Order of Business.

Thursday, 3 March 2005

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 599 No. 1

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The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is proposed to take No. 3, Health (Amendment) Bill 2005 — Second Stage (resumed); No. 17, Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill 2004 — Second Stage (resumed); and No. 18, Land Bill 2004 [Seanad] — Second Stage (resumed).

It is proposed notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders that the proceedings on the resumed Second Stage of No. 3 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1.30 p.m.

[4]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is the proposal for dealing with No. 3, Health (Amendment) Bill 2005, agreed to?

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  No Sir, it is not. It is refreshing to be opposed by the three Marys. This is unique in the annals of this Parliament.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  This is what I call a front bench.

Mr. Deasy: Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  The holy trinity.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I have already made the case on numerous occasions of being opposed to guillotines of Bills on Second Stage and I do so now. This is an important Bill and it deserves more time.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I agree with that. I have a further reason for opposing the guillotine in addition to what Deputy Kenny stated. The Tánaiste was unable to come to the House yesterday to contribute to the Bill and given the remarks she made about systemic maladministration in her Department, irrespective of the Travers report, she ought to be enabled to inform the House as to why she made such an unprecedented remark. I am not taking sides on it. The Tánaiste may be very well informed as to the necessity for making such remarks but she ought to be provided with the opportunity to address the House on the issues concerned.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  I am opposed to the guillotining of this Bill. We have witnessed a debacle when legislation was guillotined. The Tánaiste should have learned the lesson of rushing legislation through this House but she obviously has not. She appears to be behaving like a headless chicken in respect of health services in the State. There has been an accident and emergency crisis, MRSA is rampant and now the Tánaiste’s colleague is proposing a mobile telephone mast for my constituency, which will pose a threat to the children in Dublin South-East.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy, we are going way off the motion before the House.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  I ask the Tánaiste to reconsider this irresponsible decision. It is disgraceful that the Government is proceeding in this manner. It is arrogant and totally undemocratic.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  The guillotining of this Bill will significantly curtail the opportunity of Members to participate in important legislation in respect of the two key focuses, namely, the GP-only medical card proposal and the reintroduction of fees for nursing home patients. On Second Stage last night, I questioned the marriage of these two separate matters in the one Bill and that the measure is being rushed when we still have not seen the Government’s proposals for the reimbursement of the illegal charges which were [5]applied to long-stay residents in nursing homes over many years. The reimbursement plan must be expedited.

While Deputy Rabbitte has highlighted the Tánaiste’s absence from the House, none of her Ministers of State attended for the greater part of the debate last evening. The Government presence in the House was a Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food. What does that say about the Department in respect of this legislation when neither the Tánaiste and Minster for Health and Children nor her Ministers of State attended the House over the period?

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O’Malley, was here.

Mr. T. O’Malley: Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  Yes, I was in the House.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  It is absolutely outrageous. I strongly oppose the imposition of a guillotine on this legislation. It is wholly and absolutely inappropriate.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  There might be a vacancy in the Department. The Minister of State, Deputy Batt O’Keeffe, might yet get a promotion.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I was absent from the House yesterday because I was on official business in Cork which had been planned for a considerable time.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  There was a nice shot of the Tánaiste on television.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  In which case why was the Bill taken yesterday?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Opposition was keen to have an entire day yesterday for the debate. I had originally hoped to move the Bill on Tuesday evening but Members felt they wanted more time. In any event, Second Stage was moved by the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Seán Power, who has responsibility in this area and he was here for a [6]considerable part of yesterday morning. It is not traditional that the line Department necessarily sits through the entire Second Stage proceedings of a Bill.

The aspects of the Bill which relate to charging for shelter and maintenance for long-term care were the subject of considerable debate in this House and had been cleared by the Supreme Court, as Deputies know. We are losing €2.5 million for every week that we cannot collect this particular charge. Deputies opposite were screaming at me for weeks about the GP-only medical cards. We want to issue them in April, which is why it is important we proceed with the legislation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Where are the plans to reimburse people?

