Thursday, 28 June 2007
Order of Business
I note that neither of the two Cabinet Ministers from the Green Party is in the House, nor is the Progressive Democrats Minister, which is a continuation of the contempt they show for this House when it meets in formal session in the mornings.
In respect of proposed legislation, will the Tánaiste tell me the position regarding the Ethics Bill, which was promised last October to keep the Progressive Democrats in government at the time and never got past First Stage in the Seanad? The programme for Government merely refers to vigorously implementing the full range of ethics legislation, but it is not part of the Government programme. Can I take that it is will be reintroduced or will it be dropped altogether?
Is it the Government's intention to revise or amend the Road Transport Act 1932 to deal with the ridiculous situation whereby private bus operators or Dublin Bus when they show initiative to use the port tunnel cannot do so without a change in the legislation. This has been promised on several occasions.
It could, perhaps, be taken next week in the Seanad and brought back immediately to the Dáil and dealt with here in this session if Deputy Kenny so wishes. It deals specifically with the issues the Taoiseach and former Tánaiste outlined to us.
It is my intention that we would legislate. If we can do it this week, with agreement, we could do it. We will wait to see what the story is on that. However, it will be legislated on as quickly as possible.
In respect of the other matter, I am not sure whether that is the legislative change required under the Road Transport Act 1932. There is a wider policy issue in respect of the amendment of the Road Traffic Act 1932 which is part of the programme for Government. The specific issue would need to be taken up with the line Minister.
I thank the Minister of State for his explanation.
Will the Tánaiste tell me when the Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill is likely to come before the House? It was authorised for drafting by the Government on 26 January 1999. Are there drafting problems with it or is the Government not as committed to it as all the parties on this side of the House are? The Green Party was concerned about it when it was on this side of the House.
The Tánaiste's ministry is directly responsible for taking the report of the Standards in Public Office Commission. In respect of the report on political funding and the urgency that attaches in the view of the commission on the necessity to revisit the legislation, I have a statement here from Deputy Boyle which says the Green Party is in agreement with the points I raised the last day about this and that he thinks the Government will include amendments to meet the request from the Standards in Public Office Commission. Is that the case and does the Government intend to advance that legislation?
I understand that the Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill is due to be published and taken some time this year. In respect of the other matter, the report of the Standards in Public Office Commission will obviously be considered internally in my Department in the first instance. If there are any views to be taken or changes or modifications by the Government in the future, they will be dealt with by Government in due course. However, there has been no consideration of it in recent days.
I apologise for missing the announcement of requests to move the adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 32.
Can the Tánaiste tell us if the Nurses and Midwives Bill will be published before the resumption of the Dáil in the autumn session? He will appreciate that the Government has just come out of a very heated confrontation with members of the Irish Nurses Organisation and the Psychiatric Nurses Association of Ireland and that many within their ranks, even people among those who voted to accept the detail of the proposed resolution at the time, remain extremely vexed and annoyed. Will he at least expedite this long overdue legislation that addresses and relates to their profession?
In respect to the Government's programme of legislation, the practice in recent years has been that this is presented on the first day of the commencement of a new term. Is there any prospect that the Government would consider publishing it and circulating it to Deputies in advance of the commencement day so we can have clearer advance notice of the Government's intent for the new Dáil term in September?
The timing of publication of these lists is determined by the time at which the Government makes the decision. If the decision is made at a Government meeting immediately prior to the resumption of the House the list will be published as soon as possible thereafter. When the Government makes a decision on its intended legislative programme it will be published and circulated to Members as soon as practicable thereafter.
The nurses and midwives Bill will modernise the regulatory framework for nurses and midwives and will update and amend the Nurses Act 1985. I understand the Bill is due for publication some time this year.
What is the updated position of the Criminal Law (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill? This time last year the Taoiseach assured the House we would see anti-human trafficking legislation before the end of the year. We were later assured that the Bill would be a priority for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform at the start of 2007 and a number of months ago the Taoiseach said we would see it before the summer. We still have not seen the Bill. When is the House likely to see the heads of the Bill or a draft of the proposed legislation?
The heads of the Bill have been approved by Government. It is a matter for the new Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to prioritise the list of Bills he wishes to bring forward. I will bring Deputy Coveney's interest in this matter to the Minister's attention.
A person is imprisoned in Mountjoy because they could not pay a fine imposed for failing to pay a television licence fee. In light of that fact, when will the attachment of fines Bill be brought before the House so such a fine can be attached to a social welfare payment or income?
Some time ago a Bill regarding the promotion and advertising of alcohol among young people was withdrawn so as to give a private agreement a chance to work. When will that Bill be re-examined so the advertising and promotion of alcohol to young people can be curtailed?
I cannot answer Deputy Crawford's second question at this stage. Given the new Administration is only beginning to take effect, a parliamentary question to the line Minister would be the best way of eliciting exact information regarding the timing and prioritisation of legislation.
The enforcement of fines Bill will end imprisonment, where practicable, for inability to pay fines and will provide for new ways of enforcing fines. The Bill is at a preliminary stage of examination and it is not possible to say when it will be brought forward. I agree with the Deputy that the issue should be dealt with. Imprisonment is a disproportionate outcome for a relatively minor offence.
When may we expect the foreshore legislation and the promised legislation which ensues, under various international agreements concluded some months ago, from the expansion of the Irish sea bed?
