Tuesday, 6 July 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 18, State Airports Bill 2004 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 19, Maternity Protection (Amendment) Bill 2003 [Seanad] — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 20, International Development Association (Amendment) Bill 2003 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. and business shall be interrupted not later than 10.30 p.m.; (2) Report and Final Stages of No. 18 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7.00 p.m. by one Question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, with regard to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Transport; (3) Report and Final Stages of No. 19 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, with regard to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform; (4) Private Members’ business shall be 33, Sustainable Communities Bill 2004 — Second Stage and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 7 July.
Mr. Kenny: No, I object to this. As has been pointed out on many occasions, the Government has put the cart before the horse and we are being asked to consent to a Bill that will break up the State airports without business plans being produced and no solutions being offered as to what will happen if the business plans do not stand up. The debate will be guillotined at 7 p.m. and I object to that.
Mr. Rabbitte: I object also to the Bill being railroaded through the House in this fashion. It is clear from the documents I have read on the current legal advice to the company that the waters are as muddy now as they were 12 months ago and the view of Government is no clearer as to what is driving this and why than it was then. No business plan has been made out and yet the Government will proceed to go ahead from the date of enactment and then ask the new companies to come forward with a business plan. I am aware this is causing as much concern on the benches behind the Taoiseach as it on these benches. Why are we proceeding?
It is clear that there is no imperative for us to rush this Bill through the House. I must oppose the legislation. The company has indebtedness of €482 million which is not particularly unusual, given the scale of its operations. However, the fact that the Government seeks to dismantle it by taking a most unusual approach and, as Deputy Kenny states, putting the cart before the horse is a serious matter.
I appeal to the Taoiseach, even at this late stage, to reconsider. Whatever is going on at Dublin Airport? The break-up of Aer Rianta, the provision of a second terminal and the privatisation of Aer Lingus is all supposed to be one big coincidence. That is the suggestion. We need time to consider this serious step before it costs the taxpayer dearly, as for example the cocked-up privatisation of Telecom Éireann for which the taxpayer paid dearly, not to mention the number of people who lost money. Does anybody think we have cheaper tariffs, which was the promise? We are repeating the error here.
Mr. Sargent: The State Airports Bill 2004 is being commented on widely and the more it is commented on, the more reckless it is being found to be and the more wasteful in terms of resources. In effect, it is creating a runaway aeroplane which perhaps the Minister for Finance will stop. It is an impossible scenario.
The Government needs to think long and hard and realise that it is on a dangerous course of action. To try to dispose of the Bill by guillotining the debate is the ultimate recklessness and will come back to haunt the Government. The Green Party believes that not only is more time necessary to debate the Bill, it should be thrown out. Private Members’ business begins at 7 p.m. and it would be an insult if the vote were to eat into that time. Will the Chair clarify that Private Members’ business will begin at 7 p.m.? We will oppose the guillotine as well as opposing the Bill.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: The Government is disgracefully proposing to guillotine the Report Stage debate of the State Airports Bill 2004, which in effect is a wreckers’ charter for Aer Rianta. This Bill has serious implications for thousands of jobs, for the livelihoods of workers and for many families. It is unacceptable that the Government is proposing to break up Aer Rianta and, after the fact, business plans will be produced to justify what it will have already done. This is an outrageous approach. It is unprecedented and is legislative madness. There is no other way to describe it.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: We are being asked to pass the Report and Final Stages of the Bill in the next hour and a half. I noted the Chief Whip indicating disagreement with Deputy Sargent which clearly means there will be an intrusion into Private Members’ Business. This is unacceptable and I appeal to the Taoiseach to act responsibly on this serious matter that needs careful consideration, something it will not get on the basis of what is proposed. We not only oppose the guillotine but also the Bill.