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Why are the two issues linked in the Bill?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I will speak on the Bill in the House this morning. I stand over the comments I made because I stated in the House two weeks ago that I had understood, as had the Taoiseach, that these charges——

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  It was maladministration by Ministers.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Maladministration does not just affect public officials. When we stated that these charges were levied, we thought it was on the basis of good faith and that no one knew that what we were doing was wrong. That was not the case. It became very clear over recent weeks that it had been known for a considerable time that we were acting illegally. That is why I stated what I did. The Travers report will deal with this issue. I hope to have it to hand tomorrow, bring it before the Cabinet on Tuesday and publish it that day. I assure the House that there is no question of my sitting on it because of the by-elections.

Question put: “That the proposal for dealing with No. 3 be agreed.”

[5]The Dáil divided: Tá, 63; Níl 47.

Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel. Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Ardagh, Seán.
Information on Niall Blaney  Zoom on Niall Blaney  Blaney, Niall. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Brennan, Seamus. Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  Browne, John.
Information on Joe Callanan  Zoom on Joe Callanan  Callanan, Joe. Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Carey, Pat.
Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John. 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 John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Curran, John. Information on Síle de Valera  Zoom on Síle de Valera  de Valera, Síle.
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 Dermot Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Dermot Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Seán. Information on Jim Glennon  Zoom on Jim Glennon  Glennon, Jim.
Information on Noel Grealish  Zoom on Noel Grealish  Grealish, Noel. Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Hanafin, Mary.
Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Harney, 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 Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia. 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 Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  [7]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 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 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 John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  O’Donoghue, John.
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 Mae Sexton  Zoom on Mae Sexton  Sexton, Mae. Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan.
Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  Smith, Michael. Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Treacy, Noel.
Information on Dan Wallace  Zoom on Dan Wallace  Wallace, Dan. Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe Walsh  Walsh, Joe.
Information on Ollie Wilkinson  Zoom on Ollie Wilkinson  Wilkinson, Ollie. Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Woods, Michael.
Information on G. V. Wright  Zoom on G. V. Wright  Wright, G. V.  


[7]Níl
Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Allen, Bernard. 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 Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Bruton, Richard.
Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan. Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul.
Information on Paudge Connolly  Zoom on Paudge Connolly  Connolly, Paudge. Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  Coveney, Simon.
Information on Sean Crowe  Zoom on Sean Crowe  Crowe, Seán. Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  Deasy, John.
Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy. Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  Enright, Olwyn.
Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Gogarty, Paul. Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Gormley, John.
Information on Marian Harkin  Zoom on Marian Harkin  Harkin, Marian. Information on Seamus Healy  Zoom on Seamus Healy  Healy, Seamus.
Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Higgins, Joe. 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 Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  McGinley, Dinny. 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 Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Zoom on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda. Information on Gerard Murphy  Zoom on Gerard Murphy  Murphy, Gerard.
Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan. 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 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 John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  Perry, John.
Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat. Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael.
Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  Ryan, Seán. Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  Sherlock, Joe.
Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín. Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  Timmins, Billy.
Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Upton, Mary.  

[7]Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Kehoe and Broughan.

[7]Question declared carried.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  The Tánaiste made an announcement that the Health and Safety Authority will examine accident and emergency units in hospitals throughout the country. In view of the concern that has legitimately been expressed about a number of these units, would it not be more appropriate that the Health and Safety Authority call to these units at a normal working time rather than conduct a pre-arranged visit?

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

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  It does under the Health (Amendment) Bill.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputies can only ask about the legislation. They cannot discuss the content of the Health (Amendment) Bill at this stage.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  The Health and Safety Authority would get a clear view and understanding of what happens in accident and emergency units.

[8]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  It does not arise now. The Deputy will have an opportunity to discuss it when the Bill is before the House.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  The Ceann Comhairle has been trying to knock me for the past three or four days.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  It is just another gimmick.

  11 o’clock

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Tánaiste is well positioned to realise the importance of my question. Will the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment make a statement to the House today on the decision of the Government to withdraw its support package to Intel on foot of resistance to it by the European Commission? Will he explain the background to the decision and answer questions on the matter?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Are statements promised?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  We have not factored in statements on the Order of Business agreed earlier. However, perhaps there will be Private Notice Questions or an Adjournment debate. I am sure [9]the Minister would be more than happy to deal with the matter in the House.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I have tabled a Private Notice Question. On foot of the Tánaiste’s response, will it be favourably considered?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Chair will consider it and communicate with the Deputy.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  With regard to the electronic communications (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, will the State take responsibility for the health effects of mobile telephone masts, one of which is situated in my constituency of Dublin South-East?

