Wednesday, 29 June 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No.18, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council Decision on the exchange of information and co-operation concerning terrorist offences, back from committee; No. 19, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Planning and Development Regulations 2005; No. 28, Veterinary Practice Bill 2004 [Seanad] — Report and Final Stages (resumed); No. 2 , International Interests in Mobile Equipment (Cape Town Convention) Bill 2005 [Seanad] — Second and Subsequent Stages; No. 29, Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill 2004 — Second Stage (resumed); No. 30, Health and Social Care Professionals Bill 2004 [Seanad] — Second Stage (resumed).
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 10 p.m.; No. 18 shall be decided without debate; the proceedings on No. 19 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 65 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the speech of a Minister or Minister of State 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 15 minutes in each case, Members may share time and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; the proceedings on the resumed Report and Final Stages of No. 28 shall be taken today and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 6 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 Agriculture and Food; the following arrangements shall apply in relation to No. 2: the proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 9.30 p.m. tonight, the opening speech of a Minister or Minister of State 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 15 minutes in each case, the speech of each other member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, Members may share time and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; the proceedings on the Committee and Remaining Stages of No. 2 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10 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 Transport.
Mr. Rabbitte: It is not agreed. This schedule brings to 17 the number of items guillotined or taken without debate, which is hard to justify. We are providing for a late sitting despite the House deciding to rise as early as 1 July. Can I remind the Ceann Comhairle that this is the fourth revised schedule of business this week? The Government now proposes on Friday to introduce a Bill and take all Stages. This is the fourth time the Government has put through all Stages of a Bill in a single sitting without notice to the Opposition. For those reasons, I cannot see how it is acceptable for the Taoiseach to cause the House to rise so early and, at the same time, introduce an Order of Business that requires us to sit until 10 p.m.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: We have no report from the committee’s deliberations on this motion. I have had no sight of it. It is imperative that we have a full debate on what is an important element of the overall EU action plan. This has implications for our security, our civil liberties and our human rights. All these matters are affected by the content of the proposition and, more importantly, in the context of the EU action plan which was introduced four years ago and yet the House has never debated it. It is irrelevant of what one’s view may be of its content. Whatever opinion I may have, others may have one that is totally contrary. On principle, the House should be addressing the proposal. The greater number of Members simply do not know what it contains or what effects it may have on the rights of citizens of this State and other EU member states. The House should not permit something to go through on a nod and a wink without Members fulfilling their duty of proper inspection. That is why I again object to No. 18 proceeding as proposed.
Mr. Naughten: The proposal regarding No. 28 is not agreed. While Deputies Upton, Crawford and I are supposed to be debating the Report Stage amendments in the House, we are also supposed to be attending a meeting of the Joint Committee on Agriculture and Food to discuss Teagasc’s closures of profitable offices around the country. It is impossible for us to be in two places at once and we indicated this to the Whip earlier.
Mr. Naughten: The solution is to restrict the discussion on the closure of the Teagasc offices to 30 minutes so we can facilitate the passage of this legislation. I ask the Government to look at this again and provide us with the facility to address both the legislation in the House and the issue in the committee meeting, rather than conducting both matters at the same time.
The Taoiseach: I will ask the Whip to contact the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Agriculture and Food with a view to arranging something. The time of the debate in this House cannot be changed but perhaps the committee can change the time of its meeting.
Mr. Naughten: If the Whip had not changed the time from last week to this week, this could have been facilitated. However, it has been chopped and changed without any discussion taking place, even though the committee meeting has been scheduled for the last four weeks.
