Dáil debates

Thursday, 10 November 2005

10:30 am

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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It is proposed to take No. 15, the Health and Social Care Professionals Bill 2004 [Seanad] — Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage, to adjourn at 1.30 p.m. if not previously concluded; No. 17, the Employment Permits Bill 2005 — Second Stage (resumed); and No. 18, the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2004 [Seanad] — Second Stage (resumed).

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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There are no proposals to put to the House.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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In view of the reports of the appalling conditions being experienced in the mountains of Pakistan and the fact the Government considered sending personnel to tsunami stricken countries, will the Ministers for Finance and Foreign Affairs raise this matter with their European counterparts? With the approach of an apparently severe winter and truly appalling conditions, more needs to be done as a matter of urgency. Perhaps the Government will take that on board.

Is it possible to indicate the commencement date of the western rail line from Ennis?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The second question is not relevant to the Order of Business.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I knew the Ceann Comhairle would knock me on that.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I will allow the first question. I suggest the Deputy submits a question to the appropriate Minister.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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We all recognise the very serious situation in Pakistan as a result of the earthquake. I understand Ireland was the highest per capita contributor in the world in terms of financial assistance, of which we should all be proud. Obviously, the magnitude of the problems are such that the Minister for Foreign Affairs will send people to Pakistan to see how we can further assist the non-government organisations which are doing all they can to continue with a co-ordinated effort. I know time is running out and I share the concern of the leader of the Opposition in terms of doing all we can for a very stricken people who require the world's attention and assistance.

The detailed implementation of Transport 21 is a matter to be put to the Minister for Transport on Question Time.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Yesterday the Northern Secretary, with what some would think a bizarre sense of timing, published legislation in the House of Commons concerning "on the runs". The numbers seem to have exploded from the anticipated couple of dozen to a few hundred. Is the Minister satisfied that no legislation is required in this jurisdiction? Given the statutory independence of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the operational autonomy of the Garda Síochána, is the Minister satisfied there is no constitutional infirmity in not introducing primary legislation in the House?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The advice available to the Government is that there is no constitutional infirmity attaching to the proposal to set up an eligibility board which will subsequently determine for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform what cases will be submitted for pardon from the President under Article 13 of the Constitution.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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How can someone who has not been convicted be pardoned?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We cannot debate the matter. It does not arise on the Order of Business.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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There is a need for it. How can someone who has not been convicted be pardoned? That should be clarified at least.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Unless legislation is promised, the Deputy should table a question to the appropriate Minister.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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The Government is cherry picking again.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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Yesterday a member of one of the Government parties spoke about ending the special relationship with the Catholic Church. Does the Minister for Finance believe the Government has a special relationship with the Catholic Church?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That does not arise. I call Deputy Jim O'Keeffe.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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I am asking about legislation.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should find another way to raise this issue.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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I am asking about promised legislation.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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No, the Deputy is not. I will call him later on promised legislation only.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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On another occasion, we will come back to the need for legislation to deal with the "on the runs". However, the continuing delay on the part of the Government in dealing with the coroner's legislation, which has been in place for more than 40 years, is a more urgent matter. Reform in this area was recommended in a report five years ago. Legislation has been promised every year since the Government took up office but we still have not had sight of it. Yesterday, another problem arose in the Coroner's Court regarding attendance of medical witnesses at an inquest. Will the coroner's legislation be introduced as a matter of urgency instead of making another promise?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I am aware of the issues raised by the Deputy and this is a long-standing matter. Reform is required in updating the coroner's legislation. A Bill is in preparation to provide for reform of the coroners service and to replace the Coroner's Act 1962.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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I was told that, three years ago.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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It is due to be enacted next year.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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I was also told that, three years ago.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is present. Could he communicate to the Minister for Finance when he intends to bring the text of the building control Bill to Cabinet?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I understand that will happen shortly.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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How short is a piece of string?

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Will the extension of the higher level of fee payment from January until June to counsel involved in the tribunals affect the publication of the tribunals of inquiry Bill? Does the Minister expect it to be published before the end of this session?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The legislation will be published this session. It is not affected by the extension of payments, which is intended to facilitate the chairman of that tribunal to complete his inquiries.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Does the Government intend to propose to deal with the unsavoury practice of Ministers advertising their wares in the media generally and upsetting the public on two levels, first, by invading their privacy and, second, by using public funds?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That does not arise on the Order of Business. The Deputy is being disorderly. He raised the matter yesterday. Has the Deputy a question on legislation?

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I refer to the Finance Bill, which can address this issue.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Unlike an unfortunate episode involving a previous Administration, we do not intend any leaks before the publication of the Finance Bill.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Minister has been involved in an unfortunate incident during his own tenure. What about Parlon country?

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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During the time the Minister for Finance served as Minister for Health and Children, the shortage of nurses was beginning to manifest itself. Is he aware the position has deteriorated significantly?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Has the Deputy a question on legislation?

