Thursday, 23 February 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism (Mr. O’Donoghue): It is proposed to take No. 10, motion re presentation and circulation of Revised Estimates 2006; No. 10a, motion re referral to Select Committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Finance Act 2004 (Section 91) (Deferred Surrender to the Central Fund) Order 2006; No. 10b, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of proposals for a regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on the law applicable to contractual obligations — Rome 1, Council regulation on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and co-operation in matters relating to maintenance obligations, and Council decision annexed to the communication from the Commission to the Council, calling on the Council to provide for measures relating to maintenance obligations; and No. 1, Social Welfare Law Reform and Pensions Bill 2006 — Second Stage, resumed.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 10, 10a and 10b shall be decided without debate and in the case of No. 10 any division demanded thereon shall be taken forthwith.
Mr. Kenny: Neither the Taoiseach nor the Tánaiste is in the House, which is not very conducive to doing business in the way we would like. I understand that in respect of No. 10a, referral to select committee of the proposed approval by the Dáil of the Finance Act (Section 91) (Deferred Surrender to the Central Fund) Order 2006, there was agreement at the Whips’ meeting last night that the Government would refer back to the Opposition Whips. The Government did not revert back, however, yet this appears on the Order Paper. May I have an explanation from the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism why this happened?
Ms Burton: Some time ago, the Minister for Finance had to apologise in the Dáil for the Estimates being wrong because €56 million had gone missing, AWOL or whatever, from the Department of Health and Children. There is a lot of confusion. Was the money spent? Was it in the capital Estimate or did it go on current spending?
When the Revised Estimates were published, we were promised a detailed explanation of what happened. Today we are presented with the schedule for Revised Estimates and for the capital carryover of €289 million. This figure relates to areas such as transport, money which the Government was not able to spend and which it is carrying over to 2006. However, €56 million is unaccounted for with regard to the health Vote. When the Minister for Finance made his unprecedented and very embarrassing apology to this House some time ago, we were promised an explanation, but we are now being fobbed off. All is to be rushed through with no debate or explanation, and there is no Tánaiste.
Last night the Labour Party Whip was promised the Government would allow time for debate. A sum of €56 million is not much to the Government but it is a lot to the people on trolleys. We want an explanation of where is the taxpayers’ money. We object to Nos. 10 and 10a proceeding without debate by the Government.
Mr. Boyle: With regard to Nos. 10 and 10a, it is a constitutional function of this House to be responsible for the sanctioning of expenditure. For the Government to propose that this function should be delegated to a committee for decision, without further debate in this House, is a negation of the responsibility of the Government and undermines the work of this House. It is not simply the usual set of Revised Estimates we are looking at, but expenditure in the range of €290 million, in the month of February. On those grounds the Government must set aside time for a proper perusal, examination and critique of these figures. Otherwise the relevance of this House will be further lessened.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: No. 10 is a motion re the presentation and circulation of Revised Estimates 2006. Perhaps the Revised Estimates have been circulated to Deputy Burton but I have not seen them. I am not aware they have been circulated. Have other Deputies received the circulated Revised Estimates 2006? I doubt they are here at all. If other Deputies can show they have them, well and good, something has gone amiss in terms of the pigeonhole delivery, but I do not know that they are here. Has this information been circulated or are we being asked to sanction something on the blind without any sight of what is involved? I would like clarification of that. Has this information been circulated or are we simply being asked to rubber-stamp Revised Estimates when we have no sight of what is being proposed? If other Deputies have the information I will accept it has been circulated and it has not reached my office. However, I doubt if it has been circulated.
With regard to No. 10a, referral to select committee of the proposed approval by the Dáil of the Finance Act (Section 91) (Deferred Surrender to the Central Fund) Order 2006, multi-annual programming and budgeting with regard to capital projects is welcome, but let us see what is included in the schedule. I note that under the provision of local authority and social housing programme, €73 million is provided at a time when the need for social housing across the State is imperative, and projects are failing to move forward with the required speed and alacrity. Questions must be asked, and referral to the select committee as a mechanism of avoiding full scrutiny in the Chamber is not acceptable.
While I understand that all this relates to capital allocations, with a title on each item — it may well be that this is a technical requirement — all items are explained as being for salaries and expenses. Every one of the Department’s allocations begins with the salaries and expenses, and that is not capital spending in anyone’s understanding.
