Order of Business.

Thursday, 6 November 2003

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 573 No. 5

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[1230]The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is proposed to take No. 24, Statements on Tobacco Regulations; No. 25, Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill 2003 – Second Stage (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings on No. 24 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1 p.m., and that the following arrangement shall apply: the statements of the Minister for Health and Children and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; the statements of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case and Members may share time; the Minister for Health and Children shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  There is one proposal to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 24, Statements on Tobacco Regulations, agreed to?

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I do not want to object to this, except to say to the Tánaiste that she might remind the Taoiseach that he should perhaps clarify his comment that the introduction of these regulations would allow for decent people to return to public houses. The implication is that those who attend public houses are not decent.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That comment might be more appropriate during the statements.

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  The Deputy completely misunderstands the Taoiseach's statement.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  This is an important matter on which unfortunately the House is not permitted to vote after the debate. That is a great pity, given the unity and determination on the Government benches, driven only by considerations of health. It is important that the House be given an opportunity to positively vote on this statutory instrument. Unless the Tánaiste is minded at this stage to concede a vote, I would have to reluctantly oppose the measure.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  I support Deputy Rabbitte. It is very important that we have a vote. I very much welcome this measure but I understand that there are some recalcitrant backbenchers in the Government parties who may not be supportive of this. We would like to see the colour of their money.

Mr. Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Flush them out.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  I wish to highlight the ludicrousness of our having the opportunity at this point to have statements on a measure that has already been signed by the Minister. This is [1231]not a debate. All we are being offered here is statements, while the real debate has been going on outside this House over the past several months. We have never been afforded that opportunity. It is like so much that happens in [1232]this House, being too little and too late. I concur with the other Deputies. We should have the right to exercise a vote on this matter.

Question put: “That the proposal for dealing with No. 24 be agreed to.”

Ahern, Dermot.
Andrews, Barry.
Ardagh, Seán.
Aylward, Liam.
Blaney, Niall.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Browne, John.
Callanan, Joe.
Callely, Ivor.
Cassidy, Donie.
Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
Cregan, John.
Curran, John.
Dempsey, Tony.
Dennehy, John.
Devins, Jimmy.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
Fleming, Seán.
Glennon, Jim.
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.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McEllistrim, Thomas.
McGuinness, John.
Martin, Micheál.
Moloney, John.
Moynihan, Michael.
Mulcahy, Michael.
Nolan, M.J.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
O'Connor, Charlie.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Donovan, Denis.
O'Flynn, Noel.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Malley, Fiona.
O'Malley, Tim.
Power, Peter.
Power, Seán.
Roche, Dick.
Ryan, Eoin.
Sexton, Mae.
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Treacy, Noel.
Wallace, Dan.
Wilkinson, Ollie.

Allen, Bernard.
Boyle, Dan.
Broughan, Thomas P.
Bruton, Richard.
Burton, Joan.
Connaughton, Paul.
Costello, Joe.
Coveney, Simon.
Cowley, Jerry.
Crowe, Seán.
Cuffe, Ciarán.
Deasy, John.
Durkan, Bernard J.
English, Damien.
Enright, Olwyn.
Ferris, Martin.
Gilmore, Eamon.
Gormley, John.
Harkin, Marian.
Higgins, Michael D.
Hogan, Phil.
Kehoe, Paul.
Kenny, Enda.
Lynch, Kathleen.
McCormack, Padraic.
McGrath, Finian.
McHugh, Paddy.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Gay.
Mitchell, Olivia.
Morgan, Arthur.
Neville, Dan.
Noonan, Michael.
Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
O'Shea, Brian.
Pattison, Seamus.
Quinn, Ruairi.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Ring, Michael.
Ryan, Eamon.
Ryan, Seán.
Sherlock, Joe.
Stagg, Emmet.
Stanton, David.
Timmins, Billy.
Upton, Mary.
Wall, Jack.

