Thursday, 25 November 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Tánaiste: It is proposed to take No. 11b, motion re referral to joint committee of the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act 1996; No. 11d, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works; No. 12, motion re Book of Estimates 2005; No. 11c, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the despatch of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for service with EUFOR, back from committee. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 4.45 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted on the conclusion of oral questions to the Minister for Education and Science; Nos. 11b and 11d shall be decided without debate; the proceedings on No. 12 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 3.30 p.m. and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the speech of the Minister for Finance and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case; (ii) the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case; (iii) Members may share time; and (iv) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes; the proceedings on No. 11c shall be taken immediately on the conclusion of No. 12 and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 40 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: (i), subject to (ii), the speeches shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and to the main spokespersons for Fine Gael, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, and which shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; and (ii) Members may share time; oral questions shall be taken immediately on the conclusion of No. 11c for 75 minutes and, in the event of a Private Notice Question being allowed, it shall be taken after 45 minutes and the order shall not resume thereafter; and the Dáil shall sit tomorrow at 10.30 a.m. and shall adjourn not later than 3 p.m., there shall be no Order of Business, that is, within the meaning of Standing Order 26, the taking of any divisions shall be postponed until immediately after the Order of Business on Tuesday, 30 November 2004 and, accordingly, the following business shall be transacted: No. 3, Health Bill 2004 — Second Stage (resumed), which shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 3 p.m.
An Ceann Comhairle: There are six proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 11b and 11d, motions re referral to joint and select committees, without debate agreed?
Mr. Sargent: These two items are to be taken without debate. However, there is particular interest in them, especially No. 11d, and, given that the protection of literary and artistic works is referred to, many people would think this matter requires further debate. I ask that it be debated under this motion given that the Tara-Skryne valley has been an inspiration for many literary and artistic works. The Government does not seem to appreciate inspiration in the context of art and certainly not in the context of heritage. A debate on this matter is warranted.
Mr. Kenny: While I will not object to it, the original proposal by the Government was for a one hour debate, which meant it expected the House to approve €715 million for every minute of the debate. It is an expression of just how little is contained in all this that the Government wants to conclude it today. Given that we cannot get answers to any questions on the Estimates, we might as well get on with it and wait for the budget to have a real debate on this.
An Ceann Comhairle: Is the proposal for dealing with No. 12 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 11c, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the despatch of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for service with EUFOR, agreed?
Mr. Gormley: While I welcome that this matter has come back onto the floor of the House, those of us in the Technical Group will only have three minutes to discuss this, which is not enough time to discuss such an important item. I would like to have a little more time. Can the Tánaiste agree to this?
An Ceann Comhairle: Is the proposal agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with oral questions to the Minister for Education and Science agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for the sitting and business of the Dáil tomorrow agreed?
Mr. Kenny: I am opposed to this. I have already made it clear that as a principle we do not want Bills guillotined through the House. However, the Health Bill 2004 deals with one of the most fundamental issues that affects the people and I do not agree it should be guillotined in this way. Every Member of the House from all parties and none should have the opportunity to have his or her say on Second Stage. I oppose the proposal to guillotine Second Stage tomorrow at 3 p.m. If the Dáil is to meet, there should be an Order of Business, which there will not be. The Government proposes to close down this debate which is of critical importance for hundreds of thousands of people. I am opposed to it on that basis.
Mr. Rabbitte: My party is similarly opposed to the manner of handling a Bill that we are informed is the most significant revamp of the health system in the history of the State. The Government took 18 months to consider it, published it for Members, who received it on Monday last, then went straight into debate on Tuesday. It seems good enough for the Opposition that they are expected to deal with the Bill within 24 hours when the Government took 18 months to address it. We had one hour of debate yesterday and approximately three hours the previous day, yet the Tánaiste proposes that it be guillotined tomorrow.
It is one of a number of measures with which the Government has demonstrated contempt for this House. Some Ministers, if the Constitution permitted, would be happy to retire to their offices and make law from there because they know best. They resent coming before the House. Inadequate provision has been provided time out of number by the Government. I greatly regret that the Tánaiste seeks to guillotine tomorrow’s debate.
