Tuesday, 26 February 2008
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Tánaiste: It is proposed to take No. 6, motion re membership of committee; No. 7, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council framework decision on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law, back from committee; No. 14, Motor Vehicle (Duties and Licences) Bill 2008 — Second Stage (resumed); and No. 2, Student Support Bill 2008 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted on the adjournment of Private Members’ Business which shall be No. 30, motion re broadband services, which shall be taken for 90 minutes at 7 p.m., or on the conclusion of No. 14, whichever is the later; Nos. 6 and 7 shall be decided without debate; the proceedings on the resumed Second Stage of No. 14 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. tonight.
An Ceann Comhairle: Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 6 and 7, motions regarding membership of committee and the EU council framework decision combating racism and xenophobia agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 14, Motor Vehicle (Duties and Licences) Bill 2008 — Second Stage (resumed) agreed?
Deputy Emmet Stagg: The Government provided extra time on this particular Bill. There is a time constraint on when it has to be passed. On foot of that, we accepted the guillotine. However, we would not see it as the norm.
Deputy Enda Kenny: Will the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform make a statement to the House in view of the appalling, unprovoked attack on two young Polish men, one of whom has since died? This is a shocking incident to occur to a member of a community that contributes so much to our economy in so many walks of life. Perhaps the Minister might make time to give the House an update on that.
The Tánaiste: The Government made a decision to approve the Bill for which the referendum is due this year. We have not fixed a date. It will more than likely be published by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the coming week. The normal requirements will then apply for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to contact the Chief Justice for the appointment of a nomination for a chairman of the commission, and the commission will be appointed within the requirements of the legislation as it currently operates.
Deputy Enda Kenny: Can the Tánaiste provide a date for when the referendum commission is to be appointed? What will be its actual remit? Did I hear him correctly when he said the Minister for Foreign Affairs will publish the Bill next week?
The Tánaiste: It is expected to be published next week. The arrangements to set up the referendum commission come into play at a certain time, which I believe occurs once the Bill is initiated in the House. That date is yet to be fixed, but in the meantime the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will, upon publication of the Bill, contact the Chief Justice and seek a nomination for the appointment as chairman of the commission.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Did the Tánaiste state that the Government has not decided on a date for the referendum on the EU treaty? If that is the case, is it still the intention to hold the referendum this side of the summer? There was some discussion on a television programme last night that the date might perhaps be postponed until the autumn.
The data retention directive is, I understand, due to come into effect this month. Under this legislation, the records of e-mails, Internet chat messages and the times at which people log on and off the Internet are to be stored for a period of three years. It is a controversial measure which impacts on privacy and so forth. Is it intended to transpose the directive by way of statutory instrument or, as the Labour Party would prefer, primary legislation which would afford the House an opportunity to debate this controversial matter?
The Tánaiste: While I cannot yet anticipate the outcome of the Government decision, my impression is that the referendum is more likely to be held in the first rather than second half of the year. However, I cannot be held to that timeframe until a formal decision has been made.
I will ask the line Minister concerned to indicate to the Deputy whether primary or secondary legislation will be used to implement the directive to which he referred. I do not have notice of the matter.
Deputy James Reilly: Given that HIQA has completed its regulations on standards in nursing homes, when will the fair deal for nursing homes Bill be published and introduced in the House? I ask the Government to provide for a full and proper debate on the Bill and refrain from using a guillotine. Many people are deeply concerned about the implications of the legislation and Deputies want to contribute to the debate in a meaningful fashion rather than being restricted to speaking for two or three minutes.
The Tánaiste: I understand the Bill is due this session, although I cannot be specific. Deputies will have an opportunity to discuss the Bill on Second Stage and there will be considerable interest in it on all sides.
Deputy Seymour Crawford: I would welcome the introduction of the Bill at the earliest opportunity. In recent weeks, in one of my local towns, a number of young people were so out of their minds with alcohol, they did not know what they were doing. When will the sale of alcohol Bill come before the House to allow Deputies discuss the regulation of alcohol?
