Dáil debates

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

3:00 pm

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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It is proposed to take No. 7, motion re referral to joint committee on proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Regional Fisheries Boards (Postponement of Elections) Order 2008; No. 2, Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill 2008 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 20, Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill 2008 — Second Stage (Resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 7 shall be decided without debate. Private Members' business shall be No. 51, motion re agriculture.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 7 without debate agreed to?

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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No. It is important that it be debated. The fact that the motion proposes to postpone elections is an indication that the Minister, Deputy Ryan, seems to be turning into a serial postponer. The elections have been postponed each year since 2005 when they were supposed to have been held. We are being asked now to postpone them until 2009.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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There is something fishy here. It might be cod.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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This statutory instrument has the Minister's official seal on it. The postponement order was presented to the House approximately one year ago. In reintroducing it today, "2007" has probably been Tipp-Exed and replaced by "2008"; and we are expected to rubber stamp it. This is so unacceptable that, when the Fianna Fáil Minister made the same order in 2006, the current Minister described it as "a shocking indictment of the Government's inability to prioritise the environment".

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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He did not mean it.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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He was not in government then.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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He then called the postponement a cowardly act. This serious accusation was made following a postponement of two years, but we are again being asked to prevent elections being called for a fourth year. It is not just cowardice; it is incompetence. The promised reform package has not been introduced, nor have the heads of a Bill or other legislation. The Minister is responsible for the fisheries boards and the management of same and has overseen a decentralisation process that has been most incompetent. In fact, that decentralisation did not happen but the process cost a huge amount. The money relating to decentralisation was taken from a fisheries budget that was quite small from the outset.

I request a full debate on this matter so that the House does not merely rubber stamp this incompetence. There is a great deal of discussion from those on the Government side about reducing waste. However, when options are provided and opportunities are presented, we are again asked to defer matters and to play the patsies. That is unacceptable. On behalf of the Labour Party, I request that we engage in a debate on this matter so that we can deal with it once and for all.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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This is a matter for the relevant committee in the first instance. If, upon its return, there is a need or a request for a short debate, we could try to accommodate it.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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I cannot accept that.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 7 be agreed to."

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 71 (Dermot Ahern, Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Chris Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Bobby Aylward, Niall Blaney, Áine Brady, Cyprian Brady, Johnny Brady, Thomas Byrne, Dara Calleary, Pat Carey, Niall Collins, Margaret Conlon, Seán Connick, Mary Coughlan, Brian Cowen, John Cregan, Ciarán Cuffe, Martin Cullen, John Curran, Noel Dempsey, Jimmy Devins, Timmy Dooley, Michael Finneran, Michael Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Beverley Flynn, Pat Gallagher, Paul Gogarty, John Gormley, Noel Grealish, Mary Hanafin, Seán Haughey, Jackie Healy-Rae, Máire Hoctor, Peter Kelly, Brendan Kenneally, Michael Kennedy, Séamus Kirk, Michael Kitt, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Michael Lowry, Tom McEllistrim, Mattie McGrath, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, John Moloney, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Darragh O'Brien, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, Noel O'Flynn, Mary O'Rourke, Christy O'Sullivan, Peter Power, Dick Roche, Eamon Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Eamon Scanlon, Brendan Smith, Noel Treacy, Mary Wallace, Mary White)

Against the motion: 59 (James Bannon, Pat Breen, Tommy Broughan, Ulick Burke, Joan Burton, Catherine Byrne, Joe Carey, Deirdre Clune, Paul Connaughton, Noel Coonan, Joe Costello, Simon Coveney, Seymour Crawford, Michael Creed, Lucinda Creighton, Michael D'Arcy, Jimmy Deenihan, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Olwyn Enright, Martin Ferris, Charles Flanagan, Terence Flanagan, Eamon Gilmore, Brian Hayes, Tom Hayes, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Enda Kenny, Ciarán Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, Pádraic McCormack, Finian McGrath, Liz McManus, Olivia Mitchell, Arthur Morgan, Dan Neville, Michael Noonan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Kieran O'Donnell, Jim O'Keeffe, John O'Mahony, Jan O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, John Perry, Pat Rabbitte, James Reilly, Alan Shatter, P J Sheehan, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Joanna Tuffy, Mary Upton, Leo Varadkar, Jack Wall)

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.

Question declared carried.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Kenny on the Order of Business.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I did not catch the end of what the Taoiseach said in response to the last question in regard to the Finance Bill. What is the projected deficit and projected level of borrowing for next year?

