Thursday, 25 May 2006
Order of Business.
The Order of Business is No. 3, Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Bill 2006 — Second Stage, resumed; and No. 19, European Communities (Amendment) Bill 2006 — Second Stage, resumed, to be taken not later than 1.30 p.m., and the order shall not resume thereafter.
The Taoiseach said yesterday that the Prison Service was checking the number of prisoners who would be affected by the Supreme Court decision. Can the Tánaiste update us on this? Has the Government any information on the number of people currently going through the system who might be affected?
Taking into account that sentencing was adjourned yesterday because of the case taken under the 1935 Act, pending action by the Government, I believe this matter is serious. It is not party political and it is in the people's interest that young persons be protected.
Let me finish. This is a serious matter and I will not play party politics with the Ceann Comhairle. I want to make the point that, yesterday, Deputy Jim O'Keeffe——
The same rules apply to Deputy Kenny as to every other Member. Standing Order 26 applies and the Chair appeals to Members to change it if they are not happy with it, after which the Chair will implement the change.
In the interest of supporting what the Government intends, will the Tánaiste or Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform assure us the legislation proposed by the Government will be introduced as soon as possible, that is, in three weeks' time, if not next week? Deputy Jim O'Keeffe has produced a Private Members' Bill on this matter.
On the Deputy's first question, I understand that seven people are in prison on the basis of being convinced under section 1(1) of the 1935 Act. They are in custody solely on that basis. The prison authorities are in discussion with the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney General about those people. In addition to them, others affected by the Supreme Court judgement are persons charged under section 1(1) of the Act who are on bail, persons charged who are being remanded in custody pending trial, persons found guilty of an offence under section 1(1) of the Act who are awaiting sentence, persons who have completed a sentence on the basis of a conviction under section 1(1) of the Act who are subject to reporting requirements to the Garda Síochána under the Sexual Offenders Act 2001, and persons who have completed a sentence on the basis of a conviction and have a criminal offence recorded against them. I do not have the numbers for persons in that category.
On the legislation, I very much appreciate the support of the Deputy and the commitments he made yesterday and today on this matter. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, will brief the Cabinet on Tuesday and the intention is to have legislation in about a fortnight. Given the complexity of the legislation and what we are seeking to deal with, that is reasonable in the circumstances. We would wish to have it today but that is not possible.
The Tánaiste has given us figures for imprisoned persons, but she does not have the figures for the other categories affected? I find that surprising in the sense that the Government would have been aware that this case was before the Supreme Court. It does not seem unreasonable to have expected that someone would have been monitoring what might happen in the event of the case being decided in the manner in which it has. Quite clearly, if an offence is deemed unconstitutional, the trial and conviction is invalid, as is the subsequent imprisonment. I heard the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform——
——this morning on "Today with Pat Kenny" explaining that the Chief Justice had warned of making haste slowly on this. However, this month last year, we took all sections of two different Bills, without notice, from Government——
Surely the Government is agreed that we want to avoid the ludicrous position of people who must now be released finding themselves in a position to take an action against the State for wrongful imprisonment if they are not released.
Sexual assault is an alternative charge and an alternative verdict that can be made in these cases. That is important to recognise. As I have said to Deputy Kenny, it is intended that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will discuss this matter at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, and we expect to have legislation within a fortnight.
Surely it was reasonable to expect in a case of this moment, having regard to the law reform recommendation of 1990 and other considerations, that somebody would have been monitoring the case and that the Government would have been prepared for this situation.
On the arms trade, namely, the export of military goods valued at €30 million and €4 million in dual use goods from Ireland every year, I see we have a control of exports Bill but, given that no date is indicated, could this matter be dealt with under the defence (amendment) Bill which is coming before the House this session? I want to ask about those two Bills in case there is any change in what I have before me here.
The Inequalities in Mortality report, published in 2001 by the Institute of Public Health in Ireland, highlights how the lowest occupational class——
On the control of exports Bill, it is not possible to say at this stage. I have published the heads of the health Bill for consultation and we will have the legislation later this year.