Mr. Sargent: Ar dtús báire, tá an Rialtas ag iarraidh dallamullóg a chur ar dhaoine de bharr nach mbeidh aon Riar na hOibre ann amárach. Tá cuma ar an scéal go bhfuil an Dáil ag feidhmiú ach, i ndáiríre, níl sé mar níl ann ach cúpla uair an chloig chun cúrsaí a phlé gan vóta agus gan Riar na hOibre. In effect, it is an excuse for a Dáil day because there is not the normal requirement for an Order of Business. To add insult to injury, the proposal is for the guillotining of the Health Bill which the Tánaiste described as historic and significant, something which is clearly felt by other Members because the second round of speakers has not yet finished and many more Members will offer to speak. If it is seriously thought of as being significant and historic, it should be given more time. The fact that it will result in less accountability than before is all the more reason that time should be provided to debate it to ensure it is not pushed through, accountability removed and a bad situation made worse. If the Bill is guillotined, there will be good grounds for that fear.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I join with my colleagues in the House in appealing to the Tánaiste to lift the guillotine on the Second Stage debate on the Health Bill. I have no objection to utilising tomorrow as an opportunity to discuss it further on Second Stage but we should allow the debate to be open-ended so that if further Members are offering, it can be resumed next week. That is not beyond the gift of the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children.
The Bill is important. As I have stated, it is the wrong remedy for the wrong problem at this time. Nevertheless, it is one the Tánaiste has presented to the House and we must deal with it. By guillotining it tomorrow, we are doing neither the Bill nor the wider health service any justice. I appeal to the Tánaiste to remove the guillotine and allow Members to continue to participate in the debate in the coming week. This is not beyond the ability of the Chief Whip and the Whips of the other parties to provide for properly. I hope the Tánaiste will respond positively.
The Tánaiste: With respect, the Deputies might listen. Just the other evening I was told that the Bill did nothing at all, yet now I am told it is quite significant. The Deputies cannot have it every way. The Bill was being rubbished the other night by virtually all of the Opposition with one or two exceptions.
An Ceann Comhairle: Allow the Tánaiste to speak without interruption. There is no provision for any other speaker except one from each party in the House. The Tánaiste should continue without interruption.
The Tánaiste: Deputy McManus did not have a single good thing to say about the Bill. In normal circumstances I wish we did not have to handle matters like this. I accept that. We gave a copy of the Bill to all the Opposition spokespersons although I accept that providing it a week in advance is not enough.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy must resume her seat. She must show the same courtesy to Members on the Government side of the House as is shown to those on her side. The Tánaiste should continue without interruption.
The Tánaiste: I am being provoked. I apologise. Deputy Twomey acknowledged that he got a copy of the Bill. In normal circumstances we would not have such a rush. We want to ensure that the Health Service Executive can function on a statutory basis from 1 January 2005. Next week we will have a long Committee Stage which will not be guillotined. Then, with the goodwill of all, it is to be hoped that we will consider Report and Final Stages.
I said in the House yesterday that I will publish the heads of the information and quality assurance Bill, which we have removed from the HSE legislation, and give the Opposition plenty of time to make submissions and put forward views. I would not normally handle matters the way they are being handled but we are running against time. I ask the House to appreciate that. Everything in the Bill, with one exception regarding the Accounting Officer, was outlined by the Government over the past 18 months.