These issues must be addressed and answers must be given this morning. These are the reasons we should not refer this to committee without debate. Real and substantive issues are involved. As Deputy Burton said, under No. 10a we are looking at a sum just short of €300 million and we cannot allow these proposals to proceed without debate in this Chamber. I ask the Minister for clarification on the points I have raised and an acceptance that a full debate and scrutiny should take place in this Chamber.
Mr. O’Donoghue: I understand from the Government Chief Whip that communication was made by fax with the Whips of the various parties to explain to them why there could not be a debate on these motions today.
Mr. Stagg: On a point of order, that is not true. There was an agreement at the Whips’ meeting last night that with regard to Nos. 10 and 10a, the Office of the Government Chief Whip would refer back to us on foot of our request for a debate in the House, but we had no further contact. That is a fact.
Mr. O’Donoghue: A fax was sent to explain the position to the Whips. No. 10 is a standard motion put before the Dáil each year. Before Revised Estimates can be presented and circulated to Members, the agreement of the Dáil must first be obtained by way of a motion. There is no great mystery about it.
Mr. O’Donoghue: With regard to 10a, the motion to allow for the carryover of unspent capital included in the Appropriation Act 2005, to be spent in 2006, the Minister for Finance is required to make an order no later than 31 March. Clearly the carryover sum of unspent capital from the previous year could not be spent on the particular capital purposes until the order is approved by Dáil Éireann and signed by the Minister.
In regard to what Deputy Burton said, the Minister for Finance, in his statement to the Dáil last January, referred to information which had been received from the Department of Health and Children, which had been advised by the Health Service Executive that there could be some alterations to its estimated 2005 outturn.
Mr. O’Donoghue: The Department of Health and Children has subsequently indicated the definitive position on capital spending in 2005 in the HSE area will not be known until the end of March when the HSE’s appropriation accounts will be finalised.
|Ahern, Michael.||Andrews, Barry.|
|Ardagh, Seán.||Blaney, Niall.|
|Brady, Johnny.||Brady, Martin.|
|Brennan, Seamus.||Browne, John.|
|Callanan, Joe.||Carey, Pat.|
|Cassidy, Donie.||Collins, Michael.|
|Coughlan, Mary.||Cowen, Brian.|
|Cregan, John.||Cullen, Martin.|
|Curran, John.||Davern, Noel.|
|de Valera, Síle.||Dempsey, Tony.|
|Devins, Jimmy.||Ellis, John.|
|Fahey, Frank.||Fitzpatrick, Dermot.|
|Fleming, Seán.||Gallagher, Pat The Cope.|
|Glennon, Jim.||Grealish, Noel.|
|Hoctor, Máire.||Jacob, Joe.|
|Keaveney, Cecilia.||Kelleher, Billy.|
|Kelly, Peter.||Kirk, Seamus.|
|Kitt, Tom.||Lenihan, Brian.|
|Lenihan, Conor.||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’Connor, Charlie.||O’Dea, Willie.|
|O’Donoghue, John.||O’Donovan, Denis.|
|O’Flynn, Noel.||O’Malley, Fiona.|
|O’Malley, Tim.||Parlon, Tom.|
|Power, Peter.||Power, Seán.|
|Roche, Dick.||Sexton, Mae.|
|Smith, Brendan.||Smith, Michael.|
|Walsh, Joe.||Wilkinson, Ollie.|
|Boyle, Dan.||Broughan, Thomas P.|
|Bruton, Richard.||Burton, Joan.|
|Connaughton, Paul.||Connolly, Paudge.|
|Costello, Joe.||Cowley, Jerry.|
|Crawford, Seymour.||Crowe, Seán.|
|Deasy, John.||Deenihan, Jimmy.|
|Durkan, Bernard J.||English, Damien.|
|Enright, Olwyn.||Ferris, Martin.|
|Gogarty, Paul.||Gormley, John.|
|Higgins, Michael D.||Hogan, Phil.|
|Howlin, Brendan.||Kehoe, Paul.|
|Kenny, Enda.||Lynch, Kathleen.|
|McCormack, Pádraic.||McEntee, Shane.|
|McGinley, Dinny.||McGrath, Finian.|
|McGrath, Paul.||McHugh, Paddy.|
|McManus, Liz.||Morgan, Arthur.|
|Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.||Murphy, Catherine.|
|Murphy, Gerard.||Neville, Dan.|
|Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.||Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.|
|O’Shea, Brian.||O’Sullivan, Jan.|
|Penrose, Willie.||Perry, John.|
|Quinn, Ruairí.||Rabbitte, Pat.|
|Ring, Michael.||Ryan, Seán.|
|Sargent, Trevor.||Sherlock, Joe.|
|Stagg, Emmet.||Stanton, David.|
|Timmins, Billy.||Upton, Mary.|
Mr. Stagg: On a point of order, so the House was not inadvertently misled, I checked with the other Opposition Whips and none of them received any communication from the Government Whip’s office about the matter, as was claimed.
