Wednesday, 11 October 2006
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 10a, Sea Pollution (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2003 [Seanad] — instruction to committee; No. 10b, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the agreement between the European Union and the United States of America on the processing and transfer of passenger name record, PNR, data by air carriers to the United States Department of Homeland Security; No. 11, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the despatch of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for service with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon; and No. 18, the Sea Pollution (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2003 [Seanad] — Order for Report Stage and Report and Final Stages.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) No. 10a shall be decided without debate; (2) the proceedings on No. 10b shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after two hours and five minutes, and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; (ii) the speech of each other Member, who shall be called upon in the following sequence, shall not exceed ten minutes in each case: Government, Fine Gael, Government, Labour, Government and the Technical Group, after which the sequence is to recommence; (iii) Members may share time; (iv) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; and (3) the proceedings on No. 11 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 65 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the speeches shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and to the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, and who may share their time, which shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; and (ii) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes. Private Members' business shall be No. 52, motion re drugs crisis.
There are three proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 10a, the Sea Pollution (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2003 [Seanad] — instruction to committee, agreed to? Agreed.
Is the proposal for dealing with No. 10b, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the agreement between the European Union and the United States of America on the processing and transfer of passenger name record, PNR, data by air carriers to the United States Department of Homeland Security, agreed to? Agreed.
Is the proposal for dealing with No. 11, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the despatch of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for service with UNIFIL, agreed to? Agreed.
I wish to raise three matters. The Minister for Finance will want accurate information to be given to the House on every issue. This morning on Leaders' Questions, he indicated it was not up to him to sanction money to the HSE for projects. However, in response to a parliamentary question on 27 September 2006, the Minister for Health and Children stated:
The HSE's proposed ICT investment plans for 2006 are the subject of ongoing discussions between the HSE, the Department of Finance and my Department. No formal sanction for 2006 investment has issued as yet.
The Minister for Finance is therefore incorrect. He made the point that Seán Hurley has been given responsibility for implementing the ICT projects on behalf of the HSE. Mr. Hurley retired from his role as acting director in June of this year and no replacement has been made since.
Will the Minister state whether agreement has been reached on holding a debate on Aer Lingus next week? Yesterday the Taoiseach stated there were a number of obstacles, perhaps legal obstacles, in the way of doing so. Have they been cleared yet?
Will the Minister state when the sale of alcohol Bill is expected to be published?
The Bill will be published early next year. I understand no agreement has been reached as yet on whether there will be a debate on Aer Lingus next week.
I take Deputy Kenny's point on Mr. Hurley. He was originally the person dealing with the issue. I would not be up to date on the matter and it was additional information that I gave to the House. If it is the case that he has been replaced, that is fine. On the ICT projects, while there may be a debate taking place at official level, the point at issue is that the HSE is responsible for its own budget. That is the point I was making.
Given that this is the Minister for Finance's particular responsibility, will he let the House know whether the ethics legislation will be supplementary to the list we have in front of us of promised legislation, or how long will it be before it sees the light of day? I am referring to the arrangements of the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste to have new legislation.
I expected the citizens information Bill to have been published last Friday. Given that the Minister is here, perhaps he will confirm whether it was to be published last Friday and what has happened? Has a date been set for publication of the citizens information Bill?
I am informed that it is intended to publish the citizens information Bill later this week, probably on Friday. The other issue, which was agreed in principle yesterday by the Government, will be dealt with by officials of my Department. We will work on advice from the Attorney General and publish it as soon as possible.
In view of the importance of developing our national resources and the recent publication of the energy discussion document, when is the minerals development Bill expected, given that it is critical and crucial? I have another question on the point raised by Deputy Rabbitte, namely, the Tribunals of Inquiry (Amendment) Bill. Is it possible to initiate an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the expenditure of almost €60 million on an e-voting system that has now been proven——-
I have a few questions on the Order of Business. For clarity on the Tribunals of Inquiry (Amendment) Bill that was scheduled for today and tomorrow, it is unusual even if there was other more pressing business that it would not remain listed since it is likely that there is not sufficient business for tomorrow. Just so I understand it, is it being proceeded with and, if so, when will it be introduced on Second Stage, or is it being withdrawn?