Question declared carried.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I wish to raise two matters with the Tánaiste on the Order of Business. The Taoiseach told the Dáil on 7 October regarding the disruptive DART works that CIE had not made it clear [1233]until recent days that the work would start now. On 8 October he said that the chairmen of CIE and Iarnród Éireann had arranged on the evening of 6 October to meet the Minister to brief him. According to documentation received by Deputy Denis Naughten under the Freedom of Information Act—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I am sorry, Deputy, but that does not arise on the Order of Business.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Just a second. We had discussions here in the last few days about informing the House of the proper matters.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Chair shall be given notice if the Deputy wants to raise such a matter.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  This will not take ten seconds. Iarnród Éireann notified the Department on 26 September.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I am sorry, Deputy, but we cannot go on in this vein.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  The managing director of Iarnród Éireann notified it of the proposal to close the line from October 11.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Chair should be given notice if the Deputy wants to raise such a matter. I call Deputy Pat Rabbitte.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I am not finished, a Cheann Comhairle. The Taoiseach has misled the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I am sorry, Deputy, but it does not arise under Standing Order 26.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  The Taoiseach should be here to deal with this, because his words are not echoed by—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Chair has ruled on the matter. I call Deputy Pat Rabbitte.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  On a point of order, the leader of the Fine Gael Party has stated that the Taoiseach misled the House, yet the Ceann Comhairle is saying that it is irrelevant.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I am sorry, Deputy, but there is a way of raising that. It must be done in accordance with Standing Orders.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  It is not irrelevant. We have too much of this.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The rulings of the Chair will not be challenged on the Floor of the House in this way. I call Deputy Pat Rabbitte.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I wished to raise two matters.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We will hear the second.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Thank you, though the Taoiseach [1234]should be here to answer the first. On a previous Order of Business, I raised with the Tánaiste that she was unable to attend a meeting in Brussels at which 27 Ministers were present, while Ireland was represented by a deputy ambassador. None of the Tánaiste's Ministers of State was able to attend either. One matter on the agenda was embryonic stem cell research. The next meeting is to be held shortly and I understand that the Tánaiste will attend. In view of the fact that the Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business yesterday unanimously recommended that the proposal from the European Commission be rejected and that the moratorium on embryonic stem cell research not be lifted, can the Tánaiste explain what action she proposes to take when she attends the next meeting in view of the fact that the Government has indicated support for the motion?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Perhaps the Deputy might come to a question.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  As a medical doctor, the Ceann Comhairle will understand that Dáil Éireann has never discussed the matter, which is very important to a great number of people. I would like the Tánaiste to explain what she will do in view of the committee's unanimous proposal yesterday.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  To clarify the matter for Deputy Kenny, the moratorium runs out at the end of December. If no decision is taken by the Council of Ministers on 27 November, the research can proceed without any controls. The issue for the Ministers on 27 November is, in the context of the moratorium ceasing at the end of this year, whether they wish the research to be carried out in those countries which believe that it is ethically possible.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  That is not the issue. It is funding.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We cannot have a debate.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Yes, exactly. It is European funding. The question is whether the Ministers want such research to be carried out in those countries that do not have ethical problems with it under some control regime or without such controls. The next meeting of the Council of Ministers, which I will attend, is next Monday. As I explained to Deputy Kenny previously, I was unable to attend the last meeting for private family reasons, and I think he understood that. The matter was discussed informally at that meeting. It was not tabled for formal discussion, but it will be down for that on 27 November. My officials and I will be at that meeting.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Perhaps I might ask one other question. I do not wish to be disruptive. Italy, [1235]Germany and Portugal have taken similar decisions regarding—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We are not having a debate. I call Deputy Pat Rabbitte.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  What will the Tánaiste do regarding the vote to be taken at the Council of Ministers?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I am sorry, but we cannot debate that here. It has been before the committee, and it is a matter for the committee to report to the House.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  It was a straightforward question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Yes, but it must be raised in a structured way.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  It was not debated.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  There is a way of dealing with such matters through the committee. The committee has dealt with the matter, which is for it to report to the House. I call Deputy Pat Rabbitte.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  On a point of order, Deputy Kenny asked a supplementary question, part of which involved the reply to his first. He is entitled to an answer to the second part of the question if he was entitled to an answer to the first part. The Tánaiste has already volunteered the information.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I have ruled on the matter.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  The Taoiseach had to correct the record yesterday morning about exaggerating the number of gardaí on our streets. Notwithstanding that, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform asserts that the 2,000 gardaí promised at the last election may still materialise in part. I would like to ask the Tánaiste about the statement by the Minister for Finance this morning on Today FM, when he said that there is no necessity for additional gardaí on the streets.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I am sorry, Deputy, but that does not arise on the Order of Business.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Under the Garda Síochána Bill, I ask the Tánaiste whether she agrees with the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Tánaiste can say when the Bill will come before the House.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Perhaps I might raise a second matter while the Tánaiste considers which side she wishes to take on the first. I draw her attention to the landmark case taken by a young per[1236]son against a residential institution in Sligo. A case initiated in 1999 found that the State had to be called in under Deputy Michael Woods's indemnity deal last Friday and a settlement made for €50,000, highlighting what a newspaper calls a new flaw in the controversial indemnity deal. Regarding the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Amendment) Bill, will the Government deal with any of the flaws in that remarkable deal?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Tánaiste can say when the two pieces of legislation will come before the House.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The first legislation the Deputy mentioned will come before the House this session, as I think he is aware. The second will be—