Mr. Stagg: I wish to put on the record of the House that the use of the guillotine in this widespread manner on a long list of Bills is simply unacceptable. It is bad parliamentary practice and is relatively new, particularly since, as my party leader, Deputy Rabbitte stated earlier, the House is breaking for three months. Hence, if the House wishes, there is plenty of time to have a debate without guillotining the Bill.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I also wish to object to the application of the guillotine once again in respect of a number of items, including the last one. It is uncalled for and is unnecessary. As a preference, the Government should allow the opportunity for full participation by Members and the guillotine is wrong in principle unless there are specific reasons for it. I acknowledge that such reasons have presented themselves in the past, but in the normal course, it should not be the Government’s first option.
|Ahern, Bertie.||Ahern, Michael.|
|Ahern, Noel.||Andrews, Barry.|
|Ardagh, Seán.||Blaney, Niall.|
|Brady, Johnny.||Browne, John.|
|Callanan, Joe.||Callely, Ivor.|
|Carey, Pat.||Carty, John.|
|Cassidy, Donie.||Collins, Michael.|
|Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.||Cregan, John.|
|Cullen, Martin.||Curran, John.|
|Davern, Noel.||Dempsey, Noel.|
|Dempsey, Tony.||Dennehy, John.|
|Devins, Jimmy.||Ellis, John.|
|Finneran, Michael.||Fitzpatrick, Dermot.|
|Fleming, Seán.||Fox, Mildred.|
|Gallagher, Pat The Cope.||Glennon, Jim.|
|Grealish, Noel.||Hanafin, Mary.|
|Harney, Mary.||Haughey, Seán.|
|Healy-Rae, Jackie.||Hoctor, Máire.|
|Keaveney, Cecilia.||Kelleher, Billy.|
|Kelly, Peter.||Kirk, Seamus.|
|Kitt, Tom.||Lenihan, Brian.|
|McDowell, Michael.||McEllistrim, Thomas.|
|McGuinness, John.||Martin, Micheál.|
|Moloney, John.||Moynihan, Donal.|
|Moynihan, Michael.||Mulcahy, Michael.|
|Nolan, M.J.||Ó Cuív, Éamon.|
|Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.||O’Dea, Willie.|
|O’Donnell, Liz.||O’Donovan, Denis.|
|O’Keeffe, Batt.||O’Keeffe, Ned.|
|O’Malley, Fiona.||O’Malley, Tim.|
|Parlon, Tom.||Power, Peter.|
|Roche, Dick.||Sexton, Mae.|
|Smith, Brendan.||Treacy, Noel.|
|Walsh, Joe.||Woods, Michael.|
|Allen, Bernard.||Breen, Pat.|
|Broughan, Thomas P.||Burton, Joan.|
|Connaughton, Paul.||Costello, Joe.|
|Cowley, Jerry.||Crawford, Seymour.|
|Deasy, John.||Durkan, Bernard J.|
|English, Damien.||Enright, Olwyn.|
|Gilmore, Eamon.||Gogarty, Paul.|
|Gormley, John.||Gregory, Tony.|
|Hayes, Tom.||Higgins, Michael D.|
|Howlin, Brendan.||Kehoe, Paul.|
|Kenny, Enda.||Lynch, Kathleen.|
|McCormack, Padraic.||McGrath, Finian.|
|McGrath, Paul.||McHugh, Paddy.|
|McManus, Liz.||Mitchell, Olivia.|
|Morgan, Arthur.||Murphy, Catherine.|
|Murphy, Gerard.||Naughten, Denis.|
|Neville, Dan.||Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.|
|Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.||O’Dowd, Fergus.|
|O’Keeffe, Jim.||O’Shea, Brian.|
|Pattison, Seamus.||Penrose, Willie.|
|Perry, John.||Quinn, Ruairi.|
|Rabbitte, Pat.||Ryan, Seán.|
|Sargent, Trevor.||Sherlock, Joe.|
|Shortall, Róisín.||Stagg, Emmet.|
|Stanton, David.||Timmins, Billy.|
|Twomey, Liam.||Upton, Mary.|
Mr. Kenny: A matter raised by the Taoiseach, on behalf of the Government, has been about competency and this is the last time he will be in the House before the summer recess unless he turns up tomorrow. Nine of the 13 Bills on the list published by the Chief Whip, which were due to be published, have not been. These include the Abbotstown sports campus Bill, the energy (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, the Foyle and Carlingford fisheries Bill, the sea fisheries Bill, the employment permits Bill, the employees (provision of information and consultation) Bill, the diplomatic relations and immunities (amendment) Bill, the criminal justice (international co-operation) Bill and the tribunals of inquiry (evidence) (amendment) Bill. Only four of the 13 Bills listed have been published. That is an appalling record.