|Ahern, Dermot.||Andrews, Barry.|
|Ardagh, Seán.||Browne, John.|
|Callanan, Joe.||Callely, Ivor.|
|Carey, Pat.||Cassidy, Donie.|
|Cowen, Brian.||Cregan, John.|
|Curran, John.||Davern, Noel.|
|de Valera, Síle.||Dempsey, Noel.|
|Dempsey, Tony.||Dennehy, John.|
|Devins, Jimmy.||Ellis, John.|
|Fahey, Frank.||Finneran, Michael.|
|Gallagher, Pat The Cope.||Glennon, Jim.|
|Grealish, Noel.||Hanafin, Mary.|
|Harney, Mary.||Haughey, Seán.|
|Healy-Rae, Jackie.||Hoctor, Máire.|
|Jacob, Joe.||Keaveney, Cecilia.|
|Kelleher, Billy.||Kelly, Peter.|
|Killeen, Tony.||Kirk, Seamus.|
|Kitt, Tom.||Lenihan, Brian.|
|Lenihan, Conor.||McDaid, James.|
|McGuinness, John.||Moloney, John.|
|Moynihan, Donal.||Moynihan, Michael.|
|Mulcahy, Michael.||Nolan, M.J.|
|Ó Cuív, Éamon.||Ó Fearghail, Seán.|
|O’Connor, Charlie.||O’Dea, Willie.|
|O’Donnell, Liz.||O’Keeffe, Batt.|
|O’Malley, Fiona.||O’Malley, Tim.|
|Power, Peter.||Roche, Dick.|
|Sexton, Mae.||Smith, Brendan.|
|Smith, Michael.||Treacy, Noel.|
|Wallace, Dan.||Wallace, Mary.|
|Walsh, Joe.||Wilkinson, Ollie.|
|Boyle, Dan.||Breen, Pat.|
|Broughan, Thomas P.||Bruton, Richard.|
|Burton, Joan.||Connaughton, Paul.|
|Costello, Joe.||Coveney, Simon.|
|Deasy, John.||Deenihan, Jimmy.|
|Durkan, Bernard J.||English, Damien.|
|Enright, Olwyn.||Ferris, Martin.|
|Gormley, John.||Hayes, Tom.|
|Healy, Seamus.||Higgins, Joe.|
|Higgins, Michael D.||Howlin, Brendan.|
|Kehoe, Paul.||Kenny, Enda.|
|Lynch, Kathleen.||McCormack, Padraic.|
|McGinley, Dinny.||McGrath, Finian.|
|McGrath, Paul.||McManus, Liz.|
|Mitchell, Gay.||Mitchell, Olivia.|
|Morgan, Arthur.||Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.|
|Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.||Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.|
|Pattison, Seamus.||Perry, John.|
|Quinn, Ruairi.||Rabbitte, Pat.|
|Ring, Michael.||Ryan, Eamon.|
|Ryan, Seán.||Sargent, Trevor.|
|Sherlock, Joe.||Stanton, David.|
|Timmins, Billy.||Upton, Mary.|
Mr. Kenny: Will there be a response to the shambles of decentralisation being inflicted on us? Last year the former Minister for Finance, Charlie McCreevy, sent every Deputy from the Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats party——
Mr. Kenny: When will the Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Bill be brought before the House? It deals with the regulation of the Civil Service but has implications for thousands of communities around the country that have been left bereft of public servants. I do not know where the “welcome to Parlon country” signs have gone. I have not seen any in recent months. I have no doubt the man who is now in charge of the Department of Finance is smiling to himself about the shambles that has been inflicted on the people.
Mr. Rabbitte: The Tánaiste put on the record yesterday that the Labour Party promised to give 0.05% of GNP per annum to overseas development aid but gave 0.01%. The Labour Party doubled the contribution to overseas development aid from 0.16% to 0.31% in the period to which the Tánaiste referred. Will the Tánaiste take the opportunity to state that the Government will use the budget to restore the target——
Mr. Sargent: Yes. Will there be an opportunity for a debate, either on the basis of promised legislation from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform or otherwise, on the situation whereby 106 women have been murdered in Ireland since 1996? Some 69 of those have been killed in their homes, including Ms Rachel O’Reilly in my constituency.
Mr. Sargent: There is such a long list of proposed legislation from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in this area that one wonders how much of it will see the light of day. The coroners Bill, crimes Bill, criminal justice (miscellaneous provisions) Bill and so on represent an opportunity to address the reality of crime. The fear generated through the lack of——
Mr. Hayes: Will the Tánaiste agree to allocate a small amount of time for a debate on decentralisation, particularly in light of yesterday’s report and the non-inclusion of towns such as Tipperary about which a commitment was given prior to the last general election and every election over the last number of years?
