Wednesday, 6 December 2006
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 26a — Budget Statement and financial motions by the Minister for Finance at the conclusion of questions to members of the Government.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and the motion for the General Financial Resolution shall be moved not later than 12 midnight whereupon business shall then be interrupted and the Dáil shall adjourn forthwith; following the Budget Statement of the Minister for Finance, the following arrangements shall apply in respect of the proceedings on No. 26a — the statements of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party shall not exceed 45 minutes in each case, the statements of the main spokespersons for the Green Party, Sinn Féin and the Independent Members of the Technical Group shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case and the statements shall be confined to the main spokespersons in each case; following the statements, the sitting shall be suspended for 30 minutes; and all divisions demanded on No. 26a shall be taken manually. Private Members' business shall be No. 68, motion re An Post (resumed), to be taken at 12 noon and to conclude after 90 minutes, if not previously concluded.
There are three proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 26a, Budget Statement and financial motions by the Minister for Finance, agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with divisions demanded on No. 26a agreed? Agreed.
When will the sale of alcohol Bill be published? On foot of the publication yesterday by the Tánaiste and Minister of Justice, Equality and Law Reform of the Defamation Bill 2006, has the Privacy Bill 2006, which was driven by members of Government, been dropped?
As stated recently, the sale of alcohol Bill is to be published early in 2007. The purpose of the Bill will be to codify the law relating to the sale and consumption of alcohol. There are over 200 heads relating to the Bill and while people are working on it, I do not believe anyone is doing so on a full-time basis. The heads have been approved but the Bill, which will be enormous because it will bring together relevant legislation introduced prior to and since the foundation of the State, must still be drafted.
Both the Privacy Bill and the Defamation Bill are due to proceed. The latter was introduced in the Seanad this morning. As the Deputy is aware from comments that have been made, the industry has been making representations to the Tánaiste regarding changes and he is prepared to engage with its representatives in that regard. The Government still intends to proceed with both Bills.
Not much has happened, other than the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, updating us. It is still the Government's view that if agreement can be reached, we would like to deal with this matter before the general election.
If the Ceann Comhairle does not object, I will do so. The health Bill is promised for 2007. Will the Taoiseach indicate if it will be published early in the new year? Is he in a position to state exactly when it will be published? If he could do so, it would be of assistance in indicating whether the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley, will be obliged to speak for a long period.
My second point relates to the British-Irish Agreement (Amendment) Bill, with which the House dealt last night. I refer to the register of persons who are considered unsafe to work with children. Will a publication date for the relevant legislation, which is urgently needed, be provided?
The health Bill should be published shortly. I hope we will be able to deal with that important legislation at the start of the next session. The health Bill will provide for the establishment of the health information and quality authority and the office of the chief inspector of social services on a statutory basis. If the Whips can reach agreement, we would like to take the Bill at the commencement of the next session.
We are trying to make progress on a number of matters that are affected by North-South issues. In that context, I hope we will be able to make progress on the second matter to which the Deputy referred. However, I am not in a position to provide a date.
In view of the fact that during the absence of the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources it was found necessary to review price increases relating to gas and electricity, which were wrongly approved by him, will the Minister express to his colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, an interest in bringing before the House, as a matter of urgency, the consumer protection (national protection agency) Bill? The latter might, in future, protect consumers from price increases such as those to which I refer.
I remind members that an order was made unanimously by the House that we should proceed to Private Members' business at 12 noon. I would like to facilitate Deputies who wish to submit questions on the Order of Business. I will not be able to do so if Deputy Durkan continues to speak.
I wish to raise two issues. The first of these relates to the recent extension of long-stay charges, under the Health Act 2005, to mentally handicapped, which will leave them with only €35 per week out of their disability allowances. Will new legislation be required to enforce that change?
The second matter of interest to me is the old chestnut of the Irish abroad and television reception. Members on this side of the House would be prepared to facilitate the Government in passing the relevant Bill in one hour.
I will be obliged to check the position regarding the Deputy's first question on the regulations.
With regard to the second issue, if the person responsible for drafting the legislation does not let me down, I hope that we will be able to take the Bill next week.
Given that the Minister for Health and Children announced, out of the blue, on Question Time yesterday that tender processes will not be proceeding in respect of two of the proposed private hospital co-location sites identified in her scheme — that is, at Letterkenny General Hospital and Galway University Hospital——
It will arise if the Ceann Comhairle allows me to finish my question. Will the Taoiseach allow for a special debate in respect of this proposed scheme, particularly because there is no mandate in respect of it and because it is a cause of great concern in the context of the network of acute hospital sites?
Approximately 12 months ago, a Bill on the advertising of alcohol at sports centres and other venues was removed from the Order Paper. The Taoiseach promised at that stage that the situation would be re-examined depending on the actions of private industry. What are his current thoughts in that regard and will the Bill return to the House?
In the light of the obvious lack of knowledge regarding what is happening in the health system, when will the Teamwork report be debated in the House? It was promised on two occasions by the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach and was supposed to be dealt with shortly.
That report will have to be taken next session, since there is no more time this session. We have cleared many debates, but we will not be able to take that one.
I will ask the Minister to provide an end-of-year update on how voluntary agreements with the industry on alcohol products have worked. I do not have up-to-date information in that regard. The legislation is ready, but we said that we would hold off. I will ask the Minister to report, perhaps in an answer to a parliamentary question, on how the voluntary agreements have worked over the year, after which we will be able to assess whether we should proceed with the legislation.
I wish to ask the Taoiseach about the promised legislation on human trafficking. During the summer, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform made available draft heads of a trafficking Bill, promising that we would see the full draft legislation before year's end. It no longer looks like that will happen. When will we see that draft legislation and when will we have a chance to debate it in the House? We remain the only EU country not to have defined human trafficking in legislation and that must be remedied.
I understand the legislation is almost ready, the heads having been cleared in the summer when it went for drafting. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform lists it as its first Bill for next session. The fines Bill is to be published shortly and it is listed for early 2007.
Perhaps the Taoiseach might clarify this situation. Along with several other Deputies, I have asked in recent weeks regarding the student support Bill, which was to have been published this session. However, a reply to a parliamentary question by the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, stated that it would be published in the new year. Is it correct that it has now been pushed into February?
Some time ago, I asked the Taoiseach about the obesity report, in which regard his Department has the lead role. Will he confirm to the House that initiatives have been undertaken to implement that report, which is now approximately a year and a half old, in view of the fact that approximately 300,000 young people in the country are either obese or overweight? There are legislative recommendations in the report. Will they be enacted?
It is listed for 2007. Perhaps the Deputy could table a parliamentary question but the obesity report has been sent to several Ministers. It is most relevant to the Departments of Arts, Sport and Tourism, Health and Children, and Education and Science, but it is being implemented.
From 1 January 2007, teachers will be withdrawn from autistic children receiving home tuition. In that context, when will we see Bill No. 42, the education Ireland Bill? Will the Taoiseach intervene regarding the appalling proposal made by the Minister for Education and Science?
Is it intended to bring the Foyle and Carlingford fisheries Bill before the House next session? Second, now that we have the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, back from his Asian travels, is it possible to agree with the Whips a short session next week on the Commission proposals for the 2007 EU fisheries quotas?