Wednesday, 1 February 2006
Order of Business.
It is proposed to take No. 16, National Economic and Social Development Office Bill 2002 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 15, Competition (Amendment) Bill 2005 [Seanad] — Second Stage (Resumed); and No. 1, Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Bill 2005 [Seanad] — Second Stage. Private Members' business shall be No. 43, motion re nursing homes inspections (resumed) to conclude at 8.30 p.m. tonight.
There seems to be confusion about the legislation concerning random breath testing. Prior to Christmas, on the advice of the Attorney General, this matter was deemed unconstitutional. After Christmas the matter seems to be perfectly constitutional and legal. Is it the case that the Attorney General, who is a decent man, has given inadequate or incorrect information? What has happened in the intervening period? First it was unconstitutional, but now it is legal and constitutional. When will we see the legislation that will deal with this? A Garda representative was on television yesterday. It is not clear whether we can have random breath testing without legislation. If we cannot, when will we have the legislation? We will expedite and facilitate the taking of that legislation in the House.
There is a breakdown in communications with the mediator appointed by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in respect of the Corrib gas field. Will that have an impact on the publication of the safety review with which the Minister must deal? Does the Taoiseach expect a delay on that report on account of the breakdown in communications or is the date fixed for publication of the report within the next few weeks?
I understand from newspaper reports that there is genuine concern in respect of the trafficking of persons into this country and sexual exploitation of women and children. Bill No. 62, the criminal justice (trafficking in persons and sexual exploitation of children) Bill is on the list for publication sometime in 2006. When will that Bill be published?
Chuir mé ceist ar an Taoiseach inné faoi thuarascáil Uí Mháirtín ar dhiansmacht sna scoileanna. Cathain a bheidh an tuarascáil sin foilsithe?
On random breath testing, the Attorney General has given advice that will allow for the development of a scheme that will allow for the operation of extended preliminary roadside breath testing, so called random breath testing. We are working through the constitutional issues that could arise with regard to this. As the Deputy knows, this is an issue that is fought on a significant scale in our courts. A large number of breathalyser cases are fought in the courts on any technicality. The Attorney General is quite satisfied we can do this and he has advanced work on a scheme. It will require legislation and that will be priority legislation. We must also deal with the camera issue in the legislation. The legislation will be brought forward.
There are issues. Legal concerns have been raised with regard to the possibility of the introduction of a scheme of full random breath testing on an open-ended basis without any restrictions as to its operation. The advice given by the Attorney General allows for development of a scheme which will address issues of proportionality. The legal issue concerned how it could be proportional. It will require legislation to get the Attorney General's scheme in place. However, many other actions can and are being taken by gardaí. To nail the issue down so that we can deal with what is going on in the courts will require legislation.
No, there is no confusion. To have full random breath testing that will allow us deal with what comes up in the courts will require legislation. The Attorney General's scheme will deal with this. Currently, gardaí can have road checks. There is nothing wrong with that under the law. If they see anything untoward, they can breathalyse people on that basis. The current situation does not mean nothing can happen. Road checks can be set up anywhere and if gardaí see anything suspicious they can carry out a breath test. However, the Attorney General is of the view that we can design a scheme to bring a random roadside breath test into areas where there are high accidents that will deal with the constitutional difficulty with regard to proportionality. He believes we should do that in legislation.
I will have to check with the Minister on the position on the report on discipline.
I understand there is no difficulty with regard to the report on the Corrib gas field. I do not have a date for the report. The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, told me yesterday that work is being done on it but it will take a few weeks. I understand it will be issued in the next number of weeks.
I do not have a date for the publishing of the criminal justice (trafficking in persons and sexual exploitation of children) Bill, but the legislation is being prepared.
The chief executive of Bord na gCon was sacked after he brought the attention of the Minister to doping practices in the greyhound industry. The Minister asked the man who sacked him to inquire into the matter and he was then forced to change his mind. Will the Taoiseach state what exactly is going on in Bord na gCon? I have on very many occasions brought the attention of the Minister to the case of a member of the board who was otherwise disqualified for serving as a director, but I cannot get an answer from him. What exactly is going on in Bord na gCon and will the Minister make a statement on the matter?
Second, is the Taoiseach encountering road blocks in reshuffling the Ministers of State? Is the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science, Deputy de Valera, refusing to hand in her badge or is the Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Gallagher, refusing to be transferred? Can we give the Taoiseach any help on it?
The Taoiseach obviously has not been on the M50 recently.
On a very serious related matter, that is, the 39 road deaths in January and the legislation needed to address the problem, the Taoiseach just told Deputy Kenny that there virtually is random testing and that things can happen as they stand.
Will the legislation, which I understand is promised, be introduced more urgently than otherwise might be the case given that the death rate for January, if it is to remain at this level, implies there will be 60 more deaths by the end of this year than there were last year? When will that urgent legislation be published?
As I stated today in respect of the electricity market, Deloitte & Touche published a report before Christmas which is sitting on the desk of the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. Can the Taoiseach envisage when the single electricity market Bill will be brought forward? Will the report be made available in advance of publication of the legislation, given that it is very relevant?
