Dáil debates

Wednesday, 11 October 2006

11:00 am

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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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.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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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.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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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?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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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.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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It is important to have the information correct.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Will the Minister state when the Book of Estimates will be published? Why did the Tribunals of Inquiry Bill fall off the schedule for today and tomorrow and when is it to be reintroduced?

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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It happened by fax last night.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Has the Government cancelled it or rethought it?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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That the debate on troops going to the Lebanon became an issue meant the Bill has been dropped off the schedule for the moment. That does not mean it has been withdrawn.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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That did not affect Thursday.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy can take it up with the Whip. I have just been told by the Chief Whip that because the debate on troops to be sent to Lebanon is being taken today, other work was postponed.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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There is no reason for it.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I am sure the Chief Whip can confirm that. Incidentally, we expect the Estimates in the next couple of weeks.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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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?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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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.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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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——-

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That matter does not arise on the Order of Business. The Minister will address the first question on promised legislation.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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——internationally, to be defunct, unreliable and open to fraud.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I appeal to Deputy Durkan. We have had an orderly Order of Business up to this point and we would like that to continue.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Perhaps the Minister will initiate this, or maybe the Tánaiste will do so.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The minerals development Bill, I understand, will be published in the middle of next year. I look forward to Deputy Durkan's contribution.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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What about the inquiry?

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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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?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I am not aware of the intention that he should be in the House. Obviously he is dealing with other responsibilities——

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Or a Minister of State.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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——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.

Photo of Seymour CrawfordSeymour Crawford (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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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?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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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.

Photo of Seymour CrawfordSeymour Crawford (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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It is 24 months.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The medical practitioners Bill is expected this session and the charities Bill is expected early next year.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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In view of the failure of ComReg in the Smart Telecom debacle and yesterday's enormous increase in electricity prices——-

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Has the Deputy a question on legislation?

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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I am just building up to it. Finally——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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There is no provision for building up to a question. The Deputy must come straight to the legislation.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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The issue we discussed earlier this morning was about competition. Yesterday, the Competition Authority missed a deadline, apparently, for the takeover by Topaz so it clearly failed in its duty.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I am sorry, but I must call Deputy Boyle.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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I just need half a minute. I want to ask the Minister, in view of these failures, whether the Government has thought about legislation on regulators and their failure, when they let us down.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should submit a question to the appropriate Minister.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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Deputy Cowen is the Minister.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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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?

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

12:00 pm

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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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.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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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——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That does not arise on the Order of Business.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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The Ceann Comhairle did not hear what I had to say.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I do not have to hear it. It is a question more appropriate for submission to the Minister for Finance.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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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.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask the Deputy to allow the Minister to answer his three questions which were in order.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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They cost the State €70 million. I would like the Minister to answer on that.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The three Bills will, I understand, be published this session. While I cannot tell the Deputy in what order they will be brought forward, I understand they will be sequential.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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That is for sure.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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What is the response to my fourth question?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Please allow Deputy Connolly to continue without interruption.

Paudge Connolly (Cavan-Monaghan, Independent)
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In view of the fact that two hospitals in the north east this morning account for 18% of the national total of patients on trolleys, one of these being the Lourdes hospital which has 10%——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Does the Deputy have a question on legislation?

Paudge Connolly (Cavan-Monaghan, Independent)
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This is on legislation.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Then the Deputy should come straight to the legislation.

Paudge Connolly (Cavan-Monaghan, Independent)
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Cavan hospital has 8% of the total. What is the Government doing about this? On legislation, who is responsible for Government health policy? Is it the Government that creates the policy? Can the Minister confirm——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Sorry, Deputy, that does not arise on the Order of Business.

Paudge Connolly (Cavan-Monaghan, Independent)
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——that the HSE is there to implement Government policy? I would like the Minister to make a statement on that. This would come under the eligibility for health services Bill. I would like a response on this.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The correct way to get a response is to submit a question to the appropriate Minister. This is not omnibus question time.

Paudge Connolly (Cavan-Monaghan, Independent)
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These two hospitals in the north east have the best part of 20% of the national total of patients on trolleys. I want to know a little bit about policy. Do we have a policy?

Jerry Cowley (Mayo, Independent)
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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.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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To what legislation is the Deputy referring?

Jerry Cowley (Mayo, Independent)
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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.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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As I told Deputy Crawford, this will be brought in next year.