Friday, 2 June 2006
Order of Business.
The Order of Business is Nos. a1 and b1 on the Supplementary Order Paper. No. a1, Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2006 — Second Stage, to be taken at 3.30 p.m. and to conclude not later than 6 p.m., although it may conclude earlier than that; the contributions of spokespersons are not to exceed 12 minutes, those of other Members are not to exceed eight minutes and Members may share time; the proceedings if not concluded earlier will be concluded at 6 p.m. by the putting of a question from the Chair; the Minister shall be called upon to reply not later than ten minutes before the conclusion of Second Stage; and Committee and Remaining Stages of this Bill are to be taken immediately on the conclusion of Second Stage at 6 p.m. and to conclude not later than 6.45 p.m. No. b1 is a motion for earlier signature of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2006 to be taken immediately, without debate, on the conclusion of the Bill.
I seek clarification on the proposed Order of Business. The Leader of the House proposed that Second Stage of the Bill will conclude not later than 6 p.m. and that Committee and Remaining Stages will conclude not later than 6.45 p.m. Will she agree that it might be a better idea if we were to roll one Stage of the Bill into the next? I propose we do not have a guillotine on the debate and that at the conclusion of Second Stage we would go straight into Committee Stage because that Stage could be more productive for all Members given that we are a committee sitting here in plenary session. There is no limit as to the amount of time we will require to deal with this Bill in this House. I put forward that suggestion because the other House got into difficulty this morning because of the strict guillotine and time limit set for the debate. I do not anticipate that problem arising here because of the tradition of this House——
——-and the way in which this House has always dealt with its business. The putting in place of any limited guillotine would be a bad idea at this stage.
I am also glad to hear that the Leader decided that at the conclusion of the Order of Business we will suspend until 3.30 p.m. on the basis that we do not have a fresh Bill. From what the Minister said in the other House, I understand that up until 2.30 p.m. a significant number of amendments in his name were obviously passed and at least one, if not two, in the name of colleagues in my party.
Yes. It is a good idea to have a fresh Bill at 3.30 p.m. from which to work when dealing with Second, Committee and Report Stages.
I compliment the Leader on the way in which she brought the House back so speedily. If it means that the House will sit until 8 p.m., 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. to resolve this matter, we will resolve it. We have an opportunity to air in this House many of the issues that were not aired in the other House. For the integrity of our parliamentary democracy and the integrity of the process, we should use our time to tease out those issues. That is the only comment I wish make at this stage.
I agree with Senator Brian Hayes. The Leader has done the House a valuable service by bringing us back. It shows that at moments of crisis in the national life the Oireachtas can respond. The atmosphere is very fraught. People are naturally outraged but I anticipate that, as usual, calmness and proper discussion will prevail in this House.
While I do not wish to detract from the seriousness of the moment, we will be obliged to wait until the Bill comes before the House and I wish to raise a separate matter. We are facing into a bank holiday weekend and there is a worrying headline in The Irish Times today to the effect that Irish people spend three times more on alcohol than their EU counterparts. We have a serious problem regarding the abuse of alcohol, particularly when it is combined with the capacity of bank holiday weekends to produce tragic road accidents, to which we must attend.
I listened to Gay Byrne yesterday who stated that he hoped this would be a unique bank holiday weekend on which there would be no fatalities. I hope, like everyone, that this will be the case. One way to deal with this matter would be for the popular radio stations to which young people listen to broadcast appeals to them to drive responsibly at the weekend. As the House sits, there are young people alive and enjoying the sunshine who may very well not be alive at the end of the weekend.
It is incumbent on us to try to do something about this serious problem, especially because the drinks lobby in this country is so powerful. However, this is an independent Parliament and we should look to the welfare of young people. It must be borne in mind that so many of the accidents to which I refer involve young people with drink taken who crowd into cars late at night at weekends.
I thank Senator Brian Hayes, the Leader of the Opposition, for his kind words. I also thank the Deputy Leader, Senator Dardis, with whom I worked closely on this matter. It was good for this House that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform was here for a considerable period on Wednesday evening to expand on his ideas.
Am I correct in thinking that Senator Brian Hayes asked that we would not have a peremptory ending for Second Stage or that a guillotine would not be applied?
That is acceptable. We should play it as it goes. We will see how the debate proceeds, who contributes and what time we have available. The Senator's general idea is fair and we could agree to that. The time allotted for contributions could not be open-ended because if everybody took half an hour to speak, we would be here for the weekend, though not that it would matter. We were keen to come here today and fulfil our legislative role.
I thank Senator Norris for his compliments about the reordering of the schedule. We were glad to be able to do so. It posed difficulties because there is a division proceeding in the Lower House at present. When we finish this brief Order of Business, I propose that we suspend until 3.30 p.m. when it is hoped — although it is a quick turnaround for the staff — that the amended Bill will be produced and we can then debate it. The amended version will be a different proposition to the original.
Senator Norris also referred to the drink culture. We hope to discuss the Road Traffic Bill next week, before it goes to the Lower House on Thursday. We will sit on Wednesday and Thursday but that will be dealt with later. The headline to which the Senator referred is alarming. To spend three times more on alcohol than others in Europe is significant.