Wednesday, 10 December 2003
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Tánaiste: The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 14, Supplementary Estimates for Public Services – Votes 5, 10, 16, 17, 19, 20, 22, 26, 33, 40 and 42, back from committee; No. 15, motion re report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings; No. 15a, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Bovine Diseases (Levies) Regulations 2003; No. 4, Social Welfare Bill 2003 – Second Stage (resumed); and No. 23, Companies (Auditing and Accounting) Bill 2003 [Seanad] – Order for Report, Report and Final Stages.
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 10.30 p.m.; Nos. 14, 15 and 15a shall be decided without debate, and in the case of No. 14, Supplementary Estimates for Public Services, Votes 5, 10, 16, 17, 19, 20, 22, 26, 33, 40 and 42 shall be moved together and decided by one question which shall be put from the Chair and any division demanded thereon shall be taken forthwith; the proceedings on the resumed Second Stage of No. 4 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m.; Report and Final Stages of No. 23 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10.30 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment; and Private Members' Business shall be No. 37, Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill 2003 – Second Stage (resumed) to conclude at 8.30 p.m.
Mr. Kenny: No. While No. 14 is not a request to the Dáil for additional moneys, it is a request to use surplus appropriations-in-aid from the group Vote within sections. For instance in Vote 19, the Vote of the Office of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the main subheads are commissions and special inquiries, criminal legal aid and the Criminal Assets Bureau. In view of the work being undertaken by, for example, the CAB would it not be important for the House to be informed as to what moneys from the surplus appropriations-in-aid are being channelled into facilities and resources? What are the commissions and special inquiries in question?
Mr. Rabbitte: On the same point, while I am sure the Government has distributed the report required on this item, we do not appear to have received it. How is it proposed to bring the Barron report into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings into the public domain today? At what time will this happen? Will it be published by the committee? Will the meeting of the committee be in private session?
Mr. Boyle: Given the widespread public interest in No. 15 and given that we are fast approaching the 30th anniversary of these two horrific events, the Green Party seeks clarity on the Government's proposals for the publication of the report. To what extent will this House be able to debate proposals and findings of the report? We believe the public interest demands such a debate.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I refer to No. 14, particularly Votes 26 and 33. Vote 26 refers to the Office of the Minister for Education and Science. Will the payments of certain grants provided for in the additional €65 million in the Supplementary Estimate include the refunding to local authorities of the interest element they must bear annually for the provision of third level grants?
An Ceann Comhairle: The Chair has ruled repeatedly that, where the proposal is to submit business to a committee, we cannot discuss its detail. That is a matter for the committee just as it is a matter for this House.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: In this instance the Estimate is back from committee. It is not being sent to the committee. Unfortunately, the committee's debate had to be guillotined because an inadequate time provision was made. I was in attendance. We did not reach discussion of the specific issues to which I refer. The Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Parlon, was also present and can confirm my statement. These are questions one wished to have the opportunity to ask at committee, but was denied.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Not at all. This Estimate is back from the committee. It is now properly before the Chamber. I do not accept the Chair's ruling that, as a Member of this House, I do not have the right to question the detail of a proposal to which I am being asked to give my assent.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I would like to receive subsequent to this discussion the detail of the Ceann Comhairle's ruling. I find it strange. This Estimate is back from committee and is before the House as a substantive item. This is the only opportunity Members have to address the detail of the proposal.
An Ceann Comhairle: Perhaps the Deputy will listen for one second. At this point in time we are debating whether Nos. 14, 15 and 15a be agreed without debate. A brief comment from the Deputy is acceptable, but we cannot have a debate on any Estimate. If that were the case, every Member would feel he or she could debate anything arising from the Estimates.
If whoever is operating the microphones would afford me the chance to continue by switching mine back on, I would appreciate it. The co-ordination between the Chair and other aspects of the House is unbelievable at times.
Perhaps the Ceann Comhairle will also rule my next comment out of order. Provision of €62.5 million is made under Vote 33 – Health and Children. Does this include provision for the self-assessed performance payments to chief executive officers and other senior managerial staff in the health services?
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: The proposal for No. 15 states the committee is to report back to Dáil Éireann within three months on specific elements. I have just outlined what happens when committees report back to the House. Will this Chamber have the opportunity to discuss fully and debate the report of the committee on the Barron report on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings?
The Tánaiste: I understand parties have received the reports. I have details of the main specifics. The Department of Health and Children Vote report discusses the general medical scheme, dental treatment and the SARS outbreak. The report on the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform Vote refers to the International Monitoring Commission, the Criminal Assets Bureau, to which Deputy Kenny referred, criminal legal aid and commissions and special inquiries. I am not certain what those special inquiries are. I can check to see whether they are tribunals of inquiry or not.
The Vote for higher education is reduced by €12 million. The Residential Institutions Redress Board is also covered. We are switching savings to areas in which there are shortfalls. One such area was student grants, a second was the civil redress board and a third was the European Social Fund allocation, which was the highest amount at €17 million.
The Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights is meeting in private session at 2 p.m. today to decide how and when to put the report on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings into the public domain. I thank Mr. Justice Barron and his group on behalf of the Government and the House for their extensive work. I have no doubt the report will be debated in the House in the new year. In the meantime, it would be wise to debate the matter at the committee and for everybody to read Mr. Justice Barron's long report. While it is obviously a matter for the committee, I understand it intends to publish the report this afternoon.
