Thursday, 2 February 2006
Order of Business.
It is proposed to take No. 12, proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the draft Companies (Auditing and Accounting) Act 2003 (Prescribed Accountancy Bodies) Regulations 2006, which is back from committee; No. 15, Competition (Amendment) Bill 2005 [Seanad] — Second Stage (resumed); No. 1, Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Bill 2005 [Seanad] — Second Stage; and No. 2, University College Galway (Amendment) Bill 2005 [Seanad] — Second Stage.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 12 shall be decided without debate.
I have no difficulty with the proposal. This regulation is simply a recommendation by IFSRA regarding prescribed accountancy bodies. However, the Competition (Amendment) Bill 2005 is back today which was not intended to be the main business of the day. Is this because of the unravelling of support from the Tánaiste's own backbenchers? Deputy Ned O'Keeffe gave an impassioned speech yesterday attacking the Bill. Others are lining up to do the same, I understand. Is this why we want to bring the Competition (Amendment) Bill to a conclusion today, rather than allowing the new submission, for example, from the Vintners Federation of Ireland, to be read by her backbenchers?
Yesterday we had the publication of the eighth International Monitoring Commission report dealing with the issue of criminality, information gathering and events in the North. There is a significant divergence of opinion between the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who said there would be "no fudge, no budge" and the Minister for Foreign Affairs who says this opens the way for negotiation and discussion. Does the Progressive Democrats Party share the Fianna Fáil view in Government that this report clears the way for further discussion and negotiation? Has the IMC report not pointed out clearly that information and intelligence gathering is now being used for political purposes and that those previously involved in paramilitary activities are still involved in criminality north and south of the Border?
Will we have a real discussion about this to determine the Government's view and does the Tánaiste as the leader of the Progressive Democrats Party share the view of the Minister for Foreign Affairs who says the report clears the way for discussions when her own Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform said "no fudge, no budge" without a complete end to criminality? What are we at? He has all the files. He sees what he sees and he knows what he knows.
When will the Martin report into indiscipline in schools be published? This has been with the Minister for Education and Science for some time.
When is the pharmacy Bill, No. 58 on the list of promised legislation, likely to be published? In that context will the Tánaiste indicate whether her Department has appointed a chief pharmacist yet and, if not, what is the reason for the delay? Given that €45 million has been spent on the preparation of site works and buildings for the move from Temple Street to the Mater Misericordiae Hospital site, is this a Government policy matter as contained in the national development programme and reiterated by the Tánaiste, the Taoiseach and three other Ministers or has it been shoved over to the Health Service Executive to make what is essentially a policy decision? When is that matter likely to be cleared up?
As regards the proposed development at the Mater site, there is no question of any money being wasted on a new hospital. It is essential for the Mater, as one of the country's oldest hospitals. There are four hospitals in Dublin from which tertiary paediatric facilities are supplied to children from throughout the country. I do not believe there is any other place in the world with a similar population that has tertiary facilities spread across four sites. In the context of the future health care of children, clearly, the right decision must be made. There was a proposal for a new hospital——
It is not late in the day. What was proposed was a new hospital for Crumlin costing €400 million and one for Temple Street, which would cost another €200 million. It might well be that we can get the right answer for much less. The HSE, with my approval, commissioned a consultancy report which it received yesterday. It is being discussed this morning at the HSE board meeting. I will be briefed later this evening and it will be published tomorrow.
There are to be two pharmacy Bills. One will deal with fitness to practise issues, which are important. The other will deal with services, physical premises and such issues, and that will be later in the year. We hope to have the first Bill in the first half of this year. As for the chief pharmacist, the former incumbent is working in the Department of Health and Children at present on a consultancy basis.
The Minister for Education and Science has told me she received the Martin report in January. She is studying it and intends to publish it within a few weeks.
As for the IMC report, there are clearly issues surrounding criminality. One hopes that by the time of the next report substantial progress will have been made in this regard. There is no role in a parliamentary democratic system for those involved in criminal activity.
I know the Tánaiste has her hands full trying to clean up the mess left by her predecessor, surely the most useless Minister for Health since 1922. However, has she found time or the opportunity to find out whether the Minister for Transport was on a frolic of his own last weekend or is there any basis in reality for the announcements he made? Given that she represents the area, has she had time to find out whether all the travel has gone to his head, or what is wrong with him?
Has the Tánaiste intervened in the extraordinary stories that are circulating regularly about what is going on in Bord na gCon? Every day there is a new piece of anonymous literature concerning matters that are allegedly taking place in that organisation. I have been in correspondence for more than a year with the Minister over his reappointment of a director who was disqualified from acting as a director of his own company for serious reasons. Despite this, the Minister reappointed him. I believe the Minister might have some contact with one of the trainers who is involved in the doping incident.
Will the Tánaiste tell the House about the terms of reference of the appointment of Mr. Tim Dalton in respect of the inquiry that has been dragged out of the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy O'Donoghue? Will she say whether he is inquiring only into the circumstances of the dismissal of the chief executive or if his terms of reference involve an investigation into the various matters coming into the public domain about Bord na gCon?
