Order of Business.

Tuesday, 25 March 2003

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 563 No. 4

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The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Order of Business today shall be No. 15, statements on European Council, Brussels, and No. 1, Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2003 [Seanad] – Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 10 p.m. The proceedings on No. 15 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 80 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the statements shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 60 minutes, and shall be confined to the Taoiseach, the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, and shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; and immediately following the statements, the Minister for Foreign Affairs shall take questions for a period not exceeding 20 minutes. Private Members' business shall be No. 8, [778] National Transport Authority Bill 2003 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, and the proceedings on the Second Stage thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 26 March 2003.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed?

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I wish to comment on No. 1. May I do that now, a Cheann Comhairle?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We are discussing the late sitting.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I was going to lodge my objection to the Order of Business in respect of No. 1 because the all-party committee which sat to discuss this matter recommended that further time be provided for reflection and consideration of this legislation and that substantial amendments should be tabled to it. The Government did not put forward any amendments to the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill in the Seanad—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We are discussing the late sitting and whether it is agreed to.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I object to the Order of Business in respect of No. 1 because the all-party committee chaired by a member of one of the Government parties recommended that substantial amendments be tabled to this Bill and that more time should be made available to consider it, yet here we are about to go straight into the Bill—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We are dealing with the proposal for the late sitting. There is no proposal relating to No. 1 before the House.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  There is—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  There is not.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  —in that this Bill is being taken until 10 p.m. I am concerned about this because it should not be on the Order Paper in view of the fact that the all-party committee recommended that—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That is the Taoiseach's prerogative.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I understand that, but it is my prerogative to differ from the Taoiseach on this.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Not at this stage.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Is it not?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  There will be an opportunity to do that during the debate.

[779]Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  So you wish me to sit down, a Cheann Comhairle.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  If the Deputy does not have something appropriate to say on the question we are discussing, which is related to the late sitting, then yes I do.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I object to the late sitting in that this Bill is being taken up to the conclusion of the late sitting. The reasons I object are that the committee recommended that substantial amendments be made to the Bill and that more time should be provided to consider it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  There is not a proposal on No. 1 before the House.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I thank you for your advice, a Cheann Comhairle.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I object to the proposal that we sit late because it is purely a figleaf for the Government to give the impression that it is providing adequate time to deal with the undermining of the Freedom of Information Act. It is ramming through this legislation in the same fashion as it rail-roaded it through the Seanad in the absence of the relevant Ministers.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  So much for the lapdogs.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  It wants to shut out the media and limit the use of the Act. It wants closed Government and in all of this it did not even have the decency to consult the freedom of information commissioner about the proposals being considered. The Government wants to undermine, in so far as it relates to Government, the Freedom of Information Act.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I pointed out to Deputy Kenny that we are not discussing the freedom of information legislation.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I am discussing the late sitting, I do not know what you are discussing, a Cheann Comhairle. This is an inadequate amount of time for us to deal with the serious issues which have been given rise to by the filleting of the Freedom of Information Act. This Act has improved the character of governance and it has improved the quality of advice internally, as evidenced by the freedom of information commissioner when he appeared before the Select Committee on Finance and the Public Service.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Before he resigned.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  It is disgraceful that the Government would seek in a matter of hours to undermine the Freedom of Information Act and to consider, by causing the House to sit late tonight and [780] tomorrow night, that is adequate time to deal with the serious issues involved.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  What is the Government hiding?