|Ahern, Bertie.||Ahern, Dermot.|
|Ahern, Michael.||Ahern, Noel.|
|Andrews, Barry.||Brady, Johnny.|
|Brady, Martin.||Browne, John.|
|Callanan, Joe.||Carey, Pat.|
|Carty, John.||Cullen, Martin.|
|Curran, John.||Davern, Noel.|
|de Valera, Síle.||Dempsey, Tony.|
|Dennehy, John.||Devins, Jimmy.|
|Fitzpatrick, Dermot.||Gallagher, Pat The Cope.|
|Glennon, Jim.||Grealish, Noel.|
|Hanafin, Mary.||Haughey, Seán.|
|Hoctor, Máire.||Jacob, Joe.|
|Keaveney, Cecilia.||Kelleher, Billy.|
|Kelly, Peter.||Killeen, Tony.|
|Kitt, Tom.||Lenihan, Brian.|
|McCreevy, Charlie.||McDaid, James.|
|McDowell, Michael.||McGuinness, John.|
|Martin, Micheál.||Moloney, John.|
|Moynihan, Donal.||Moynihan, Michael.|
|Mulcahy, Michael.||Ó Cuív, Éamon.|
|Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.||O’Connor, Charlie.|
|O’Dea, Willie.||O’Donnell, Liz.|
|O’Keeffe, Batt.||O’Keeffe, Ned.|
|O’Malley, Fiona.||O’Malley, Tim.|
|Parlon, Tom.||Power, Peter.|
|Power, Seán.||Sexton, Mae.|
|Smith, Brendan.||Smith, Michael.|
|Treacy, Noel.||Wallace, Mary.|
|Walsh, Joe.||Woods, Michael.|
|Wright, G. V.|
|Allen, Bernard.||Boyle, Dan.|
|Broughan, Thomas P.||Bruton, Richard.|
|Burton, Joan.||Connolly, Paudge.|
|Costello, Joe.||Crawford, Seymour.|
|Crowe, Seán.||Cuffe, Ciarán.|
|Deenihan, Jimmy.||Durkan, Bernard J.|
|English, Damien.||Enright, Olwyn.|
|Ferris, Martin.||Gregory, Tony.|
|Harkin, Marian.||Hayes, Tom.|
|Healy, Seamus.||Higgins, Joe.|
|Hogan, Phil.||Howlin, Brendan.|
|Kehoe, Paul.||Kenny, Enda.|
|Lynch, Kathleen.||McCormack, Padraic.|
|McGrath, Finian.||McGrath, Paul.|
|McHugh, Paddy.||McManus, Liz.|
|Mitchell, Olivia.||Morgan, Arthur.|
|Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.||Naughten, Denis.|
|Neville, Dan.||Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.|
|Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.||O’Dowd, Fergus.|
|O’Keeffe, Jim.||O’Shea, Brian.|
|O’Sullivan, Jan.||Pattison, Seamus.|
|Quinn, Ruairí.||Rabbitte, Pat.|
|Ryan, Eamon.||Ryan, Seán.|
|Sargent, Trevor.||Shortall, Róisín.|
|Stagg, Emmet.||Stanton, David.|
|Twomey, Liam.||Upton, Mary.|
Mr. Stagg: Given the number of amendments which are tabled, there is absolutely no need for a guillotine on the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Bill 2003. If we need to sit until 10.30 p.m., we should do so, but I believe we will finish the Bill before that time. I ask the Government to withdraw the guillotine because there is no need for it.
Mr. Sargent: When one considers what has been said and the number of amendments which have been tabled, it is obvious what we should do. The Government argues that it uses the guillotine only when necessary, but it has not made a case for it on this occasion. We oppose the proposal.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I concur with Deputy Stagg. When one examines what has to be addressed, it is clear that the guillotine is unnecessary in this case. It shows the habit-forming aspect of the Government. After it started to employ the guillotine, it applied it right across the board without an assessment of need, if need ever arose. There is certainly no need for a guillotine in this case and I urge the Taoiseach to withdraw it.
Mr. Boyle: It is likely that a vote will be called on the State Airports Bill 2004 at 7 p.m. I ask that we be accommodated by being given a guarantee that Private Members’ time will continue for an hour and a half after the vote. That has been the practice in respect of Private Members’ time on previous occasions. I do not want to lose time.
Legislation that was passed by the House recently means that members of the select committee dealing with the Judge Curtin case are entitled, by exclusion, to examine material of a pornographic nature on a PC. I have been advised by Deputy Jim O’Keeffe that the legislation may have consequences for an employer who suspects that an employee may have breached ethical standards or regulations by viewing pornographic material on a PC. It seems that such an employer would be unable to view the material to ascertain whether such a breach took place without being in breach of the legislation.
