Order of Business.

Thursday, 7 October 2004

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 589 No. 5

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Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It is proposed to take No. 17a, Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2004 — Order for Second Stage and Second and Subsequent Stages; and No. 2, Adoptive Leave Bill 2004 [Seanad] — Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the following arrangements shall apply on No. 17a: the proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 2.30 p.m. and the proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 3.30 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.

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. 17a, conclusion of the Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2004 — Second and Subsequent Stages, agreed?

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I believe this is the first occasion the Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen, has taken the Order of Business. He gives a different presentation from the former Minister for Defence, Deputy Michael Smith, who was the Government line man for a number of years. I wish the Minister, Deputy Cowen, luck.

I am not opposed to the holding of alcohol-free discos. However, what compelling reasons make it necessary to take all Stages of the Intoxicating Liquor Bill today? Given the number of representations made by groups and individuals, there is a need for broader discussion on this issue. Will the Minister indicate why the Government feels it necessary to take all Stages today? Although I do not oppose the Bill, there are strong views on the broader aspects of this matter and those who wish to contribute on the Bill should have the opportunity to do so.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I accept that the House may not be able to cope with a proposition as awful as the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform being wrong. However, it is the case. It appears the only reason the Bill must conclude all Stages today is to put behind him as rapidly as possible the fact that the Minister was wrong. This is a matter on which the Minister has gone on the public and written record. I read yesterday the letter he sent to my colleague, Deputy Gilmore, outlining his certitude. He went public to say that he called in the Garda Commissioner and discussed with him the propriety of consulting the [1475]Attorney General, having regard to the fact that the Attorney General has no role in this matter and surrendered it in the 1974 Act. The letter stated:

He went on to state that the State must speak with one voice.

The Bill is intended to correct an error. Given that, the House deserves an opportunity to reflect on it. We have had just over 24 hours notice of the Bill, yet it is proposed that we put through all Stages, despite an informal commitment with the Chief Whip of at least 15 days notice of a Bill. It is an undesirable way of doing business. I acknowledge that even Homer nods, although there is a fair amount of nodding going on in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. We deserve an opportunity to reflect on the Bill.

There is a consolidated Intoxicating Liquor Bill on the Order Paper. Given that the Minister wanted to usher all teenagers out of pubs at 9 p.m. he obviously proposes we should play Britney Spears’ music so that we could then call it an alcohol-free disco and the teenagers would be entitled to stay. There is much confusion at the heart of this, as the Minister for Finance will acknowledge.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Deputy is fomenting a fair bit of it himself.

Mr. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Confusion is rife following that contribution.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Taking all Stages of the Intoxicating Liquor Bill today brings to mind my colleague’s remarks, which might have been a bit harsh, that the Minister is a binge legislator. I will not go down that road because I am sure the Minister will indicate that he is a very sober legislator. However, he must bear in mind that this is a very much more complex issue than the one this legislation attempts to address.

I am not sure whether the Minister has been to the cinema recently, but if he has he will be aware that at films rated 15PG advertising of alcohol to children under 18 years is quite scandalous. It is amazing that children are given messages about alcohol through advertising which is focused on them while at the same time they are faced with legislation that seems unrelated to that reality. The Minister needs to examine that far more comprehensively, rather than running from one crisis to another in response to whatever vested interest knocks on his door. He should step back a bit, allow this debate to take place and from that debate glean the more complex nature of the issue and act accordingly.

[1476]Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  In line with the other speakers I ask that the guillotine should not apply. The Second and Subsequent Stages of this Bill, which was published only on Tuesday, are to be taken in a single day. While it is a very short Bill it nevertheless fails to address many other issues in respect of which change is urgently required within the intoxicating liquor Bill. These issues have already been alluded to and include the particular requirement on parents accompanied by children to leave a hotel or licensed premises at 9 p.m. during summer vacations. Such issues could have been addressed in tandem with this measure. I do not believe there is any urgency that requires a guillotine. There are many other examples of legislation that are urgent and require to be addressed with the speed with which the Minister is attempting to deal with this Bill.

Furthermore, I am disappointed that the Minister did not contact the Sinn Féin spokesperson on this matter when he contacted other parties. The Minister should reconsider his decision to apply a guillotine. It does not assist the passage of good legislation. In this case much more should have been done.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  This is a one-section Bill. I do not believe there are many inexperienced legislators here who cannot get their heads around such a Bill fairly quickly, including the leader of the Labour Party.