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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We cannot go into that now.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I have asked the question anyway.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I know.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Taoiseach might be good enough to answer the question. There are only nine sitting days left before Christmas. Perhaps the Taoiseach will indicate when the legislation dealing with the medical card issue will come before the House. The Taoiseach will be aware it has been promised on a number of occasions.

Does the Government intend to introduce regulations in the area of stem cell research, a completely unregulated area in this country? The Taoiseach will next week attend a European Council meeting in Brussels at which he will have to outline what he refers to as "elements of a solution" to Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon treaty. The Taoiseach will be aware that the meeting is no ordinary meeting. I believe the House should discuss this matter——

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Kenny cannot discuss that matter now, as he well knows.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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——before the Taoiseach goes to Brussels.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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There should be a real debate on this issue in the House, which could assist the Taoiseach prior to his departure for Brussels. I expect the Government Whip——

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Meath East, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Kenny gave his press release last week.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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——might at least inform the other Whips if there is a possibility such debate could take place next Tuesday. I believe it is important we debate this issue of national interest. Ireland is now suffering from an element of anti-Europeanism in certain quarters, which is not good for the future of the economy.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I believe we should have a debate on this issue in the House before the Taoiseach goes to Brussels to outline the position in this regard.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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We should have a debate before the Taoiseach goes to Brussels.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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As I understand it, the issue of stem cell research was discussed recently in the Seanad during Private Members' time. No legislation in this area is promised on the Government side.

On the legislation dealing with medical cards, the Bill concerned was brought before Government this morning and approved and can be dealt with subject to agreement by the Whips. On Deputy Kenny's call for a debate on the Lisbon treaty issue, I understand that the excellent report published last week by the Sub-Committee on Ireland's Future in the European Union in regard to the issues that have arisen out of the referendum could form the basis of a debate in the House next week.

5:00 pm

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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Last night, a shocking "Prime Time Investigates" programme showed a huge level of exploitation of workers in this country. One of the most worrying aspects of this was that of road haulage drivers driving without brakes, which apart from being an exploitation of workers, also exposes other road users to considerable risk. Legislation in respect of tightening up the rights of employees and to deal with problems of exploitation in the workplace has been promised for some time. When will the Employment Law Compliance Bill 2008, published in March, nine months ago, and not yet dealt with, be debated in the House? When will the Employment Agencies Regulation Bill 2007, which has been listed for publication, be published?

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Morgan on the same issue.

Photo of Arthur MorganArthur Morgan (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I agree with Deputy Gilmore that the revelations made last night on the "Prime Time Investigates" programme were shocking. The problem spans many sectors. Part of the difficulty is that employers apply for and hold work permits. If employees applied for and held work permits, this would allow them much more latitude and would ensure this scandal is less likely to occur.

When will the Employment Law Compliance Bill 2008 come before this House and will it deal with the critical matter of workers holding work permits?

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Taoiseach, on the employment legislation.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The legislation referred to by Deputies Gilmore and Morgan——

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I must ask for silence in the House while the Taoiseach is replying.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The consultation process with the social partners is ongoing and it is unlikely the legislation will come before the House until early next year. While I did not see the programme concerned, its contents were reported to me. Any exploitation taking place in this area must be very much condemned and needs to be dealt with. It should perhaps bring some urgency to the consultations currently taking place.

Photo of Arthur MorganArthur Morgan (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Will that consultation extend to include Members of this House as well?

Photo of James BannonJames Bannon (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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Given the serious problems in the pensions sector, when can we expect publication of the family law Bill?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The family law Bill is due to be published next year.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Whether it will resolve the pensions problem is another matter.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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As the Ceann Comhairle will know, since my election to this House I have taken an interest in the large number of State agencies operating in this country and, in particular, the actions of some of them. It was announced in the budget that approximately 40 agencies would be merged, requiring some 20 items of legislation. I have been in touch with all the Departments about this and of those 20 mergers, Bills are only anticipated in respect of five of them. I do not want to go through all of them, but I would be interested to know if it is the intention of the Taoiseach and the Government to bring before the House, in this session or next year, the necessary legislation to bring about all the amalgamations and abolitions outlined in the Budget Statement? In respect of the 20 proposed mergers, there are only five Bills to amend legislation. Legislation exists to allow for one other merger by way of ministerial order, but there is no legislation to allow for the other proposed 14 mergers. I would interested to know if there is a commitment from Government to publish 14 Bills in respect of those mergers and, if so, when that will be done?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Different issues apply in regard to all these matters. The fact that there are a number of agencies to be rationalised and merged does not equate to the number of Bills that would be required to effect that. The state of readiness of the legislation, where it is applicable in various Departments, would vary from place to place. The important point is that a decision has been taken to proceed along the lines announced in the budget in respect of the agencies mentioned. It is for Ministers now to proceed with that with all due haste in consultation with the management and unions of those agencies.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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The Taoiseach may be aware that a major planning application for a €2 billion development has been submitted to deal with a large section of O'Connell Street and the surrounding streets. Two national monuments, namely, the GPO and 14-17 Moore Street, are in the heart of this proposed development. In the context of legislation that has been proposed to consolidate and modernise the existing national monument legislation, when will the national monument Bill come before the House?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Unfortunately, there is no date for it at the moment.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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There is a certain urgency about it.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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The Minister for Social and Family Affairs said yesterday that people in private pension schemes, if they collapsed would always have the State pension to fall back on. She spread considerable alarm and fear——

