Wednesday, 14 June 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 12, motion re Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998; No. 1, Employment Permits Bill 2005 — amendments from the Seanad; No. 23, National Sports Campus Development Authority Bill 2006 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 21, Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Bill 2006 [Seanad] — Second Stage, resumed; No. 22, Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill 2005 [Seanad] — Second Stage, resumed; and No. 2, National Oil Reserves Agency Bill 2006 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
It is proposed notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders that the proceedings on No. 12 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 70 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the speeches shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and to the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share their time, and which shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes. Unless the Dáil shall otherwise order, the following arrangements shall apply to the sitting of the Dáil tomorrow: business shall adjourn not later than 2.30 p.m., oral questions shall not be taken and matters may not be raised under the provisions of Standing Order 21(3) or 31.
Mr. Ferris: No. We in Sinn Féin oppose the endorsement again of the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act, which in effect suspends the protection and fundamental rights of citizens in this State. No emergency exists which could possibly justify these draconian measures. Accordingly we oppose No. 12.
Mr. Kenny: With regard to the Voluntary Health Insurance Board corporate status Bill, can the Taoiseach say if that remains on line to be published in late 2006? The third level student support Bill was expected to be published at the end of 2006, but I understand the Minister for Education and Science has now indicated the Bill will not come before the House until 2007 because of the change of responsibility from local authorities to VECs. Will the Taoiseach comment? What is the status of the judicial counsel Bill, dealing with complaints about judicial misbehaviour? Is it expected by 2007?
The Taoiseach: The heads of the Voluntary Health Insurance board corporate status Bill have been approved. The Bill is being drafted and should be ready for the autumn session. The heads of the third level student support Bill are at an advanced stage and are expected to be before the Government shortly, but the Bill will not be ready before the next student grant period. The judicial counsel Bill will be published in 2007.
Mr. Rabbitte: Will the Taoiseach say if I am correct in interpreting our exchanges this morning as meaning the Government is promising legislation to regulate and control housing estate management companies?
The Taoiseach: What I said was that I have asked the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to see what it can do to resolve this issue. I told the Department that if it could not be done by instructions to local authorities, it should be done legislatively. I will have to check the state of progress since it is some months since the Department reported back to me on the matter.
Mr. Sargent: I know from yesterday that the register of persons considered unsafe to work with children is effectively going nowhere under this Government. There is no date for publication of legislation and nothing will happen unless the Northern Ireland Executive is functioning. Can the issues be dealt with under legislation promised which has a timeframe such as the child care amendment Bill, given that the ISPCC says child protection legislation is needed as a priority, vetting systems for those working with children are needed and we need procedures allowing the Garda to act? The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is now in the House.
The Taoiseach: The relevant Minister will deal with the issues. The Department of Education and Science and the Department of Health and Children are in discussions on the register of those considered unsafe to work with children.
Mr. J. Breen: I put down a parliamentary question for the Minister for Transport that you disallowed. You told me the Minister for Transport had no responsibility to this House for what happens in the NRA. A vast amount of taxpayers’ money is involved. The Ceann Comhairle tells me local authorities bear the responsibilities.
Mr. J. Breen: I certainly have. Will the Taoiseach, who appoints the ministerial team say if mechanisms will be put in place to make the NRA answerable to this House for spending its budget on time? There have been long delays in progressing projects. If taxpayers’ money is involved, and there is an overspend on NRA projects to date, the Minister must surely have responsibility for answering the questions, as should the NRA.
Mr. Durkan: Can the Taoiseach say if the Deloitte & Touche report will be published before the publication of the single electricity market Bill? Will the broadcasting Bill be published before Christmas?
The Taoiseach: I do not know about the Deloitte & Touche report. The Deputy needs to put down a question for the relevant Minister. The single electricity market Bill is listed for this session. The heads of the broadcasting Bill will go before the relevant committee shortly for consultation.
Ms McManus: Ahead of the health and information and quality Bill, reports need to be published. They are long overdue. The Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, established an inquiry into the tragic death of Pat Joe Walsh, and the report was promised within weeks. We are now waiting months and there is still no sign of it.
With regard to the report on the Leas Cross nursing home, which is also long overdue, I recall that in the past a mechanism was used to publish such reports. An example was in the area of sex abuse in swimming where a report was referred to the committee——
Ms McManus: Will the Taoiseach consider an appropriate mechanism to ensure that the information which is long promised is made available to us, so that when we work on legislation, we work in an informed way?
Mr. Timmins: The Taoiseach referred earlier to the Defence (Amendment) Bill which is on the Government legislation list. It was due to be taken in the House tomorrow, but will not now be taken because of the rearranged schedule. When can we expect the Bill to be published? Has it been approved by Cabinet? If not we will be in the same situation next week, on Tuesday evening or Wednesday, with the Bill not published. Can the Taoiseach give an indication of when it will be published?
Mr. Costello: In view of the fact that the Cabinet decided to locate the national children’s hospital at the Mater hospital site, will the project go ahead considering the new dispensation with the Rotunda and the Mater hospitals?
Mr. J. Higgins: In the context of Limerick County Council bullying Pallaskenry residents to accept their water supply from a polluted source, the River Deel, when will the consumer protection Bill be introduced?
Mr. Stanton: I understand there are plans to establish through legislation a register of guardianship of unmarried fathers. Will the Taoiseach confirm if that is the case and, if so, when will the legislation be published?
Mr. Stagg: When does the Taoiseach intend to notify the House of the de facto transfer of ministerial responsibilities for nuclear safety from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children? This arises from a question I tabled to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on nuclear safety and the disposal of the useless iodine tablets every household has in an environmentally friendly way. The question was strangely transferred to the Department of Health and Children. Yesterday the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children claimed it was her responsibility. Will a special order come before the House to transfer responsibility for nuclear safety to the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, particularly as the HSE seems to be doing everything else for her?
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