The Chief Whip, after due consideration by the Cabinet, published the work for the Legislature for this session, that is, 13 Bills to be published and debated in the House, but we find at the end of the session that nine have not been published. That is an appalling record in terms of competency. It does down the Chief Whip who struggles away against the vagaries of politics each week. Will the Taoiseach comment on that? Can we have an assurance that when the House comes back, the list of Bills proposed to be published for the autumn session will be realistic and that Deputies will know it is seriously intended to deal with the body of work on the list produced by the Cabinet?
The Taoiseach: There are two issues. We have just had a vote on a Bill which passed all Stages in the Seanad where it was introduced and we now want to pass it in the Dáil. It is a short, technical Bill which was opposed even though it helps an Internet based aircraft register which will be based in Ireland. It was opposed not because Deputies were against the Bill but because the Chief Whip is trying to complete Bills from 2004 which have been around for a long time. There is not much point in putting forward a number of new Bills when we cannot even clear existing Bills. We are criticised for guillotining Bills that are not of great significance. If we could clear Bills more quickly here, it would be far better. One of the proposals of the Whip is that we spend more time on legislation, so that we could try to speed up the process.
The Taoiseach: The energy (miscellaneous provisions) Bill will be published in the next few weeks. The Foyle and Carlingford fisheries Bill is also ready for publication. The sea fisheries Bill will be published in July. The employers (provision of information and consultation) Bill is also ready. The diplomatic relations and immunities (amendment) Bill has been approved by the Government and is awaiting publication. The Twenty-Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill has been published. The medicines Bill, approved by the Government, is awaiting publication. The criminal justice (international co-operation) Bill will be published in July. The Prisons Bill has been published. The tribunals Bill will be published in the autumn. The air navigation Bill has been approved by the Government and is awaiting publication. There are four Bills not on the list, namely the British-Irish Agreement (Amendment) Bill, the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Bill, the Air Navigation Transport (Indemnities) Bill and the Civil Registration Bill, which were taken.
We have published 25 Bills since last summer. We will publish several more over the next few weeks. I thank the House for enacting 22 Bills since last September, which is a large amount of legislation. If we could change the schedule to spend more time legislating, it would certainly help the process. That is the real problem.
Mr. Rabbitte: I am not sure what the Taoiseach means by that last remark. It has often been made by some of his Ministers as well. Is he suggesting that we put those Bills through on the nod? Many pieces of legislation that have gone through this House have got inadequate time and scrutiny. The Taoiseach knows that. He has Ministers who would like to dispense with Parliament, make law in their offices and deal with the media outside.
Mr. Rabbitte: The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, is probably giving another briefing at this moment. As far as Ministers like him are concerned, the Dáil is an irritant. Now I hear the Taoiseach wishes to make an assault on one of the few elements of parliamentary accountability, which is Leaders’ Questions. He will try to neuter it before the next parliamentary session.
The Taoiseach: Yes. There would be a much better chance of the Minister turning up in the morning and someone might report it. If the House does not wish to change, I am quite happy to continue with the way we operate, even if it represents far more than any other Taoiseach ever did before.
Mr. Sargent: The Taoiseach talks about improving matters in the House. It is strange that the proposals from the Green Party and others, requesting that the Dáil only go into recess for the month of August, requesting sittings on Friday, demanding that the Ceann Comhairle ensures the Taoiseach actually answers questions——
Mr. Sargent: The point I am making is that the Taoiseach claims to want more time for legislation. We are not stopping him in that and we would welcome that becoming a reality. In the meantime, we are very constrained in what we can do. The claims made about Bills to be published during the Dáil session are not being honoured. Does the Taoiseach agree the claims should be up to and including the summer recess? He claims the energy (miscellaneous provisions) Bill will not be published this week, despite promises to the contrary. We have a serious energy crisis in this country.
