Wednesday, 7 July 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. a14, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Electoral Act 1997 (section 53) Order 2004 and the Presidential Election (Reimbursement of Expenses) Regulations 2004; No. 21, Maritime Security Bill 2004 [Seanad]— Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 22 — Dumping at Sea (Amendment) Bill 2000 [Seanad]— Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 22a— Civil Liability and Courts Bill 2004 [Seanad]— Order for Report, Report and Final Stages, to be taken not later than 5 p.m. today and the order will not resume thereafter.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. and business shall be interrupted not later than 10.30 p.m.; No. a14 will be decided without debate; and Report and Final Stages of No. 22a 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 Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
Mr. Sargent: It is not agreed. I ask that the House accede to a request from the Green Party to extend the late sitting by 15 minutes tonight because we lost 15 minutes of Private Members’ time last night. Given that the House finished eight minutes early last night, the Taoiseach’s concern about losing his beauty sleep was without foundation. Whatever about losing sleep, it is important that we should not lose Dáil time unnecessarily. The House finished eight minutes early last night, but we can make up time tonight by ordering that the House should sit for an extra 15 minutes to allow Private Members’ time to run for the full three hours for which it is intended to run. We want that time back, and I ask that the House accede to that.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh: On the late sitting, we had a late sitting last night and at 9.30 p.m. a revised schedule was sent to us by the Whip’s office regarding tomorrow, and it included Report Stage of the Ombudsman (Defence Forces) Bill. We got no notice of that and had no time to submit amendments because the amendments have to be in——
Aengus Ó Snodaigh: It is to do with the late sitting. We had a late sitting last night which facilitated the Whip’s office issuing a revised schedule. That forced Members to come in here early in the morning to table amendments to a Bill. It is not acceptable that a late sitting is used for that purpose, and we will oppose it tomorrow.
Mr. Rabbitte: I wanted to make a point on the Civil Liability and Courts Bill, which is not before the House currently, but if the Taoiseach has time to tie us into committing to No. 22a, as set out, I would have some difficulties with that. I defer to my colleague, Deputy Costello, but there is a problem about that.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh: If the Taoiseach extends the Private Members’ time by 15 minutes, it will take up valuable time required for No. 22a, which is due to be guillotined tonight. If the late sitting and the change he is talking about is agreed, 15 minutes of valuable time will be lost, and that is not acceptable.
Mr. Kenny: This matter is proposed to be taken without debate. The note refers to a presidential election. First, on the recoupment based on Dáil expenditure in elections, if a party sponsors or nominates a candidate in a presidential election, is the recoupment made to the party or the candidate? Second, paragraph 5 of the explanatory document states that any presidential election, if held, would take place in October and the election period would commence before the Houses resume after the summer recess. The approval, therefore, must be obtained before the summer recess. Has the Taoiseach had any indication that it might be necessary to have candidates nominated for the presidential election or does he intend to nominate a candidate? In other words, has he had any news?
Mr. Rabbitte: It is proposed to pass this item on the nod without even referral to committee, not to mention the House. It is proposed that we set a spending limit for the presidential election of €1.3 million. With the greatest respect, Sir, that warrants some discussion and it should not be nodded through in this fashion. As I understand it, the €1.3 million is computed on the basis of an aggregate of the spend for the Dáil constituencies. Incidentally, the figure for the Dáil constituencies is not the figure in the 1997 Act but includes the 50% increase the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, ushered in just before the 2002 general election. A €1.3 million spend and a threshold for recoupment that most of the candidates in the last general election would not have attained is almost as appalling a vista as going down to the Four Courts to effect one’s rights as a citizen.
The notion of nodding through this item without discussion and without referral even to a committee is very unusual and introducing it here on the penultimate day of the session is less than respectful to the House and to the Opposition.
Mr. Sargent: I appreciated getting the telephone call from the Minister this morning but whoever advised him that he had to rush this measure through the House was remiss in not advising him that he should have had spending limits for local elections also. I wonder why they did not advise him accordingly. In this case, however, a huge amount of money is being aggregated without recognition of the economy of scale.
This is not the same as running a number of candidates in different constituencies. Running a presidential candidate is completely different and I ask that we would debate this matter either in committee but preferably in the Dáil. It is an area that applies to us all and as representatives of the people we should discuss what is a considerable spending limit.
The Taoiseach: The Attorney General advised that we have to do it this way also. Under the legislation a limit has to be set. The Electoral Act 1997 provides for expenditure limits for presidential elections in the same manner as Dáil elections. It is directly linked. Where limits are proposed to be introduced, the Minister is required to lay a draft order before each House of the Oireachtas for positive resolution.
In setting the expenditure limits, the Act requires the Minister to have regard, as Deputy Rabbitte said, to the limits for the Dáil as set out under the Act. The current expenditure limits for Dáil and European elections are set out for three, four and five seat constituencies. The approval of both Houses of the draft order is required because if a presidential election was held it would take place in October. The election period would commence before the Houses resume after the summer recess, and the approval needs to be obtained before the summer recess. That is the precautionary reason for it.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Chair has ruled it is not a point of order. The House is discussing a simple motion whether this issue will be taken without debate. The Deputy is discussing the substance of the motion which is not in order.