The traffic Bill has been afforded priority by the Government and has been designated for priority drafting. There have been discussions between the Department of Transport and the Office of the Attorney General on that matter and we are well advanced.
The single electricity market legislation is due this year.
Following on Deputy Kenny's question regarding the report of the task force on student behaviour, which has been with the Minister for three weeks, will amending legislation be required in terms of section 29 of the Education Act? Will the institutes of technology Bill incorporate the recommendations of the recent OECD report?
On the second question, the legislation will be prepared this session. I cannot answer the first question until the Minister, Deputy Martin, finishes making his observations thereon. I will raise the point made by Deputies Enright and Kenny.
Is the Taoiseach aware that animals have protection against pharmacy malpractice while human beings do not? There are enough scandals littering the health service scene without our having a malpractice-related scandal in the pharmacy sector. Will the Taoiseach fast-track the legislation to provide for fitness-to-practice and fitness-to-operate guidelines for pharmacists? There is no legislative protection to ensure we do not have rogue pharmacists malpractising in this country.
There are two Bills. The pharmacy No. 1 Bill is to provide for fitness to practice regulations for pharmacists and the removal of the restriction on pharmacists educated in other EU and EEA countries from owning, managing or supervising a pharmacy. That legislation is due this year. I understand the pharmacy No. 2 Bill, which is to provide for changes in the regulatory framework for pharmacy and pharmacy services, is being drafted. It is also due for 2006.
I have questions on two Bills. In the last session it was expected the Medical Practitioners Bill, legislation pertaining to the Department of Health and Children, would be published in mid-2006, but according to the most recent legislative programme it is not expected until late 2006.
I would like to know the answer. Regardless of whether the matter was raised yesterday or on any other day, I want to know why there is a further delay regarding the legislation.
The former legislative programme indicated it was not possible to determine when the revenue Bill would be published. It does not appear on the current legislative programme. Will the Taoiseach please explain that?
The heads of the Medical Practitioners Bill have been agreed. It is just that there are other priorities. The Health (Repayment Scheme) Bill is receiving all the attention on the legislative side. There is also a hepatitis Bill and other legislation. Other priorities have meant that the Medical Practitioners Bill has been delayed.
Work is being done on the revenue Bill in the Department. The final decisions on the provisions to be included will have to be considered in the context of the timing and availability of the report of the Moriarty tribunal, the terms of reference of which overlap with the issues to be addressed in the Bill. The Bill is not expected to be advanced for some time.
I note that discussions on social partnership are about to restart. Is it not extraordinary that the last deal involved no input from the Dáil in framing the discussions, no debate on the negotiations and no sanction by the Dáil on the outcome of the social partnership agreement? The State was the only group represented at the partnership talks that did not get sanction for its proposal.
Last year I asked whether the Government had decided to sign and ratify the optional protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture. The reply was that it would be considered in 2006. Is the Taoiseach in a position to say whether Ireland will be signing the optional protocol in the current Dáil session or during the rest of 2006?
Yesterday the Taoiseach's attention was distracted when I asked him about the electricity Bill, which was on the Government legislative programme until the current list of Bills. Given the fact ESB is offering bonuses to people to transfer——.
I did not understand from the Taoiseach's answer whether the Government intends to bring forward the Bill.
I put down an oral question to the Taoiseach on the Stardust tragedy in the context of new information that has come forward in the past couple of years. That question seems to have slipped into cyberspace and disappeared. I have not been told it has been transferred to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I wonder——
I asked an oral question but I am not getting an oral answer or any kind of answer.
With regard to my party leader's question, will the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, take the rest of the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill, which arises next week?
Given that it is a number of months since the horrific treatment of the Lawlor family in the media, and a couple of weeks since the horrific dealing in some sections of the media with the Holohan and O'Donoghue case and media reports on the Minister for Transport's foreign trips abroad——
During the last session, the Taoiseach stated that legislation would be brought forward to permit members of the Defence Forces to train overseas yet it is not included in the schedule of legislation. When can we expect to see it in view of the fact we have agreed in principle to participate in the battlegroup concept?
I know the Taoiseach had a difficult time at the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting last night. There is much dissatisfaction among the agricultural community. Will he request the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to publish any correspondence——
Why is the building societies Bill, which is imminent, being introduced to the House by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government? It deals with the issues of demutualising one building society, which would more properly come under the remit of the Department of Finance, and company structure, which would more properly come under the remit of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Have these Departments been involved in drafting the Bill?
With regard to the point made by Deputy Kenny, the mediation process involving the Corrib gas field——
Has the Taoiseach had an opportunity to inquire from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government why he is blocking the Labour Party's planning and development Bill to deal with unfinished housing estates?
Given the Taoiseach's promise to legislate for random breath testing and the fact that last week the Garda Commissioner told the Joint Committee on Transport that the Attorney General had clarified Garda powers under existing legislation and stated gardaí have more than ample powers to set up random road checks——
I have. Is it not the case that the promise to legislate could be seen as a long-fingering exercise? Given the confusion that has been created in Government circles on this issue and the urgency in getting the Garda to enforce the existing law, would the Taoiseach agree to publish the Attorney General's advice——