Thursday, 2 October 2003
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Kenny: When does the Tánaiste expect the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (amendment) Bill to come before the House and can she guarantee that procedures will be in place so that there will be no element of mistrust of the way in which it is handled by the Government?
Mr. Kenny: In that context, why has the Tánaiste not commented upon the serious rift between the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Taoiseach on the handling of the business of the Laffoy Commission to date?
Mr. Kenny: When will the Bill come before the House and is the Tánaiste happy that all the necessary procedures will be put in place to ensure that no one is excluded on this occasion and that the Bill will be dealt with fully and properly?
Mr. Gormley: Given that there is such disarray in the Cabinet and within the ranks of the Progressive Democrats Party on the issue of the deal, I am concerned that there could be problems with this Bill.
An Ceann Comhairle: That does not arise on the Order of Business. This matter has been the subject of Leaders' Questions on a number of occasions this week. There was a full day of debate and questions on it yesterday, it is before the Public Accounts Committee this morning and there is a question to the Minister for Education and Science this afternoon.
The Tánaiste: The Minister for Education and Science has indicated that it will be the spring of next year before the legislation is ready. He must wait for the independent review, which is being conducted by Mr. Seán Ryan SC, and the outcome of the Christian Brothers case which is before the courts.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy knows the reason the Chair will not allow the Tánaiste to do so. This issue has been debated for practically all of the past two days, is before a committee of the House this morning and will be raised during Question Time this afternoon. Has the Deputy another question?
Mr. Rabbitte: I understand that the Minister of State at the Tánaiste's Department responsible for the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Carcinogens Regulation) Bill, dealing with enviromental tobacco smoke and so on, is Deputy Fahey, who has apparently come out against the ban on smoking.
Mr. Rabbitte: Will the brief be left with the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, will Deputy Davern take it over or perhaps the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Cullen?
Mr. R. Bruton: Where stand the Government's proposals for Dáil reform? We must have the opportunity to address the issues which have been raised by the leaders of all parties this morning because they are key to political accountability. In the context of Dáil reform, will there be a different process in the House this year for the presentation and debating of the Estimates, given that the Tánaiste has long been against the inadequacy of the examination of Estimates? Will the Government bring forward a more meaningful process for debating the Estimates before they are half spent, as has been the case for some years.
The Tánaiste: I understand we were to discuss this matter last evening. I support the Deputy's suggestions in regard to the Estimates. It would be more meaningful for Ministers as well as Deputies if the Estimates could be discussed earlier. I am sure suggestions forthcoming from the Whips' meeting will be taken on board.
Mr. R. Bruton: The Tánaiste seeks to deny responsibility for answering on this issue, yet she has a responsibility to do so. Therefore, it is a point of order since it has to do with the way in which questions which are legitimately raised on the Order of Business are handled. They cannot be transferred to the Whips as if they are a matter for them.
Ms Burton: Under the ongoing strategic management initiatives in the public service, will Sec retaries General of Departments be required to take notes when important decisions are negotiated, which cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of euro?
Mr. Boyle: Will the Government speed up publication of the criminal justice (protection of confidential information) Bill so that it will apply to informal meetings of members of the Cabinet subsequent to Cabinet meetings and the decisions they make?
Mr. Durkan: I have a little problem, as we all have. Leaders of the main parties raised an issue which causes some difficulties. I will not pursue the matter if the Ceann Comhairle thinks I am not in order. A few days ago in the House the Taoiseach replied in relation to the child abuse issue—
Mr. Durkan: Will the Ceann Comhairle tell me where we can get the answer to this question? A former Minister for Education and Science indicated in the House that the Attorney General was fully briefed on everything that took place.
Mr. Gilmore: I ask the Tánaiste if there is an error in the legislative list published by the Government. I do not see reference to planning legislation. The Taoiseach promised a change in the planning laws at the Fianna Fáil Party meeting in Sligo in relation to one-off housing. The European Union has found this country to be in breach of European law by charging people €20 to write to their county council about a planning matter which would require a change in the law. Does the Government not intend to introduce any planning legislation?
