Thursday, 21 October 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Tánaiste: It is proposed to take No. 2, Council of Europe Development Bank Bill 2004 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 3, Grangegorman Development Agency Bill 2004 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
Mr. R. Bruton: Before I raise my point on the Order of Business, I wish to inquire from the Tánaiste whether there is an update on the case of Mrs. Hassan, on which the House yesterday was pleased to have the opportunity to pass a unanimous resolution. I am sure the House would be interested to hear any update before it rises today. If the Tánaiste has information I would like to give her an opportunity to outline it.
The Tánaiste: There is no update on yesterday’s debate. The House did excellent work yesterday, which was acknowledged by a friend of Margaret Hassan this morning. The Minister for Foreign Affairs tells me if there is an update, he will bring it to the attention of the House later.
Mr. R. Bruton: The Tánaiste will be aware that yesterday two eminent judges drew the public’s attention to the alarming increase in violent assault and public disorder. That is borne out by the statistics. Violent assault is seven times higher now than it was five years ago.
Mr. R. Bruton: Yes. What is happening to the criminal justice legislative programme? When the House rose for the summer recess, of the three Bills promised by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, not one of them was published. In April of this year, the Minister listed six Bills that were to be published in 2004 — the coroner’s Bill, the criminal justice miscellaneous provisions Bill, the fines Bill, the judicial conduct and ethics Bill, the parental leave Bill and the prisons Bill. We are now told, according to the latest legislative programme, that none of those Bills will be published in 2004 for debate in this House — they are not expected to be published until 2005. In addition, the Minister has no idea when other key criminal law Bills — the drug offenders Bill, the crimes Bill and the DPP Bill, to allow the DPP appeal against District Court sentences — will be brought before the House.
Mr. R. Bruton: I would like to know what is happening to this legislative programme. Where is the priority for criminal justice matters? For example, the Government recruited 60,000 people to the public service, but 1,000 extra gardaí could not be found to deal with these violent assaults.
The Tánaiste: We have strong legislation in this area but it is clear it needs updating. The Criminal Justice Bill 2004 has been published and is awaiting Second Stage in this House, which I hope will take place soon. The Deputy is aware that the other Bills will not be published until next year. The criminal justice international co-operation Bill will be dealt with in this session.
Mr. R. Bruton: It is important to make the point. I know the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is sensitive and that he threatened to resign over a criticism by the then Lord Mayor of Dublin, but he has a duty to this House and he is not fulfilling it.
Mr. Rabbitte: That could not possibly be true, could it? Does the Tánaiste recall the commitment made by her predecessor in July 2002 to provide 850 additional beds in community nursing units in this region and in the southern region?
Mr. Rabbitte: I do, Sir. Will the Tánaiste indicate when the nursing amendment Bill will be brought before the House and whether an alleviation is in prospect given the crisis in accident and emergency services, especially, but not only, in this city?
The Tánaiste: The nursing Bill will be published next year but we do not need new legislation to recruit more nurses. As I have said in this House on many occasions in the past two weeks, we have more nurses per capita than any other country in the developed world. We have the HSE——
Mr. Sargent: I have just come from an energy conference across the road at which approximately five Deputies were present to hear about the lack of an energy policy. Promised legislation includes the Electricity Bill, the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and the National Oil Reserves Agency Bill, all of which entail removing democratic accountability from the area of energy. Will the National Oil Reserves Agency Bill be amended to deal with the need for a gas reserve agency too because gas from Russia is becoming the primary fuel on which we depend?
Mr. Sargent: In terms of fuel security, climate change and basic economic good sense is the Tánaiste or the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources going to address the need for an energy policy before these Bills are introduced?
The Tánaiste: We have a very energetic Minister with responsibility for this area and he has promised several Bills, namely, the Electricity Bill and the Bord Gáis Éireann Bill. Early next year he will introduce the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and so on.
Mr. Crawford: In light of the ongoing trauma in the medical services area, and the need for medical cards will the following three Bills be before the House soon: the Medical Practitioners Bill, the Health Bill, and the medical complaints Bill? Will the Tánaiste explain when moves will begin to issue more medical cards so that primary health care can become a priority?