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

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Will the Tánaiste take action on the health effects of mobile telephone masts?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I understand that even the Deputy has a mobile telephone. We will have the legislation this year. Does the Deputy have a mobile telephone?

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  The Tánaiste is very observant. Why can she not do something about the mast in Rathmines which is beside children? She has done nothing.

Ms O. Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Today’s newspapers reported that Mr. John Lynch has been reappointed as chairman of CIE for a further three years. Does this indicate the legislation for the break-up of CIE is being abandoned? Does it mean the Government is abandoning bus competition, which was predicated on the break-up of CIE by three successive Ministers?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Government’s reform programme for transport has not been abandoned. We do not need specific legislation to reappoint Mr. Lynch to the board of CIE.

Ms O. Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  I asked about the break-up of CIE on which legislation has been promised for close on seven years.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The legislation will come forward.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Ask Ivor.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  He is not around this morning. I do not see him in the Chamber.

Ms O. Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  The Tánaiste is stuck for an answer when he is not here.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  We will have the legislation this year.

[10]Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  As there appears to be a difference of opinion between the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Defence in the matter of troops serving overseas, when will the defence (amendment) Bill, which will deal with certain aspects of the Act, be dealt with?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is not possible to give a precise date but the heads of the Bill are due this year.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Without wishing to pre-empt any decision the Ceann Comhairle might make later on a Private Notice Question, will time be made available in the House in the near future for a debate on the recommendations of the enterprise strategy group which is meant to deal with the area of research and development, and the question of supporting indigenous industry and becoming less reliant--——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is a debate promised?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  No.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  If a debate has not been promised, it is a matter for the Whips.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  It has been referred to in the House and has been requested. Has the request been acceded to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  A request is not sufficient. It must be promised in the House and appropriate to the Order of Business or every Deputy would be in a position to ask about any issue. We would be here all day and would not get through the Health (Amendment) Bill.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  It was requested at a Whips meeting. I ask for an opinion.

Mr. Stanton: Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Last night, a Government representative stated that 30% of the Disability Bill should be rewritten. Does this mean it is being withdrawn and we will have a new disability Bill? Has the Government made a decision on this?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  No, the Disability Bill is proceeding. It has not been withdrawn.

Mr. Stanton: Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  A representative spoke on behalf of the Government last night.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Who was that?

Mr. Stanton: Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  It was said that 30% would be withdrawn.

A Deputy:  Was it Vincent Browne?

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Does the Government intend to redraft the Postal (Miscellaneous Provisions)Bill 2001 in the context of current discussions at the Labour Court? Will it be taken off the Order Paper? In the marine sector, is it intended to [11]remove the Law of the Sea (Repression of Piracy) Bill 2001 from the Order Paper?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The first Bill will be taken this session. Did the Deputy ask on marine services?

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  There was an indication from the Chief Whip that the Postal (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2001 would be taken off the Order Paper.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Chief Whip disagrees. He tells me that Order for Second Stage is proceeding. My note tells me the Law of the Sea (Repression of Piracy) Bill 2001 was published in 2001 and is awaiting Second Stage.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Deputy should run up the Jolly Roger.

Mr. Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  When will the Freedom of Information Act be extended to include vocational education committees? Is it only in place to protect officials? This relates to the Local Government (No. 2) Act 2003 whereby new managers and assistant managers were appointed. When I tabled a recent question to find out what bonuses they received, I was told I could not get that information. Does the legislation only cover information on Oireachtas Members’ expenses?

A serious question arises in regard to the Údarás na Gaeltachta Bill. What is the Government’s view on the dual mandate? Councillors are members of Údarás while serving on local councils.

