Wednesday, 7 March 2007
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 18, Finance Bill 2007 — Report and Final Stages; No. 19, the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2007 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 20, Prisons Bill 2006 [Seanad] — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 10 p.m.; (2) the proceedings on the resumed Report and Final Stages of No. 18 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 5.30 p.m. today by one question which shall be put down from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Finance; (3) the Report and Final Stages of No. 19 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7 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 Minister for Education and Science; (4) and Private Members' business, No. a61 — motion re rail freight (resumed), shall be taken at 7 p.m. tonight, or on the conclusion of No. 19, whichever is the later, and shall be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes.
I believe this is the 20th piece of legislation we have guillotined in recent weeks. We have seen the results that arise from the guillotining of Bills, with emergency legislation being introduced to deal with legislation that was not debate properly in the House. Again, for that and the other reasons stated, we are opposed to the guillotine.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 70 (Bertie Ahern, Dermot Ahern, Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Niall Blaney, Johnny Brady, Martin Brady, Séamus Brennan, John Browne, Joe Callanan, Pat Carey, John Carty, Donie Cassidy, Beverley Flynn, Brian Cowen, Martin Cullen, John Curran, Noel Davern, Síle de Valera, Noel Dempsey, John Dennehy, Jimmy Devins, John Ellis, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Dermot Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Mildred Fox, Jim Glennon, Noel Grealish, Mary Hanafin, Mary Harney, Seán Haughey, Joe Jacob, Cecilia Keaveney, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Tony Killeen, Séamus Kirk, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Tom McEllistrim, John McGuinness, Micheál Martin, John Moloney, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, Liz O'Donnell, John O'Donoghue, Denis O'Donovan, Noel O'Flynn, Batt O'Keeffe, Ned O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Malley, Tim O'Malley, Tom Parlon, Seán Power, Dick Roche, Mae Sexton, Brendan Smith, Noel Treacy, Dan Wallace, Ollie Wilkinson, Michael Woods)
Against the motion: 52 (Bernard Allen, Dan Boyle, James Breen, Pat Breen, Richard Bruton, Joan Burton, Paudge Connolly, Joe Costello, Simon Coveney, Jerry Cowley, Seymour Crawford, Jimmy Deenihan, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Olwyn Enright, Martin Ferris, Eamon Gilmore, John Gormley, Séamus Healy, Joe Higgins, Michael D Higgins, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Enda Kenny, Kathleen Lynch, Pádraic McCormack, Shane McEntee, Dinny McGinley, Finian McGrath, Paul McGrath, Paddy McHugh, Liz McManus, Olivia Mitchell, Breeda Moynihan-Cronin, Catherine Murphy, Denis Naughten, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Jim O'Keeffe, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Séamus Pattison, Willie Penrose, Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, Michael Ring, Eamon Ryan, Seán Ryan, Joe Sherlock, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Liam Twomey, Mary Upton)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Kehoe and Stagg.
Question declared carried.
It is my hope that the election process in Northern Ireland today will result in a situation where the Assembly can be restored and where all politicians can work towards that restoration and the implementation of the St. Andrew's Agreement and the Good Friday Agreement. I am sure I share the hopes and express the wishes of everybody in that regard.
When will No. 38, the education Ireland Bill be published? It deals with the teaching of English as a foreign language. It is expected some time in 2007 but the Taoiseach may have a date.
Like Deputy Kenny, I hope there will be a good turnout today and that the political process in the North goes well.
Preparatory work on the heads of the Bill is ongoing regarding the education Ireland Bill. This Bill will regulate the body dealing with educational services, including the teaching of English. It will probably be the second half of the year before it is published.
I gave the Taoiseach notice yesterday, and he might tell the House when he has the information, about the issue of whether we are likely to deal with the regulation and control of management companies prior to the general election.
In respect of a different piece of legislation, newspaper reports today will cause the Taoiseach some surprise as much as they did on this side of the House. They relate to the pulling of a commercial for Trócaire by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland because the commercial has a political end. Most of us would be very surprised——
The Ceann Comhairle is absolutely correct; we cannot do so. However, the Taoiseach might be able to say that this matter will be dealt with because it is a blow to the fundraising of Trócaire. The abandonment of a prepared commercial is a blow to the organisation and, more important, to its development and goals.