Mr. Kenny: I note the Taoiseach and Tánaiste are not present. The country was taken aback by the extraordinary announcement by the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science, Deputy de Valera, that she made an agreement with the Taoiseach on 6 November to resign her seat this December. The internal perks associated with ministerial office seem to be of more importance to Fianna Fáil backbenchers than any other issue in the country, such as the 400 patients on trolleys, job losses or accident and emergency units. I see Deputy Martin Brady, the third socialist, has risen in the ratings as a dark horse and is in line for promotion.
Mr. Kenny: Either a former Taoiseach was correct in stating that the current Taoiseach is the most cunning of them all in that if Deputy de Valera’s post is not filled by Deputy Haughey, then a de Valera and a Haughey will be gone in one stroke, or perhaps the Ceann Comhairle is being called into question because a watching brief is being kept by Deputy Smith from the back benches.
Is an amendment to the Ministers and Ministers of State Bill proposed to allow Ministers of State to decide when they can leave or change positions? I note that in the case of the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, when the going got tough the Cope got going. It seems Ministers of State can change jobs at will.
Mr. Kenny: The Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill has provoked contentious debate over the past three or four weeks. Deputies Perry and Broughan made strong arguments for fines being levied on an administrative basis. At yesterday’s Fianna Fáil Party meeting, 15 rebel Deputies met the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources who proposed legislation within months to deal with administrative fines. A letter was circulated by the Taoiseach explaining technical details of how one decides what an administrative fine might be or otherwise.
This legislation does not appear on the A, B or C list of the Government legislation programme. Is it a Government decision that legislation will be published to deal with the administrative fines issue, as proposed by Deputy Perry, Deputy Broughan and others? When will we see this Bill or is this a face-saving exercise for behind the closed doors of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party rooms? The third socialist, Deputy Brady, who is in line for this job, is interested in this question.
Mr. O’Donoghue: The Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill has passed all Stages in the House and the Minister, in the context of the discussions, has stated he is willing to meet the industry after the Bill is enacted to discuss the future development of the industry.
Mr. Rabbitte: Is the Government resolved to proceeding with the sale of the Great Southern Hotels? Will the Minister inform the House whether it is intended to sell them as a going concern? I have a sheaf of statements by him to Kerry’s Eye, The Kerryman and The Sunday Business Post. The Minister told The Sunday Business Post that as far as he was concerned the hotels should stay in State ownership for the reasons he described to that publication. Will the Minister meet representatives of the staff? Will he say whether the hotels will be sold as a going concern or as a different kind of arrangement?
The second matter I wish to raise relates to correspondence I had with the Minister on 1 July, when I enclosed relevant court documents relating to a person appointed to the board of Bord na gCon. On 15 June, the Minister stated to Deputy Hogan: “I am not aware of any appointees to State boards under the auspices of my Department currently disqualified from holding a directorship of a private company.”
Mr. Rabbitte: The Minister was aware on 1 July when I wrote to him. I enclosed the documents. A person was disqualified for five years from holding any directorship in a private company and six different interests in Bord na gCon had made representations to the Minister not to appoint him. The Minister proceeded——
Mr. O’Donoghue: The Minister for Transport has met and is meeting management and unions on the Great Southern Hotels issue. The situation relating to the individual referred to by Deputy Rabbitte has been explained to him in writing and he knows what it states.
Mr. Durkan: On promised legislation, I will ask the Minister about an issue near and dear to his heart, namely, the electronic deficiencies in the Black Valley in his constituency, which does not have an ordinary or proper telephone service. Any signals there are bad. The Minister has an opportunity to make the quantum leap and indicate how he can deal with it in the context of the electronic communications miscellaneous provisions Bill.