Does the Tánaiste envisage change in the drafting arrangements for legislation between now and September. The list of proposed legislation circulated on 23 April, for example, becomes meaningless if the legislation is not enacted in the lifetime of the Dáil. Are new measures for the drafting of legislation envisaged? Will legislation be put out for drafting or have changes been made to the drafting section so the legislative programme circulated in the autumn will have some meaning and we can envisage what can be debated in the House in the coming term? Otherwise we will see a repeat of a meaningless exercise where some legislation is listed for years and is never reached.
There is a committee, including the Attorney General and the Government Chief Whip, which meets regularly. I am sure this system brought equal frustration to Deputy Higgins in his time as a Minister——
It is the Taoiseach's view that Ministers put on the list legislation which can be achieved in the timeframe of the list. Many Departments have ambitions for legislation which cannot be achieved in a timely fashion because of its complexity or because it is in the early stage of preparation. Rather than putting such legislation on lists and raising expectations of immediate legislative effect it would be better to shorten the list and have a more definite programme.
The Ombudsman Bill is such a Bill. I presume I can, with the consent of the leader of the Labour Party, drop it from the list, if that is the logical outcome of this interaction.
The Chief Whip is anxious, with the co-operation of Ministers, to make sure the list is an accurate reflection of what will be possible during the coming term. There is a huge amount of legislation in various stages of preparation and much work is ongoing. It is for the Government to prioritise legislation. It might not correlate with the priorities of Members of the House but that is the privilege of government. The list should be an accurate reflection of what is possible within the terms of the administration so that Opposition spokespersons, as well as Ministers and Departments, can apply their time most effectively.
I cannot give a direct answer to Deputy Higgins's question on the foreshore legislation. I will ask the line Minister to communicate with him.
During the 29th Dáil the Taoiseach acknowledged that the Postal (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill fell off the waggon, along with other legislation. Is it intended to return to that Bill with a view to addressing the serious issues of An Post and the postal service throughout the country?
On yesterday's Order of Business, the Taoiseach, in reply to my question on the broadcasting authority of Ireland Bill, mentioned possible changes to the heads of that Bill, which is shortly to be published. Has the RTE Authority been in touch with the Government or has the Government been in touch with the authority regarding aspects of the Bill and are changes likely to result therefrom?
The answer to Deputy Broughan's question is no, to my knowledge. With regard to Deputy Durkan's question, I do not know what is the process of consultation. The text of the broadcasting authority of Ireland Bill has been approved by the Government and is due for publication this year.
There has been no change in the Postal (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. That wagon remains unrepaired and the Bill is off the list.
Two very welcome statutory instruments were laid before the House this week. They establish the Limerick north side and south side regeneration boards. It appears that public representatives are precluded from sitting on these boards but I understand from my colleagues that the Dublin regeneration boards contain public representatives. What is the reason for this discrepancy?
Many groups are interested in the Curragh of Kildare Bill, including the bloodstock industry. The Bill has been referred to in the House for some time but no specific dates have been given. Various groups such as the Green Party are interested in its publication.
What is the Government's intention on legislation for management companies? There are many hundreds of management companies in various states of existence charging extensive fees to residents of houses and apartments but there is no regulation in the area. The Law Reform Commission report, as well as various other reports, are available. Legislation in the area is referred to in the programme for Government, but does the Government intend to legislate for management companies?
The property services regulatory authority Bill will provide for the establishment of a property services regulatory authority to give effect to the report of auctioneering-estate agency review group. Is that the issue to which the Deputy is referring?
No. I understand it is intended that Bill will offer some control over the operation of management agents, but I am referring to the people employed by management companies, which are the legal authorities over substantial properties, houses and apartments. It is a huge and growing difficulty.
I am led to believe that the Minister, Deputy Gormley, went up a one-way street this morning and the State car was behind him.
The charities regulation Bill has been on the go for some time. We were told there was a problem with the draftsperson in the Department. When will the Bill be brought before the House?
Has the Government decided whether a referendum is necessary to ratify the recently negotiated EU treaty? I understand that all international treaties which impose a potential charge on the Exchequer will have to be ratified by the Dáil and Seanad. If such a decision has been made, when will the legislation to allow for the referendum to take place be published? Will it be done this year?
That will be a matter for formal advice from the Attorney General, but all the indications, based on previous experience, are that such a treaty will require a referendum. The Taoiseach indicated in a press conference immediately after the EU summit that it will be some time next year before he will consider bringing it before the people. It is likely, subject to detailed advice from the Attorney General, that is the situation.
A number of years ago the Minister for Health and Children promised simple legislation to regulate the use of sunbeds, particularly to protect children. Since the new Government was elected, we have had very little sunshine and I imagine the use of sunbeds has increased.
Will the Tánaiste ensure this legislation is progressed? At the moment it is tied in with other measures relating to tobacco control and food safety. No date is indicated for the legislation, which is ludicrous. A simple Bill is required and it will protect children under 16 years of age. It was promised by the previous Government. In view of the bad weather, perhaps the Tánaiste will consider this approach.
Is the Government considering introducing legislation to safeguard the primacy of local elected members in framing planning policy, in view of the imminent ruling by the European Commission which will have the effect of striking down provisions in more than 20 county development plans?