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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The shortage is at an all-time high of 1,100 nurses, despite various initiatives. We have been waiting for the nurses Bill for quite some time. Will the Minister take the issue seriously enough to ensure sufficient nurses are in place and the legislation is introduced?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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That will be published next year. I am aware, that since my time in the Department, every effort has been made by An Bord Altranais and the Health Service Executive to provide adequate numbers of nurses. The number has increased since my time in the Department.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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The Minister is not delivering.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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I have two questions on promised legislation. First, are there legislative proposals to end the so-called special relationship with the church?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That does not arise on the Order of Business. The Deputy will have to resume his seat if he does not obey the Chair.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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Deputy O'Donnell has left town.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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I refer to the third level student support Bill.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister for Education and Science hopes to publish that Bill next year. As the Deputy will be aware, legislation is not envisaged on the other matter.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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I did not know that; that is why I asked.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Under the draft constitutional treaty produced during our Presidency, it is the intention of all Governments in the European Union to continue legitimate dialogue with faith communities in their societies on the basis of a mature relationship, which we seek with all faiths in this pluralist society. It would be thoroughly illiberal if such a dialogue were not to take place.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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The Minister for Social and Family Affairs has promised to change the one-parent family payment to a totally new family friendly system. When will this happen?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The development of policy and changes in arrangements are provided for in the Social Welfare Bill but none are imminent.

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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When will the promised legislation to establish TG4 on an independent statutory basis be brought before Cabinet?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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It will probably be introduced next year.

Paudge Connolly (Cavan-Monaghan, Independent)
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I refer to crime in the Border area. The culprits are known and excellent video footage is available, but, unfortunately, they live in Northern Ireland and they are untouchable. They are terrorising——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Has the Deputy a question on legislation?

Paudge Connolly (Cavan-Monaghan, Independent)
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When will the crimes Bill be introduced to ensure cross-Border co-operation in criminal investigations?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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It is not possible to say at this stage. I will take note of the Deputy's comments and communicate them to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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As the Ceann Comhairle probably knows, section 2 of the code of conduct for officeholders states, "Holders of public office enjoy an enhanced public profile and should be mindful of the need to avoid the use of public resources in a way that could reasonably be construed as an inappropriate raising of profile in the context of a general election".

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Has the Deputy a question on legislation?

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Will the Minister for Finance ensure compliance with the code of conduct?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That does not arise on the Order of Business. The Deputy is being disorderly. The matter was dealt with yesterday and the Deputy knows how to deal with it if he wishes to pursue it.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Minister wants to reply.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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The issue is today's newspapers.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Questions relating to the code of conduct of officeholders have been raised on the Order of Business traditionally. I am merely asking the Minister for Finance if he will ensure——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy is concerned about breaches of the code of conduct, which are dealt with by the Standards in Public Office Commission.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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I have no wish to refer my friend, the junior Minister, to the commission. I am asking the Minister for Finance for a statement of Government policy that, henceforth, he will ensure the code is complied with.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Chair has made a ruling that has been in place since the relevant legislation was passed.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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On a point of order, personal statements were made in the House in previous instances of alleged breaches of the code of conduct.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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It is a matter for any Member if he or she wishes to make a statement. He or she must notify the Ceann Comhairle's office and time will be provided.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Minister has been asked whether the practice is in accord with the code of conduct.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is not a point of order. Deputy Boyle has been called. I ask Deputy Durkan to resume his seat.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Asking me to resume my seat will not answer the question.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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We are observing a code of misconduct from Deputy Callely.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Deputy Callely is on the rails.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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He is off the rails.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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Two documents laid before the Dáil on today's Order Paper relate to proposals regarding the 7th Framework Programme 2007-2011 of the EURATOM Treaty. There is ongoing debate on a sunset clause in the European constitution so the EURATOM Treaty would go out of existence. Is there an opportunity to debate the need for this organisation and this country's involvement in a treaty that compromises our participation in debates on nuclear safety in other countries?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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It is a matter for the Whips to arrange a debate on that or any other issue and if the Green Party wishes to promote this matter as a priority it can raise the matter on Private Members' business if Government time is not available.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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It is not the responsibility for the Whips to arrange debates in this House. The Government should make proposals that the Whips can discuss.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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On the Order of Business it is only appropriate to raise debates that have been promised.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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What Deputy Cowen said is not right and it is regularly stated. If Deputy Kitt does not receive instructions, there is nothing he can do.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I have never heard Deputy Stagg echo such a sense of powerlessness.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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Next week we will debate the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill, presented three weeks ago. Following the comments of Deputy Noel O'Flynn in Brussels, will new legislation be introduced?

Concerning the central plank of the e-Government programme, does the Minister intend to make proposals on the waste and incompetence in the roll-out of the REACH programme? The Minister, the Taoiseach and the Chief Whip are ultimately responsible for REACH. Will the Minister make time available on the excellent report——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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On promised——

11:00 am

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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I have not yet asked the question. Will the Minister make time available for the excellent report of the Committee of Public Accounts, drafted by Deputy Rabbitte, on a new system of Estimates, whereby Deputies could have an input into budgetary considerations? I ask in view of the fact the Minister did not answer some recent questions.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I am available to answer questions at any time. The report of the Committee of Public Accounts is quite short, with an addendum including work by Deputy Rabbitte. I have read the report and it will be taken into account in the context of budgetary reform, to which I referred in my last budget speech. Yesterday, I discussed some aspects of this with Deputy Bruton. The principle of accountability refers to action taken by Government and accounted for to the Houses of the Oireachtas and its committees. It must remain the duty of the Government to propose the budgetary process and be held accountable thereafter.

The e-Government programme is making progress, under the auspices of the Department of the Taoiseach.

The Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill will be debated as published.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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Amendments will follow.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Independent)
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When will we see legislation on property management companies? Is this legislation intended to apply only to apartment developments? Will it regulate the new agency due to established early next year?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister is awaiting a Law Reform Commission report before deciding what, if any, legislative changes are necessary.