Tuesday, 16 November 2004
Order of Business.
It is proposed to take No. 9, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the amendments to the convention establishing the European Telecommunications Satellite Organisation; No. 10, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the amendments to the convention for the establishment of the European Radiocommunications Office and the ratification of the instrument amending the ERO convention; No. 11, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the double taxation conventions between Ireland and the Republic of Iceland, Hellenic Republic and Canada; No. 11a, motion re referral to joint committee of the report of the independent commission of inquiry into the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973 — on the Supplementary Order Paper; No. 12, motion re membership of committees; No. 13, motion re appointment of ordinary Members to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission; No. 24, Council of Europe Development Bank Bill 2004 — Second Stage (resumed); No. 25, Road Traffic Bill 2004 — Second Stage (resumed); and No. 26, Disability Bill 2004 — Second Stage (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 9, 10, 11, 11a, 12 and 13 shall be decided without debate. Private Members' business shall be No. 36, Consumer Rights Enforcer Bill 2004, Second Stage, and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 17 November 2004.
There are two proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 9, 10, 11, 11a, 12 and 13, motions regarding referrals to select committees, membership of committees and the appointment of an ordinary Member to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, without debate, agreed?
It is unacceptable to members of the parties which form the Technical Group that they are excluded from consideration for No. 13, which relates to the appointment of an ordinary Member to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission. The 25 Members to whom I refer are not represented on the commission. I ask that the Ceann Comhairle, who represents all Members of the House, take that on board. At present, a significant number of Members of the House are excluded from serving on the commission. Does the Ceann Comhairle find that acceptable and will he seek to have it amended?
There is an Independent Member from the Seanad on the commission. That was what was agreed when it was put in place.
Question, "That the proposal for dealing with Nos. 9, 10, 11, 11a, 12 and 13 without debate be agreed", put and declared carried.
Has the Government received advice from the Attorney General regarding payments taken from persons over 70 years of age who were allocated medical cards and who are occupying long-stay public beds? This advice, which relates to a matter of major concern for up to 10,000 people, is long awaited.
We are just ten days from the appointed date for reaching agreement on the current difficulties relating Northern Ireland. After that date, it appears the British and Irish Governments will take an alternative view or approach. Does the Taoiseach wish to provide an update on what is happening in respect of this matter or must we wait until after 25 November to discuss matters relating to the Good Friday Agreement and current difficulties between the DUP and Sinn Féin?
The Attorney General has completed the report. I must check, however, whether he has passed it on to the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children. I will confirm the position for the Deputy through my office.
On the second issue, discussions are taking place on a daily basis. Not much has changed from what I said last week. It is to be hoped that the Governments will be in a position to outline to the parties during the course of this week what we are endeavouring to do. The parties will then be able engage in consultations with their colleagues. I am anxious to debate the matter in the House but the timing of such a debate would be somewhat problematic. I will keep in touch with Deputies Kenny and Rabbitte and the other party leaders on this matter. However, we will not just cut matters dead without holding a debate. I will ensure that such a debate takes place before matters are finalised.
If a humanitarian attitude were adopted, it might allow an opportunity to remark on the measures needed to alleviate some of the suffering in Falluja. However, I will not comment on that matter at this stage.
I understand Deputy Kenny's reasons for seeking a debate on Northern Ireland. The Taoiseach stated that he would keep in touch with the party leaders. Will he make a formal arrangement in terms of engaging the parties in Opposition which have their own contacts and which may wish to make suggestions that would be helpful but which have no other means of putting forward such suggestions than by seeking a debate? As the Taoiseach stated, such a debate would be quite public in nature. Will he acknowledge that it is far from acceptable for this to be the only means by which Opposition parties can engage in matters of continued mutual interest relating to developments in Northern Ireland and that there should be another way of dealing, in a bilateral or multilateral way, with parties in Opposition? Will the Taoiseach take that on board, particularly as he stated that a debate might not be appropriate?
The coastal zone management Bill was designed to establish a new legal framework for the integrated management of the coastal zone and to replace the Foreshore Acts. It is being incorporated into the marine services Bill to put in place a comprehensive and new legislative provision to deal with the seafood sector and the marine coastal zone. I will see if the Minister has a date for the publication of the legislation.
A number of Deputies have been helpful in respect of matters relating to Northern Ireland, either in terms of making visits or talking to people, either here or elsewhere, to elicit their views. It would be good if they could arrange with the small team we have working on Northern Ireland issues to have those views heard or to have what is happening explained. The position between the parties is sensitive at present. I do not mind having debates at any time but we must recognise the positions of the parties at this stage in the negotiations. I would be glad, at any stage, to make available——
What is the position regarding the publication of the Estimates on Thursday, particularly in view of the comments of the Minister for Finance that they may not be complete and that more information, above and beyond what is normally put forward, may be provided on budget day? How are we supposed to have, as the Taoiseach promised last week, a detailed debate on the Estimates if we do not receive the full details we normally receive on Thursday next? The Minister for Finance has made several references to "holding back" until budget day. That makes a nonsense of——
The Book of Estimates will be published on Thursday. The Minister for Finance was reported as saying that because the public private partnership aspect of the capital programme was not up to the level that it was, he intended in the budget to use additional resources to make up the capital programme. The day-to-day Estimates will be published in the normal way on Thursday afternoon.
Will the Taoiseach confirm that the health Bill has come before Cabinet today? Will he advise the House when he expects it to proceed through the various Stages?
Will the Taoiseach also advise if the documents from the Department of Transport that advised that some €6 million of Irish taxpayers' money has been used to pay for the transport of US forces through Shannon Airport is correct?
In view of the precarious situation in An Post and the possibility of industrial action coming up to Christmas, is it not now opportune for the Government to speed up the process for the Postal (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which has already been ordered but which is becalmed somewhere?