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is not relevant to the Order of Business.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Many people in State——

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy cannot make a speech on this matter.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Is there a Government proposal to introduce legislation to make this possible because many people who have private pension funds do not have an entitlement in that respect? The Minister also indicated that people in private pensions funds are to be allowed to postpone purchasing an annuity.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Every Deputy in the House wishes to raise matters that are outside the scope of the Order of Business. Is there legislation promised in that area, Taoiseach?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Is there legislation or regulation promised in either of these respects, or was the Minister just having a Marie Antoinette moment of "let them eat cake——

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should not mind Marie Antoinette now, that was a different age.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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——as there is always the public pension fund to fall back on.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is legislation promised in this area?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Legislation is promised in this area. Everyone will be aware that a very public consultation has taken place on the Green Paper on Pensions and discussions will continue between the Ministers concerned.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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The Minister frightened tens of thousands of people yesterday in her television or radio performance.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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I received telephone calls to my constituency office all day about it.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I do not accept that at all.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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We cannot discuss television performances now.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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People were terrified by what they heard.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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We did not hear an interview like it from a Minister since that given by——

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Joe Jacob.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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——the former Minister of State, Joe Jacob, who was very much loved on all sides of the House.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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We cannot start reviewing television programmes now, as the Deputy well knows.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Maybe the Chair has a point.

I wrote to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform a few months ago urging him to bring the defamation Bill to Committee. Will the Taoiseach cause this Bill to be progressed, as the work of the press ombudsman may be at risk if it is not enacted? I do not know why it has slipped down the list of priorities since the Deputy Brian Lenihan left that Department.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I understand the Bill is waiting to go to Committee. I cannot give the Deputy an answer to that question. I will inquire and establish what is the position.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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I have a brief question for the Ceann Comhairle concerning a raft of questions he ruled out of order today and despite his well-known Kerry wisdom, I believe he got it wrong. They related to bus and DART fares and to who is the regulator in that respect. As the Ceann Comhairle might be aware, the Minister is still the regulator of fares applying to public transport. I cannot understand the reason he did not allow those questions to go forward. They related in particular to the swingeing increases in commuter fares planned for early 2009.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I communicated with the Deputy on that matter and will communicate with him further in greater detail.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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Yesterday, the Licensed Vintners Association announced a proposal to freeze the cost of drink, which will be welcomed in certain quarters as we approach Christmas. Can the Taoiseach confirm that the sale of alcohol Bill will not be published or taken this session, contrary to what was promised on numerous occasions throughout the year, particularly during the debate on the interim measure, the Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill earlier this year?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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It is likely, given that the legislation is about to be given priority for the remainder of session, that it will not be taken this session.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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I have just come from a meeting of the Joint Committee on Health and Children at which a situation pertaining to 400 children in institutions with disabilities was raised.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy cannot discuss that matter now.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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I am asking this question under No. 56 on the legislative programme. Given that this situation pertains, and given that HIQA has told us that it is putting in place new standards, but that they have to go to Government and be approved by it and that there are cost implications, will the Taoiseach advise if legislation is required to do this, if a supplementary budget will be required to do it and, if not, will the Government expedite this matter and provide for children with disabilities, who are three to seven times more likely to be abused than their counterparts?

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy cannot make a speech on that matter. He will have to raise it at that committee. Is legislation promised in this area, Taoiseach?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The health information Bill is the legislation that refers to that issue. A consultation process has just been completed and is currently being analysed.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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So no legislation is required.