Wednesday, 19 October 2005
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. a11, motion re report of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on definition of parliamentary activities; No. 16, statements on quarterly national household survey, second quarter 2005 and the annual population and migration estimates; No. 15, Land Bill 2004 [Seanad] — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 17, Adoptive Leave Bill 2004 [Seanad] — Report and Final Stages (resumed); and No. 18, Social Welfare Consolidation Bill 2005 — Second Stage (resumed).
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. a11 shall be decided without debate; the proceedings on No. 16 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after two hours and five minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the statements 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; (ii) the statements of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; (iii) Members may share time; and (iv) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes. Private Members’ business shall be No. 43, motion re draft animal remedies regulations 2005 (resumed), to conclude at 8.30 p.m.
An Ceann Comhairle: There are two proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. a11, motion re report of Committee on Procedure and Privileges agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 16, statements on quarterly national household survey second quarter 2005 and the annual population and migration estimates agreed? Agreed.
Mr. Kenny: I have three questions for the Taoiseach. Last year we were promised legislation for a health information and safety authority. This authority would give advice and set down guidelines in respect of protocols etc. Are we likely to see this legislation in view of the current confusion in the area?
With regard to the decentralisation programme, which is a voluntary scheme promoted by the previous Minister for Finance, today is the final day for signature for staff previously employed in the Department of Agriculture and Food in Davitt House, Castlebar, and staff must take it or leave it. They have been asked to sign up to go to Portlaoise or accept the PULSE system, which is shift work on a 24-hour, seven day week basis.
Third, in view of the publication of the IMC report today on the, hopefully, ending of all criminality by the IRA and its associates, are we likely to have the opportunity for statements or a debate on it in the House?
The Taoiseach: On the first issue, the necessary legislation to provide for the establishment of the health information equality authority and the Irish social services inspectorate on a statutory basis will been included in the forthcoming health Bill, the heads of which are expected in approximately a month. The Bill has been given priority time for drafting. It will probably be taken in the House in 2006. On the second issue, I will ask somebody to check whether the change suggested by Deputy Kenny is being made as part of the decentralisation programme. On the third issue, I think we should wait until the IMC report has been published before we decide whether time is required for a debate on it.
Mr. Rabbitte: He is probably aware that the Labour Party has published a Bill to deal with the matter. Does the Government intend to produce its own Bill or will it take on board the Labour Party’s Bill?
Mr. Sargent: I would like to ask about another fraudulent document. I was not successful, obviously, when I requested the adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 31 to discuss the matter. Given that companies can fold and then re-open without paying their bills and brazen out legal cases so they can bankrupt subcontractors, it seems the prompt payments legislation needs to be amended.
Mr. Sargent: No publication date has been indicated for the planned company law legislation, but is there any chance that it will be brought forward in the near future? At least then we might be able to have a debate on the matter.
The Taoiseach: It is expected that the 1,000 heads of the company law (consolidation and reform) Bill will be completed later this year. It will take a considerable amount of time to draft a Bill that has 1,000 heads.
Ms Enright: Is the Taoiseach aware that one in 12 schools loses half of its students before they reach their leaving certificate examinations? If so, does the Government intend to introduce legislation to deal with the problem? When can we expect the third level support Bill, which will deal with the difficulties in that sector, to be brought before the House?
Mr. Costello: In view of the serious difficulties with the terms of reference of the inquiry into the Brian Rossiter case, to which Deputy Rabbitte referred earlier, and in view of the serious problems with the cost of legal representation——
Mr. Costello: The Government has promised to introduce in this term a Bill to consolidate the Tribunals of Inquiry Acts 1921 to 2004 and to regulate costs. Can the Taoiseach indicate when the tribunals of inquiry (consolidation) Bill will be published?
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Arising from the ongoing review of tax reliefs, is it intended to introduce legislation to limit the value of tax reliefs and the number of reliefs which can be availed of by any individual or company?
Mr. Hogan: The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has announced that he intends to introduce new legislation to require the regulation of auctioneers and estate agents. Will the Bill provide for ministerial responsibility in that regard, given that the Minister in question has not taken the best course of action in his purchase of land in north Dublin? When will the intellectual property Bill be introduced?
Mr. Howlin: The Taoiseach is aware that an important round of World Trade Organisation negotiations is due to commence shortly. I understand that the position outlined by the EU Commissioner, Mr. Mandelson, was opposed yesterday by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Agriculture and Food. Will the Taoiseach give Deputies an opportunity to listen to details of Ireland’s position on the matter? Will Ireland’s position be embraced in a common EU position before the WTO negotiations take place in Hong Kong?
Mr. Connolly: I congratulate my former colleagues in the psychiatric sector on being declared yesterday the overall winners of a national innovation award. My question relates to psychology. When will the Health and Social Care Professionals Bill 2004 be enacted?
Mr. O’Dowd: When will legislation promised by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to establish a special division of the High Court to fast-track dealings on planning problems be introduced?
Mr. Broughan: Has the Government considered updating the Merchant Shipping Acts to provide for new regulations in respect of flags of convenience? I received a letter yesterday that had been posted on 22 September. I wonder if that is a record. Has the Taoiseach noticed his post has been arriving late?
The Taoiseach: The provisions which it is intended to include in the maritime safety Bill require detailed legal examination. It will take some time to finalise the Bill, which will not be progressing as originally proposed.
Mr. Boyle: Does the Government intend to introduce amending legislation in respect of the Environmental Protection Agency? Such legislation is necessary, given that dioxin levels in Cork Harbour have more than doubled in the last year, that the agency cannot assess water quality in Ennis and that the agency, in issuing waste licences, is a judge in its own court.
Mr. Durkan: According to a recent OECD report, Ireland is in the unenviable position of 19th out of 22 countries in terms of broadband access. The situation is getting worse by the day. Deputy Broughan has already commented on the problems in the postal services.
Mr. Durkan: The service is slower than it was in the days of the horse and coach. Will the Taoiseach identify the Bill that will be introduced as a matter of urgency to galvanise the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources into action?
Mr. Stagg: I asked yesterday morning whether the Government will make time available to clarify the Minister for Health and Children’s contradictory answers on the cuts in the home help service. I think the Taoiseach said——
Mr. Crawford: Given that a great deal of money must be raised for the disabled through charity work, when will the charity Bill be in place? With regard to charges currently being imposed, when will there be an opportunity to discuss the local government rates Bill in the House?
The Taoiseach: The charities regulation Bill, which will regulate charities and ensure accountability to protect against abuse of charitable status and fraud, is substantial. It will involve statute law revision and restatement in addition to legislative reform provisions. Work is proceeding as speedily as possible with this and priority has been given to the Bill. However, it is a large Bill which reaches back over a long period. I do not have a date for it. The local government rates Bill will be taken next year.
Ms McManus: It is approximately two and a half years since the pharmacy review group presented its report to Government yet we have seen no sign of legislation in regard to pharmacies. Two Bills are promised. When will they be published? Will they be published together or separately?
The Taoiseach: I am not sure if they will be published together but both Bills are listed for next year. I understand both are being drafted but it would be unlikely that two sizeable Bills would come together.
Ms McManus: For the Taoiseach to say the Bills are listed for next year does not tell us much. Does he mean early next year or late next year? Will it be three or four years before we get the legislation flowing from this report?
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