The purpose of the Bill is to provide a clear statutory basis for holding alcohol-free events for persons under the age of 18 years in licensed premises, for example, night clubs, or a part of a licensed premises, for example, a function room in a hotel, at a time when intoxicating liquor is not being sold, supplied or consumed and any bar counter is securely closed. A clear statutory provision along these lines will provide certainty for voluntary bodies that organise such events and for the licensees on whose premises the events are held.

There is nobody here who is opposed to that principle. Many have spoken about the need for responsibility. It is a one-section Bill.

Mr. Stanton: Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  It has not been thought out.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  This is simply to clear up any uncertainty that has arisen. Apart from people opposing this for the sake of opposition, I believe everybody is in agreement with it.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Why is it an emergency?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Regarding the consolidated Bill, that is before the Cabinet and will be introduced in due course, the House can be assured that it will have plenty of time to discuss all its ramifications. The ramifications of this one-section Bill do not extend beyond 3.30 p.m.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is the proposal for dealing with No. 17a agreed?

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  On a point of information——

[1477]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy cannot raise a point of information when the Chair is putting the question.

[1478]Question put: “That the proposal for dealing with No. 17a be agreed.”

[1477]The Dáil divided: Tá, 66; Níl, 56.

Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Ahern, Dermot. Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel.
Information on Barry Andrews  Zoom on Barry Andrews  Andrews, Barry. Information on Niall Blaney  Zoom on Niall Blaney  Blaney, Niall.
Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  Brady, Johnny. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Brennan, Seamus. Information on Joe Callanan  Zoom on Joe Callanan  Callanan, Joe.
Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John. Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie.
Information on Michael Collins  Zoom on Michael Collins  Collins, Michael. Information on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Zoom on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Coughlan, Mary. Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Cowen, Brian.
Information on John Cregan  Zoom on John Cregan  Cregan, John. Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  Cullen, Martin.
Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Curran, John. Information on Noel Davern  Zoom on Noel Davern  Davern, Noel.
Information on Síle de Valera  Zoom on Síle de Valera  de Valera, Síle. Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Dempsey, Noel.
Information on Tony Dempsey  Zoom on Tony Dempsey  Dempsey, Tony. Information on John Dennehy  Zoom on John Dennehy  Dennehy, John.
Information on Jimmy Devins  Zoom on Jimmy Devins  Devins, Jimmy. Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John.
Information on Dermot Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Dermot Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Dermot. Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Seán.
Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Gallagher, Pat The Cope. Information on Jim Glennon  Zoom on Jim Glennon  Glennon, Jim.
Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Hanafin, Mary. Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán.
Information on Jackie Healy-Rae  Zoom on Jackie Healy-Rae  Healy-Rae, Jackie. Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  Hoctor, Máire.
Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Jacob, Joe. Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy.
Information on Peter Kelly  Zoom on Peter Kelly  Kelly, Peter. Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Kirk, Seamus.
Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Kitt, Tom. Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Lenihan, Brian.
Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Lenihan, Conor. Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  McDowell, Michael.
Information on Tom McEllistrim  Zoom on Tom McEllistrim  McEllistrim, Thomas. Information on John McGuinness  Zoom on John McGuinness  McGuinness, John.
Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Martin, Micheál. Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Moloney, John.
Information on Donal Moynihan  Zoom on Donal Moynihan  Moynihan, Donal. Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael.
Information on Michael Mulcahy  Zoom on Michael Mulcahy  Mulcahy, Michael. Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  Nolan, M. J.
Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon. Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  O’Connor, Charlie. Information on Liz O'Donnell  Zoom on Liz O'Donnell  O’Donnell, Liz.
Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Denis. Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  O’Flynn, Noel.
Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Batt. Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona.
Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  O’Malley, Tim. Information on Tom Parlon  Zoom on Tom Parlon  Parlon, Tom.
Information on Peter Power  Zoom on Peter Power  Power, Peter. Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Power, Seán.
Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Roche, Dick. Information on Mae Sexton  Zoom on Mae Sexton  Sexton, Mae.
Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  Smith, Michael. Information on Dan Wallace  Zoom on Dan Wallace  Wallace, Dan.
Information on Ollie Wilkinson  Zoom on Ollie Wilkinson  Wilkinson, Ollie. Information on G. V. Wright  Zoom on G. V. Wright  Wright, G. V.