Mr. M. Higgins: I wish to make a point of order. I have had a communication from the Ceann Comhairle’s office ruling out two questions of mine. I question this ruling. One relates to the policy of the Environmental Protection Agency, not its practice. The Ceann Comhairle’s office has suggested that this issue is a matter for the EPA. The second question relates to the compliance of local authorities with European directives regarding water quality. The Ceann Comhairle’s office ruled that this question was a matter for the local authorities.
Mr. M. Higgins: I am not pursuing the matter now and I have no problem in meeting the Ceann Comhairle. However, I would like him to refer the issue of the possible total unaccountability of local authorities regarding EU directives to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. In its founding legislation, the EPA states that policy matters are the responsibility of the Minister in accountability to the Dáil. It is pointless to continue today——
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: My question is in the same vein as that of Deputy Hayes, with regard to the amended decentralisation programme announced yesterday. There is a complete exclusion of the Ulster counties of Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan——
Mr. Ring: I have asked on many occasions when the pharmacy Bill will be brought before the House. The figures regarding the drugs subsidy scheme were released last week. If the current situation continues, we will not want a pharmacy in this country because the real winners are the doctors and the Government——
Mr. Costello: Considering that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform almost initiated a constitutional crisis by publicly criticising a judge, when will the judicial misconduct legislation be in place? This legislation is essential to avoid the necessity of setting up another Oireachtas committee.
Mr. Kenny: Can the Tánaiste confirm that she has received the Attorney General’s advice in respect of the over 70s who were given medical cards? Has the Government considered such advice and what is its position in this matter?
The Tánaiste is aware of the case of a number of women in the North Eastern Health Board area who have suffered a serious injustice. I understand from my meeting with some of them that the files relating to their cases seem to have been destroyed——
Mr. Kenny: May I be permitted to ask the question? When does the Tánaiste expect the interdepartmental report to be finalised? Does she envisage that a redress board for that finite number of persons might be introduced?
Mr. J. Higgins: Does the Government intend to bring forward a legislative amendment to protect those pensioners in Limerick who are faced with crushing bin tax demands following the Attorney General’s advice——
Mr. J. Higgins: I have a second question on legislation. The Taoiseach has said repeatedly in this House that the obscene profiteering from land speculation can be dealt with by legislation alone. On a morning when a site bought for €40 million a few years ago is now being sold for €85 million——
Mr. J. Higgins: I took this as a promise of legislation from the Taoiseach, especially now that he is a raving socialist. When will legislation to control the price of building land come before the Dáil?
Mr. Durkan: Given that electricity prices in Ireland are some 25% higher than the European average, is it possible to energise the relevant Minister into bringing the electricity Bill before the House with a view to having a major debate on this issue, including the negative impact energy prices are having on the industrial and domestic sector?
Mr. Broughan: I have two questions for the Tánaiste. The first relates to the timing of the Maritime Safety Bill 2004. Can we expect any funding from the Minister for Finance for an emergency towing vessel?
Mr. Broughan: Is it possible to allow some time next week for the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to examine the issue of yellow pack workers at Irish Ferries and the consequences for trade?
Mr. G. Mitchell: As the Chair will be aware, there is a prima facie case that official Oireachtas post sent by me was interfered with at the point of delivery on more than one occasion in a part of my constituency. Following on the surveillance of Members of this House, will the Tánaiste bring forward the criminal justice (miscellaneous provisions) Bill this side of Christmas to ensure that interference with the privileges of Members of this House can be debated here and that I can receive an explanation of what happened to my official post when it left this House?
Ms O. Mitchell: Some 50 pages of Report Stage amendments to the Railway Safety Bill published a few weeks ago were subsequently withdrawn. Is the Bill withdrawn and will a new Bill be published to accommodate the EU directive or, if not, when will these amendments be rescheduled for discussion?
Mr. Connaughton: ——and Ballinasloe, the Tánaiste’s birthplace — she has let us down again — why has the aid promised to Irish immigrants fallen so far short of that recommended by the special task force?
Mr. Stanton: Yesterday the Tánaiste seemed to blame people with disabilities for the reduction in ODA in terms of providing for the needs of people with disabilities here. Will she retract that statement because it is most unfair to them?
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