When will the business improvement districts Bill be published or will it be enacted in this session? When is the consumer protection Bill to establish the national consumer agency likely to be published given that the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment thought it was urgent last November?
The business improvement districts Bill will appear this session. The heads of the other Bill have yet to go to Cabinet, so I am not in a position to say when we will have it. I understand it may be later this year, perhaps.
Responsibility for drafting that legislation has now moved to the office of the Minister of State with responsibility for children, Deputy Brian Lenihan, and he is working on it. However, I have not got a specific date when we will have it.
If that is the way the Ceann Comhairle believes parliamentary questions should be dealt with in this House, it is about time the Tánaiste recognised that the system operating in the Department of Health and Children is totally unsatisfactory.
In the context of the legislation the Tánaiste has published on nursing home subventions, when will we see the report of the working group chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach on the support of persons with long-term needs, because it is very difficult to debate one without the other?
I hope it will be published during June. Further proposals must go to the Cabinet in June and I hope to publish the report at that point. The report has been the basis of discussion at the social partnership talks as well.
Given the dangerous condition of Skerries and Balbriggan harbours, will we have to wait until the harbours Bill is introduced before this matter is resolved and we get funding from the Departments to deal with the issue? When will the harbours Bill be published?
The heads of the pharmacy (No. 1) Bill were cleared by Cabinet recently and I hope to publish them next week for consultation. We hope to have the Bill in the House later this year. The pharmacy (No. 2) Bill, which deals with more technical rather than regulatory issues to do with the profession, will be ready later this year or early next year.
I have a number of questions. The Taoiseach promised an inspectorate for social services. The Tánaiste said this morning the heads of the health Bill were published for consultation, but she did not indicate when we would see it in the House. When will that happen? When will we see the report on the Leas Cross nursing home? It seems——
I hope to bring the Bill dealing with the insurance scheme for hepatitis C sufferers to the Cabinet in about two weeks. The social services inspectorate is part of the health Bill the heads of which have been published. We hope to have that Bill by the end of the year or at the start of next year. I have not seen the report on the Leas Cross inquiry. It is a matter for the HSE and I do not know when——
Because when a report draws conclusions about people, under natural justice they are entitled to seek copies of the report. I understand that process is going on currently with regard to the inquiry.
On the issue of the children's hospital, the expert group concluded its work yesterday.
Undertakings were given that the United Nations convention against corruption would be signed this year. When is it likely to be signed? The understanding on the human rights conventions that arise from the Good Friday Agreement was that Britain and Ireland would take the same position. Has Ireland ratified the optional protocol, the convention against torture?
A road traffic Bill to introduce a number of safety measures was promised and we were told it was intended to publish, debate and pass it before the summer recess so that the new measures could come into force. We have not yet seen that Bill. Is it intended to keep to that timescale and when will the Bill be published?
On promised legislation, I understand the Tánaiste has told the House that the amending Bill required as a result of the Supreme Court judgment on the consent case will be before the House in two weeks' time. Is the House scheduled to be in session in two weeks' time. This is an important——
The intention of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is to have legislation before the Cabinet on 6 or 7 June that week. The Dáil will not be in session that week. If it is approved by Government at that time, I am sure Deputies would like to see it for at least a few days before we debate it in the House. Therefore, assuming it goes through Cabinet on 6 or 7 June, we could have it in the House the following week.
On the road safety Bill, last year following the Kentstown bus crash a meeting between the transport office, the Department of Education and Science and Bus Éireann was convened in August to update and examine how to improve the road safety Bill with regard to school children. It was decided at the meeting to have further meetings, but none has taken place since despite the fact that there have been five further crashes-——
Sixteen Bills are to be published before the end of the summer. Some have already been published, but will the full 16 be published before the end of the recess, which is fast approaching? When will the nurses and midwives Bill come into the House.