Wednesday, 15 June 2005
Order of Business.
It is proposed to take No. 20, Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Bill 2004 — Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage; No. 22, Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Amendment) Bill 2005 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 1, Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill 2004 — amendments from the Seanad.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. and business shall be interrupted not later than 10 p.m.
Private Members' business shall be No. 51, motion re licensing for café bars (resumed) to conclude at 8.30 p.m.
Day after sitting day, week after sitting week, Deputy after Deputy raises issues of concern under Standing Order 31. I cannot recall when you, a Cheann Comhairle, in your wisdom allowed one of these previously, although a few were allowed during the past 30 years. When will Deputies of all parties and none have a facility to raise matters of concern that can be dealt with adequately by Government? I realise it is part of the proposals by the Whip. When will something be done about this farcical situation where week after week a list of issues is read out which you, in your wisdom, consider are not appropriate to raise in the House even though they may be of great concern locally, regionally or nationally?
In respect of the legislation governing the Health Service Executive, when are we likely to have a chief executive? There are reports that the person who was offered the job and refused it may be reconsidering it.
The Government is anxious to implement Dáil reform. Clearly it would not be desirable to do it on a unilateral basis and we would welcome the support of the Opposition. I understand the Chief Whip is to begin discussions with the Opposition in regard to specific proposals.
In particular most Deputies would like an earlier discussion during the day of topical issues rather than post Private Members' time or late in the evening which is not satisfactory from anybody's point of view. Hopefully during the next couple of weeks agreement can be reached on that matter.
Specifically on the Health Service Executive we do not have legislation promised. We have enacted the legislation. Today the transition takes place from the old health boards to the Health Service Executive. The board of the Health Service Executive is meeting this evening. Clearly it is urgent that we have a chief executive. I hope it is in a position to make a decision very quickly.
I support the remarks of Deputy Kenny. It is particularly hard on Independent Deputies elected to the House to be reduced for the duration of their stay here to merely reading out a request under Standing Order 31 when, in most cases, it is fair to say, other than in the case of Northern Ireland taking over Cavan-Monaghan, the Ceann Comhairle has no intention of acceding to the request.
I do not think there is any prospect of Northern Ireland taking over Cavan-Monaghan. The Ceann Comhairle can relax.
Six years ago today, on behalf of the Labour Party, I introduced the Whistleblowers Bill which the Government of the day accepted and it was passed on Second Stage. At that time the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, told the House that much of his time was preoccupied with considering whether he would bring forward an amendment on Committee Stage. What is the position of the Bill now?
As I told the Deputy previously the whistleblowers legislation that was proposed ran into serious constitutional and other issues. It was decided, I think, to pursue the matter by way of sectoral whistleblowing provisions. We did that in the Competition Act and it was followed in other legislation since. That is the most desirable way to pursue this issue.
It was decided that it would be dealt with. For example, the Competition Act made provision for it and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill and the child abuse legislation made provision for it. Certainly I am looking at it in the context of the HIQA legislation but there are real issues when it comes to saying that somebody who works for a company in Ireland can report about matters that happen elsewhere in the world and vice versa. There is a whole host of issues around that which led to the problems with the legislation.
I will, Sir, but I want to make this point. The Tánaiste, on behalf of the Government, has just said there is no intention of bringing in a whistleblowers Bill. Yesterday, when an amendment was put to that effect to the Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Bill——
I dealt with this issue before and the reasons it was not pursued. Perhaps we can make that clear to Deputies. That is why we went for the sectoral approach.
The Minister promised legislation yesterday in the House. Surely the leader of the Labour Party is entitled to ask on the Order of Business about legislation that was promised yesterday. That is what we are supposed to do on the Order of Business.
It might be helpful for the Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, to clarify the matter. I wish to ask about promised legislation but I am interested in seeing the House operate on the basis of promised legislation, even if the promise was made yesterday. Can the Ceann Comhairle facilitate that because I have other promised legislation to raise?
When will the House see the parental leave bill and the Adoptive Leave Bill? In light of the commitment given by the Minister for Agriculture and Food to try to curb the importation of beef from Brazil, chicken from Thailand and pork from Chile being labelled as Irish, when will the House see the country of origin labelling Bill which is to be an amendment to the Health Act 1970 and put forward by the Tánaiste's Department?