Mr. Sargent: It is a serious point and I raised it under Standing Order 31, but it was not agreed to by the Ceann Comhairle. Will the Taoiseach take back his comment that he wants the parliamentary session extended? Will he acknowledge that nobody is stopping him from extending the time?
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: We must recognise that the Taoiseach’s presence is a critical issue when dealing with Dáil reform. Any package of reforms would have to include the Taoiseach’s accountability to the House on a Thursday. Many Deputies would be open to the idea of extended time at the beginning of the week, if some of the areas to which the Taoiseach alluded could be accommodated, including Private Members’ time. Why should Private Members’ time be confined to Tuesday and Wednesday evenings? There is a tendency in the greater part of the media to ignore much of what is raised. Matters on the Adjournment could be reconfigured to allow Members, especially backbenchers, a greater opportunity for a more fulfilling participation on the floor of the House.
These are all important matters, but the Chief Whip’s current proposal is all about reducing the accountability of the Government. It is not about enhancing engagement or accountability to the House. The proposal is therefore flawed and will make no progress unless it addresses properly the issues to which I referred.
The very restrictive way in which the Order of Business operates also needs to be examined. There is a failure on the part of the Taoiseach to respond properly to specific questions put to him. The need for debate on critical areas is ignored. A point made on the Order of Business today was completely ignored by the Taoiseach. He gave no response. A Deputy has just left and we must make our own judgment on what the silence represents. We spent much time today debating the NESC report on housing. The Taoiseach has given no indication, six months later, on whether the House will be allowed to debate it. Will the Government provide time in the resumed session in late September? The Members want to address these important issues on the floor of this Chamber. It is incumbent on the Government to provide those opportunities.
The Taoiseach: I am completely open to suggestions, but with such suggestions, the Opposition Members will want it all their way. They want the Government to accept these things. It does not work that way. If people want to have sensible dialogue, the Whip will be around most of the summer and he will be glad to hear from them. There must be a sense of give and take. People come with a shopping basket and demand what they want. Others will demand something else. We will continue to have what we have had for the 28 years I have been in the House and for the 28 years before that which is Adjournments at night time. Can people not see that nobody takes any notice of them?
The Taoiseach: We could switch around the business of the day and make it very productive if people were really interested. I do not mind and would like to see some changes made. It will not matter to me. I will do what I am doing. I was asked to make a change a few years ago and did so. I have been accommodating. It is nice to be here and a great honour. While this is a lovely place to be and all the rest of it, we do not organise it very effectively. That is all I am saying. It will be the same way in 28 years time, which will certainly not concern me.
Mr. Durkan: This is very appropriate to the Order of Business as there is a plethora of legislation on the introduction of which the Minister could have enlightened us. The Postal and Telecommunications Services Bill was on the Order Paper but has disappeared. If the Minister had waited for a further five minutes, he could have told us when he proposes to restore it to the Order Paper.
Mr. Durkan: There is also the energy (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, electricity Bill, electronic communications (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, the natural gas regulation Bill and the Bord Gáis Éireann Bill. While all these are within the Minister’s area of responsibility, he could not stay to give information on them. I was prepared to welcome him to the House. We are not so bad that he should not tolerate us for a little while. I would like a comprehensive answer to my question.
Mr. Broughan: It is Taoiseach’s responsibility to ensure that a significant problem is addressed. He is doing nothing about it. The postal service is collapsing while the Taoiseach and the Minister will not lift a finger.
The Taoiseach: I answered the question on the Postal and Telecommunications Services Bill but Deputies did not hear me because of interruptions. I said the Bill had been removed from the schedule. If the Deputy wants to find out what the Minister will do, he should table a question. It is not on the current list.
