Tuesday, 24 October 2006
Order of Business
I have four questions on the Order of Business. As everybody now knows, five young men lost their lives in a tragic occurrence in County Monaghan. When will the roads (amendment) Bill, dealing with further critical road safety initiatives, which is No. 76 on the list, be introduced? It should be expedited and this side of the House will facilitate it. When does the Government expect to deal with the report on assisted human reproduction referred to it by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children? When is the House likely to have a report on it? When is the Dublin transport authority Bill, No. 21 on the list, expected to be published? Obviously it is of critical importance.
An cheathrú rud — tá a fhios ag an Taoiseach go raibh reifreann thíos i nDaingean Uí Chúis i gContae Chiarraí, áit ina raibh sé i rith an tsamhraidh. Tá formhór na ndaoine ann go mór i bhfábhar go n-athrófaí ainm an bhaile go "Daingean Uí Chúis" agus "Dingle". An bhfuil sé ar intinn ag an Taoiseach go ndéanfaí leasú ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla i dtreo is go mbeadh meon agus intinn na ndaoine sáite isteach sa dlí? In other words, is it intended to amend the Official Languages Act such that following a plebiscite in an area such as Dingle, the will of the people can be reflected in the law of the land?
The road traffic (amendment) Bill is listed for 2007. The Dublin transportation authority Bill is due this session. Subject to correction, I understand the report on assisted human reproduction is before a committee of the House.
I will need to check its status.
On An Daingean, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív, has noted the result of the plebiscite that voted in favour of changing the name from An Daingean to the composite and bilingual Dingle-Daingean Uí Chúis. He previously made clear that was one option on which he could not act within the law. The Kerry County Council plebiscite asked the electorate to vote on the only option that is a legal impossibility. I am not sure how the Minister can deal with a legal impossibility.
I have no doubt that the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív, will make all this clear because I am unclear as to what it means. I ask the Taoiseach about the judicial council Bill, which was promised in 2001. It may have a topicality at present. Is it the intention of the Government to publish it? I also ask the Taoiseach about the commitment to invigilate the rights of workers in the workplace with the appointment of a director of enforcement or compliance with standards. When will that Bill be brought before the House?
The draft heads of the judicial council Bill to provide effective remedies for complaints about judicial misbehaviour, including lay participation in the investigation of complaints, are being prepared in the Department, taking into account work done by the Constitution review group, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Constitution and the Chief Justice's committee on judicial ethics. It is still listed for next year but the heads are not ready yet. I believe it will be some time.
On the employment rights legislation, a number of Bills arise from the recent social partnership agreement. The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, has established a section in his Department to progress a number of these. It is the intention to fast forward as many of them as we can. I do not believe they can all be contained in one Act. They had started working on legislation for the protection of workers back prior to the summer. I do not have a date — it is not listed. However, we have told the social partners we will give this priority. I believe there are three different measures. The officials are working on them and we hope to bring them forward as soon as possible.
I have questions on two Bills. The Ombudsman (amendment) Bill, which would give more powers to the Office of the Ombudsman, was first promised by the Government in October 2002 and was to be published by the middle of 2003. In the most recent programme, it is indicated that it will be published in early 2007. Is it the Government's intention to have it enacted before the general election?
The second Bill relates to the establishment of a carbon fund, which the Minister for Finance promised in budget 2006. The Government indicated the legislation would be published this year but the most recent legislative programme indicates it will be published in early 2007, at the earliest. This will be 15 months after the first indication in this regard by the Minister for Finance. Is it the Government's intention to have the Bill enacted before the general election?
The Ombudsman (amendment) Bill has 18 heads. They have all been completed and work has progressed satisfactorily on the legislation. It is due for introduction in the spring session.
The heads of the carbon fund Bill were approved just before the summer break at the end of July. The Bill is still listed for early 2007. It is with the Parliamentary Counsel at present.
Will the Taoiseach bring forward the minerals development Bill in view of the topical nature of what is proposed therein? Publication has been promised for mid-2007. However, in view of the discussion on the development of a mineral industry, and on oil and gas, etc, might it not be good to bring it forward?
The Taoiseach will recall I raised the issue of the broadcasting and communications Bill with him, including the section that would enable RTE to broadcast to the Irish abroad. He wrote me a nice letter about it and said the Minister would contact me. The Minister was present on the last occasion I wanted to raise the issue. The Ceann Comhairle called me on Thursday when I was not expecting to be called — I thank him for calling me — and I asked, through the Tánaiste, that the Minister might consider what the Taoiseach said to him. I just received a smart answer, asking whether I was not able to read the Bill. Perhaps the Taoiseach will talk to the Minister again because the Taoiseach and I are very anxious that the possibility of broadcasting to the Irish abroad, particularly those in Britain, be realised as soon as possible. The whole House would agree to the taking of the section in question as a separate short Bill.
I have always been sympathetic in respect of this matter. If we deal with the longer Bill, which refers to the e-consultation process, it will take a long time. It would be desirable if we could try to agree to take the relevant section separately. I have said this to the Department and the Minister and I will ask the Whip to pursue it. If we proceed the other way——
We all know about the many tragic accidents that have happened throughout the country and the fall-out from them. Can I ask the Taoiseach a very simple question on legislation? Is it proposed to introduce any roadside testing for drugs?
I do not want to mislead the Deputy in this regard. We have said previously that if there was a system in the world that provided for roadside testing for drugs, or narcotics in any form, we would legislate for it. The fact is that there is none anywhere in the world; there is no such system. There have been a few trial systems in various countries over the past decade or so but none has worked. I do not want to mislead the Deputy by telling him I will introduce a system that does not exist. If there was a system, we would legislate for it.
No heads have been drafted and it is not possible to indicate at this stage when it will be introduced. The Bill is to provide powers of inspection to individuals mandated by electronic contractors. To be frank, I do not believe the Bill has progressed very far.