Mr. Boyle: I am arguing that it cannot be put before the House as it is not valid. The Electoral Act has not been amended to change the number of constituencies from 41 to 42. This motion cannot be passed today.
Mr. J. O’Keeffe: Four hours were spent on Committee Stage of the Bill yesterday during which substantial changes were made. Report Stage of the Bill is to be taken today. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform indicated that further substantial amendments would be introduced on Report Stage but Members have not even seen the list of those amendments. I do not wish to hold up the Bill. However, I am concerned that, in the unseemly haste in getting the Bill through the House, we may end up with bad law. From a parliamentary rather than a political point of view, it is not the way to finalise legislation.
Mr. Costello: I have difficulty in taking Report and Final Stages of the Bill in one day and am surprised by the Taoiseach’s claim that it has to be passed today. The Bill is another typical Deputy McDowell special. It is a hybrid Bill, initially introduced for dealing with civil liability and personal injuries matters. The Minister then grafted on the appointment of eight extra judges — three to the High Court and Circuit Court, respectively, and two to the District Court — with no opportunity for discussion.
Major changes to the in camera rule for family law, domestic violence and rape cases have also been introduced. For the first time yesterday on Committee Stage, Members saw the raft of major amendments that the Minister was introducing. However, he did not have the amendments for the in camera rule. These will be introduced on Report Stage while Members still have to receive and study them.
There is a real danger that bad legislation will emanate from this procedure. The manner in which the Minister deals with legislation is not good enough and this is the worst example so far. It is wrong that the Bill will be guillotined tonight. It would be better if it was debated again tomorrow.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh: On Committee Stage yesterday, we only received the amendments for that Bill as we sat down, while the deadline for submitting amendments for Report Stage had already passed. This shows how crazy the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is in rushing this Bill.
The Minister also presented draft amendments that he might possibly introduce to the Bill. While the amendments were discussed on Committee Stage, the Minister was withdrawing amendments to resubmit them on Report Stage. The Minister did not know what he was doing on Committee Stage. There are a substantial number of amendments. The House will not get through the amendments on Report Stage in the short time that is now available which the Ceann Comhairle has already managed to reduce by 15 minutes. I oppose the guillotining of this Bill and the Minister’s method of persistently producing new Bills on Committee and Report Stages. We should object to that process.
|Ahern, Bertie.||Ahern, Dermot.|
|Andrews, Barry.||Brady, Johnny.|
|Brady, Martin.||Brennan, Seamus.|
|Browne, John.||Callanan, Joe.|
|Callely, Ivor.||Carty, John.|
|Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.||Cullen, Martin.|
|Davern, Noel.||de Valera, Síle.|
|Dempsey, Noel.||Dempsey, Tony.|
|Dennehy, John.||Devins, Jimmy.|
|Ellis, John.||Finneran, Michael.|
|Fitzpatrick, Dermot.||Fleming, Seán.|
|Gallagher, Pat The Cope.||Glennon, Jim.|
|Grealish, Noel.||Hanafin, Mary.|
|Haughey, Seán.||Hoctor, Máire.|
|Jacob, Joe.||Keaveney, Cecilia.|
|Kelly, Peter.||Killeen, Tony.|
|Kirk, Seamus.||Lenihan, Brian.|
|Lenihan, Conor.||McCreevy, Charlie.|
|McGuinness, John.||Martin, Micheál.|
|Moloney, John.||Moynihan, Donal.|
|Moynihan, Michael.||Mulcahy, Michael.|
|Ó Cuív, Éamon.||Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.|
|O’Connor, Charlie.||O’Donnell, Liz.|
|O’Flynn, Noel.||O’Keeffe, Ned.|
|O’Malley, Fiona.||O’Malley, Tim.|
|Parlon, Tom.||Power, Peter.|
|Power, Seán.||Roche, Dick.|
|Sexton, Mae.||Smith, Brendan.|
|Smith, Michael.||Treacy, Noel.|
|Wallace, Mary.||Walsh, Joe.|
|Woods, Michael.||Wright, G.V.|
|Boyle, Dan.||Breen, Pat.|
|Broughan, Thomas P.||Bruton, Richard.|
|Burton, Joan.||Costello, Joe.|
|Cowley, Jerry.||Crawford, Seymour.|
|Crowe, Seán.||Cuffe, Ciarán.|
|Deenihan, Jimmy.||Durkan, Bernard J.|
|English, Damien.||Enright, Olwyn.|
|Ferris, Martin.||Gogarty, Paul.|
|Gregory, Tony.||Healy, Seamus.|
|Higgins, Joe.||Howlin, Brendan.|
|Kehoe, Paul.||Kenny, Enda.|
|Lynch, Kathleen.||McGrath, Finian.|
|McGrath, Paul.||McHugh, Paddy.|
|McManus, Liz.||Mitchell, Olivia.|
|Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.||Naughten, Denis.|
|Neville, Dan.||Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.|
|O’Dowd, Fergus.||O’Keeffe, Jim.|
|O’Shea, Brian.||O’Sullivan, Jan.|
|Perry, John.||Rabbitte, Pat.|
|Ring, Michael.||Ryan, Eamon.|
|Sargent, Trevor.||Shortall, Róisín.|
|Stagg, Emmet.||Stanton, David.|
|Timmins, Billy.||Twomey, Liam.|
|Upton, Mary.||Wall, Jack.|
Mr. Kenny: I hope when it is published there will be sufficient time, as the Taoiseach said there would be, for a real debate on immigration and all the aspects of the Bill. I trust there will be no time limit imposed on the debate so that we can deal with the issues properly.