Mr. Naughten: The Railway Safety Bill was published in 2001 before the previous general election and republished after it in autumn 2002. Committee Stage took place in spring 2003. When will we take Report Stage? While I was led to believe by the Department that the legislation was ready for Report Stage last June, which is a full 12 months ago, it has yet to be brought forward.
Mr. Costello: Given the continuing fallout from the Morris tribunal report and controversy on matters requiring clarification, especially the issue of when the Carty summary was available and its substance and the redesignation of a murder investigation into a hit and run accident——
Mr. Costello: It is a matter for legislation. There are two options. The first is to change the terms of reference of the tribunal to allow the matters outlined to be investigated and the second is to refer both Morris reports to the Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights, which will meet in July.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy has made his point and is out of order. We must move on as a number of Deputies are offering and I would like to facilitate them. If Deputies continue to disrupt the business of the House, we cannot facilitate further speakers. I call Deputy Gormley.
Mr. Crawford: When will the register of people who are considered unsafe to work with children be dealt with? In light of a case I have encountered of a young mother of two who has had no financial support since 1 April owing to family dispute, when will the family law Bill be introduced to address the issues involved?
The Taoiseach: The interdepartmental working group has reported to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the register of persons who are considered unsafe to work with children and on proposals for the reform of vetting of employees by the Garda. The Minister has appointed an implementation group to advise on implementation and the necessity for legislation. The Departments of Health and Children and Education and Science are in discussion on the establishment of an employment consultancy service. When the process has concluded, they will get back to the legislation. The family law Bill will be introduced next year.
Mr. Sherlock: When is the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Bill, which was withdrawn by the Taoiseach, likely to be restored? Will the Taoiseach give a reason as to why it has not been restored to the Order Paper?
Mr. Kehoe: The gaming and lotteries (amendment) Bill has been mentioned on a number of occasions on the Order of Business. The status of the legislation is that its publication is not expected or possible to indicate at this stage. Is there any possibility the Bill can be put on the pink list, or section A, for the autumn recess?
The Taoiseach: I understand there are a number of policy issues and other aspects of the proposed legislation which are being re-examined. Some aspects of the Bill are being dealt with within the civil law (miscellaneous provisions) Bill while the others are being reviewed.
Ms Shortall: The programme for Government promised the establishment of a Dublin transport authority, a Bill for which appeared on the list of promised legislation until quite recently when the Government dropped it. As the Minister for Transport has recently announced his intention to establish an authority, can the Taoiseach tell the House whether this is Government policy again? If so, when can we expect the legislation to establish it?
The Taoiseach: The original Bill on the list was the greater Dublin land use and transport authority Bill. The Government is not proceeding with that legislation and the Minister last week announced his intention to re-examine another Bill. It is not the same Bill.
Ms McManus: ——to answer Deputy Timmins’s question. In view of the fact that he will not be in the House again I hope the Taoiseach will answer the question Deputy Timmins rightly asked about an area in County Wicklow.
The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children is launching a major report today on bioethics in the Irish Council for Bioethics in regard to the disposal of human organs. This issue has caused great anguish and distress to many families across the country. When this issue first became known, the Government promised a human tissues Bill. When will the Bill be published?
Ms McManus: The Taoiseach might reply on whether we may have a short debate on the matter of risk equalisation tomorrow. When is this Bill coming back and can we deal with an issue of central concern to people currently subscribing to VHI.
Mr. Quinn: The Taoiseach misled the House earlier this morning in reply to Leaders’ Questions. Will he take the opportunity before the House rises to correct the record? He may not have been aware of it, but he said in regard to the commitment to overseas aid that the United States had no dedicated target. He was wrong. In the year 2002 in the Monterey——
The Taoiseach: I was advised last week by all the NGOs, who are the experts in this area, that the United States would not state a target. In my meeting with many of the G8 leaders last Friday, they told me that the United States has no target. If it has a target then I am wrong, but it was displayed on an excellent chart and clearly put to me that Condoleezza Rice had refused to quote a target. That was the source of my information. President Clinton was right when he said that if his country did half of what we did, he would be very proud of it.
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