Tuesday, 14 October 2003
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 1, Oil Pollution of the Sea (Civil Liability and Compensation) (Amendment) Bill 2003 [Seanad] – Second Stage. Private Members' Business shall be No. 35, motion re equity in Irish society.
Mr. Kenny: Some 17 requests have been made to adjourn the Dáil under Standing Order 31, none of which has been successful. Such requests are rarely successful. It is farcical that Deputies from all sides of the House must resort to these tactics to get mention of individual projects or matters of concern. Will the Taoiseach indicate if Government time will be made available to hold a serious debate on effective changes to the way business is conducted in this House, by the committees and throughout the Oireachtas? There is a crying need for the Oireachtas to respond to  the concern expressed by the public on the way we conduct business.
At his party's Ard-Fheis in Killarney last weekend, the Taoiseach referred to the acquisition and distribution of further State lands for housing. Will he indicate if this will require legislation or if it is possible within existing structures to transfer State lands to local authorities or whatever for the provision of housing, which is urgently required?
The Taoiseach: The Whips have commenced discussions on the reform programme referred to by the Deputy. I understand it is to be discussed again tomorrow. With regard to the second issue raised by the Deputy, much depends on the organisations. State lands have already been transferred. Legislation is not required, but it may be required in some areas connected with semi-State bodies. However, Departments, such as the Department of Defence, are able to proceed without legislation.
Mr. Rabbitte: Will the Taoiseach indicate when it is proposed to sign the regulations banning smoking in the workplace and when provision will be made to debate the issue in the House after the worrying betrayal of loyal publicans who have been so helpful to his party? They appear to have been reneged on in Killarney.
Mr. Sargent: Will the Taoiseach indicate if further information is available regarding the publication date of the proposed infrastructure Bill? Will the legislation address corruption relating to rezoning decisions that have caused many of the problems occupying the Taoiseach? Will a more comprehensive infrastructure Bill be introduced to deal with the root causes of the problems?
Mr. R. Bruton: Over the weekend, rather embarrassingly, a Minister of State announced the introduction of a regulation that was in place.  I refer to promised secondary legislation to appoint a children's ombudsman. Primary legislation was passed in April 2002. Fianna Fáil's election manifesto stated this office would be fully operational during 2002. As the end of 2003 approaches—
The Taoiseach: It took approximately five years for the Bill to be passed and we know where the blame for that lies. The office must be set up within two years under the legislation. If the Deputy wants further details, he should table a parliamentary question.
Mr. Howlin: I refer to two related Bills. In light of another fatality at a building site in Limerick last week, the introduction of the safety, health and welfare at work Bill is urgent and necessary. The Law Reform Commission's report published yesterday recommended the introduction of legislation to make corporate manslaughter an offence. Will such legislation be introduced?
The Taoiseach: The second matter is under examination but it is too early to say what the legal situation will be. The heads of the safety, health and welfare at work Bill have been approved and the legislation should be available early in the new year.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: The Government will publish the Hanly report on the health services tomorrow. It is a long-awaited and important report. However, it will only be made available to the media at the press centre in Government Buildings and not to Members.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: There is no provision in the schedule of business for the House to discuss the Hanly report. Will the Taoiseach provide time this week for Members to have the opportunity to discuss the report fully rather than wait until a future week when the report will have been thrashed out in the media and every other forum throughout the jurisdiction?
Ms McManus: I ask the Taoiseach to respond on this important matter. Many Bills have been deferred pending the publication of the reports into the health services. A debate on the Hanly report in the House is needed and Members should not have to read about it in newspapers. How soon can the debate take place? Publication of legislation that will make statutory provision for entitlement to health and personal social services was promised in 2002 and the recommendations in the Hanly report will have relevance to people's statutory rights.
Ms McManus: What happened to the legislation? I am not surprised the Taoiseach looks puzzled. The Bill was “to provide for clear statutory provision on entitlement to health and personal social services in the health service”.