Mr. Stagg: This proposal will guillotine debate on the Social Welfare Bill. The proposed allocation of time will provide the Labour Party with three speaking slots. Many Labour Members, as well as Deputies from other parties on this side of the House, wish to speak on the Bill, in which there is wide interest. The 20 minute speaking slots will allow each speaker 75 seconds to discuss each cut in the social welfare code. The House has a duty to provide proper scrutiny and accountability in respect of this type of Bill. We should not simply provide enough time for soundbites on a Bill of this nature. My party opposes the guillotine.
Mr. Boyle: While I acknowledge the widespread interest in the Bill's contents and the need to allow more people to contribute to the debate, a motion has been tabled to the effect that Second Stage should not be read. If there is a vote on the Second Reading of the Bill at 7 p.m., which is likely, a division will eat into Private Members' time. I would like the Tánaiste and the Chief Whip to assure me that the full 90 minutes of Private Members' time will directly follow a division.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Like other Deputies, I object to the guillotine to be applied to the Social Welfare Bill, which is an important matter at this time. The Bill follows both the savage social welfare cutbacks which were imposed before the budget and the measures contained in the budget itself. The Government's proposal means that just two of my colleagues will be able to intervene in the debate and will have to do so in a limited manner. This is not adequate. My party objects to this proposition and refuses to approve it.
The Tánaiste: I am not in a position to accede to the Deputy's request. We have already agreed that the House will sit until 10.30 p.m. A substantial number of amendments have been tabled on Report Stage of the Companies (Auditing and Accounting) Bill 2003. Any extra time allocated for Private Members' time would eat into that.
Mr. Boyle: I cite the precedent set last week during Private Members' time. After the Government mixed up its times, it reordered business the following day. I ask that the same precedent be followed today.
Mr. Durkan: On a point of order, I support Deputy Boyle's position. We have established a precedent whereby provision for extra time is made where a division erodes Private Members' time, especially when the House is sitting outside normal sitting hours.
Callely, Ivor. Carey, Pat.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
Broughan, Thomas P.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Higgins, Michael D.
Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
Mr. G. Mitchell: I realise this is a little tenuous, but there is a Bill to deal with diplomatic immunity and diplomatic relations on the Order Paper. Could some opportunity be found before we go into the recess to make a statement on, or inform the House of, the situation regarding an Irish citizen in Iran who has been kidnapped, apparently for ransom? Some opportunity should be found to address the matter in the House.
Ms McManus: It is good to see the Christmas spirit breaking out. I would like to ask the Tánaiste about the health service executive announced by the Minister, which appears not even to have met yet. What is happening on the reforms in the health service? Is the Tánaiste able to tell us when the health service executive will be put on a statutory footing and when it will meet?
Mr. Gogarty: Earlier I pointed out a matter under Standing Order 31 regarding the Irish Prison Service headquarters in Clondalkin. It relates to the Prison Service Bill. Will the Bill be delayed because people are being moved from Clondalkin to Longford?
Mr. Sherlock: I ask the Tánaiste to end imprisonment, where practical, for inability to pay fines and to provide for new ways of enforcing fines. Is it likely that the enforcement of fines Bill will be introduced? How soon will it be introduced?
Mr. Crawford: At the time of the foot and mouth disease problems in the State, the House gave the Minister, Deputy Walsh, its total support. He promised to return to the House to discuss some of those emergency regulations within 12 months. When can we have the animal health Bill, the veterinary medicines Bill, the land Bill or any other Bill to allow the Minister for Agriculture and Food to answer questions in this House on what he promised to do some three years ago?
Dr. Upton: The National Nutritional Surveillance Centre report was published yesterday showing that about 30% of the population do not eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables each day. A proposal to amalgamate Bord Bia and Bord Glas is before the House. When will the Bord Bia Bill be taken?
For the benefit of Deputy Connaughton, Standing Order 26 is quite specific. It states that questions may be raised in regard to business on the Order Paper, the taking of business which has been promised – including legislation which has been promised either within or outside the House – the making of secondary legislation, arrangements for sittings, when Bills and other documents on the Order Paper laid before the House will be circulated, subject to the proviso that the Taoiseach or whoever is answering may defer replying to a question relating to the making of secondary legislation to another day. The Chair is obliged to implement Standing Order 26 and does not have a choice on the matter. It is a matter for the Dáil reform committee to change the Standing Order if that is its desire.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: In regard to the serious issues addressed by the “Prime Time” programme earlier this week about child sex abuse and the Internet, when can we expect the Hague convention on the protection of children and the international co-operation in respect of inter-country adoption Bills to be brought before the House?
With the Ceann Comhairle's permission, I wish to revert to something I said earlier in the House. Unfortunately, I inadvertently misled the House when I said that parties had received a report on the Estimates from committee. That was incorrect and I apologise for the statement.
Mr. Boyle: The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has given a commitment that solicitors with qualifications obtained outside the jurisdiction will be able to practise within this jurisdiction by the end of this year. Will this commitment be met and will it require either primary or secondary legislation?
Mr. Stagg: On a point of order, the House previously decided that we should have reports from committees when we are dealing with the subject matter they debated. Perhaps the chairpersons could be re-instructed on the matter.
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