Thursday, 12 October 2006
Order of Business
I ask the Government Whip to explain why the DÃ¡il was shut down yesterday for an extended period. A total of 16 Bills are due to go through the House. For example, the Health Bill was promised on three separate occasions last year. The DÃ¡il returned from its 82 day summer break only for Members to find that it closed down for a period yesterday.
Has the Government run out of business or did not foresee a situation in which time would be available? Given all the requests made by Members from all sides to discuss various mattersââ
ââthe House deserves an explanation from the Government Whip in this regard.
I ask the Minister when Members can expect the new ethics Bill to be brought before the House. Given the close and warm relationship between the Taoiseach and TÃ¡naiste, they have now arranged thatââ
I understand that no guillotine motion was in force yesterday in the House. Although Members had an opportunity to speak on the agreed issues, the Opposition did not appear to have much to say about it.
As for the legislation, it will be prepared as quickly as possible and will be brought before the Government for its approval. At present, the advice of the Attorney General is being sought by my Department. Hence, the Government will move on this matter quickly.
That was an extraordinary response from the Minister for Finance. The House collapsed last Thursday at 2.35 p.m. and was not reconvened until 3.30 p.m. because of a lack of business. The House collapsed yesterday evening at 5.15 p.m. and could not reconvene until 7 p.m. Today, the House has a single measure before it that probably will not occupy it beyond lunchtime. The pretence that the Opposition orders the business of the House is completely transparent. The reason there is no legislation, of course, is that the Government has been so preoccupied since the return of the DÃ¡il with saving its own skin that there is no legislation to put to the House. If the Government does not have any legislation to propose, why does it not make provision for a discussion on one of the three Morris reports? Would it not be possible to provide for a discussion on the botched privatisation of Aer Lingus?
Why can the House not discuss the Barr report on Abbeylara, or the conclusions of the investigation on the Dean Lyons case? Why was no thought given to avoiding yesterday's situation, when the House was meeting but had no business to conduct? The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform spoke last week about the new laws which were proposed to allow the Government to shut down tribunals. It was reported that Government sources had made it clear that the Minister, Deputy McDowell, had indicated the legislation was a priority for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. If it was a priority for the Department, why did it fall off the schedule yesterday and today? It is not on the schedule for next week, although some other major business is planned that should last approximately half a day in each case. I understand the House will debate the Nuclear Test Ban Bill 2006, which decrees that "a person who carries out, or causes the carrying out of, a nuclear explosion in the State shall be guilty of an offence".
Some 28 Bills have been enacted this year and a further 29 Bills have been passed. It is a question of ordering the business. We have business to discuss today. I do not know how many Opposition speakers there will be. Given the sort of parliamentary party it has, I expect the Labour Party will have far more interest in the Nuclear Test Ban Bill 2006 next week than it has in some of today's business. That is a decision for that party. That Bill needs to be dealt with. It is an old legacy from the rainbow Administration. I heard it could not get agreement on the matter around the Cabinet table.
A very successful initial public offering has taken place. Many IPOs have had to be withdrawn over the last 12 months. Deputy Rabbitte's continuing attempt to characterise the IPO in this case as anything other than successful is simply not supported by the facts. It is important to point out that the business of the House can be proceeded with. It is a matter for the Whips at all times to decide what that business will be.
Can I ask about the continuation of the important debate on the Green Paper on Energy? We had an opportunity to continue that debate yesterday and we may have another opportunity today. I would also like to ask about a further important matter relating to climate change, which is the biggest challenge faced by humanity. I refer to the carbon fund Bill.
The White Paper on Irish Aid refers to the need for a debate in the parliamentary assemblies of Europe on the issue of development. What arrangements are being made for a debate on the White Paper in this House? The White Paper does not include a commitment to the UN Convention against Corruption being ratified by Ireland. I want to save time in future by putting it to the Minister for Finance now that he should give the House a list of the UN conventions which have been signed by Ireland but not ratified. Is the Minister not concerned that the UN Convention against Corruption will not be ratified in the lifetime of this Government? Is he concerned that the White Paper on Irish Aid, which took such a long time to produce, does not include a commitment to passing the legislation needed to ratify the convention in the lifetime of the Government? Perhaps the House will be given an assurance next week as to whether the iodine tablets are out of date.