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  As Deputy Kenny said, there are a number of serious amendments that were not even entertained in the Seanad and they are not likely to be entertained in this House. The high priestess of openness, transparency and accountability is happy to collude with Fianna Fáil in doing down and undermining the Freedom of Information Act that was introduced in 1997. For that reason, I oppose it.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  The Green Party is opposed to the taking of the Order of Business. This is not only based on the late sitting proposal, the question with which we are dealing. If we were to regard this proposal – sitting until 10 p.m. to deal with the freedom of information legislation – as satisfactory, we would need an assurance that we would sit until 10 p.m. over the next six weeks to have sufficient time to deal with the serious issues that underpin the changes proposed in this legislation. This was put in place as minimal, limited freedom of information legislation, as the Fianna Fáil Party said at the time of its introduction. Therefore, it is bizarre that it is being redrawn and rowed back. I ask the Government to give an assurance that there will be many late sittings on this Bill if we are to have sufficient time to deal with the complexity and range of changes that will be implicit for society as a result of the rowing back of the legislation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  There is undoubtedly no small sense of irony that Second Stage of the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill is before this House on the very day the Ombudsman and Information Commissioner tendered his decision to retire.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  He resigned.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Mr. Kevin Murphy, who has given stoic service, has been treated objectionably—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We are discussing the late sitting.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  —by Ministers, including the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy will have to find another way to raise that matter.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  I oppose the Order of Business on the basis of this legislation and the way the Government is handling it. I do so not only today, but in any way that it can be opposed. The Government will be objected to in its efforts to railroad through this objectionable legislation.

[781]The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I wish to make two points. Two Members have made remarks about the Information Commissioner and the Ombudsman. They should read the statement he made today and the remarks the Minister—

Mr. R. Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  —made about his contribution. It was also mentioned that when he came before the committee he made it quite clear that he had prepared a report to be examined and that process has been taking place at that stage, which is now some weeks ago, in the Department.

For a Second Stage debate, the time allocated is quite lengthy in that more than 11 hours are being allocated for the debate in the House this week.

I have said this many times, but I will say it again in reply to the Deputies, the FOI Act established new legal rights five years ago to enable each person to access information held by public offices. The Government extended such access by the establishment of an enormous amount of agencies over the past five years, with up to 370 agencies of State now covered in this regard. We have established the right of each person to have official personal information amended where it is incomplete, incorrect or misleading and to obtain reasons for decisions affecting him or her. None of those rights has been changed in the legislation. I can only conclude that those Members who have stood up in the House give the impression they have not bothered to look at the changes. I can come to no other conclusion.

The changes being introduced will only affect issues which are part of the collective Cabinet responsibility process.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Has the Taoiseach spoken to the One in Four group? The House is being misled.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  This is Alice in Wonderland. Language means whatever the Taoiseach wants it to mean.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputies should allow the Taoiseach to speak without interruption. Deputy Rabbitte made his contribution without interruption.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Second, there are ongoing issues which are subject to a deliberative process and we must have certainty in this area. It is good for neither the Government nor the country to release information in the middle of a deliberative process on an issue under discussion.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Like the tribunals.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is not why we have tribunals. Deputy Quinn should not talk nonsense.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  It is not nonsense.

[782]The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The deliberative process involves a debate which is going on—

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  What are the examples? The Taoiseach should give us examples.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Only one member of Deputy Bruton's party is entitled to speak when called by the Chair.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  When the Taoiseach is giving information—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy is not entitled to speak.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  When there is a debate going on in Government it would be entirely undesirable if documents relating to part of that debate were released into the public domain. There is no difficulty with this process at the end of the deliberative process. In most countries background briefing for parliamentary questions and other issues concerning Ministers' expenses and so on remain available under freedom of information legislation and I support that. The proposed changes are minimal and if people have strong views—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I am reluctant to intervene but we are discussing the late sitting, although I know the Taoiseach is responding to questions which were raised.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I accept that. Deputies Kenny, Rabbitte, Sargent and Ó Caoláin—

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  What does the Taoiseach mean, my rabbit?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  —made speeches on this issue so I can also comment on it. It is quite clear that, with Members not wanting to study the freedom of information legislation or other Acts, they want an extended debate on this matter, but that is a waste of time.

Question put: “That the proposal for the late sitting be agreed to.”

The Dáil divided by electronic means.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  On a procedural matter, arising from the Labour Party's decision to oppose and not co-operate with the Government programme to ram through the Bill, which is an undermining of the Freedom of Information Act, under Standing Order 69, I ask, as a teller, that the division be taken by other than electronic means.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  As Deputy Stagg is a teller and has demanded a division, the division will take place through the lobby.

Question, “That the proposal for the late sitting be agreed to”, again put.

