Wednesday, 17 May 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: The Order of Business is No. 2, Institutes of Technology Bill 2006 — Second Stage, resumed. Private Members’ business will be No. 51, motion re primary education, school places and class sizes, resumed, to conclude at 8.30 p.m.
Mr. Kenny: Is it possible to amend legislation to cater for the consequences of the ruling of the European Court of Justice that the State may be liable for charges of persons on waiting lists for operations in Ireland?
Mr. Kenny: In view of the difficulties being experienced internationally in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme does the Taoiseach consider that, as one of the longest serving European leaders——
Mr. Kenny: The Ceann Comhairle jumps out of the traps very quickly these days. I will finish my sentence and ask the Taoiseach a question on international legislation which I am fully entitled to ask.
Mr. Kenny: From the Ceann Comhairle’s perspective, nothing arises on the Order of Business. We have had a farcical situation this morning whereby questions were asked on the time a committee met, whether it was raining or whether the sun was shining.
Mr. Kenny: None of the Ceann Comhairle’s predecessors was as restrictive. He has developed a system of talking while everybody else is talking so as to drown out legitimate questions the Taoiseach wants to answer.
An Ceann Comhairle: Standing Order 26 allows the taking of business which has been promised, including legislation promised either within or outside the Dáil, matters concerning the making of secondary legislation, arrangements for sittings and when Bills or other documents on the Order Paper needed in the House will be circulated, subject to the proviso that the Taoiseach may defer replying to a question relating to the making of secondary legislation to another day.
Mr. Kenny: I will tell the Ceann Comhairle where I consider him to be wrong. Document No. 52 is a Bill on foreign affairs, namely the British-Irish Agreement (Amendment) Bill 2002 which deals with support programmes for the EU. Britain is a negotiating party to the discussion on Iran and I am asking the Taoiseach if he considers that Ireland has a role as a non-aligned country.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is absolutely correct that he has the right to raise the issue of document No. 52. He is, however, absolutely wrong to ask the Taoiseach what his view is on the issue. We cannot discuss the substance of the document on the Order of Business.
The Taoiseach: That particular legislation will be brought forward this year. On the first question, which the Ceann Comhairle has ruled in order, the Department of Health and Children is currently studying the implications of this important case. The ruling clarifies that authorisation to travel abroad for hospital treatment cannot be refused where the treatment in question is normally available in the member state of residence but cannot be provided without undue delay. The delay must be within a medically acceptable period, taking account of the individual circumstances.
With regard to the public hospital waiting list the National Treatment Purchase Fund, which was established four years ago to reduce long-term waiting lists, ensures faster access to treatment, in most cases within the State, though it is subject to budget limitations. Since we joined the European Union we have made extensive use of the treatment overseas scheme to send patients abroad, particularly to the UK. The Department is examining the judgment of yesterday.
Mr. Rabbitte: On 16 May 2006 I put down Parliamentary Questions No. 400 to 403, inclusive, to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform about a meeting or meetings he had with a private investigator in County Meath in his capacity as Minister. My questions were detailed but I received the following reply:
Mr. Rabbitte: The Minister will send in a junior Minister with four scripts for the four matters raised and they will read out the answers without even knowing the subject matter of what they are reading.
Mr. Sargent: During questions I asked the Taoiseach, in the context of active citizenship, whether any progress was being made on charities legislation. Heads of the charities legislation Bill were shown to Opposition spokespersons but what progress has been made? It has been repeatedly pushed back and is now due in late 2006. Can the Taoiseach say whether it will be published in late 2006 or before the Government has to go to the country?
On nuclear safety, has the Government sent a submission to the British Government clearly stating the view of the Irish Government on the enthusiasm of the Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, for nuclear power? A criminal justice suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism Bill has been promised. I hesitate to call what Mr. Blair is considering “nuclear terrorism”——
The Taoiseach: It is a very large Bill with many legal complexities but a number of the difficulties around charitable donations and bequests and some other legal difficulties have been overcome. I understand it is hoped to get the Bill into the House in the autumn and the Minister is anxious to do so.
Mr. Timmins: The Taoiseach will be aware of the recent signing of the Abuja accord between one of the rebel groups in Darfur and the region’s government and the passing of a recent UN resolution on the difficulties in Darfur. Will the Government look favourably on any requests seeking the participation of Irish troops in a potential UN force in Sudan?
Mr. Sherlock: When will the Ombudsman (amendment) Bill to widen the remit of the Ombudsman to include additional bodies be taken? Given that the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of law permitting the purchase of ground rents from landlords, will the Taoiseach restore the ground rents Bill to the legislative programme? Did the Taoiseach refer the matter to the Attorney General?
The Taoiseach: The heads of the Ombudsman (amendment) Bill have been approved and legislation drafted. The Bill is listed for 2006 subject to time constraints on the parliamentary draftsman. The ground rents Bill is not proceeding.
Mr. Crawford: I believe the issues I raise are in order. In light of the need for gardaí to be on the beat, when can we expect the introduction of the enforcement of fines Bill, which would relieve pressure on Garda time? When will the long-promised legal costs Bill be taken? The programme for Government contained an agreement to provide that the Director of Public Prosecutions may appeal against unduly lenient sentences in serious cases before District Courts. When will the relevant legislation be introduced?
Mr. Boyle: I wonder if the Taoiseach has more up-to-date information on a question I have asked him on several occasions. The Comhairle (Amendment) Bill was supposed to be the third leg of the Government’s disability strategy but has been in suspended animation since its publication in 2004. The chairman of Comhairle indicated he wanted certain changes made to the organisation, including its name. When will the Second Stage debate take place?
The Taoiseach: The Comhairle (Amendment) Bill is at Order for Second Stage. It was held up because the disability groups wanted to look at what they thought were best international practices. They sent a delegation to New Zealand to look at what happened there and have since produced a report.
The Taoiseach: We need a Bill which gets the support of the disability groups. They have now given their views and I believe they will be taken into account in the Committee Stage amendments to the Bill.
Mr. Naughten: When will the property services regulatory authority Bill to provide for the establishment of a property services regulatory authority and the regulation of the auctioneering sector come before the House?
Mr. Bruton: The Taoiseach has often referred in the House to the fact that 400 beds in acute hospitals are not available because people who have been medically discharged cannot move on. How can he expect us to debate the nursing homes subvention legislation without acting on any of the three reports——
Mr. Bruton: The Bill will remain meaningless until decisions are taken on the issues underpinning it. As a doctor, the Ceann Comhairle is aware of the reality and I believe he is trying to prevent Deputies from having an opportunity to address the framework within which the Bill should be debated. It makes a nonsense of the business of the House.
Mr. Durkan: In view of the surreptitious closure of a number of post offices, which will lead to a reduction in the value, strength and effectiveness of the post office network and a consequent reduction in the extent to which An Post can expand its services in future, does the Taoiseach anticipate that the postal miscellaneous services Bill promised two years ago will be reinstated on the schedule in the near future?
Mr. Durkan: Deputies are entitled to ask about promised legislation. The legislation in question was promised and featured on the Dáil Order Paper, from which it was then removed. Is it intended to place it on the Order Paper again in view of the serious issues I have raised?
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