Ms O. Mitchell: I am so quiet the Ceann Comhairle would hardly notice me. One of the crises galloping towards the Government in regard to the health service is the implementation of the European working time directive for junior doctors in hospitals. Plans to implement it before next August have been left perilously late, endangering both the continuity and quality of the health service. When will the health and  social care professionals regulatory Bill be published? The Hanly report should be discussed in the House and not dismissed, as it was by the Taoiseach on radio last week, before the rest of us know what is in it.
The Taoiseach: The health and social care professionals regulatory Bill will be published this session. The Hanly report will be published tomorrow and I am sure when Members have had an opportunity to read it, we can have a debate. It would be a good idea if people read it first. The scheduling of the debate should be taken up with the Whips.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy cannot jump up and down in his seat without being called by the Chair. He asked three supplementary questions on this during Taoiseach's questions, which is without precedent in the House.
Mr. Rabbitte: I note Deputy Healy-Rae is not in the House, Sir. To lose one Kerryman to Mountjoy Prison is serious but to lose two would be a tragedy. Could I ask the Taoiseach, on mature reflection, why the smoking regulations will not be ready until November, given that they were due to be published this week? Are the terms still being negotiated?
The Taoiseach: I did not know they were to be available this week but they must be legally drafted first. I presume Deputy Rabbitte would not be against their being drafted. As soon as they are drafted, they will be published.
Mr. Cuffe: A Cheann Comhairle, I seek your guidance regarding No. 61 on the Order Paper, which relates to Carrickmines Castle. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government laid an order before the House on 3 July that can be annulled within 21 sitting days. Is it correct that the House only has the opportunity to annul the order before 20 November? I am concerned, given the Taoiseach's remarks regarding swans last week, that medieval castles could be next. I hope the House will have an opportunity to debate such a move if the Minister for the protection of heritage decides that a motorway should plough through the heart of a medieval castle.
Mr. Cuffe: If the Taoiseach had his way, they would flee the country along with the Wild Geese. The swans would not get a look in. They were under more threat as a result of rezoning than anything else.
Mr. McGinley: In view of the fact that search and rescue services have been virtually suspended in the north-west due to crews being reassigned to headquarters at Baldonnel – the north-west coast between Malin Head and County Mayo has been left almost without search and rescue services – will the Taoiseach indicate when the Ombudsman (Defence Forces) Bill 2002, which will address this serious matter, will be debated in the House? It has been promised for a few years.
Mr. Costello: In view of the inappropriate behaviour that gave rise to the recent quashing of a murder conviction on appeal, does the Taoiseach propose to introduce statutory regulations governing the behaviour of gardaí who are protecting jurors?
Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Although 48 outstanding EU directives, by my count, are due to be transposed into domestic law, the current legislative programme provides for just five of them. This is despite the Taoiseach's statement that he would like all outstanding EU directives to be transposed into domestic law before Ireland assumes the Presidency of the EU next year. Given that there are over 45 outstanding directives, I do not know how he proposes to meet the target he has outlined.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh: I have asked a question. I can mention each of the directives on the list. I have asked a number of questions of the relevant Ministers. Will the directives, which are not included in the legislative programme, be dealt  with soon? One directive, under the aegis of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, has been outstanding for five years and another, under the aegis of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, has been outstanding for four years. There are 15 outstanding directives under the aegis of the Department of Transport.
The Taoiseach: The Deputy's understanding, that the Government is endeavouring to get as many EU directives as possible up to date by the end of the year, is a correct one. Many of the directives can be dealt with by the various Departments by using orders. I do not think we will succeed in transposing all the directives by the end of the year, but we will have dealt with a large number of them by then. The directives will not come up as part of the legislative programme.
Mr. Morgan: I would like to ask the Taoiseach if the Government will provide time to allow the  four Fianna Fáil Deputies and the four Fine Gael Deputies who are engaged in a rugby junket in Australia to report back on their findings.
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