Tuesday, 6 March 2007
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 12, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the internal agreement concerning the tenth European Development Fund; No. 13, Finance Bill 2007 — Financial Resolutions; No. 18, Finance Bill 2007 — Order for Report and Report and Final Stages; and No. a4, Criminal Law (Sexual Offences)(Amendment) Bill 2007 — Order for Second Stage and Second and Subsequent Stages, to be taken at 6 p.m. tonight and the order shall not resume thereafter.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 11.30 p.m.; Nos. 12 and 13 shall be decided without debate and, in the case of No. 13, Financial Resolutions Nos. 1 and 2 shall be moved together and decided by one question which shall be put from the Chair; the Second and Subsequent Stages of No. a4 shall be taken today and the following arrangements shall apply: the proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10 p.m.; the speeches of a Minister or Minister of State and 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 20 minutes in each case; the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; Members may share time; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; the proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 11.30 p.m. tonight by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Private Members' business shall be No. a61, motion re rail freight, on the Supplementary Order Paper.
There are three proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with the late sitting agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 12 and 13 without debate agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. a4, Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2007 — Order for Second Stage and Second and Subsequent Stages, agreed?
In respect of No. a4, while I welcome the fact that this Bill is being brought in, may I ask the Taoiseach was this approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday last? The reason I ask is there was no contact at all with at least the Fine Gael Party about this matter and one would have thought there would have been such contact out of normal courtesy on a Bill, especially a Bill as sensitive as this, particularly when it was known to the Government that Fine Gael intended to move a private Members' Bill on Internet grooming.
As the Taoiseach will be aware, in May 1980 a similar situation arose on the Ombudsman (No. 2) Bill. One does not want to hold up the House from doing its business and one does not want endless repetition on the same issue. The Government has had to change its tune here. The Taoiseach would have been aware of the private Members' motion having been submitted, yet the original order circulated stated that the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2007 would be taken at 9 o'clock. Now the Bill is being taken at 6 o'clock, which has obviously necessitated the Fine Gael Party returning to the Ceann Comhairle seeking authorisation under exceptional circumstances to change the party's private Members' motion at very short notice. I do not know who is responsible, but it is not the way to do business. I am quite sure the Taoiseach accepts that this could have been handled far more competently and efficiently. If the Government had the courtesy to inform Deputies Howlin and Jim O'Keeffe of this matter, perhaps the Taoiseach would not have had to refer to a precedent of 1980 to look for the Ceann Comhairle's authorisation to change private Members' business at short notice. The Taoiseach might like to clear that up.
I confirm that Deputy Cuffe was not contacted on this issue either. Has the Taoiseach considered the wider implications here? It is welcome that we are closing the loophole, but if we are approaching this sensitive subject in a piecemeal fashion, would it not make sense to sit down in Cabinet and look at the wider implications of Internet use for children?
The criminal justice (trafficking in persons and sexual offences) Bill, which is a wider Bill covering several of these issues, is being prepared. The problem is it will not be ready for some weeks, and that would mean that the loophole would not have been closed and perhaps some of the other issues would not have been dealt with either.
The request for more time came from the Labour Party Whip and that is why the time was changed. We are anxious to deal with it tonight. I will raise with the Tánaiste Deputy Kenny's point, that the Fine Gael Party's spokesperson had not been contacted.
Will the Aviation Regulation Bill, which is due some time in 2007, cover the Government's failure to act on its own promise to see that the airports at Cork and Shannon will be debt free once Aer Rianta is restructured? The then Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan, may not have meant this when he wrote his letter. It seems there is something radically wrong on the other side of the House——
The Aviation Regulation Bill is to provide for the separation of the safety regulation role from the Irish Aviation Authority and the establishment of a new aviation commission. The legislation is due this year.
It is true, and we appreciate, that more time was given for the Bill just mentioned. However, we did not request the time, to gazump private Members' business but so that there would be more time to debate the Bill. Sometimes the Taoiseach can be too smart.
I know. I speak of the subject matter that was slotted for tonight. It is considered, I am sure, a matter of great risibility in certain quarters that it was gazumped. Sometimes if you go through life like that, you will get a long fall off your white steed.
Will the Taoiseach clarify the status of the promised legislation for the regulation and control of management companies? Is that likely to be enacted in the present session?
The proposals on that are being developed. Recently the Cabinet received a report from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche. To the best of my knowledge, the legislation is in preparation. I do not know when it will be available, but they certainly are working on it. In the autumn we gave it priority.
The Minister can regulate that. One Bill in which I am interested, and I want the Taoiseach to tell us if we will deal with it in the 13 remaining days, if we can believe that, is the Ethics Bill, which is to amend current ethics legislation to require officeholders and Oireachtas Members to seek the opinion——
I want to raise a Bill again, in light of the fact that families encounter so many difficulties getting their loved ones into nursing homes with the changes that have been made. When can we have a full debate on the entire nursing homes chaos——
Over the past two years, we have sought and been promised the charities Bill on numerous occasions. Will the Bill be published prior to the general election? I am aware it is in section A of the Government's legislative programme.
In order to assist the Government in these trying times, I ask the Taoiseach the status of the minerals development Bill. Some time ago, it was high on the agenda and I am sure it remains the intention to test it and give us the good news as soon as possible.
Given the urgent need for Waterford city to extend its borough boundaries, when is it intended to commence the sections of the Local Government Act 2000 that provide for the establishment of a local government commission to deal with submissions from local authorities? Has the Government abandoned the commencement of these sections?
With regard to the report of the Commission on Electronic Voting, which was submitted to the House last July, will Government time will be provided for the House to discuss the matter?
I understand the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government met today with the chairman of the Mahon tribunal. Will legislation be brought before the House arising from that meeting?