I agree with the Deputy that the ratification of international conventions is important. The leader of his party ridiculed one such convention in his contribution earlier this morning. The various conventions deal with important matters which need to be addressed. I am glad some people in the Labour Party do not regard it as a matter of ridicule that international conventions should be ratified and discussed in the House. I will seek to obtain the list required by the Deputy. As he is aware, there have always been delays between the ratification and signing of international conventions. The domestic business of the House has taken precedence on many occasions. I accept this matter has been of continuing interest to the Deputy. I will ask the relevant Departments to convey the current position to him.
Can the Minister shed some light on the development of the proposals in Delivering Better Government? The proposals in question, like many other things, were included in the Fianna FÃ¡il manifesto at the last election. I am interested in how the proposals can be squared with the recent substantial increase in the price of gas.
The minerals development Bill will be introduced in the middle of next year. If the Deputy knows anywhere where we can get gas for nothing, he should give me a shout so I can contact Bord GÃ¡is Ãireann.
When I asked the Minister for Finance last week about the possibility of having a debate in the House on the report of the Commission on Electronic Voting, the Minister kindly agreed and indicated the Whips would arrange it.
I will start again at the beginning. There is a report from the Commission on Electronic Voting, which, as it happens is embarrassing for the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen. When will this report be debated in this House, as is normal practice?
I wish to ask the Minister a number of questions on legislation under the Order of Business. Will the Bord na gCon (amendment) Bill give effect to the recommendations of the recent Dalton report and when is it likely to be published? Has the privacy Bill been approved by Cabinet and where is it listed in the Government's legislative programme? The Citizens' Information Bill is meant to be published today; is there any indication of when there will be a debate on that Bill? Will it be before Christmas? The final piece of legislation about which I wish to inquire is the Curragh of Kildare Bill. It is in section A on the pink sheets of the Government's legislative programme, where it has been for four years.
The Curragh of Kildare Bill will be dealt with during this session and I am really looking forward to it. The privacy Bill will be dealt with in the Seanad and the Citizens' Information Bill will be published tomorrow and taken in the House in the coming weeks.
Is there any hope of having a debate in this House on decentralisation? Does the Minister remember that this was promised some years ago? The only decentralisation I have seen is in jobs in the Department of Agriculture and Food taken from my county.
When will the sale of alcohol Bill be brought before the House to allow us discuss the ongoing problems in that area? The fines Bill is on the pink sheets. We were promised a Bill on the enforcement of fines between 12 and 18 months ago, yet gardaÃ are still out collecting fines.
The last time a Minister of State gave such an interview he fell asleep on the telephone. Does the Minister plan to keep Ministers of State away from early morning interviews or is there anything we can do to contain them?
Do those in the health service and the Minister for Health and Children realise that last Monday in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, which has been declared a hospital of excellence in the north east, GPs in the area ââ
I ask Deputy McEntee to resume his seat. This is the Order of Business and the Chair is happy to read the Standing Order for the benefit of Members. This is not an omnibus Question Time on a Thursday. The Chair tries to facilitate as many Members as possible but if Members ramble on aimlessly, this cannot be done.
I think I am in order because the Bill I wish to raise, the third level students support Bill, has been on the Government's legislative programme for a number of years, is very urgent and could have filled in time yesterday and today. Parents who obeyed the Government and opened special savings incentive accounts, SSIAs, are now being punished in terms of their children's eligibility for third level grants. The legislation has been lingering for years. Has it been agreed by Cabinet and when will it be debated in this House? Will it address the problem of parents being punished for opening SSIAs?
This does not arise on the Order of Business. I suggest Deputy Rabbitte submit a question to the line Minister in relation to the subject. He cannot come into this House and ride roughshod over Standing Orders. Deputy Rabbitte is out of order and I ask him to allow his colleague to make a contribution.
I wish to raise the matter of applications by local authorities for borough boundary extensions and I have a particular interest in the Waterford application. When is it intended to enact sections 55 to 62 of the Local Government Act 2001? This provides for the establishment of a local government commission to deal with the aforementioned issue.