Wednesday, 7 June 2006
Order of Business.
It is proposed to take No. 19, Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Bill 2006 [Seanad] — Second Stage, resumed; and No. 1, Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill 2005 [Seanad] — Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Private Members' business shall be No. 29, Greyhound Industry (Doping Regulation) Bill 2006 — Second Stage, which shall also take place tomorrow immediately after the Order of Business and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes on that day.
It is not agreed. While I have no objection per se to the Fine Gael Private Members' business, the Taoiseach's almost singular reliance in his responses this afternoon to questions from Opposition spokespersons regarding the recent decisions of the Supreme Court and the passage of legislation last Friday that the all-party group proposed by the Minister, which may prove a valuable vehicle——
It is relevant because I am objecting to the Order of Business. I object for the precise reason that kicking to touch in terms of the all-party group and refusing to address the substantive issue on the floor of this House is a singular and particular failure on the part of this Government in ordering business for this week. It is unacceptable that the Dáil should sit this week and not debate the issues that directly arise from the Supreme Court judgments and the legislation that was rushed through last Friday. It is beyond belief that the stop-gap legislation——
I am objecting to the failure to take into account the need for a debate in this House. I demand that the Taoiseach and the Chief Whip order the business to be presented to this House in such a way as to allow the opportunity today or tomorrow not only to set in train the necessary debate within this House but to give leadership in terms of the wider debate and consultation that must take place.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 66 (Bertie Ahern, Michael Ahern, Seán Ardagh, Niall Blaney, Johnny Brady, Martin Brady, James Breen, Séamus Brennan, Ivor Callely, Pat Carey, John Carty, Michael J Collins, Mary Coughlan, John Cregan, Martin Cullen, John Curran, Noel Davern, Noel Dempsey, Tony Dempsey, John Dennehy, Jimmy Devins, John Ellis, Michael Finneran, Seán Fleming, Pat Gallagher, Jim Glennon, Noel Grealish, Mary Hanafin, Seán Haughey, Máire Hoctor, Joe Jacob, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Séamus Kirk, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Michael McDowell, Tom McEllistrim, John McGuinness, Micheál Martin, John Moloney, Donal Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, Liz O'Donnell, John O'Donoghue, Denis O'Donovan, Noel O'Flynn, Batt O'Keeffe, Ned O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Malley, Tim O'Malley, Tom Parlon, Seán Power, Dick Roche, Mae Sexton, Michael Smith, Noel Treacy, Mary Wallace, Ollie Wilkinson, Michael Woods, G V Wright)
Against the motion: 11 (Paudge Connolly, Jerry Cowley, Martin Ferris, Tony Gregory, Marian Harkin, Séamus Healy, Joe Higgins, Finian McGrath, Catherine Murphy, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Ó Snodaigh and F. McGrath.
Question declared carried.
I wish to inform the House that I have allowed a private notice question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, which will take place after matters arising from the Order of Business. However, the debate on it must conclude before Private Members' time at 7 p.m.
In its programme for Government, the Government indicated that the maximum waiting time for a referral to a consultant would be three months, while the maximum waiting time for a procedure would be six months. No effort has been made to deliver on that commitment. When will the eligibility for health and personal social services Bill be published?
The Taoiseach announced the provision of a new rapporteur for child protection. Will this be put on a statutory basis? Does it require legislation?
The Minister for Social and Family Affairs has referred to legislation to change the cohabitation rule for lone parents. Will that legislation be brought before the House before Christmas?
The legislation on lone parents will be brought before the House before Christmas. I do not think the provision of a rapporteur will require legislation. However, we must obtain advice on the best way to proceed.
Following the Taoiseach's decision to refer the issues arising from the Supreme Court ruling to an all-party Oireachtas committee, is it his intention to refer them to an existing committee, such as the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights? Has any decision been made on the terms of reference for the committee?
What is the current position on the broadcasting Bill?
I wish to highlight the concerns of the Children's Rights Alliance, Rape Crisis Network Ireland and the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Defects in the register for sex offenders have been highlighted and there is a need for a properly resourced monitoring registration system. However, there is still no indicated date for the publication of such legislation, about which we continually ask. It is surely untenable at this stage for the Taoiseach to feign interest in child protection and not set a date for the publication of a register of persons considered unsafe to work with children. There seems to be an impediment to this, which, for some bizarre reason, does not exist north of the Border. Can the Taoiseach expedite that matter? This promised legislation is long awaited and urgently needed.
There is a North-South Ministerial Council dimension to this issue. However, I asked the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, to try to find a way to circumvent it. The Departments of Education and Science and Health and Children are examining this matter. They are considering the establishment of a pre-employment consultancy service and the Minister of State is trying to provide for that.
The Minister for Education and Science announced in today's newspapers that the vocational education committees will deal with third level grants. Will the third level student support Bill, which is on the list of proposed legislation, incorporate this decision? When will that Bill be published? There were suggestions that means testing might be changed and I would like to know if it is part of the same Bill.
We have a €10 million deficit in the north-east region of the Health Service Executive and this has an implication for the two most vulnerable groups, namely, those suffering from cancer and those in need of dialysis.
——and the difficulties we are experiencing in the north east. We are pursuing the easiest targets and I cannot accept that. We are short of money and we target those suffering from cancer and those in need of dialysis. The north-east region of the Health Service Executive is the most underfunded in the country and we are now seeing the fruits of that. We have one of the fastest growing populations in the country.
Is there any possibility of an open debate in the House to ascertain who is in charge of the health service? This is extremely important to the people of Cavan and Monaghan. Different messages are being sent out by the Health Service Executive every day. We are now being told that those with cancer and those in need of dialysis are no longer entitled to services. When will the Taoiseach make time available for a full discussion on who is responsible for the health service?
I would also like to voice my protest on what is happening in the north east. A second consultant oncologist is being refused for the area. What is more basic than that? There is a great need for this service, yet the Government is denying cancer patients a very essential service.
When the Taoiseach visited the US, it was reported that the US intelligence services had sought access to e-mail and text transmissions in this country. Will the relevant legislation, namely, the electronic communications (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, take account of that?
Regarding the National Children's Hospital, I am sure the Taoiseach is aware of the recommendation of the task group to locate the latter on the Mater site. Has that recommendation been approved or will it go before the Cabinet tomorrow? Where is the legislation necessary to implement the recommendation?