The Tánaiste: I am informed by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government that he is currently in the process of drafting legislation in this area which he intends to bring to Government in the next couple of weeks.
The Tánaiste: The Minister tells me that the heads of the Bill will come before the Cabinet in the next couple of weeks. I am not in a position to say at this stage when there will be a Bill. The intention is prior to the local elections.
Mr. Timmins: It is almost a year since the IFI plants, in which the Government was a major shareholder, went into liquidation. Can the Tánaiste tell me when the many small family businesses in the area who were creditors will get the money they are owed by the State?
Mr. Timmins: I have been given to understand that the Minister is responsible for consumer protection. Can she tell me what plans are in place to deal with the fact that many consumers have unknowingly been eating beef, believing it to be Irish, when it was in fact Brazilian? No one appears to be responsible for this area.
Mr. Rabbitte: A Cheann Comhairle, your office wrote to me about a question I had down to the Taoiseach on marking the accession of the ten new member states of the European Union. I have a reply stating that if I wish the question can be put in as one of my two lottery questions to the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism. Which is it – arts, sports or tourism?
Mr. Rabbitte: It shows the farcical situation. I want to lift the mood of depression on the backbenches and offer them some kind of enlightenment and enjoyment of the morning. They should not be so glum. It is nine months to the elections.
Mr. Rabbitte: The Minister for recreation had a lot of things to say last week about standards on this side of the House. I have not seen him this week. Where is he? Is he speeding to Cahirciveen again?
Mr. Ring: Now that I have been told by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government that there will be no funding from Europe for the tragedy in north Mayo, I want to ask the Tánaiste what plans the Government has to bring forward an aid package for the people of north Mayo. This is the most serious business that has been raised this morning. These people have been badly affected and I am asking the Tánaiste and the Government what funding is being made available for these people. They are fed up with sympathy. Will the Tánaiste—
Mr. Ring: —and the Taoiseach put on wellingtons and visit the people of north Mayo? We saw last year in the Irish Independent the glum face of the Taoiseach as he stood surrounded by water. We have seen just one Government Minister in north Mayo, Deputy Ó Cuív. I am asking the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach to visit the area in their wellingtons.
Mr. Broughan: This is the first opportunity Members on this side of the House have had to ask about the devastating news for JI workers, social economy companies and a whole community infrastructure. Will the Tánaiste allow some time to discuss the devastating—
Mr. Broughan: The question is always referred to the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, who appears to be the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Perhaps the Tánaiste should make a statement on the matter.
Mr. Howlin: In relation to the promised package of legislation to deal with high insurance charges, is it still the intention of the Tánaiste to have the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Bill enacted in this session? Is it expected that it will have legal effect from 1 January next year? Will the justice measures promised in relation to amending the perjury law be introduced in this session and is there any other legislation dealing with the 40 recommendations from the select committee dealing with insurance matters?
The Tánaiste: The Personal Injuries Assessment Board legislation will be published later this month. The intention is to have it enacted this year. The interim board is currently recruiting the chief executive and the intention is to have it up in running in January next. It is also the intention of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to have the other legislation this year. We are working with the Chief Parliamentary Counsel's office and the Cabinet sub-committee to ensure both pieces of legislation are fast-tracked.
Ms Burton: Are there proposals to request the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law reform, Deputy O'Dea, to issue a statement in response to yesterday's statement by the Public Offices Commission, which refuted his claim that the commission was aware of the position of Deputy Collins?
Mr. Naughten: I refer to two Bills, the first of which is the driver testing and standards authority Bill. When will it be published? People are waiting 12 months to take their test, unlike the Minister for Transport, who only had to wait five months. I refer to the road traffic (amendment) Bill. The road safety strategy lapsed last December and a new one has not been published. When will the legislation be introduced?
The Tánaiste: The heads of the driver testing and standards authority Bill were cleared by the Government recently and it will be before the House early next year. The road traffic (amendment) Bill is also expected in 2004.
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