Thursday, 9 November 2006
Order of Business
The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 10a motion re the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Bombing of Kay's Tavern, Dundalk; No. 16, National Oil Reserves Agency Bill 2006 — Report and Final Stage, resumed, to adjourn at 1 p.m. if not previously concluded; and No. 18, statements on Transport 21, resumed, in accordance with the Order of the Dáil on 2 March 2006. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 10a shall be decided without debate.
On a point of clarification, will the Tánaiste confirm that the House will have an opportunity to address the report of the sub-committee in the Dáil Chamber as early as possible? Will he accommodate the earliest address of the report in December rather than allowing it to drift in to the more difficult period prior to the Christmas recess when there is limited media attention to such matters? If the Tánaiste is in a position to clarify both of those issues, I would be grateful.
As the Deputy knows, the sub-committee is seeking a two week extension of the time within which to prepare its report. The report will then come back to the House and if the Deputy's Whip raises the matter with the Government Whip, I am sure his desire will be accommodated.
Will the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform state if he proposes to make a statement to the House on the spate of tiger kidnappings in the country?
Second, what is the status of the two reports into the Garda published by Senator Maurice Hayes and Ms Kathleen O'Toole which state that there are 66 gardaí working in the IT section, 88 in human resources and 14 in the Garda press office? Are they to be translated into change and will legislation be required?
Third, the Tánaiste is always prepared to be accountable to the House. Last week, I raised with him the number of cases likely to be dropped under the statutory rape charges process. The Tánaiste did not answer that question. Last June, a letter from me and Deputy Rabbitte was required to elicit responses. Can the Tánaiste now give us the answer to that question, in view of the work of the committee?
I understand that. I have asked the Tánaiste four perfectly legitimate questions. He is a man given on occasion to not incomplete sentences, so I am sure he is prepared to answer my questions in the public interest.
Deputy Kenny will be aware that I answered questions on tiger kidnappings during oral questions this week, during which time a lengthy discussion was held. I congratulate the Garda Síochána on the work it is doing with regard to investigating these cases and I had discussions on the subject with the Commissioner today.
I am not in a position to give an answer to the Deputy on decisions taken by the Director of Public Prosecutions with regard to whether individual cases will be prosecuted because that is a matter for the independent judgment of the DPP. If I come into possession of information which I can pass on to Deputy Kenny and others, I will do so.
With regard to the Garda Síochána, the implementation of the recommendations contained in the reports by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate and Senator Maurice Hayes will not require legislation and it is the intention of the Garda authorities and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to expedite their implementation.
The Tánaiste advised us that he was to receive the report of the working group on domestic partnership by 20 October. Has he received the report and does he anticipate that a constitutional amendment will arise from it? Given the apparent intention of the Government to hold a referendum in the near future, would it be appropriate to take the entirety of amendments at the same time?
When the amendment on judicial misconduct collapsed and was withdrawn in 2001, the Government promised to introduce legislation. Some five years later, that legislation, the judicial council Bill, remains on the legislative programme. Without making any reference to current matters, when is it proposed to bring the Bill before the House?
I am told that I will receive the report to which Deputy Rabbitte refers in the next two weeks. I have seen a draft of the report and I will publish it as soon as I have it to hand.
Regarding the Deputy's question on a referendum, the Taoiseach has indicated that the Government will propose to deal with the issue of civil partnerships on a sub-constitutional basis because it is his judgment, which I share, that a constitutional referendum on the matter would be divisive and unlikely to succeed.
I have made proposals in respect of the judicial council Bill which are currently being considered by the Chief Justice. I am awaiting his views before proceeding and, as soon as he offers me a clear opinion on alternative methods for dealing with the matter, I will arrange for the legislation to be expedited.
Will the Tánaiste join me in condemning the comments of certain irresponsible public representatives that is all right to drink and drive? Does he agree that the Government's own attitude to our biggest drug problem, alcohol, is somewhat ambivalent?
The position regarding the alcohol products Bill is that voluntary agreements have been reached with the alcohol and advertising industries.
The Department, therefore, wishes to delay the introduction of this legislation pending the outcome and evaluation of the voluntary arrangements. I am aware it is hard for some people to accept that it is sometimes better to achieve ends by means of voluntary agreements than by compulsory legislation.