Since the Minister has the dambusters beside him, it is an appropriate time to ask about the hydro potential of the Dublin Port tunnel. In this context, the energy miscellaneous provisions Bill comes into focus as to how soon he will be able to encourage the relevant Minister. I see the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Brennan, is smiling. As it was he who invented the port tunnel, I would not smile too much about it. Anybody going through it will have to carry an umbrella. Perhaps the Minister might indicate on both the Black Valley and the energy miscellaneous provisions Bill.
Mr. Sargent: Will the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism, a former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, inform the House when he expects to receive the Dalton report from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform? Will he make time available for it to be debated in the House? In that context, will he address the clear bias that exists whereby dogs, horses and fat cats are healthier under this Government than ordinary men, women and children, given that €1 out of every €3 spent on sport is spent on horses and greyhounds? In that context also, will the Minister return to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and take responsibility for the coroners Bill, given that so many deaths are due to obesity and low exercise levels? Perhaps it needs to be addressed as a precaution rather than a cure.
Mr. O’Donoghue: I do not know when Mr. Dalton will report. The question of whether it can be debated in the House will be discussed by the Whips at that time. I understand the coroners Bill will be this year.
Mr. Crawford: I am glad to hear the coroners Bill will be this year as it was one of my questions. In light of the serious revelations in Cavan regarding the death of Jamie Maughan and that a Brazilian national absconded with the help of the Brazilian Embassy before the inquest in the case had been held, it is vital that the coroners Bill be dealt with as quickly as possible and whatever changes necessary be made to it.
In light of the serious situation concerning many pure bred herds being cleared out by TB and the fact that the evaluation is unacceptable, when will the animal health Bill be brought before the House to allow us to discuss it?
Given yesterday’s announcement that work will commence on the Northern end of the Ulster Canal, is there a possibility that the law will be changed in this jurisdiction? It was closed down as a result of the failure of the Government to re-establish the Northern Assembly. Waterways Ireland was put on hold——
Mr. Costello: Given the recent deportations of 13 Chinese nationals and the suggestion that some of them might be subject to the death penalty when they arrive home, did the Government receive assurances from the Chinese Government that the death penalty would not be imposed on these people?
Mr. Costello: It is a Government decision arising out of legislation. It is a legislative matter under immigration legislation. It involves the question of reassurances from states which have the death penalty, whether we deport nationals to them and what reassurances we receive.
The Minister has responsibility for tourism. This weekend my constituency will be visited by some of the brethren from Northern Ireland who will march from Parnell Square to the Dáil. Why was that particular route chosen, considering it is a route——
Mr. Costello: I presume the Minister was involved because of the tourism aspect. Would he not consider re-routing the march considering the rather provocative route through my constituency that was chosen——
Mr. O’Donoghue: The immigration and residence Bill will be published this year. I must take issue with Deputy Costello. Legislation does not derive its authority from the Government but from the Legislature.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: The Minister indicated that the heads of the health Bill have been agreed. Will he indicate, in line with the Taoiseach’s statement to the House yesterday, when the heads of the Bill will be published? Will they be shared with health spokespersons promptly, in line with the Taoiseach’s preference that the heads of a Bill would be shared well in advance? Publication of the legal costs Bill, No. 69 on the list of promised legislation, is expected in 2007 but given the exorbitant fees charged by senior barristers in particular, and which cost the State an excessive sum, will the Minister intervene with his colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to have this legislation brought forward and addressed this year?
Mr. Ring: Given the carnage we have had on the roads recently, I hoped to ask a question of the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, but he left. Perhaps he has gone to try to block the hole in the Dublin Port tunnel. Will the Government lead by example by having State cars obey the law and drive within the speed limit? I ask the Minister to review the provision that allows State cars to break the law. I also ask that the Government stop the practice of providing Garda outriders to escort foreign dignitaries and put those gardaí on the roads to do the job for which we pay them and which we want them to do, namely to manage traffic.
Ms Lynch: On the basis that committees have a majority of Government Deputies and are usually chaired by Government Deputies it is a matter for the Minister who heads the Department to ensure that it comes before the committee. It is time-constrained. Women who are pregnant or who have already had their babies could be excluded from availing of it if it does not come before the committee soon. For that reason the Opposition did not delay the Bill.