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

Mr. Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Of course it arises on the Order of Business. It refers to promised legislation. I want to know the Government view. Councillors can serve on Údarás and Deputies can serve in Europe but I cannot serve on a council and in the Dáil at the same time. Is this not hypocrisy at its worst?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy is out of order.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Tá siad dá-theangach.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Tánaiste should answer on the Freedom of Information Act.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The extension of freedom of information provisions to other bodies is a matter for the Minister for Finance. I will consult with the Minister and come back to the Deputy. He needs to time to reflect and consider the Deputy’s point.

Mr. Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  We need the Minister for Finance.

[12]Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I could tell Members about their expenses.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The heads of the Údarás na Gaeltachta Bill will be produced this year.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  In view of the court decision yesterday on a case in which a couple were seriously injured, through no fault of their own, but Bus Éireann was also judged not to be responsible, which leaves a very unfair situation, will amending legislation be considered to ensure just compensation for those in circumstances such as this?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  No legislation is required. We have a fair and impartial courts system and I will not interfere with a court decision.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  You put Deputy Joe Higgins in jail for that.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  I am not asking the Tánaiste to interfere with the court. However, the judge stated it was up to the Oireachtas to introduce amending legislation to cover a situation where people injured through no fault of their own would get just compensation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I suggest the Deputy submit a question to the appropriate line Minister.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I am sure the line Minister will study the judgment.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Who is the line Minister?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Minister for Transport.

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

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  He might still be stuck on the Blanchardstown bypass for all I know.

A Deputy:  Or in an ivory tower.

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Or on a trolley, he is so sick.

Mr. Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  The European Commission recently introduced an air transport directive which provides for compensation for passengers if their flights are delayed or cancelled, among other matters. It also requires individual Governments to introduce complaints procedures for passengers and to set up a board to do this. Does the Government intend to do this? Will it require legislation? If so, when will we see it?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  That will probably be a matter for the Director of Consumer Affairs or the Minister for Transport. However, I am sure the matter will be considered.

[13]Mr. Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  The directive has already been introduced.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Is the Deputy a frequent traveller?

Mr. Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  I am.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  A question on European legislation can be answered later. It does not have to be answered on the day under Standing Order 26.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  This morning, newspapers and radio reported on the harrowing circumstances of one family with four autistic children, which highlights the appallingly bad services in place, particularly for autistic children, throughout the country. As Minister for Health and Children, is there anything the Tánaiste can do to intervene to alleviate the burden on this particular——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That does not arise on the Order of Business. I suggest the Deputy uses another way of raising the matter in the House. I call Deputy McManus.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  To be in order, when the Tánaiste introduces the Supplementary Estimate already promised, will she include an allocation specifically-——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We cannot discuss the content of the Supplementary Estimate. I suggest the Deputy uses the proper structures of the House to submit a question.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I will not discuss the content of it. Can the Tánaiste make some provision to enable the former health boards to provide services?

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

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  A Cheann Comhairle, you are being unreasonable. The Tánaiste-——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That is the Deputy’s point of view. The Standing Order is quite specific. I do not want to take up the time of the House reading it again. However, the Deputy knows the rules of the House and the Standing Orders. The Deputy knows there are ample opportunities for him, today if he wishes, to raise the matter in another way in this House.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  This is a harrowing human situation and with the Minister for Health and Children in the House we have an opportunity——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I appreciate that but the Chair has ruled out other Deputies on similar questions in accordance with Standing Orders. [14]The Chair is obliged to obey Standing Orders just like everyone else.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  The Tánaiste has promised a compensation scheme to pay back to the elderly people money illegally taken from them by the State. Will the Tánaiste say when details of that scheme will be published? When will the Supplementary Estimate come before the House, so that people can get their money back?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I have indicated that a Cabinet sub-committee is looking at this matter and we certainly cannot proceed with the scheme until we have the Travers report. As soon as we can after that we will make clear the Government’s intentions in this respect. We want to do things as quickly as possible, but this is a mammoth task involving more than 200,000 people — perhaps as many as 300,000 — so the logistical issues as to how this might be handled must also be examined. We have indicated that we want a scheme which will be as simple as possible for those affected to access what they are entitled to, and the Government is approaching the matter with that in mind.


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