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Michael.
Ahern, Noel.
Andrews, Barry.
Ardagh, Seán.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Brennan, Seamus.
Browne, John.
Callanan, Joe.
Callely, Ivor.
Carey, Pat.
Carty, John.
Cassidy, Donie.
Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
Cowen, Brian.
Cullen, Martin.
Curran, John.
Davern, Noel.
de Valera, Síle.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dempsey, Tony.
Dennehy, John.
Devins, Jimmy.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Finneran, Michael.
Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
Fleming, Seán.
Fox, Mildred.
Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
Glennon, Jim.
Grealish, Noel.
Hanafin, Mary.
Harney, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Healy-Rae, Jackie.
Hoctor, Máire.
Jacob, Joe.
[784]Keaveney, Cecilia.
Kelleher, Billy.
Kelly, Peter.
Kirk, Seamus.
Kitt, Tom.
Lenihan, Brian.
Lenihan, Conor.
McDaid, James.
McDowell, Michael.
McEllistrim, Thomas.
McGuinness, John.
Martin, Micheál.
Moloney, John.
Moynihan, Donal.
Moynihan, Michael.
Mulcahy, Michael.
Nolan, M. J.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
O'Connor, Charlie.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Donovan, Denis.
O'Flynn, Noel.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Malley, Fiona.
O'Malley, Tim.
Parlon, Tom.
Power, Peter.
Ryan, Eoin.
Sexton, Mae.
Smith, Michael.
Treacy, Noel.
Wallace, Dan.
Walsh, Joe.
Wilkinson, Ollie.
Woods, Michael.
Wright, G. V.

Boyle, Dan.
Breen, Pat.
Broughan, Thomas P.
Bruton, John.
Bruton, Richard.
Burton, Joan.
Connaughton, Paul.
Connolly, Paudge.
Costello, Joe.
Coveney, Simon.
Cowley, Jerry.
Crawford, Seymour.
Crowe, Seán.
Cuffe, Ciarán.
Deasy, John.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Enright, Olwyn.
Ferris, Martin.
Gregory, Tony.
Harkin, Marian.
Healy, Seamus.
Higgins, Joe.
Higgins, Michael D.
Howlin, Brendan.
Kenny, Enda.
Lynch, Kathleen.
McCormack, Padraic.
McGinley, Dinny.
McGrath, Finian.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Gay.
Morgan, Arthur.
Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
Murphy, Gerard.
Naughten, Denis.
Neville, Dan.
Noonan, Michael.
Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
O'Dowd, Fergus.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
Pattison, Seamus.
Penrose, Willie.
Perry, John.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Ring, Michael.
Ryan, Eamon.
Ryan, Seán.
Sargent, Trevor.
Sherlock, Joe.
Shortall, Róisín.
Stagg, Emmet.
Stanton, David.
Timmins, Billy.
Twomey, Liam.
Upton, Mary.
Wall, Jack.

[785]Question declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is the proposal for dealing with No. 15, statements on the European Council, agreed to?

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  It is not agreed, Sir, because I want to draw the attention of the House to the statement by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service which states: “In the light of the hearings held by the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service to date on the report of the high level group to the Government on the Freedom of Information Act and related matters—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy, the question relates entirely to statements on the European Council in Brussels. The issue of the Freedom of Information Act was discussed on the last proposal.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I am a bit like Senator Terry Leyden. If you do not get splashed with red paint the first time, you come back again and again if needs be.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  This House is different. You will have to find another way of coming back in.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Deputy Rabbitte removed the red paint years ago.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Rabbitte, if you are opposing this item I would prefer if you would oppose it on the basis of the item before the House, which is statements on the European Council.

[786]Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  The point I want to make, if Deputy Lenihan does not double up laughing at his own joke, is that the committee strongly recommends, as a matter of urgency, that time be allowed for further limited hearings.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Rabbitte, you are out of order. You are abusing the Standing Orders of the House.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Sir, a committee of the House has—

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  An all-party committee.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Sorry, Deputy, that issue has been disposed of.

Question put: “That the proposal for dealing with No. 15 be agreed to.”