Is time being made available for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to make a statement on the Gort shooting earlier this week so that he can update the House on the exact process of inquiry, what has transpired and what information is available to him?
——during the course of the next few days, so I am not aware that alternative arrangements are envisaged.
On the Tribunals of inquiry (Amendment) Bill, I understand it was taken off the schedule for this week. That does not mean it is withdrawn, and that is a matter to be taken up at the meeting of the Whips tonight.
I have three issues that I hope are relevant to the Order of Business. In light of the whole issue surrounding gifts and charities etc., we have been waiting for many years for a charities Bill. When will that be dealt with? Another issue that is extremely important is the need for primary health care. In that context when will the House discuss the medical practitioners Bill?
In light of the fact that it takes 24 months to get an appointment to get on a waiting list for health care, when will the eligibility for health and personal social services Bill be discussed in the House so that we can do something about this?
On the third Bill mentioned by Deputy Crawford, the eligibility for health services Bill is expected next year. Waiting times have been significantly reduced in many specialties as a result of many improvements.
I want to raise two issues on the Order of Business for response by the Minister for Finance. The Government has indicated that it is likely to publish the national development plan for 2007 onwards in mid-November. Are there plans for a debate in the House to review the last national development plan and to analyse whether what is being proposed for 2007 onwards is in the national interest?
On the Dublin transport authority Bill, which is in section A of the Government's legislative programme for this session, the Secretary General of the Department of Transport at last Thursday's meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts, indicated that this is being drafted. She could not give a finishing time for when this to be finalised. Will the Minister indicate why it is in section A and concede that it will not come before the House this session? What plans, if any, has the Government for a national transport authority to have integrated transport facilities for those of us who do not represent Dublin constituencies?
On the third matter, we have been talking about setting up a Dublin transport authority in the context of the major investment envisaged for public transport in Dublin. This does not mean that the transport requirements of other areas will be neglected in any way. Unprecedented investment is planned, as the Deputy knows, throughout the country in respect of public transport, and I am glad this has the broad support of the House.
On the Bill that is to come from the Department of Transport, the heads of the Bill have been passed by Government. On how soon the Chief Parliamentary Counsel can produce the detailed Bill, that has to do with continuing matters and I cannot indicate a date. We hoped by putting it in section A to have it for this session and that is what we should like to see happen. Obviously, there are many priorities, however, which the parliamentary counsel has to deal with. Members on the Opposition side who have been in government understand that such issues are all the time being evaluated by the Chief Whip in discussions with the parliamentary counsel.
On the national development plan, indicative timelines have been set out, but no final decision has yet been taken on when it will be published. That work is advancing and it must, obviously, be approved by Government before we decide on a publication date. All the omens are indicative, pending approval and finalisation of the plan. On the prospects of the outgoing plan being debated, that is a matter for the Whips to deliberate on and agree.
When will we have the British-Irish agreement Bill, the European Communities Bill and the passports Bill, and in which order will we get them so that we may order our work programme?
Given that the Minister for Finance is here, will he say whether his Department has carried out a detailed inquiry into the very suspicious circumstances——
It is very appropriate to this House to know how the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government entered into contracts for the public voting machines at a time when an Oireachtas committee was carrying out an investigation into the electronic voting machines.
On the eligibility for public services Bill, what about people from the west who have been waiting since 2000 for an extension of BreastCheck? Can legislation be introduced to ensure those people have a chance to live? Some 300 people will die as it will be 2010 before that service is delivered.
I am talking about the eligibility for public services Bill. I am asking when legislation that ensures these people get treatment will be debated. There is no good reason that service should not have been extended in 2000. There is a 25% to 30% cut in mortality, yet hundreds of people will die.