I had the opportunity to receive a briefing on the first matter raised. The Government's legislative programme published on 30 January 2007 provides for the publication of the property services regulatory authority Bill. This legislation will give effect to the recommendations of the auctioneering and estate agents review group, including the establishment of the property services regulator with the authority to control and regulate the provision of property services provided by auctioneers, estate agents and property management agencies.
A cross-departmental team has been working on a number of issues in this area but, like many things, it is not simple as there is a cross-cutting nature to many of the matters. The Government has approved a high level inter-departmental committee to examine a number of tasks. It is unlikely that everything can be included in one piece of legislation so a number of different legislative and administrative areas could be affected. The group is up and running and the legislation for property services is under——
Are the Taoiseach and I at cross-purposes? I am interested in that information but the specific point that interests most of my constituents is the regulation and control of management companies, which is a separate point from auctioneering and the practices that were revealed recently in that respect.
There is a question about whether it can all be dealt with in one Bill.
Meetings were held with the Law Reform Commission which has done some work on this matter. I am informed that one piece of legislation will not be sufficient to cover all the areas; it will just cover a number of them. Work is ongoing on the Bill to which I referred. It is a question of including all the aspects. The Law Reform Commission has done good work in highlighting a number of the areas. The Bill will include more than we first thought and the cross-departmental team are working on it. I will send the Deputy a note if he wishes.
The other issue raised by Deputy Rabbitte has been brought to my attention. The issue of gender is an important aspect of the Irish Aid programme. It seems extraordinary that the commercial would be pulled because of this issue. The Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, has already undertaken to talk to the BCI to see if this can be resolved.
I do not think a complaint was received. The Minister's office contacted me last night. I think the BCI was concerned about the political nature of the commercial because of the petition involved. I have listened to some fairly political advertisements recently which had a ferocious go at me, and nobody seems to worry about it.
Following on from the issue Deputy Rabbitte raises on legislation controlling management companies, apart from the urgent need for apartment owners to have new regulations to protect their rights, the Taoiseach undertook to consider the specific situation not of apartment owners but of house owners in big estates who were dragooned into management companies and saddled with fees completely unnecessarily. He said he would look into unscrambling their position so they could legally get out of those completely unnecessary contracts.
I explained to Deputy Rabbitte that a number of aspects are involved. The cross-departmental team is working on the issue but it is broader than what I have stated.
On the housing issue raised by Deputy Joe Higgins, the Minister has given a directive for contracts already entered into. That matter must be considered in the context of what the cross-departmental team is doing.
There is a proposal to introduce a new social assistance payment for low income families with young children. I am told legislation is at an advanced stage but it is not on the legislative programme. When might we expect that? Has the Government approved the heads of a Bill?
A number of families are affected by the adoption (Hague Convention, adoption authority) Bill. It would be useful if the Taoiseach could indicate whether it will be published during the lifetime of the Government. On the international convention for the protection of migrant workers and their families, the latest communication from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which is the lead Department in checking the requirements for ratification, would seem to suggest the Government has no intention of ratifying the convention. Is that the case?
The first question was on the Hague Convention. The second one was on the international convention for the protection of migrant workers and their families. We have been in correspondence before in this regard, and the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is reviewing it. I have reached the conclusion it is not the Government's intention to ratify the convention. Is that the case?
At present, local authorities throughout the country are transferring hundreds of tenants in private rented accommodation onto a scheme known as the rental accommodation scheme, RAS. Legislation to provide for that scheme has not yet been published, however. When will the social housing Bill be published? Can the Taoiseach tell the House on what authority or what legislative basis are local authorities currently entering into arrangements with landlords for——
The White Paper on overseas development has recently been posted to every citizen in booklet form. One of the goals set out in the White Paper is equality for women as part of the millennium development goals. Is it proposed, in the context of the difficulties Trócaire has been having, to incorporate the White Paper——