Wednesday, 5 October 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
It is proposed to take No. 22, Social Welfare Consolidation Bill — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to adjourn after two hours, if not previously concluded; No. 1, Interpretation Bill 2000 — Amendments from the Seanad; and No. 21, Railway Safety Bill 2001 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages. Private Members’ Business shall be No. 48, motion re Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General for 2004 (resumed), to conclude at
Mr. Kenny: I note the report that the HSE will implement a new subdivision of regions around the country. Will that come before the House or will it require legal effect? It is reported today that the HSE will have four hospital networks as distinct from the original concept of division around the country. Will that require debate here?
Mr. Rabbitte: Having regard to the controversy that continues to recur about public expenditure decision making, can I ask the Taoiseach whether the Government is contemplating legislative or other changes in terms of the capacity to intervene in advance and assess a major public decision in respect of public expenditure?
The Taoiseach: Right across the system there has been an enormous number of changes in how contracts are procured and how work is done. On legislation, there is the infrastructural Bill, which will speed up some of the issues. As far as the accountability and control of public expenditure is concerned, in the past few years there have been significant changes in addition to the recommendations made by the Comptroller and Auditor General, which are always implemented immediately.
Mr. Sargent: Promised legislation is the main focus of what we are about here today. The website of the European Commission, which I raised earlier, informs us of promised legislation from the Government. The website states that the Irish Government has promised legislation to better regulate the management of sewage treatment plants but this has not yet materialised. Can I ask if the Taoiseach could elaborate and enlighten us, given that so much legislation——
Mr. Sargent: The list includes many Bills that have no date or any indication when they will be published, such as the communications data retention Bill, the enforcement of fines Bill and the prison service Bill. Is there any explanation as to why legislation, which the European Commission has been told is promised, does not appear, as far as I can see, on the list that we are being given? Who is being told fibs around here? Is it the European Commission or is it us? We should have the same list of legislation that is promised to the European Commission.
The Taoiseach: If the Deputy has information on an individual Bill on which there is an EU decision and tables a question to the relevant Minister, the Minister will answer detailing what is happening on it.
The Taoiseach: Consultations are taking place between the Department and the relevant stakeholders. I do not have a date for it, but I understand they are endeavouring to secure as much agreement as possible on every aspect to improve the Bill.
Mr. Costello: Can I ask the Taoiseach if he saw the “Prime Time” programme last night in which the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Power, defended the indefensible in explaining how the Government had done a sweetheart deal with the drinks industry so that it would regulate advertising?
Mr. Costello: I am coming to the question. The result of such regulation is that the Government would pull the legislation that was in the last section, the alcohol products advertising Bill that would protect children and adolescents from overexposure to alcohol advertising. Considering the roasting the Minister of State and the Government got on this issue, will the Taoiseach restore that Bill?
The Taoiseach: The reason for that is the Minister has successfully organised a voluntary scheme where we are now getting agreements with the industry on alcohol advertising and Department wishes to hold off the introduction of legislation pending the outcome of these voluntary agreements. For the first time ever, there is an active campaign by the drinks industry to promote sensible drinking habits and stop young people engaging in drinking. This is far more successful than any legislation.
Mr. Naughten: When will we see the animal health Bill? It was promised that it would be published this autumn but it now seems to be delayed and there is no date for it. In that context, could the Taoiseach also tell us whether he will facilitate a debate on the animal remedies regulation which is to come before the House before the end of the month?
The Taoiseach: The heads of the animal health Bill, which is to consolidate and update the Diseases of Animals Acts, were approved a considerable time ago. The Bill has gone for drafting but we do not have a date for it. I have no information on the second issue.
Mr. Gogarty: We are getting closer to a fatal domestic gas explosion. In that context and given that it has been three years since it was promised, when in 2006 will the Bord Gáis Éireann Bill be published?
Mr. Howlin: Having regard to the trenchant comments of the Taoiseach in this House last week, can I ask him has he had an opportunity to look at the legislation governing the re-flagging of vessels in order to make it difficult, at least, for people to yellow pack Irish workers and does he propose to introduce amending legislation in that regard?
The Taoiseach: I was talking about that today. There are international agreements for seafarers and what the Deputy suggests is not easy to do. As I stated this morning, it is probably not practical. We are looking at some of the other issues such as the protection of employment. With regard to seafarers, the advice I have been getting from both inside and outside the system is that it is not practical.
Mr. Durkan: In view of the importance of oil prices, will the Taoiseach bring in the national oil reserves agency Bill between now and the end of this session rather than in 2006? It appears every Bill is scheduled for 2006.
Mr. Broughan: Are the Taoiseach and his colleagues thinking about pensions? The dynamic Minister for Social and Family Affairs made several statements on the issue during the summer. Does the Government intend bringing forward legislation in that regard?
As Hallowe’en approached, this time last year and in previous years, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform indicated that he might bring forward legislation on fireworks. Again this year he has indicated that he is thinking about it.
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