Order of Business.

Thursday, 4 November 2004

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 591 No. 5

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Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen): Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It is proposed to take No. 4, the Road Traffic Bill 2004 — Second Stage (resumed); and No. 5, the Disability Bill 2004 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken not later than 1.30 p.m. today, and the order shall resume thereafter.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Is the issue of the 1.30 p.m. deadline not to be put to the House?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  No. There is no guillotine on the matter. It is merely an adjournment.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  When we attended the House yesterday, the final result of the US Presidential election was not clear. It would be appropriate for the House to congratulate President George W. Bush on his return to office, and for us to [1327]hope that he will continue to support the work of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Will he extend that to the Middle East as well?

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Elections are a great opportunity for reassessment of priorities and it will be important as Europe and the US need to heal divisions. We need to welcome President Bush’s indication of a new openness to healing divisions in the US. I hope we will be able to build on the fruitful relationships that we have had with the US in the past.

Regarding the promised legislation on social welfare, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Brennan, is reported in the newspapers to be seeking an extra €2.5 billion in the social welfare area and looking to the Minister for Finance to deliver this in the budget, in order to reverse what the Minister for Social and Family Affairs has called the bad decisions in the past. Being a socialist, Deputy Brennan looks forward to implementing these changes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  To what legislation does the Deputy refer?

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  The Social Welfare Bill. I would be interested in discovering if the commitments being made by the Minister, Deputy Brennan, are——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We cannot discuss the content of legislation.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Perhaps the Minister for Finance will indicate his equal commitment to the conversion to socialism and the delivery of €2.5 billion.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Social Welfare Bill will be taken this session.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  That was somewhat of an anti-climax.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  It is an innovation. Does the Minister for Finance recall that an undertaking was given to the House in spring 2003 to publish the work permits Bill? When will that legislation be brought before the House?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  This session.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  The Minister for Finance is probably the correct person to answer my question on the building control Bill, particularly as there are implications of which he needs to take stock in respect of flooding. Humanitarian aid is not the response that is needed. What is required is a capital assessment programme.

[1328]Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I am informed that the Bill will be published in the middle of next year.

Mr. Gogarty: Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  In light of the fact that the Taoiseach and Tánaiste are absent, perhaps the Minister might be more forthcoming in his reply to my question. As the House can see, I am an eternal optimist. Will the register of persons unsafe to work with children Bill, which is long awaited and crucially important, be published early next year?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I am informed that it is not possible to say yet.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  Bring back the Taoiseach.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Bring back Deputy Michael Smith.

(Interruptions).

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  I wish to ask the Minister a question in respect of which he may be somewhat more forthcoming. Does he plan to institute any changes regarding the presentation of the Estimates to the House on 18 November? The tradition is that a token debate takes place in November. There is no meaningful debate on the Estimates at any stage and they are finally signed off the following June, halfway through the financial year. In addition, they are published without any targets, objectives or performance indicators against which Deputies could judge their merit and there is no opportunity for their amendment. Does the Minister agree that such an approach is not adequate in a modern democracy and that we should change the process? I hope that such a process of change will begin this year.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I intend to proceed with the Estimates in the time-honoured way. The committees deal in detail with the Estimates.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  The Minister is aware that they——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We cannot debate that matter now. The Deputy must find another way to raise it.

Mr. Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  In light of the serious nature of the situation that obtains in respect of accident and emergency and all other medical services——

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

Mr. Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  It does. I have the right to ask a question on legislation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy has not asked such a question.

Mr. Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  The Ceann Comhairle should allow me to do so. There are two Bills which are [1329]relevant to this matter. The first is the nurses (amendment) Bill, which might allow us to debate the scarcity of nurses, and the second is the medical practitioners Bill. Monaghan General Hospital is short five junior doctors.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I understand the medical practitioners Bill and the nurses (amendment) Bill will both be published next year.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  In view of the fact that the Irish Prison Service issued a directive to ban all Dublin city councillors and officials from the Mountjoy complex——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Does the Deputy have a question on legislation?

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Yes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Then the Deputy should come to it.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  I am doing so. The Irish Prison Service is not a statutory body but there is a provision on the Order Paper to make it so. When will this happen and did the service act on its own volition or was the Minister involved?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I am informed it is not possible to indicate at this stage when that provision might come forward.

Mr. O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  On the student support Bill, is there going to be an increase in school transport charges? I understand there is a row between the Progressive Democrats——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The content of legislation cannot be discussed.

Mr. O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  ——and Fianna Fáil in respect of school transport charges. Will the Bill include a provision in this regard?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Consultations are taking place between the Department and the relevant stakeholders in the preparation and drafting of the Bill. We will have to await its publication before seeing what is involved.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  The monosyllabic responses of the Minister for Finance place us in the unbelievable position of suffering withdrawal symptoms and wanting a return to the Taoiseach’s long and rambling replies.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Does the Deputy have a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  We might, at least, obtain some nugget of information from the Taoiseach.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  The Deputy could never be accused of being monosyllabic.

