Tuesday, 4 March 2008
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 5, Motor Vehicle (Duties and Licences) Bill 2008 — Financial Resolution; and No. 11, Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2008 — Order for Report Stage and Report and Final Stages. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 5 shall be decided without debate. Private Members’ business shall be No. 28, motion re anti-social behaviour.
Deputy Enda Kenny: Will the Taoiseach report on his contacts with the Ministers for Education and Science and Health and Children on the delay in opening the autism unit in Castleknock? I raised this matter with him last week and received a reply.
Has the Taoiseach confirmed the date for the referendum on the EU reform treaty? Will it be held at the end of May or in early June? I ask this because Fine Gael wants to lay out its programme of public meetings and get on with its schedule of supporting the treaty publicly and strongly. I would like to know the date of the referendum as soon as possible in order that we can make those arrangements.
The Electricity (Transfer of Transmission Assets) Bill, No. 38 on the list, concerns the transfer of ownership of the transmission assets from the ESB to EirGrid. Is the Bill still on the cards following the recent announcement by the Minister or is it dead?
In respect of the Human Tissue Bill, No. 59 on the list, the Taoiseach has met parents of children whose organs were confiscated and retained by hospitals without authorisation. Under the Human Tissue Bill, no human tissue can be retained without authorisation. In the light of the ongoing concerns of parents of children whose organs were retained, is it the Government’s position that it wishes to discover the truth about this issue and will this be done by way of a public inquiry or other method in order that the people concerned can bring an end to what has been a very sensitive and personal saga for them for 20 years?
In respect of the Human Tissue Bill, a consultative forum was held last year which was followed by a national consultation on draft proposals for the legislation. The analysis of submissions received in response to the consultation process is nearing completion and discussions are ongoing with major stakeholders on issues identified from the submissions. It is expected that the proposals and the scope of the legislation should be known shortly.
In respect of the Electricity (Transfer of Transmission Assets) Bill, the Department is undertaking an analysis and discussion of all dimensions, including legal and financial issues, to ensure the optimum outcome on foot of the transfer process for both the ESB and EirGrid.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: When the Taoiseach replied to Deputy Kenny, I presume he intended to include the leader of the Labour Party in the loop as far as consultations on the date of the referendum were concerned.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I know the Taoiseach is very much aware of the appalling killing of two young Polish men last week. I have previously raised the issue of the level of violence and the level related to alcohol or its availability. A review of off-licences was promised by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. When is it likely to be completed? It appears that there is considerable growth in the number of off-licences. According to Deputy Upton, there were 15 applications for planning permission for off-licences in her constituency in recent times, 14 of which were granted. We can all repeat this story.
I understand the Seanad has completed its consideration of the Defamation Bill but that it has not yet been introduced in the Dáil. One of its provisions concerns an arrangement whereby a judge can give a direction to a jury in a defamation case as to the amount of compensation that might be awarded. When is the Bill likely to be brought before the Dáil?
The Taoiseach: The Defamation Bill has reached Report Stage in the Seanad and will be brought here as soon as Report and Final Stages are completed in the Seanad. The review of off-licences will be finished by the end of this month. The Minister is hopeful that legislation will pass through the House before the summer.
Deputy Joe Costello: In the context of previous questions about the date on which the referendum on the EU reform treaty will be held and when the Bill will be published, when will a copy of the treaty be made available for the people to peruse? There is a crying need for that to happen. When will we receive the White Paper that was promised? Will we receive a copy of the Attorney General’s advice on the constitutional grounds for the referendum in order that the House which must approve the legislation will have an opportunity to see what precisely it is voting for?
The Taoiseach: The White Paper is due at the end of the month. It is not normal to present the Attorney General’s advice on a Bill but in respect of the discussions that took place, we will certainly try to give as much information as we can. I have already answered the question on the date of publication of the Bill. Of course, I will include Deputy Gilmore. I will check the matter with him.
The Taoiseach: The European Commission has prepared a copy but I do not believe it has been updated. The Institute of European Affairs has also prepared a copy. It is an excellent copy and it is the one we are using. It is a consolidated copy which was issued two months ago.
Deputy Joe Costello: Why is the Government, which is charged with putting a Bill before the Dáil, asking the people of this country to vote approval of the Lisbon reform treaty without supplying them with a copy of it? It is a bit rich to expect the institute——
The Taoiseach: We will see how many people want the long document. However, I have seen a draft of the White Paper which is a very good document. It will be completed in approximately two weeks’ time and will be available to everybody.
The Taoiseach: I have been through the Single European Act and the Maastricht treaty in 1992, the Amsterdam treaty in 1998 and the Nice treaty in 2001 and in 2002. Only a handful of the consolidated documents are ever read by anyone. However, the document is available for those who wish it.