The Tánaiste: The health complaints Bill will be amalgamated with the Health and Social Care Professionals Bill and will come to the House before Christmas. The Medical Practitioners Bill will start shortly in the other House. The Government has cleared it and there will be several other Bills in the medical area in the next few months.
Mr. Howlin: This question refers to the Tánaiste’s previous area of responsibility. Subsequent to the enactment of the Nice treaty we wisely and properly had no barriers to workers from the accession states coming here. Following the announcement by Irish Ferries that it will “yellow pack” its own employment on one of its sea routes, will we take legislative measures to ensure the conditions of service and pay are not undermined by making Irish people unemployed and employing people from the new member states at low and unfavourable rates?
The Tánaiste: No. That does not come under work permits legislation. We have laws on the employment of individuals with minimum rates of pay and so on. They apply to everybody but there is no new legislation promised.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: We are facing into another bank holiday weekend when, tragically, road traffic accidents can be more frequent. This will add to the chaos in our accident and emergency departments. The Minister for Health and Children said that chaos cannot and will not continue. Will she make a statement on her intent in that regard before the Dáil today, or in the coming week, and does she plan to have a Supplementary Estimate or some other such address to give effect to what she has said?
Mr. Durkan: The continental shelf Bill has been on the shelf for some time. Will the Tánaiste engage with the energetic Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, with a view to deciding when the Government will decide on the heads of the Bill and when it will be before the House on Second Stage?
Ms O’Sullivan: The most recent figures for student grants indicate that PAYE workers’ families are under-represented. Will the Government speed up the introduction of the third level student support Bill which will centralise the assessment system and take it from the local authorities and the VEC? The last time I asked the Taoiseach about this it was very much in the distance.
Mr. J. Higgins: When will the Minister for Health and Children legislate for comprehensive health services for all and rescue us from the obscene spectacle of health insurers jockeying for position? Does the Tánaiste’s Boston vision mean that vulnerable people and the sick are called a “market” and health care is called a “product” to be flogged for profit? Will we have comprehensive health services for all our people?
Mr. O’Dowd: In view of the Minister for Health and Children’s commitment to change the way accident and emergency services operate will she bring her plan before the House? Five plans have already been announced.
Ms McManus: I intend to try to be in order. The Minister for Health and Children has announced that she intends to bring in measures to deal with the accident and emergency crisis. In view of this promise will there be legislation coming forward? Yesterday the Taoiseach refused to countenance a Supplementary Estimate to pay for these measures——
Ms McManus: Does the Tánaiste agree with this approach and does she accept there will be no additional money this year to pay for the measures she is promising to people who are under pressure and whose relatives are lying on trolleys? Does she accept that there will be no additional money?
An Ceann Comhairle: This matter has been discussed on Leader’s Questions and on the Adjournment debate this week. It is not appropriate to the Order of Business. I ask the Deputy to resume her seat and allow the Tánaiste answer on legislation.
Mr. Boyle: The adoption Bill has been on a very long finger in the Department of Health and Children. The recent Cabinet reshuffle should not have affected it because the previous Minister of State continues to have responsibility for this area. Will the Minister for Health and Children give this Bill particular priority?
Mr. R. Bruton: The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform promised legislation on fireworks and explosives which is very timely as Hallowe’en approaches. I was surprised, however, not to find it named in the Government programme. Was this announcement made for media purposes or does the Government intend to introduce this and what is the timescale for it?
The Tánaiste: The announcements of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform cause upset sometimes. People are very sensitive to them. I am not aware of any particular legislation on fireworks.
Mr. Broughan: Did the Tánaiste perhaps mislead Deputy Howlin in her reply to his question on the yellow-packing of seafarers and of Irish seafaring workers given that the International Transport Federation has long held——
Mr. Broughan: Did the Tánaiste mislead the House, even inadvertently? The ITF has held that the Cork-Swansea ferry workers, most of whom are from eastern Europe have not received our minimum wage or any other.
Mr. Broughan: ——on proposed legislation from the new Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. We have heard that Fianna Fáil backbenchers have been very active in beating a track to the door of the new Minister, which they could not do with the former Minister.
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