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Is the Government going to provide for extra gardaí?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We cannot discuss the legislation's content, as the Deputy is well aware. The Tánaiste can answer about the second piece of legislation.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Bill is not dealing with that issue. The second Bill is also this session.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Does the Tánaiste agree that yesterday's Supreme Court decision is yet more evidence of our two-tier health system? Does the Government now intend to introduce legislation to amend section 62 of the Health Act 1970 to ensure that women, regardless of their financial circumstances, have the right to a home birth?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy has made his point. Is legislation promised?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Various pieces of legislation in the health area are promised, as the Deputy is aware, particularly to implement the reform programme outlined by the Minister for Health and Children on behalf of the Government.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I call Deputy Gay Mitchell.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  The matter which I wished to raise has been dealt with.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I call Deputy Richard Bruton.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  The question was not answered, a Cheann Comhairle.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I have called Deputy Richard Bruton.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Will the Government introduce [1237]legislation to amend section 62 of the Health Act 1970?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is legislation promised?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I am not certain that legislation is necessary in this area.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  It is.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  It is not.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  As the Deputy knows—

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  In light of the Supreme Court—

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  —the Minister has been very supportive of home births.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  I do not think so.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  We have been.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  I would like to ask the Tánaiste about her comments on the need for consumers to shop around. Is it not difficult for consumers to shop around when 90% of the cost increases are coming from the Government in the form of ESB bills, motor tax, health charges, local charges and student charges?

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

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Yes. The Tánaiste has indicated that she intends to produce legislation that will require doctors and dentists to display their charges. Will she indicate when this matter will come before the House?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I will discuss that matter with the Director of Consumer Affairs this week. The regulations will be put in place as quickly as we can make that happen. I will bring them before the House.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Will that happen before the end of the year?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Hopefully, if that is technically possible.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Earlier this week, I raised the issue of legislation dealing with An Blascaod Mór, which was promised during the lifetime of the last Government. This legislation is needed as a result of a Supreme Court decision. The House was assured that the legislation is being prepared. The Taoiseach undertook to communicate with me in respect of the delays that might exist in that regard, but he has not done so.

I would also like to ask about the road traffic Bill, which has been promised. When will it be brought forward? I am raising this matter because [1238]of the misuse of sections 70 and 71 of the Roads Act 1993 in the case of a person who was distributing literature from Oxfam in the pedestrianised area of Galway city last week. The person was surrounded by four gardaí and two traffic wardens.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Sorry, Deputy, we cannot discuss—

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I am looking forward to amending the legislation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  —what might be appropriate to the Second Stage debate on the Bill when it is brought forward.

Mr. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Cad mar gheall ar an mBlascaod beag?

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Will the Tánaiste make a site visit to An Blascaod Mór?

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  An insurance fund of €6.5 million is required in case someone trips.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Allow the Tánaiste to answer your question, Deputy.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  She could go to Inis Mhicealláin.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I will appoint Deputy Rabbitte to make that visit on my behalf.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I was there last summer.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  If any expenses are involved, I will reimburse them personally.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Will the Tánaiste visit the island?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  There are no proposals for new legislation in respect of the Blasket Islands, as Deputy Higgins knows.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  On a point of order – I do not want the Tánaiste to mislead the House – the Taoiseach said in the House earlier this week that he understands that the constitutional difficulties with the legislation remain. The House has been informed that legislation is necessary as a result of the Supreme Court decision.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  That is right.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Has the Government withdrawn from the judgment of the Supreme Court altogether?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy has made his point.

[1239]Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Perhaps the Tánaiste will sort out the Taoiseach's mind on the matter.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Yes.

Mr. Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  That will be a challenge.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  She will have a job.