The parental leave Bill will be introduced in the next session and the Adoptive Leave Bill has been ordered for Report Stage. I have been having discussions with the Minister for Agriculture and Food regarding country of origin labelling.
With just a little over two weeks remaining before the summer recess, the House has still not seen the legislation relating to the repayments due to residents in long-term residential care facilities. Can the Tánaiste indicate when that legislation will be presented and when will the repayment process commence?
On a final matter, yesterday I inquired from the Taoiseach but he did not know whether legislation was forthcoming. I ask the Tánaiste to clarify her proposals to invite private health care providers onto sites at public hospital facilities.
I have received a number of items of correspondence from the Ceann Comhairle. While I am always delighted to receive correspondence from the Ceann Comhairle, I would have preferred them to be in a more positive form. In order to facilitate the Ceann Comhairle and the Minister in future, a number of questions were refused on the basis that the Minister had no responsibility to the House. Two Bills are promised, one of which is to extend the remit of the Commission for Energy Regulation and to require it to comply with general policy directions of the Minister. I thought the Minister was supposed to do that anyway. The electronic communications (miscellaneous provisions) Bill is to provide access to broadcasting networks and delivery of contents services to all end users at retail level. Both Bills are the responsibility of the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and are eligible for reply in the House. I ask that these Bills be introduced in the House as a matter of urgency so the Ceann Comhairle is not forced to write to me informing me that my questions are out of order.
Today is World AIDS Day. Will the Tánaiste as Minister for Health and Children state whether she is satisfied we are doing enough to combat this terrible disease which is devastating parts of the developing world in particular? In view of the fact that in Ireland the budget to combat sexually transmitted diseases was cut last year, will she indicate if she will ensure sufficient funding is provided?
The health information and quality authority legislation will be presented later this year. Every Minister for Health would have serious concerns about the rise in AIDS globally and the issues to do with sexually transmitted infections in this country. I have been in discussions with the authorities. I attended a major event in Dublin a couple of weeks ago. I am not aware that budgetary issues present a difficulty regarding that matter.
The gaming and lotteries (amendment) Bill was discussed in the House earlier in the year. The last time I asked a question about Wexford General Hospital the Ceann Comhairle ejected me from the House. Is an announcement imminent——
Has the position as outlined by the Minister for Foreign Affairs when he stated that the referendum Bill on the EU constitution would be taken before the summer recess changed, given the statements by Commissioner McCreevy and by her own backbenchers who have stated this is a pointless exercise?
There is no change. The Heads of Government are meeting tomorrow and Friday and maybe even on Saturday, to deal with the financial perspectives. We will take on board any outcome of that deliberation.
In light of the fact that 200,000 additional medical cards were promised three years ago to those in need and 100,000 medical cards have been lost, can the Tánaiste give the House any idea when agreement will be reached with the GPs?
The Deputy knows why it has not proceeded but it would not be proper to state the reason in the House.
A hygiene audit is under way in the hospitals because this is a serious issue. It is a question of basic hygiene which should not require legislation but rather the enforcement of high standards. The HSE is currently devising those standards and they will be enforced.
I have a question relating to No. 62 on the legislative programme, the communications data retention Bill which is necessitated by the terms of the EU telecommunications directive. What is the name of that directive? Has it been agreed and adopted or is it the draft framework decision on the retention of data processed and stored in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications networks for the purpose of prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of crime and criminal offences including terrorism that was recently rejected by the European Parliament?
I will not read the full title as the Deputy has done. I know he is particularly interested in this matter. It is not possible to say at this stage. It states that the interim indication provisions have been included in the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Bill 2005.
Two issues arose at the council meeting in Clones on Monday. One related to congratulations to Kevin McBride for his win over Mike Tyson. Councillors were also concerned about mobile telephone roaming charges. Will the electronic communications Bill be introduced shortly?
When is it proposed to introduce the necessary amending legislation to the Civil Registration Act? I asked this question approximately three weeks ago and was told that no such legislation was required. On subsequent inquiries I found that such necessary amending legislation to enable registration in a parent's name in certain circumstances of children born to the parents before marriage is required.