As regards the M50, with which I am more than familiar, as the Deputy is aware, the decisions on the announcements made last Friday were made by the National Roads Authority. As regards Bord na gCon, obviously——
As regards Bord na gCon, clearly serious issues are involved from what we hear. Like the Deputy, I have had a good deal of anonymous correspondence about dogs and I must admit I do not know much about them.
I took a phone call from a leading journalist last Friday night asking whether I had a dog, which I took to be a joke. I do not have such an animal anyway. The Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, says he does not even have one as a pet.
The Minister has appointed Mr. Tim Dalton, the former Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I understand he will conduct a full inquiry into all the matters. I am sure the Minister will publish the terms of reference.
There is probably more interest in the House in promised Ministers than promised legislation. Will there be an announcement of ministerial positions before the weekend or will it be later? If it is intended to discuss the Roads (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, will there be a new Minister for Transport given that there appears to be a rebellion in Fianna Fáil over the Minister, Deputy Cullen, and the M50? I note that the Chief Whip, Deputy Kitt, is boycotting the House today in protest.
Has the Roads (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which was promised in 2004 been abandoned and has it been replaced by an off the top of one's head roads plan? Will the building societies amendment Bill be introduced soon given that it was promised for this session in January 2004? There is a need to examine regulation in the financial institutions sector and that Bill would give us an opportunity to debate it. Will the freedom of information legislation, which has been amended by the Government, be subject to further amendment given the difficulty people have getting information from Teagasc, for example, about scientific advice? Is there a need to amend that legislation or is the Government simply not giving out the information for spite?
The appointment of a Minister of State is a matter for the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach must put a name before the Government for its approval and that has not yet happened. No Government meeting is planned for today, tomorrow, Saturday, Sunday or Monday.
There will be a meeting on Tuesday so I will ensure the Taoiseach is made aware of the Deputy's interest. The roads Bill will be published this year, the building societies Bill will be published this session and there are no plans, to the best of my knowledge, to amend the freedom of information legislation.
I am sure the Tánaiste, like other Members, received the interesting document, A Challenge for Policy and Partnership, from the NESC in her post today. The current partnership agreement was not debated in the House either before or after it was negotiated and was never sanctioned by the Dáil. The Government is the only party to the partnership process that feels the need to get sanction for the agreements it enters into on behalf of the taxpayer. Does the Tánaiste intend to change how this is done so the Oireachtas would have a meaningful role and a serious input with regard to the crucial decisions that are taken at the partnership table?
Many aspects of the agreement come before the House for discussion. The Deputy should raise the matter with the Whips. My view is that it would be good to have a debate on the partnership agreement in the House.
The Government decides what we do in this House. It is not a matter for us to approach the Whips. If the Tánaiste has a view that there should be a role for the Oireachtas, let her say as much and amplify on what that role should be. Let us have serious discussion about the big challenges that face us in the future.
Members will be aware that Marie Therese O'Loughlin is still outside the Dáil. I attempted to raise her case again on the Adjournment but I was told by the Ceann Comhairle's office that I cannot do so because I raised it in December. Will the Tánaiste discuss this issue again with her colleague, the Minister for Education and Science? I was told when I originally raised this case that the home had not been inspected and, therefore, could not be included in the Schedule. The Department of Health and Children has told me that the hostel of which the mother and baby home was a part was inspected by the State and that this information was given to the Department of Education and Science. I cannot find any other means of raising this case because I cannot do so again on the Adjournment. Will the two Ministers consider this issue again?
We are told now that it cannot be included in the scheme because it is a hostel but we were originally told it could not be included because it was not inspected. However, it was inspected. There are two separate places, the mother and baby home and the hostel. This is an important issue and Marie Therese is still outside the Dáil. It would not require legislation. I understand the Minister for Education and Science will give the board an extra two years to allow it to do its work. This matter would just require an addition to the Schedule. It must be properly addressed but I cannot find another means of doing so.
I am aware that Marie Therese O'Loughlin was also in another institution which is covered by the legislation but no abuse took place in that institution. That is the real issue. We cannot extend the redress scheme to hostels and other such places, even for one case. It would be a major——
The Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and the National Oil Reserves Agency or NORA Bill have been promised for some time, as have a number of other Bills relating to energy. In view of the necessity to bring clarity to the legislation and to future planning for the delivery of oil and gas, will the Tánaiste indicate when the Bills will be circulated?
I wish to ask about the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland Bill. It appears from the list that the heads of the legislation are not yet agreed. When will that legislation be ready? We are awaiting definite policy decisions relating to TG4, digital broadcasting and the issuing of licences. A number of crucial decisions have been taken in broadcasting even though the legislation is not yet even agreed by the Cabinet.