Mr. English: Information on Damien English  Zoom on Damien English  We will see the Tánaiste in a couple of years.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  The Tánaiste thought there were no challenges left in life.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I understand that some aspects of the An Blascaod Mór National Park Act, which was enacted in 1989—

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  It was drafted in a most unorthodox way.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  —for the purpose of preserving the Blasket Islands for the nation, were found to be unconstitutional. I am not aware of any proposals to amend that Act. Perhaps the Deputy will—

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  The Government will leave it unconstitutional.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I am sure it is being examined, but—

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  It has not been examined for nine years.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  —no particular legislation is promised at the moment.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We cannot have a debate on the matter at this point. I call Deputy Ó Caoláin.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I do not want to rush the Government.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The other Bill mentioned by the Deputy will be brought forward next year.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Why did the Deputy not bring forward legislation when he was there?

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  It was just after my time.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  The Deputy talked about it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Ó Caoláin, without interruption.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  It would have been finished if I was Minister at the time.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  The Deputy sat on it.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I would not go down that road if I were the Minister, because he might know the [1240]person who drafted the legislation badly in the first instance.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I ask Deputy Higgins to allow Deputy Ó Caoláin to speak without interruption.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Given that it is broadly accepted that the remit of the Ombudsman's office should be extended, when will we see the publication of the Ombudsman (amendment) Bill? I would like to ask about a second Bill which deals with an important area. Can the Tánaiste give a specific date for the adoptive leave (amendment) Bill, which will introduce significant changes to maternity legislation?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Ombudsman (amendment) Bill will be brought forward in the middle of next year. The other Bill mentioned by the Deputy will be brought forward early next year.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I asked the Taoiseach yesterday, without success, whether the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform's legislation that is before the House at present will address the issue of the intimidation of witnesses. I did not receive an answer to the question. As the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform seems to have gone into hiding this morning, I wonder if the Tánaiste can give the House some information about whether further legislation is likely to be introduced. Will one of the Bills before the House be expanded or amended to deal with this urgent issue?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is legislation promised?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is at a meeting of the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council and the Taoiseach is in Cyprus to meet his counterpart. I mention this to remove any doubt and to answer a question that was asked earlier.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  It is a safe place.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  One is criticised when one misses these meetings, so one cannot have it every way.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  The Deputies opposite want it every way.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform spoke earlier this week about the protection of witnesses. He suggested that a system of accepting statements in court, such as that used in Canada, could be adopted. The matter is under examination.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  What about the way they do it in Sicily?

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I hope the Tánaiste can respond to my concerns. Many small businesses in the Arklow area are owed money as a result of the clos[1241]ure of IFI last year, with the loss of many jobs. Can the Tánaiste indicate when this matter will be sorted out? Will the businesses in question receive any compensation?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I suggest that the Deputy should submit a question to the Tánaiste.

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Will the Government agree to set aside time for a debate on the ESRI's mid-term review of the National Development Plan 2001-2006? Such a debate is particularly needed in the context of this week's news that we have dropped seven places in the international competitiveness league despite spending a great deal of money on infrastructure.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  It is a matter for the Whips to arrange such a debate.

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Can the Tánaiste indicate whether she accepts that we should have a proper debate on the matter, given that this report is so important to the future of our infrastructure?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I suggest that the Deputy should submit a question on the matter.

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  That is not good enough.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  The Acting Head of Government this morning is the Tánaiste. Deputy Burton wishes to ask her whether Government time will be provided to debate the mid-term review of the national development plan. Does the Tánaiste have a view on the matter? The question of whether the matter will be debated in the House will be decided by the Government and not by the Whips.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Absolutely.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Deputy Burton is appropriately asking whether—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  There is a long-standing precedent in this House, Deputy Rabbitte, that the Whips decide business. The Chair occasionally allows the leaders to—

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  That is a sophistry and you know it, Sir.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  No, Deputy.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  It is pure sophistry.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy, you realise that if each Member—

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  The Tánaiste is the Acting Head of Government.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  —of the House – I refer to both sides of the House – is allowed to [1242]ask for a debate on a given issue, we will be here all day.

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  This is a crucial report.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Members would be asking about national and local issues.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  A Cheann Comhairle—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Chair has ruled on the matter.

Mr. English: Information on Damien English  Zoom on Damien English  It will not take long for the Tánaiste to say “Yes” or “No”.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I call Deputy Lynch.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  It is well established that a party can rise in this House to ask if, in Government time, a particular debate—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Chair will not tolerate Members who are challenging rulings that have been in place since the foundation of the State.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  A Cheann Comhairle, you will not even allow—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I call Deputy Lynch.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  —a party in Opposition to ask if a major report will be debated in the House. Only the Head of Government, or the Acting Head as is the case today, can make a comment on such a decision. It is unreasonable, a Cheann Comhairle, for you to take up this position.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I call Deputy Lynch.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Deputy Burton merely sought to ascertain whether Government time will be provided to debate this report in the House.

