 10 million? What was the legal basis of that arrangement and why is the State not getting that money?

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  On Deputy Richard Bruton's question, there was a meeting at that time, I think, with the chairman. I would have to see the minutes, but as far as I remember, there was a general meeting with the chairman. Clearly, the Government sub-committee decided the price and it based that on the advice of the financial consultants to the Government. It was a middle price between both. To answer Deputy Howlin's question, there was an understanding – not legal, but vocal – between the Government and Eircom that it would get 10 million which could be put towards various matters of public interest, particularly education and so on. So far, that has not been paid.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  On the basis of the Minister's reply, am I to understand she did not support the subcommittee's view and that her opinion was overruled by the Government in respect of the price? Does she not feel some responsibility for the substantial loss of nest eggs which people had put away – £1,000 each for the half a million families? These were significant nest eggs put away to try to deal with times like those we are now entering. Does the Minister not feel a sense of guilt and responsibility to small shareholders for the failure of this flotation?

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  The State, not me or a Department, got a very good price for its sale.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  The Minister ripped off everyone in the country.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Deputies must listen. The Minister is in possession.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  There was just one Deputy in this House who recommended the sale. Deputy Yates said on “Morning Ireland” that “this is money for old rope”.

A Deputy:  You are the Minister.

(Interruptions.)

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

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  The Minister is responsible for the biggest rip-off in the history of the State.

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

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Deputy Yates said “it was money for old rope”.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  In relation to the report published by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman and in view of the alarming contents of that report, will the Minister assure the House that the Garda Síochána investigation on this side of the Border into the Omagh atrocity was, and continues to be, thorough and comprehensive? Absolute guarantees have been given repeatedly by the Taoiseach, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Commissioner to the families so dreadfully and wickedly bereaved in that atrocity that the investigation is through and exhaustive. In view of the Ombudsman's report, will there be a review of the Garda investigation conducted here?

[1065]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We will take a supplementary question from Deputy Richard Bruton on the same subject.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  We all feel for the 29 victims and the two who were unborn. There is an onus not only on the British Government but also on the Irish Government to attempt to bring this to a conclusion so the many issues raised, which are extremely upsetting to the families involved, can be resolved. Will the Minister tell me whether the Taoiseach will arrange to meet Prime Minister Blair to deal with this issue as a matter of urgency?

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  Today.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Today if possible.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  I join with Deputies Howlin and Richard Bruton in aligning ourselves to the huge sense of personal loss suffered by the people of Omagh. That has now been rekindled, especially coming up to the Christmas season and given that they have read this report. Yesterday the Taoiseach said the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland had a key role to play in ensuring that the Police Service of Northern Ireland is held fully accountable to the community it serves. The report on the Omagh bombing released yesterday raises many questions and makes a number of recommendations. It is important that these are addressed in a manner which ensures that the people of Northern Ireland, particularly those most immediately affected by the bombing, can be satisfied that there is the fullest possible clarity and accountability for what happened in the lead-up to the bombing and the investigation that followed.

I assure Deputy Howlin that the Garda investigation here was thorough and comprehensive.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  We need an ombudsman for policing as well.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  I am sure the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will consider that but I assure the House that the Garda investigation was thorough and exhaustive.

Having expressed his sympathy, as did Deputy Howlin, Deputy Richard Bruton asked whether the Taoiseach would be meeting Prime Minister Blair to discuss this report. He will certainly be meeting him and I am sure he will take the opportunity to have an informal discussion with him about this matter.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Will the Minister for Public Enterprise, on behalf of the Government, now accept in the light of the clearly desirable powers available to the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland that there is now a compelling case for a police ombudsman for this jurisdiction? Does she accept that that level of scrutiny and policing is absolutely desirable?

[1066]Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Such a level of scrutiny is very desirable in any area of activity, particularly in this area. The question of a police ombudsman would be a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I asked for the Government's view.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  I will convey the points made to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That completes leaders' questions.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins   (Dublin West): After four and a half years, the Taoiseach clarified for me yesterday during Question Time that the Government has now decided that the constitutional referendum will not be necessary to get rid of that despised relic of landlordism – ground rent. Will the Government now bring forward urgently the Bill to abolish ground rents and remove from householders the threats and legal harassment to which they are routinely subjected by another relic of landlordism – landlords' agents? Now that the Government has, after four and a half years, clarified that there is no constitutional bar, can we have the legislation within a matter of weeks, as speedily as the Referendum Bill which is being pushed through tomorrow, for example?

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Work is in progress in the Department on the Bill to abolish ground rents.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): I asked when the Bill would come before the Dáil.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Jim Higgins  Zoom on Jim Higgins  Early in 2002.

Mr. Higgins (Mayo): With regard to promised legislation, we are either the last or second last of the 15 EU countries which still have not awarded 3G licences. This matter has been ongoing for the past three years. There is a row between the Minister for Finance and the regulators in relation to the cost involved. Will the Minister tell us when we will see the communications regulations Bill, which will enhance the regulator's powers as well as update and revamp the regulatory framework? When will we see the ODTR getting the kind of muscle and power it needs? When can we get the Bill onto the Statute Book?

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  The heads of the Bill were approved by the Government on 6 March 2000 and the text of the Bill is expected in early 2002. With regard to the 3G licences, I understand an agreement has been reached between the Minister and Ms Doyle.

Ms O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  I seek clarity in respect of the promised publication of the disabilities Bill. The Taoiseach told the House earlier this week that it would go to the Cabinet next Tuesday. Is it the [1067] completed Bill, as drafted, which will go to Cabinet on Tuesday? Assuming the Bill passes through Cabinet, will it be published immediately after Tuesday's Cabinet meeting?

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  It is expected that the Bill will be considered by the Cabinet on Tuesday, 18 December. I suppose it will be published a few days after that. I have been informed that that is the intention.

Mr. Enright: Information on Tom Enright  Zoom on Tom Enright  I have two questions for the Minister. Is the Government proceeding with the land registration Bill? What is the position on this Bill which is No. 33 on the Justice, Equality and Law Reform programme? Is the Minister aware that two district courts are being closed in Laois in Mountrath and Abbeyleix by S.I. No. 543 of 2001? Is she aware that the closure of these courts will lead to people having to travel from outlying areas? Gardaí and everybody else will have to come in—

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

Mr. Enright: Information on Tom Enright  Zoom on Tom Enright  It will cause considerable difficulty to and expense for people. The closure of district courts all over the country is wrong and I seek assurance from the Minister—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Minister cannot deal with that part of the question, only the part concerning promised legislation.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  On promised legislation, the general scheme was approved by the Government on 26 July 2000. The Bill is expected in 2002.


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