Mr. Rabbitte: Is the Taoiseach familiar with a document issued on 25 January last by the Chief Whip, Deputy Hanafin? The document states: “Disability Bill top of legislative agenda as Chief Whip announces programme for next Dáil session.”
The Taoiseach: The Government has moved as far as it can. We have made many changes to the Bill and a large input was also accorded to the disability groups in regard to the other Bill and the frameworks. That work is practically finished and I hope to be able to publish the whole package. The disability Bill itself is very close to final drafting although some work remains to be done on the frameworks, of which I think there are four. We told the disability groups we would publish all the legislation together and I hope we can.
Mr. Sargent: The Taoiseach may be aware of the pressure on small to medium size businesses at present. With regard to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the consolidation of company law is being dealt with in the context of legislation such as the co-operative Bill, the companies Bill and the employee information and consultation Bill. Is there awareness in Government of the need to consolidate legislation that pertains to employers? There is now so much regulation that many employers find they must search for much of the information they need. Does the promised legislation in this area indicate an awareness and willingness to consolidate information that employers need?
The Taoiseach: The Statute Law (Restatement) Act was passed in 2002, the main purpose of which is that when new Acts are passed, the consolidation of the legislation is automatically moved. This should happen over time with all Bills. On which Bill did the Deputy ask?
The Taoiseach: The companies Bill is enormous, containing well over 1,000 heads. It consolidates all of the Companies Acts and regulations and implements the first report of company law. The heads of the Bill are expected towards the end of this year. While drafting the Bill is an enormous job, the heads will be ready this year.
Mr. Howlin: The Government established an enterprise strategy review group which is due to report today. Has the report been considered by Government and do any legislative proposals emanate from it? What arrangements have been made to brief Opposition spokespersons on its content in the context of a debate in the House?
Dr. Cowley: With regard to equality legislation in Ireland, Europe or elsewhere, I highlight the situation of a man with cancer who has been waiting since last December for a urology appointment. I also point to the position of those on waiting lists since 1996.
Ms Lynch: The Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Fahey, came before the Committee on Enterprise and Small Business in regard to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill. The Bill was supposed to deal with the issue of corporate manslaughter. When the Minister came before the committee, he stated it was not possible to deal with the issue in the context of the Bill and that separate legislation was required. He stated this would be produced as quickly as possible. When is it proposed to bring before the House the Bill dealing with corporate manslaughter?
The Taoiseach: The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill has been published and is ordered for Second Stage. I do not know what the Deputy requires in regard to the Bill but it will be before the House in the next session.
Ms Lynch: I know that. I attended the committee when the matter was discussed with the Minister. However, he stated clearly that the legislation necessary to bring a charge of corporate manslaughter, which would specifically deal with dangerous workplaces and resulting fatalities, would need separate legislation. When will this happen? It is important legislation and key to health and safety at work.
Mr. Stanton: The Taoiseach has been very supportive of victims of child abuse, and commendably so. I draw his attention to the fact that the vaccine trials division of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse has been put into abeyance because of a recent court order whereby the relevant ministerial order was struck down. Will the Taoiseach consider this to ascertain whether it is possible to bring forward legislation to rectify the matter?
Mr. Boyle: The report of the constituency review committee requires legislation which the Government said will come before the House. Will that legislation come before the order laid before the House today comes into effect because there are 41 Dáil constituencies at present and the new Bill will allow for 42?
Mr. Costello: The Residential Institutions Redress Act was passed in 2002. At the time a limited number of institutions were referred to in the legislation. Virtually all the Protestant institutions, such as Bethany Home, were not included. When the legislation was going through the Houses, the Minister for Education and Science promised that a new Schedule would be brought forward shortly. However, that was two years ago and the Minister has made the same promise every time the matter has been raised in this House.
The Taoiseach: Both the Minister for Health and Children and the Minister for Education and Science have been looking at the institutions that should possibly be included in the Schedule. The number on the existing Schedule is substantial rather than limited but the matter is being examined by the Ministers.
Mr. Durkan: In view of the serious allegations made by each of the Government parties against each other and to protect both the accusers and the accused, will the Taoiseach indicate when he will rush in the defamation Bill?
Mr. Ring: I wish to ask about two Bills. When will the Curragh of Kildare Bill be brought before the House? We have been waiting a long time for it. It will mean another job for somebody and I am not saying it will be the Minister for Finance. That is a matter for the Taoiseach.
The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Cullen, brought legislation through the House relating to the dual mandate. Will new legislation be required given that a Member of this House is a Minister, an MEP and a TD? How can he hold the three jobs?
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