Wednesday, 7 December 2005
Order of Business.
The Order of Business is No. 22a— Budget Statement and the financial motions by the Minister for Finance 2005, to be taken on the conclusion of questions to members of the Government.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m and the motion for the General Financial Resolution shall be moved not later than 12 midnight whereupon business shall then be interrupted and the Dáil shall adjourn forthwith; (2) following the Budget Statement of the Minister for Finance, the following arrangements shall apply in regard to the proceedings on No. 22a: (i) the statements of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party shall not exceed 75 minutes in each case; the statements of the main spokespersons for the Green Party, Sinn Féin and the Independent Members of the Technical Group shall not exceed 25 minutes in each case; and the statements shall be confined to the main spokespersons in each case; following the statements the sitting shall be suspended for 30 minutes; and all divisions demanded on No. 22a shall be taken manually. Private Members' business shall be No. 33, Good Samaritan Bill 2005 — Second Stage (resumed) to be taken at 12 noon and to conclude after 90 minutes, if not previously concluded.
I am concerned about the time being given to the opening contributions for the Minister of Finance, which is indeterminate, and the balancing statements of subsequent speakers. The Budget Statement took 45 minutes in each of the past three years. Live television coverage on RTE of this set piece occasion in the life of the House, which gives Opposition Members one of the few opportunities they have to articulate an alternative view to the Government, concludes at 6.30 p.m. Members of the Technical Group who do not have access to party political broadcasts and whose party conferences are not covered by the State broadcasters think this is a cynical gesture. The time available is being reduced accordingly.
I will try to be helpful. Our party spokesperson is prepared to use only 45 minutes if that is generally agreed. I understand from the Government Whip's office that the Minister for Finance requires 75 minutes to deliver his statement. Similar time must be offered to the other spokespersons as a result. A total of 45 minutes will be sufficient for my party spokesperson if others are agreeable.
When are we likely to see the University College Galway (amendment) Bill? It is No. 6 on the list. Will it be introduced before the recess or before the return of the Dáil on 25 January 2006? Are we likely to see an amendment to the ministerial appointments Bill later?
I am interested in getting an answer to that question but I wish to ask about a matter on the Order of Business as well. Perhaps the Taoiseach will indicate whether a statement from the Minister of State is envisaged today.
There is no indication as to the date of publication of the third level student support Bill yet the Teachers' Union of Ireland has told us the McIver report is not being funded and we have the lowest level of on-campus student accommodation in Europe. When will that legislation be published?
Many charities fund raise at this time of the year, yet we are still waiting for the Charities regulation Bill. Will the Taoiseach assure me it will be put on the priority list for next year? It has been raised in the House on a number of occasions this year and it is important the legislation is brought before the House as soon as possible.
Last week I asked the Taoiseach if he had any idea when the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform would produce his raft of amendments to his great crime-busting legislation, the Criminal Justice Bill, which has been around for two years. Perhaps he has found out when we will get the amendments and when we can proceed with the Bill.
Since the Minister has stated his hands are tied in regard to the CIA flights landing at Shannon Airport——
In previous responses in respect of the Health (Nursing Homes) (Amendment) Bill and the Hepatitis C and HIV Compensation Tribunal (Amendment) Bill, the Taoiseach indicated they would be ready before Christmas. With one week remaining in which to take these very important Bills under the aegis of the Department of Health and Children, will the Taoiseach indicate if we will have sight of them in the coming week at the latest?
In light of the number of serious car accidents and deaths, when will the sale of alcohol Bill be brought before the House so we can discuss this issue? Given the extraordinary decision of the jury at the inquest into the death of the late Frances Sheridan, when will the coroners Bill be introduced so we can discuss how juries are set up and how this situation——
The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment announced the abolition of the groceries order with some fanfare. The Taoiseach informed the House it would require an amendment to the Competition Act. When will the amendment be introduced in the House? Will it go further than the abolition of the groceries order?
I understand Ministers and some backbenchers have received the 'flu jab. Will the Taoiseach apply another jab to the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources with a view to reminding him of the need to bring forward the postal (miscellaneous services) Bill in order to have a discussion on that important issue——
The revisions and the new round of consultations required in light of the reorganisation and enactment of the national monuments (amendment) Bill and the reorganisation of heritage responsibilities is under way. The heads of the Bill were approved some time ago but we are awaiting finalisation of these consultations. It is listed for next year.
I have pressed the Minister because it has been raised by Deputy Rabbitte. I understood the only issue was whether to print the Bill in yellow or green. The Minister is anxious to get it through both Houses. If it is not possible to introduce it in the Dáil, he could do so in the Seanad.