[1477]Níl
Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  Breen, James.
Information on Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen  Breen, Pat. Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P.
Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan. Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul.
Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Costello, Joe. Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  Cuffe, Ciarán.
Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  Deasy, John. Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy.
Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J. Information on Damien English  Zoom on Damien English  English, Damien.
Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  Enright, Olwyn. Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon.
Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Gogarty, Paul. Information on Tony Gregory  Zoom on Tony Gregory  Gregory, Tony.
Information on Seamus Healy  Zoom on Seamus Healy  Healy, Seamus. Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Higgins, Joe.
Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Higgins, Michael D. Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Howlin, Brendan.
Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul. Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Kenny, Enda.
Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen. Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  McCormack, Padraic.
Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian. Information on Paul McGrath  Zoom on Paul McGrath  McGrath, Paul.
Information on Paddy McHugh  Zoom on Paddy McHugh  McHugh, Paddy. Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  McManus, Liz.
Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia. Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Morgan, Arthur.
Information on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Zoom on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda. Information on Gerard Murphy  Zoom on Gerard Murphy  Murphy, Gerard.
Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Naughten, Denis. Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan.
Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Noonan, Michael. Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus. Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  O’Dowd, Fergus.
Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Jim. Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  O’Shea, Brian.
Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Jan. Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Pattison, Seamus.
Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Penrose, Willie. Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  Perry, John.
Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Quinn, Ruairí. Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat.
Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael. Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  Ryan, Eamon.
Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Sargent, Trevor. Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  Sherlock, Joe.
Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín. Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet.
Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David. Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Twomey, Liam.
Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  Timmins, Billy. Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Wall, Jack.

[1477]Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Durkan and Stagg.

[1479]Question declared carried.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  A Cheann Comhairle, on a point of order, due to the recent Cabinet reshuffle, will you confirm that every Deputy voted at his or her designated seat in the Chamber and will the vote recorded be attributed to those whose hands pressed the voting button? I am concerned that some Members are not in their designated seats and may have voted erroneously for another Member.

Mr. Ellis: Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  The Deputy’s party has no problem understanding that subject.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Will the Ceann Comhairle advise whether the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has been involved in an act of impersonation in the Chamber?

Mr. Glennon: Information on Jim Glennon  Zoom on Jim Glennon  The Deputy must be joking.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Impersonation once again.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  The Deputy’s party would know all about that.

Mr. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  They would know all about that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy is aware that the sitting arrangements were changed following the Government reshuffle. There was one error in placing this morning that I am aware of and it will be corrected in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Where did the disappointed people vote?

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Was that Deputy the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform?

(Interruptions).

Mr. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Well spotted by the Deputy.

Mr. D. Wallace: Information on Dan Wallace  Zoom on Dan Wallace  It shows the Deputy’s priorities.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Deputy Ó Caoláin’s party are the experts at impersonation.

Mr. D. Wallace: Information on Dan Wallace  Zoom on Dan Wallace  At least the Minister only voted once.

Mr. Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Impersonation means voting twice.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  We have come some distance when we get lectures on voting by Deputy Ó Caoláin.

(Interruptions).

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Well done, Deputy Kenny.

[1480]Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  I invite Deputy Kenny to be as alert and as attentive to what is happening in the House.

Mr. Davern: Information on Noel Davern  Zoom on Noel Davern  Pity you could not find the bodies as easily.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  In view of the decision taken by the Government yesterday to dismiss Superintendent Lennon following the revelations at the Morris inquiry, did the Government discuss the payment of a lump sum and continuation of pension payments? Was that part of the decision?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That is not relevant to the Order of Business. The Deputy will have to find another way of raising it.

Mr. Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  The Minister is anxious to reply.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  It would be more appropriate to submit a question to the Minister.

  11 o’clock

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Will the Minister for Finance clarify the apparent announcement yesterday by the Taoiseach that he would not permit an MBO in the case of Aer Lingus? We learned later in the day that the management concern had withdrawn the MBO two days earlier. With regard to today’s publicity about the Government’s decision that there will be no further privatisation of State companies between now and the next general election, can the Minister clarify the position, specifically with regard to Aer Lingus where there is much concern about the future direction of the company?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That is a matter for the appropriate Minister.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Is legislation contemplated in this area?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  There is no legislation promised.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  What about the air transport navigation Bill? Is that on the Government’s agenda?