Deputy Pat Rabbitte: We are on the same side as the Taoiseach on this one. Maybe himself and Deputy Costello would arrange for public readings of the full text at St. Luke’s some evening or perhaps take it chapter by chapter.
I wish to ask the Taoiseach about the Immigration, Protection and Residency Bill in the context of the story on the front page of The Irish Times today about the manner of the discharge of functions of the tribunal. I wish to ask about the assertion by our former colleague, Michael O’Kennedy, that his record and that of others was misrepresented before the Supreme Court by the chairman of the tribunal. Does the Taoiseach know that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has very uniquely provided in that Bill that the current chairman shall continue ex officio under the new arrangements provided for in the Bill? Does the Taoiseach have any reservations about the current chairman continuing in that role, given what has been asserted this morning, if that version is correct?
Deputy Pat Rabbitte: I thought, given the seriousness of the issue I am raising, that the Taoiseach would indicate whether there is any concern in Government about continuing this tribunal under the chairmanship of the current occupant.
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Is there any chance of getting the Dublin transport authority Bill before Easter or even before the Minister for Transport goes to Australia? It is good to see so many Green Party colleagues in the House for the Order of Business. The father of the Green movement has stated that carbon offsetting is a waste of time. Has the Taoiseach given any thought to abandoning the annual exodus of Ministers for St. Patrick’s day, including the Minister for Transport who is so badly needed here?
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Statements on the constituency commission report were scheduled on the Order of Business for Thursday afternoon but have been replaced by a motion on the World Trade Organisation. Is it the case that the three reports on the cancer misdiagnosis in the midlands will be published tomorrow? If this is the case, and given the urgency of addressing the central focus of those reports which has been highlighted during Leaders’ Questions and by other Deputies——
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: As Thursday’s Order of Business has already been changed, will the Taoiseach consider changing it again in order to address the detail and the outworking of the reports on the cancer misdiagnosis in the midlands and the already highlighted urgency of providing resources for colonoscopy and other diagnostic procedures within cancer care in this State? Will the Taoiseach and the Chief Whip with the Whips consider the redesignation of Thursday’s opportunity?
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Can the Taoiseach confirm if these reports will be published tomorrow or not? Does he have that information? Will he give consideration to having them addressed in the House this week?
Deputy Charles Flanagan: Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle. Last October, in response to the latest gangland killing, the Taoiseach contemplated the introduction of legislation to allow for special non-jury courts for gangland crime. The following day, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform indicated his intention to proceed to legislate for reform of electronic surveillance. Where stand both of those initiatives some five months later? They have not been heard of.
Deputy James Reilly: Under pending legislation on the fair deal, we were promised last week by the Tánaiste that this legislation would be published this session. Does this mean we will have it before the Easter break?
Deputy Tom Hayes: I support my constituency colleague, Deputy Mansergh, who, at the weekend, said we should sell the electronic voting machines. When will this happen and will the Taoiseach consider this request? Not alone did Deputy Mansergh call for their sale, but so did Senator Donie Cassidy. They involve a substantial cost for taxpayers, including an ongoing cost for their storage.
Deputy Joanna Tuffy: When can we expect a review of the foreshore legislation which has been promised for some time? I tabled some parliamentary questions to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food recently. While she mentioned the legislation she did not give a date. Obviously important decisions will be made regarding the development of our foreshore for matters such as wind energy and it is important to have the legislation modernised to make it as transparent as possible.
Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Will the Government expedite the health information Bill, in view of the very disturbing information that the media managers of the Government and HSE are deciding what is good for us and what information we should get? We are only getting the kind of information that we are getting on health through freedom of information requests. It is in the legislative programme.
The Taoiseach: The Bill is due, but I do not have a date for it. There is a detailed discussion paper on this and the Bill has been prepared in the Department and forwarded to the HSE and HIQA for their comments. That is awaited.
Deputy Kathleen Lynch: When are we likely to see legislation on collusion on both the Barron report and now the more unlikely scenario of HSE managers in collusion with the Taoiseach’s office to suppress information?
Deputy Eamon Gilmore:
I was somewhat surprised at the Taoiseach’s response to Deputy Tuffy’s question about the amendment to the foreshore legislation. Just prior to the general election, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government sent a letter, a copy of which I have, to the effect that if his party were in Government no further permits would be given for offshore wind farms pending the amendment of the foreshore legislation. I ask the Taoiseach whether it remains the position that no further permits will be given for offshore wind farms until the foreshore legislation is
The Taoiseach: The foreshore amendment Bill, which is under the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, is in preparation. I think some designation of functions issues have to be resolved in that area, but the legislation is due.
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