On the one hand, the Health Service Executive informs us it will not remove services until better services are available to replace them while, on the other, it informs us in the same notice that it is removing all acute services from Monaghan General Hospital this year. When will the health information Bill, which dictates that the HSE should tell us the facts and not mislead us, come before the House? If deaths occur in Monaghan, it will be at the head of this House. This is a serious issue.
Deputy Mary Upton: The appalling incident which took place in my constituency at the weekend has been referred to in the House this afternoon. Given that it appears to have been partly alcohol related, when will the sale of alcohol Bill come before the House?
The Tánaiste: I understand the sale of alcohol Bill is due later this year. I accept the incident to which Deputy Upton referred highlights the sad position society is in when such violence can be wreaked on a street on what appear by all accounts to be two very reputable individuals who were model tenants in the properties in which they stayed in the Deputy’s constituency. It is a sad occasion and I hope the Garda can continue to have some of the successes it is enjoying. These are very difficult circumstances and I extend sympathy to the families and neighbours of those who were so brutally attacked on the basis that they are in good standing in their community and are hard working people.
Deputy Terence Flanagan: On the property services regulatory authority Bill, despite the appointment in July 2006 of a director and staff and the allocation of a budget of €1.6 million, legislation has not been forthcoming. Meanwhile apartment owners feel aggrieved because they are paying thousands of euro in management fees and no one is accountable because no one is legally responsible. When will the legislation come before the House?
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Committee Stage of the Voluntary Health Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2007 is due to be taken in the Select Committee on Health and Children this week. There has been a dearth of health legislation since the general election in May 2007. Does the legislation committee of Government have the power to fast-track legislation where there is a clear and obvious need? Does it have the power to recommend to given Departments represented at the Cabinet table? Can the Minister be specific on when the nurses and midwives Bill will come before the House? Is there any prospect of it being expedited given the serious need to address it?
The Tánaiste: I understand the nurses and midwives Bill is due this year. The Chief Whip liaises with the Attorney General and the legislation committee in an effort to progress legislation. Unfortunately, there are always competing priorities. For example, the referendum Bill is being given significant personal attention by the Attorney General.
Deputy P. J. Sheehan: Given the ongoing situation and need for a definite date for the introduction of promised legislation as well as his expressed concerns about the drawn out nature of the tribunals, does the Tánaiste not agree that the current position is better described by his own war cry that he should be slowly roasting on the barbecue or does he want to believe what Napoleon said to a famous man, Berthier, on 11 November 1798——
Deputy Joe Costello: Considering the promise made by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in the House last week during the debate on the Private Members’ Bill on agency workers and given that a Council of employment Ministers will meet in Brussels this week, will the Minister withdraw the Government’s opposition to the European Union directive on temporary workers in terms of transposing equal treatment legislation into domestic law?
Deputy Joe Costello: The question relates to legislation promised by the Minister on the floor of the House last week. He cannot continue to oppose the European directive if he proposes to introduce legislation to regulate this area. May I assume he will withdraw the Government’s opposition to regulation of temporary agency workers as the first step towards introducing the promised legislation?
Deputy James Bannon: In light of the admission by the Minister for Transport, Deputy Noel Dempsey, that the Government’s climate change strategy since 2002 has largely been a failure and the fact that the Motor Vehicle (Duties and Licences) Bill has proven to be a damp squib, when can we expect legislation which will comprehensively deal with the issue of climate change?
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: An issue in which the Ceann Comhairle has expressed an interest is the matter of replies to parliamentary questions, in particular replies to matters on the Adjournment. I do not wish to brand everybody with this because some Ministers go into great detail to give accurate replies when a matter is raised on the Adjournment. Others do not and the problem is getting worse on a daily basis. Will the Tánaiste contact his ministerial colleagues with a view to ensuring that future replies to Adjournment Debate matters contain a reply to the question raised and not a history lesson?
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: It does not have to be dealt with through Dáil reform and it is not part of Dáil reform. The Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas are entitled to answers to the questions they raise when they raise them and not a history lesson.
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