Mr. Rabbitte: I remind the Taoiseach that Deputy Kenny’s first question asked him when he intends to appoint a Commissioner. Does he intend to reshuffle the Cabinet before the House rises for the summer recess?
Mr. Sargent: I have raised on many occasions the issues of under age drinking and drinking in open spaces and ditches. It is obvious that the alcohol products Bill, which relates to the control of advertising, sponsorship, marketing practices and sales promotion will not come to the House before the autumn. Will the Taoiseach offer the Opposition parties a briefing on measures in this regard? This is a serious matter in many communities. Off-licences need to be accountable for the alcohol that is getting into the hands of under age drinkers. It is important that we consider it as a matter of urgency.
The Taoiseach: I understand that the heads of the Bill, which will be passed later this year, have been published to facilitate consultation and comment on it. I am sure a briefing can be arranged for Deputy Sargent or another member of his party.
Mr. Deenihan: The Taoiseach has said on a number of occasions that he will introduce the health and social care professionals Bill. In June and December 2003 and February 2004, he said that the Bill would be brought forward in the next session. When does the Taoiseach envisage that it will be introduced?
The Taoiseach: The heads of the Bill have been approved for some time. It would have been considered by the House in the normal course of events, but we have had to consider a great deal of other legislation. It is listed for the autumn session.
Mr. Broughan: The uncertainty faced by the workforce of the ESB relates to the failure of the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, to bring forward major legislative matters, especially the electricity Bill, which has been promised on many occasions, and the energy Bill. Will the Taoiseach give us a timeframe for the Bills? Will the electricity Bill be brought to the House at some stage?
The Taoiseach: The Bill in question relates to the remaining regulatory and restructuring issues facing the electricity industry. The ESB will become a PLC under the Companies Acts and the existing electricity legislation will be consolidated. The heads of the Bill were approved some time ago and the legislation has been drafted. It is expected that the legislation will be ready near the end of the year and will be considered early next year.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: During statements on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in the House last week, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform stated that the Government is considering the Oireachtas sub-committee’s report, which was published last March.
The Taoiseach: There was an agreement some years ago to commence an inquiry, chaired by the late Mr. Justice Hamilton. Work has been ongoing for a number of years in that regard. It was agreed that the reports were to be sent to the relevant Oireachtas committee after they were completed. They would then be dealt with by the House before being considered by the Government. That is exactly what is happening. Given that the report was discussed in the House just last week, it is obvious that the Government has not concluded its deliberations.
Mr. Crawford: The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Walsh, has admitted that he failed to get agreement at EU level on the issue of live animal transport. When will the animal health Bill be brought to the House? Will we be given another means of discussing the future of agriculture?
Mr. Howlin: The Tánaiste recently indicated to me that she has taken on board some of the proposals I made about the work permits Bill. Has the Bill been considered by the Cabinet? Have the heads of the Bill been approved?
Mr. J. Higgins: Will the Taoiseach indicate, following the discussion at today’s Cabinet meeting on the request by the chief executive of Aer Lingus to privatise the company, if that requires new legislation and, if so, when does he propose to bring it before the Dáil?
The Taoiseach: The Aer Lingus Act was enacted some time ago but the proposal presented to the Government last week will now be taken as part of the examination already under way of the future of Aer Lingus. In the short term there will be no processing of what was put forward last week, as I said in reply to Deputy Rabbitte earlier. If, in the overall restructuring of Aer Lingus, we come to the decision, that probably would require legislation if it is not covered under the recent Act.
Ms McManus: First, since the health and social care professionals Bill is delayed again, does the Taoiseach intend to publish the heads of the Bill? Second, on the promised major health reform legislation, the precursor for that legislation will be the publication of the second Hanly report, which is promised for this July. Will the second Hanly report be published this month?
On the first question, the heads of the health and social care professionals Bill have been approved by Government. I do not know if they have been circulated but I will ask the Minister for Health and Children because they were approved some time ago.
Ms Shortall: In light of the comments of the Leader of the Seanad this morning that the Seanad schedule is full, will the Taoiseach indicate the Government’s proposals on the timescale for the passage of the State Airports Bill?
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