The Tánaiste generally speaks with greater clarity than the Taoiseach. As she is in command of the ship of State today, I have a number of questions. Before Christmas the Attorney General advised the Government that random breath testing was unconstitutional. Subsequently, the Taoiseach said everything was constitutional and legal. Yesterday he gave a reply which one would require a PhD. in advanced English to decipher. Based on the advice the Government was given before Christmas and the current position, are the gardaí entitled to conduct random breath testing or can it happen only after legislation has been passed? There is great confusion about this.
The Attorney General also advised the Government in respect of the Minister, Deputy Roche's, emergence from the Wicklow hills to take on Sellafield and have it closed down. He advised that the Minister should bring this to the United Nations. The European Court has said the Irish Government was wrong and the Minister, Deputy Roche, now intends to take the European Commission to court. What is the Government's strategy for doing that and is there a timescale for the Minister to take on the European Commission on an issue of such great importance? Why did the advice of the Attorney General not stand up in these two cases? He advised going to the United Nations with the Sellafield issue but the European Court said he was wrong.
The Attorney General did not suggest that random breath testing was unconstitutional. His advice was that there were constitutional issues and it had to be dealt with in a certain way. Legislation is necessary. Of course, gardaí are free to establish checkpoints where they believe they are appropriate, but the Attorney General has advised that to ensure clarity and certainty, new legislation would be required to introduce random breath testing for drink driving. A Cabinet sub-committee met this morning to discuss this issue and the Minister, Deputy Cullen, intends to introduce the legislation before the summer.
In all these situations the Government will always follow the advice of the Attorney General. On the specifics of Sellafield, I suggest the Deputy should table a question to the relevant Minister.
The problem with breath testing is the need to remove the requirement for a garda to form an opinion in order to have testing on a widescale basis. That is what will be provided for in the new legislation.
The nitrates directive will have a severe and damaging impact on agriculture and as a result of the directive there is a plan to jail some farmers who care for the land. Farmers have been custodians of the land for generations and have farmed and protected it. Families have fought over land and farmers have worked hard to maintain its condition. The Government has signed off on something that will see farmers jailed for minding their land.
Is there any chance the Government will renegotiate this? Our farmers and the agriculture industry are up in arms on the issue but nobody is listening to them. Is there any possibility some parts of the directive could be renegotiated?
This is an EU directive and we are in breach of it. As the Deputy is aware, there has been a European Court of Justice judgment against Ireland on this matter. The regulation that was signed on 11 December has been suspended for the moment, pending a review by Teagasc of the science on which it based the advice and about which there is some confusion. I believe there is a five-week——
Yes, Part 3, one part of the directive. It is important that the review be completed as quickly as possible and I understand Teagasc has five weeks to do it.
On the Corrib gas field, the Government spent €1 million just to watch a peaceful protest. What is the sense of that? I would like legislation to deal with this matter. The Minister has been interfering with the mediation process and has totally redefined what mediation is about. The Rossport five have pulled out of mediation because what the Minister proposes is completely different. He has interfered with the process and utterly screwed up the situation. He must answer on that.
Regarding traceability, legislation was introduced when extended hours were introduced for pubs in 2000. Section 17 provided that anyone who provides alcohol should have a barcode or some code of origin on it. Why has that not happened?
I raised a matter under Standing Order 31 to do with legislation on alternative practitioners. The Government has been messing about on this matter for years. It held a forum and established a working group, but it has not reported. However, in my area Ms Mineke Kamper is still practising and killing people. She has killed two people due to her negligence.
On the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill, has the Government reflected on the conflicting legal advice in light of the fact that 250 commercial vessels will form a total blockade in all fishery harbours in the country and the fishing industry will stop completely-——
Deputy Gallagher will take the Bill in Committee and we hope he will get Fine Gael co-operation to get it through so taxpayers will not be exposed to millions of euro in fines.
The legislation is before the Committee. The Government has discussed the legislation on a number of occasions and it is important it is passed for many reasons. It is not unusual that a group affected by the legislation would protest. That people are free to do that is the essence of democracy. However, it is important from the country's and taxpayers' perspectives that we have the legislation as quickly as possible.
What progress is being made on the Bill to repay people wrongly charged in nursing homes? Has the critical file destined for the Attorney General, last seen in the office of the former Minister for Health and Children and which mysteriously went missing, ever been found?
My question relates to legislation that may be brought before this House. A person who knowingly seeks child pornography on the Internet, looks at it and derives from it whatever sick gratification he can gain, but does not download it and leaves it in the "temporary Internet files" folder——
——can get away with impunity. Members of the forensic team of An Garda Síochána know people are guilty of these activities but cannot prosecute. Are there or does the Tánaiste agree there should be proposals to introduce a child trafficking and pornography amendment Bill to ensure the Garda can track those who actively search for child pornography and utilise it without downloading it? There are sick people getting away with what could eventually lead them to murder.
——but about appointing a Minister of State. When will the Tánaiste appoint the Minister of State? I ask because there is such a mess in the Department of Transport since Deputy Callely left. He was over the biggest swimming pool in Dublin.