The Dáil divided by electronic means.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  On a procedural matter, arising from the Labour Party's decision to oppose and not co-operate with the Government programme to ram through the Bill, which is an undermining of the Freedom of Information Act, and as a teller in the last vote, I am seeking a vote by means other than electronic vote under Standing Order 69.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  As Deputy Stagg, who is demanding the division, is a teller, the vote will proceed in accordance with Standing Order 69.

Question, “That the proposal for dealing with No. 15 be agreed to”, again put.

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Michael.
Ahern, Noel.
Andrews, Barry.
Ardagh, Seán.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Brennan, Seamus.
Browne, John.
Callanan, Joe.
Callely, Ivor.
Carey, Pat.
Carty, John.
Cassidy, Donie.
Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
Cowen, Brian.
Cullen, Martin.
Curran, John.
Davern, Noel.
de Valera, Síle.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dempsey, Tony.
Dennehy, John.
Devins, Jimmy.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Finneran, Michael.
Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
Fleming, Seán.
Fox, Mildred.
Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
Glennon, Jim.
Grealish, Noel.
Hanafin, Mary.
Harney, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Healy-Rae, Jackie.
Hoctor, Máire.
Jacob, Joe.
Keaveney, Cecilia.
Kelleher, Billy.
Kelly, Peter.
Kirk, Seamus.
Kitt, Tom.
Lenihan, Brian.
Lenihan, Conor.
McDaid, James.
McDowell, Michael.
McEllistrim, Thomas.
McGuinness, John.
Martin, Micheál.
Moloney, John. Moynihan, Donal.[787]

Moynihan, Michael.
Mulcahy, Michael.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
O'Connor, Charlie.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Donovan, Denis.
O'Flynn, Noel.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Malley, Fiona.
[788]O'Malley, Tim.
Parlon, Tom.
Power, Peter.
Ryan, Eoin.
Sexton, Mae.
Smith, Michael.
Treacy, Noel.
Wallace, Dan.
Walsh, Joe.
Wilkinson, Ollie.
Woods, Michael.
Wright, G. V.

Boyle, Dan.
Breen, Pat.
Broughan, Thomas P.
Bruton, John.
Bruton, Richard.
Burton, Joan.
Connaughton, Paul.
Connolly, Paudge.
Costello, Joe.
Coveney, Simon.
Crawford, Seymour.
Crowe, Seán.
Deasy, John.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Enright, Olwyn.
Ferris, Martin.
Harkin, Marian.
Healy, Seamus.
Higgins, Joe.
Higgins, Michael D.
Howlin, Brendan.
Kenny, Enda.
Lynch, Kathleen.
McCormack, Padraic.
McGinley, Dinny.
McGrath, Finian.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Gay.
Morgan, Arthur.
Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
Murphy, Gerard.
Naughten, Denis.
Neville, Dan.
Noonan, Michael.
Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
O'Dowd, Fergus.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
Pattison, Seamus.
Penrose, Willie.
Perry, John.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Ring, Michael.
Ryan, Eamon.
Ryan, Seán.
Sargent, Trevor.
Sherlock, Joe.
Shortall, Róisín.
Stagg, Emmet.
Stanton, David.
Timmins, Billy.
Twomey, Liam.
Upton, Mary.
Wall, Jack.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is the proposal for dealing with No. 8 agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Given that the Government published a list of 39 Bills, what is the projected number which the House will get through in this session?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I have not got a precise figure, but it is usually about 12 Bills per session. That is the normal throughput.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  That is slow progress.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Does the Taoiseach intend to reinstate the whistleblowers Bill?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  That Private Members' Bill is still in committee. As I understand it, the Minister of State had undertaken some work on it and I am not sure of the current state of progress. However, I will inform the Deputy of the position.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Is it being extended?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It requires massive amendment, by all accounts.

Mr. Stanton: Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  When does the Taoiseach expect to be in a position to introduce legislation to improve statutory redundancy terms? What form will that legislation take?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The legislation is being drafted. It is a priority Bill. It is to update the legislation following the work of the redundancy review group. The heads of the Bill have been approved and it went for priority drafting about a month ago.

Mr. Stanton: Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Will it be ready before Easter?