I certainly condemn anybody who defends breaking of the law. We all live in a constitutional democracy and Article 9 of the Constitution states that loyalty to the State is the fundamental duty of every citizen. Those elected to public office have a special duty to uphold the law.
I refer to the housing miscellaneous provisions Bill, which is intended to provide for the rental accommodation scheme. The Central Bank has advised that four out of five people will not be able to afford housing.
Yesterday, Deputy Rabbitte told the House that Deputy Wall's name had been removed from the register of voters. Last night, I checked the register and discovered that not only was my name removed but so also were the names of my entire family. I am not paranoid——
Yesterday, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government suggested legislation may be required to deal with the Deputy Rabbitte's proposal. Although the Minister for Finance, who took the Order of Business yesterday, knew nothing about the issue, the Tánaiste may be better informed. Can he tell us how, in terms of legislation, the Government intends to address the issue?
I understand that legislation is not promised. If Deputy Stagg was to look more carefully at the register for County Kildare, he would find himself in the K Club.
Will time be allocated in the coming week to address the substantive issues which have been highlighted in regard to the electoral register?
With regard to the promise by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to introduce a broadcasting Bill in the coming year, can the Tánaiste indicate when that legislation will be brought before the House?
With regard to the Deputy's second question, an e-consultation process is under way. When that process is completed, the matter will be further progressed.
No proposals have been made in respect of holding a debate in the House on the issue of the register. I urge everyone, as has the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, to check the register and to comply with the legal provisions. I note that some counties, Louth and Donegal, have an unexpectedly higher number of people on the register than in others.
In light of the extraordinary increases in the cost of electricity and gas, when will the protection of employment Bill be introduced to deal with redundancy issues? As it took more than six months for a person to be cleared to become a carer, when will the register of persons who are considered unsafe to work with children be introduced so that we can discuss the issue? Approximately one month ago I was promised that the Whips would discuss and agree when the Teamwork report would be discussed in the House——
The United Nations Convention against Corruption is held up in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I received a letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs stating that it is awaiting a review by the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the necessary adjusting legislation. Does the Tánaiste believe that the convention will be ratified in the lifetime of the Government? Does he accept that the failure to ratify the convention is a serious erosion of the commitment in the White Paper on development aid?
The Bill is expected in 2007. As the Deputy will appreciate, it requires legislation and the Bill is scheduled for publication next year.
——on the changing situation in the United States, particularly its policy towards Iraq and its implications for the Government regarding whether it will continue to facilitate the Rumsfeld war machine, now that he has gone?
The Deputy should table questions to the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the implications for Government policy of any developments in Iraq.
I ask about the long-promised postal miscellaneous provisions Bill. Given the spate of attacks and kidnappings, has the Tánaiste held or does he intend to hold any talks on security with the new chief executive of An Post?
The particular Bill has been removed from the list, as the Deputy will appreciate. I do not know whether the Deputy was here earlier when I said that I spoke to the Garda Commissioner today. The Garda Síochána is in consultation with all relevant levels of An Post down to post office and sub-post office level to ensure that proper security is put in place.
Given that 27 licences for public transport have been issued for new routes in the greater Dublin area with no provision for integrated ticketing under the 1932 Act, when will the public transport regulation Bill be published. Essentially we are making matters worse in the absence of regulation.
When will the roads amendment Bill be before the House? Will it give additional powers to local authorities? I raised the issue of the Teamwork report at the Whips' meeting in recent weeks. Can we get an understanding or commitment from the Government that it will be discussed in the House?
The Government Whip informs me that a discussion on the Teamwork report can be arranged by agreement among the Whips. The heads of the roads amendment Bill were approved by Government on 17 October and it will be published next year.
Deputy Ó Caoláin asked me whether there was a proposal to approximate our legislation with that of Northern Ireland and I answered him in the House. That legislation was recently enacted by the Oireachtas. This year there has been a dramatic improvement in terms of the problem of fireworks. Instead of them going off for a month prior to Hallowe'en and for two weeks afterwards——
I want to ask the Tánaiste a question about post mortems in view of the fact that we intend to change the law governing the retention of organs. Will he take on board the fact that sudden deaths from road traffic accidents——