Mr. Stagg: On a point of order it is not entirely a matter for the committee. This House, on the advice of the Government can order the committee to expedite the Bill and bring it in within the time limit, but it does not want to.
Mr. Deenihan: In the past four Government legislative programmes a commitment was made that the Abbotstown sports campus development authority Bill would be published the following term. It has gone on for two and a half years. The Minister has responsibility for this area——
Mr. Deenihan: It has not been raised this morning. Will the Minister give a commitment that he will publish the Bill in this session? Work will commence shortly in Abbotstown and other issues surround the National Aquatic Centre. Will the Minister give a commitment that we will not go to the sixth session of the Dáil legislative programme without a response to this?
Dr. Cowley: The people of Ballycroy, County Mayo have been awaiting clean water for many years. Out of the goodness of his heart a man delivers water to old people. The water has been tested, I saw the results and it is perfect. The Health Service Executive is trying to stop this man doing the job it should do. If it stops this man doing a labour of mercy surely it can be compelled to give those people water.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is not relevant to the Order of Business. The Deputy could raise the matter a number of other ways — on the adjournment or by parliamentary question. Matters raised on the Order of Business must relate to promised legislation.
Dr. Cowley: Every second person who has breast cancer in the west of Ireland has a mastectomy. In the Dublin area it is one in five. Professor Michael Kerin, a former director of BreastCheck, works in Galway and is horrified the people will have to wait until 2009 for the BreastCheck service. That is ridiculous considering all the money that is available. This morning I said 200 people in the west and south would die in the meantime because of the lack of BreastCheck but I revise that to 300. Surely the Government has some money to give to provide the BreastCheck service for those people.
Mr. Perry: With regard to the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill, is the letter issued by the Taoiseach not a case of Fianna Fáil at its best? In the letter, he failed to indicate that he intervened with the European Commissioner to get a vessel owner benefit-in-kind of €100 million. It put huge pressure on the pelagic sector with regard to administrative sanctions. The Bill was completed yesterday and the Taoiseach issued a letter to every backbencher indicating that something could be promised in the future.
Mr. Perry: This Taoiseach with the Minister intervened in Europe and gave one vessel owner benefit-in-kind of €100 million and the Minister went to Europe and conceded 6,000 tonnes and 35,000 tonnes over a phased period. With regard to inland fisheries, what is now happening in light of the report of Farrell Grant Sparks outlining dramatic recommendations——
Dr. Upton: Ireland has recently been described as the “puppy farming capital of Europe”. When will the protracted consultation process by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government be complete and regulations introduced to control this barbaric practice? Regulations were promised by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
Mr. Boyle: Does the Government intend to introduce an amendment to the State Airports Act, given that the basis on which that Act was passed has irrevocably changed and independent airport authorities can be established in Cork, Dublin and Shannon without Cork Airport being saddled with historical debt? Will the Minister comment on the fact that the mediator appointed by the Minister for Transport has worked with the Dublin Airport Authority?
Mr. Boyle: I have asked about legislation, an amendment of the State Airports Act. The basis on which that Act was passed has changed and this House needs to give further consideration to that legislation.
Mr. Kenny: When can we have a debate in this House on the Madden report on the retention of organs of deceased children? Will the Minister confirm that the 54 boxes of documents delivered to Ms Justice Dunne, who is doing the initial report, will not be destroyed? Will the Minister see to it that the helpline being set up under the Madden report, as announced by the Tánaiste, actually works?
Mr. Kenny: The Madden report was presented and published and these are issues which should be discussed. I am asking the Minister if he can confirm that there will be a debate on it at an appropriate time.
Mr. O’Donoghue: There is no difficulty about the Whips discussing that. On a point raised earlier by Deputy Stagg, regarding faxes, I have a broadcast report which shows that they were sent last night between 6.02 p.m and 6.10 p.m.
Mr. Stagg: I shall be very fair as well and I see the staff as very efficient and helpful. If what the Minister says is factual I am sure there is some malfunction somewhere, but the faxes did not arrive.
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. Kitt): On a final point of order, as someone who believes we have an honourable working relationship, I shall be glad to discuss this afterwards. Those are the facts I have with regard to this fax. I am more than happy to discuss the matter with the Whips. In the context of the tradition of honourable working relationships in the House, it is important to sort this matter out. That is the information we have, and I was anxious to share it with the House.
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