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  A Cheann Comhairle——

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Let us just find out about this Bill. The Minister for Finance will know about it.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Nothing has been withdrawn from the Order Paper.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Is the air transport navigation Bill on the Order Paper?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I understand it will be ready early next year.

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

[1481]Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  A Cheann Comhairle, on that legislation——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Sorry, Deputy, I have called Deputy Sargent. The Deputy’s turn will come.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  My question is on the same legislation. Can I not deal with it now?

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

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  I wish to ask about the same legislation. The Minister said it would be dealt with in early 2005. Is there any change based on the need to clarify the Government’s position with regard to Aer Lingus? Will the dividends paid by Aer Lingus to the State, for example, be available to Aer Lingus if redevelopment of the company is required? That issue requires clarification.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  A question on the legislation.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  The legislation deals with international financing of aircraft. It is appropriate that we get clarification of the Government’s policy in that regard.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That is a matter for when the legislation comes before the House. I call Deputy Joe Higgins.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  I wish to inquire about another Bill.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I will call Deputy Sargent again. I will hear Deputy Joe Higgins on the same subject.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  No. 33 relates to the ratification of the convention dealing with the financing of aircraft. The Minister might take this opportunity to state whether that will be taken in the context of Aer Lingus remaining in public ownership.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That does not arise on the Order of Business.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Could we get clarification of whether the sounds of distant thunder from the Tánaiste yesterday were of battle receding or approaching on the issue of the ownership of the national airline?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That does not arise on the Order of Business. The Deputy should submit a question to the appropriate Minister.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Air Navigation and Transport (International Conventions) Act 2004 has been enacted. The Air Navigation and Transport (Cape Town Convention) Bill will enable Ireland to ratify the convention dealing with international financing of aircraft. The heads of that Bill were [1482]approved by the Government on 21 September and the expected publication date is next year.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Bring back Deputy Smith. He did not say much but he said more than this Minister.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  We did not get much out of the Deputy last night on the Vincent Browne show.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Deputy is learning very slowly.

Mr. Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  About three years ago the Government deregulated the pharmacies. When will the pharmacy Bill come before the Dáil? Groups of doctors are now coming together and opening pharmacies. Does the Minister believe this is in conflict with the GMS scheme?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The content of legislation is a matter for the Second Stage debate.

Mr. Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  We are a long time waiting for Second Stage. That is the reason I am trying to get some information.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Work is underway on drafting the heads of the Bill. It is expected next year.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  When does the Government propose to introduce legislation to provide for a referendum to ratify the EU constitution?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Government has not yet considered a date for that.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  The second Bill I wish to raise relates to the situation at Shannon Airport. This is probably covered under the Diplomatic Relations and Immunities (Amendment) Bill, given that the illegal war on Iraq appears to be effectively giving immunity for mass murder. Can the Minister indicate whether that legislation will protect those who have been guilty of an illegal war and whether Ireland will be one of the defendants in such a case for co-operation at Shannon Airport?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It is not possible to indicate at this stage when that Bill will be ready. The purpose of the Bill is to address a concern about the constitutionality of Part 8 of the Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Act 1967, as amended by the Diplomatic Relations and Immunities (Amendment) Act 1976.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  As the VHI is not now to be privatised, when will the VHI Bill be brought before the House and what will it provide for?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  That Bill should be published next year.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  What is it for?

[1483]Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It will alter the corporate status of the VHI.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  The ground rents Bill has been around for almost as long as we have heard about the drainage of the Shannon. Can the Minister indicate when that Bill might be brought forward?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  When the Shannon is drained presumably.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  In view of the failure to drain the Shannon, is this an indication that the ground rents Bill will not come before the House? It has been on the Order Paper for the past two years.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  On a serious note, it is not possible to say at this stage when the Bill will come before the House. However, in the meantime the Shannon will be drained.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Despite the new faces in Government, Opposition Members are still obliged to put down notices under Standing Order 31 to draw attention to matters of importance. I congratulate the new Chief Whip on his appointment. There has long been talk about reforming the Dáil to make it more meaningful, relevant and focused. Deputies should not have to continue the practice of putting down notices under Standing Order 31, which the Ceann Comhairle inevitably rules out of order. Does the Chief Whip propose to introduce a package of reforms to make the House more relevant?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Reform in the efficacy of the procedures of the House is ongoing. The Chief Whip is willing to discuss with his colleagues how matters might be improved, if issues are still outstanding.


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