[789]The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I am not sure of a date, but it will be as soon as possible because there has been agreement to clear it as quickly as possible.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Due to present circumstances, when will the legislation on the International Criminal Court be circulated?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  That Bill is to give effect in domestic law of the Rome statute. The heads of the Bill were approved late last year. The fourth draft is being examined in the Department at present and it is still hoped to have the legislation by the summer.

Mr. Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  In light of the commitment given by the Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan, to those such as the aged whose driving licences may have lapsed, when will the driving test agency Bill come before the House so we can at least discuss the issue?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  There are 40 sections in this legislation. The heads of the Bill are being drafted at present. It is hoped that the legislation will be published in the autumn session.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  When will the Housing (Private Rented Sector) Bill be published? Given the obvious attraction to gambling of some Ministers, will there be legislation amending the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1986 or new legislation to facilitate casinos in the State?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Housing (Private Rented Sector) Bill is due this session.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Is the Deputy thinking of starting a new business – a new lucrative area for protection?

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Again the Deputy is focusing on the wrong side of the House. He is used to that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is not possible to indicate at this stage when legislation amending the Gaming and Lotteries Act will be brought forward.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  Yet another major Dublin hospital is making cutbacks in services. St. Vincent's Hospital is joining Beaumont Hospital and the other hospitals.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Does the Deputy have a question on legislation?

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  In recognition of the fact that there is now a crisis in the Dublin hospitals—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  To what legislation does the question refer?

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  —will we get a commitment from the Taoiseach that there will be a Supplementary Estimate to deal with this crisis?

[790]The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  There is no Supplementary Estimate envisaged.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Will the Taoiseach indicate the progress on the Health and Social Care Professionals Regulatory Bill, the Gas Regulation Bill, which should generate some heat on that side of the House, and the Health (Complaints) Bill?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Health and Social Care Professionals Regulatory Bill, which is to provide statutory registration of health and social care professionals for the purpose of ensuring a quality service for the public, is expected in mid-2003. The heads of the Bill have already been approved. The heads of the Health (Complaints) Bill, to provide a statutory framework for the handling of complaints within the health system, are expected in the middle of 2003. The Gas Regulation Bill, which contains 60 heads, is to give effect to restructuring of the national gas industry. The heads of the Bill are expected in mid to late 2003. The legislation will be published next year.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Has any time been found for the Oireachtas (appointment of inspectors to assist committees) Bill and is this being given any sense of urgency by the Government?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  A draft general scheme was forwarded by the Attorney General's office for consideration and the response is being awaited. I do not have a date for the legislation yet. The legislation is to enable inspectors to be appointed from time to time to ascertain facts relevant to the inquiry of Oireachtas committees.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I am not sure if the Taoiseach received an invitation to a candlelit vigil on Saturday attended by a couple of thousand people.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  It does not arise under promised legislation.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  It does arise. There are 40 or 50 Bills in the justice area. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform walks out of this House smiling and yet the streets of the northside are grossly unsafe.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Does the Deputy have a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  This vigil was held—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  To what legislation is the Deputy referring?

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  —for a young man who was murdered on the streets of the city before Christmas.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy is out of order. Does he have a question on legislation?

[791]Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  A number of young people were attacked at the same spot only a few days later. I want to ask the Taoiseach what he proposes to do about it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy is being totally disorderly and I ask him to resume his seat.

Ms Enright: Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  In light of the fact that victims of abuse in certain residential institutions not listed in the Schedule to the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 are being asked to provide evidence of their attendance at these institutions, does the Government intend to provide legislation to list these further institutions?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I do not think legislation is listed but I will check the position for the Deputy.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  I am concerned that the Water Services Bill will have more to do with privatisation than conservation of resources. When will we have a chance to discuss it in the House, in solidarity with the people of Basra who are beleaguered without water?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It will be the middle of this year.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Apropos the point raised by Deputy Broughan, what is the present progress of the Crimes Bill and the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Crimes Bill is to provide for substantive criminal law to be codified into a single Crimes Act. There is an expert group advising on possible approaches to codification. It is expected that the group will report at the end of this year and then the proposals will be brought forward. Work is at a preliminary stage on the heads of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, to provide for miscellaneous criminal law reform matters. These heads are expected by mid-summer.


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