[1330]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Minister should allow Deputy Joe Higgins to ask an appropriate question on the Order of Business, without interruption.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  We were given the gift of speech to try to explain complex ideas. The latter cannot be done in one or two words.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We will have to move on if the Deputy does not ask his question.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  When will the Cabinet sub-committee on Aer Lingus report to the Dáil and when will we have a debate on that matter? When will the electricity Bill be introduced?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It is not possible to indicate when the electricity Bill will be coming forward. The Cabinet sub-committee meets at its own discretion and as soon as a decision is made we will inform the Deputy.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  When will we have the debate that the Taoiseach indicated would be forthcoming on the serious issue of the future of Aer Lingus?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Deputy asked when the Cabinet sub-committee will be meeting. That is a matter to be determined by the sub-committee and when we make the decision we will communicate with the Deputy.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  When will that be?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Whenever the Cabinet decides.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  In light of the arrogance emanating from the Minister for Finance——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy should——

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  ——one would think it was he who had just been re-elected to office for four years.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The arrogance resides with the Deputy who is of the opinion that he is in the Cabinet.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  I would not be caught dead in the Minister’s Cabinet.

(Interruptions).

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  I am beginning to wonder if there is any point in asking these questions. We are all busy people. If we obtain this kind of non-reaction when we raise issues in the House, it calls into question whether the Minister is engaged in parliamentary activity at all.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That matter does not arise at this stage.

[1331]Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  I hate to take up the Minister’s time but I would like to ask a question about a matter involving the Minister for Education and Science who promised that there would be changes in medical education which would have major impact in terms of the training of doctors. If it is not too much bother, will the Minister for Finance indicate whether it is the Government’s intention to proceed to draft legislation in respect of this important issue?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  There is no legislation promised in respect of that matter. I must inform the Deputy that I have simply been answering questions on the basis of the Order of Business order. As I understand it, people are entitled to ask about the Government’s plans for legislation. I am answering the questions as they are asked.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  The Minister is only providing smart answers.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Opposition Members should not be so long-winded in their questions.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  The Minister may be answering but he is in an extremely taciturn mood. Dublin City Council has stated that it would like to sell off its flats to its tenants. However, this requires some legislative changes. Specifically, the Housing Act 2002 requires amendment. When will these legislative changes come before the House?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I am informed that there is no legislation in respect of this matter.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Is there not even a regulation?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It is a matter for the Minister to decide if secondary legislation is required.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  The energy Bill has shown remarkably few signs of energy for a long period. I presume the heads of the Bill have been agreed so when will it be brought before the House? Will the Minister also indicate when the NORA Bill will be introduced?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I understand that both Bills are due to be introduced early next year.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  When will the House debate the report of the all-party committee on building land?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Whips had a discussion on that yesterday and I will revert to the House in due course.

Mr. Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  When will the decentralisation implementation group report to the Cabinet sub-committee?

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

[1332]Mr. Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  I want an explanation from the Minister for Finance, who is willing to answer.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Standing Order 26 is specific and everybody in the House must abide by it.

Mr. Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  When will decentralisation happen? Has the Minister a rough timetable?

Mr. Connolly: Information on Paudge Connolly  Zoom on Paudge Connolly  I refer to the Connacht-Ulster region. One small tract of land remains to be classified as severely disadvantaged. It represents——

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

Mr. Connolly: Information on Paudge Connolly  Zoom on Paudge Connolly  This issue relates to the Land Bill 2004.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Land Bill is on Second Stage and the Deputy will have an opportunity to raise the issue during that debate.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Two ministerial orders for the appointment of special advisers to the Ministers for Agriculture and Food and Transport are listed under documents laid before the House on today’s Order Paper. The Government can put these orders before the House for decision. Does it intend to do so?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I am sorry, I do not understand the question.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  It is simple.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  I refer to ministerial orders regarding the appointments of special advisers to the Ministers for Agriculture and Food and Transport. Such orders are ordinarily tabled in the Oireachtas Library and remain there. However, a procedure exists whereby the Government can bring these orders before the House. Does the Government intend to do so regarding these orders or future orders relating to special advisers?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  No, not to my knowledge.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  I am not surprised.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  These orders relate to two appointments. Are they in addition to the existing advisers?

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

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  It does because it is on the Order Paper.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy cannot debate every item on the Order Paper.

[1333]Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I do not wish to have a debate. I have a short and simple question. Are these appointments in addition——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy should submit a question to the relevant Ministers.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  It might be simpler this way. I presume the special adviser to the Minister of Transport will advise him on the port tunnel.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  The Minister for Transport will attend a function at the M50 later. What is the position regarding the strategic national infrastructure Bill? It was announced breathlessly by the Taoiseach as a high priority and he stated that it needed to be moved forward with great speed.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform opposes it.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  However, its publication is not expected until 2005. Is the Bill a low priority or a no priority? Where does the Minister rank it?

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  The Ministers for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government are discussing it.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Minister is discussing it with colleagues and it will be brought forward in due course.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Has the Minister met the Fianna Fáil backbench committee regarding its plan for job initiative workers——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That does not arise on the Order of Business. I call No. 4.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  The Minister for Finance wishes to reply.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  The Deputy should join our party if he wants to know what is going on.


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