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

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  A Cheann Comhairle, on a point of order, there is no precedent for you as Chair to refer anything to the Whips. It is a matter for the Leader of the Government on the day to say that an issue can be referred to the Whips. We will then have some authority at the Whips' meeting. You have no authority to refer anything to the Whips.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  That has put you down.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  In case there is any doubt about it, the Whips have authority to act on behalf of the Government at the Whips' meetings, which are the appropriate fora for certain discussions. The Government does not have any problem with discussing this important report.

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Will the Tánaiste agree to a debate?

[1243]The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  About 100 other matters have been raised as well. Subject to time—

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  This issue is critical for our economic future.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I want to discuss it with the line Minister. It is appropriate that it should be raised at the Whips' meeting. I am sure time will be made available, if possible.

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  It is crucial.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is an important report.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  That is very good.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Estimates will be important next week. The Hanly report and many other matters have been discussed. There are several important reports to be discussed in the House or in committees.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  I thank the Tánaiste.

Ms Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  On 31 September last, 3,000 files were handed over by St. Anne's Adoption Society to the Southern Health Board. When the society was dealing with the 3,000 clients – parents who had given their children up for adoption and children who had been adopted – it had six part-time counsellors and two full-time social workers. The Southern Health Board has not received any additional funding to employ anyone other than an administrator. Can the Tánaiste tell me about the adoption information, post adoption contact and associated issues Bill? Will the funding be allocated to the Southern Health Board to make sure the people who need a service will get it?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy is out of order. I suggest that she submit a question to the Minister for Health and Children.

Ms Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Will the Bill be published?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I call Deputy Stanton.

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Will the Bill be published?

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  When will the Bill be published? It is on the list.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We will not ride rough-shod through Standing Order 26.

Ms Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  The Bill is No. 73 on the Government's legislation programme. Will the Bill be published and will the Tánaiste bring it forward as quickly as possible so these issues can be dealt with?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Tánaiste, on promised legislation.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The number of people working [1244]in the health service has increased from 68,000 to 96,000 since the Labour Party was in Government.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Come on.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Deputy may protest but there are over 30,000—

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  The Tánaiste should answer the question.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  —more people, including several social workers. This is what the issue was about.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  When will the Bill be introduced?

Mr. Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  There is a waiting list.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Spending on health has increased from €3 billion when the Labour Party was in Government to €10 billion.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  The Tánaiste is out of order. She should answer the question.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Deputy might as well hear the facts.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Stanton has been called.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  The Deputy should not shout people down and listen to the facts.

Ms Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  I will tell the people looking for—

Mr. Stanton: Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Reports are in circulation that suggest the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is possibly preparing ministerial regulations to require septic tanks to be cleaned out on a regular basis, which could result in major costs for householders. Will the Tánaiste state if this is the case? If so, what is the timescale?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is legislation promised?

Mr. Stanton: Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Secondary legislation—

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I am not always aware of all the rumours circulating but I will check the matter for the Deputy.

Mr. Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Now that rates are being introduced through the backdoor, when will the local government (rates) Bill be introduced? The other rumour is that we will have rates on private houses but I suppose the relevant Bill will not be introduced until after June 2004.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It will probably be in before the Deputy's court case is concluded.

Mr. Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  No. The hypocrites on the other side of the House will wait until the election.

[1245]The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It will be next year. I cannot say if it will be before or after the election.

Mr. Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  It will not be before June anyway.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  It will not.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Given that the House is currently considering the Oil Pollution of the Sea (Civil Liability and Compensation) Bill and the Dumping at Sea (Amendment) Bill, neither of which cover the threat posed by the flotilla of ships passing near our waters, and that the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources has stated he intends to see that the EU deal with this threat, is the Government making any proposals to have this threat dealt with in the near future, if not immediately?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That is not appropriate to the Order of Business. We will now consider No. 14a, the First Stage of the Private Members' Bill.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Two items of legislation.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  I am asking if the Government is introducing legislation in this area. If that is not what the Order of Business is for, what are we doing here every morning?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  No legislation is promised.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  There should be. Why was the Chair ruling me out of order before the question was answered?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Boyle asked if the Government would introduce legislation.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  I asked if the Government would introduce legislation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Yes. That is not appropriate to the Order of Business. Questions must be on promised legislation. I suggest that the Deputy read Standing Order 26.


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