Dáil Éireann - Volume 602 - 11 May, 2005

Order of Business.

  The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 18, Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Bill 2004 [Seanad] — Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage; No. 19, Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2005 — Second Stage (resumed); and No. 20, Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill 2004 — Second Stage (resumed). Private Members’ business shall be No. 45, motion re report of the Health and Safety Authority Inspection Programme in Accident and Emergency Units (resumed), to conclude at 8.30 p.m.

  An Ceann Comhairle: There are no proposals to put to the House.

  Mr. Kenny: When will we have the third level students support Bill and the University College Galway amendment Bill? Is the Taoiseach happy that, in respect of the University College Galway Bill, the status of the Irish language will be maintained as Galway must give preference to the language? When will the national roads infrastructure Bill be produced and will that reform include the absorption into it of the critical infrastructure Bill which is no longer on the stocks?

Will the Taoiseach comment on the fact that support was given practically unanimously yesterday by the European Parliament to provide assistance to the McCartney sisters to investigate the murder of their brother——

  An Ceann Comhairle: It does not arise on the Order of Business. I suggest he raises the matter in another way.

  Mr. Kenny: ——but Sinn Féin representatives voted against it on the basis that it was not deemed to be a political murder.

  An Ceann Comhairle: It does not arise on the Order of Business. I will allow the first three questions, even though some of them were answered yesterday.

  Mr. Kenny: As it is one of the atrocities of the troubles over the past 30 years, I thought it would [358] be worthy of a comment from the Taoiseach and Prime Minister of the country.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is out of order.

  The Taoiseach: On the third level students support Bill, consultations are taking place between the Department and the relevant stakeholders. I have not got a date for it, but the discussions are continuing. The heads of the University College Galway amendment Bill are expected shortly. It is a short Bill, which will be available shortly. The national roads infrastructure Bill is now called the roads (miscellaneous provisions) Bill. It is being drafted but I do not have a date for it.

  Mr. Rabbitte: On the Supplementary Estimate to compensate people who were illegally charged in nursing homes, what is the estimate of the cost in this financial year?

  An Ceann Comhairle: It is not appropriate to go into detail on what might be in an Estimate.

  Mr. Rabbitte: I am not going into detail, Sir. I just want a ballpark figure of the Government’s best estimate of the global cost in this financial year.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I suggest that the Deputy should submit a question to the appropriate Minister.

  Mr. Rabbitte: The Government has been seized of this matter——

  An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot discuss what might be in an Estimate on the Order of Business or we could be here all day.

  Mr. Rabbitte: I am sure the Taoiseach has the answer at his finger tips.

  An Ceann Comhairle: As the question is appropriate to the Minister for Health and Children, I suggest the Deputy submits it to her office.

  Mr. Rabbitte: My second question relates to the assertion this morning by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment that the e-mail I put on the record of the House is in the Travers report. It is not.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy, it does not arise on the Order of Business. That matter has already been dealt with in Leaders’ Questions.

  Mr. Rabbitte: I want to ask you, Sir, whether you will take any steps to cause the Minister to correct the record.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy, it is not a matter for the Chair.

[359]   Mr. Rabbitte: How do I go about getting the——

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy has been in the House for long enough to know how to deal with the matter. He can submit a question and if he is not happy he can table a substantive motion on the floor of the House.

  Mr. Rabbitte: I am merely drawing to your attention, Sir, that the Minister misled the House this morning.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I would prefer if the Deputy did not speak continually each morning in breach of Standing Order 26.

  Mr. Rabbitte: I do not.

  An Ceann Comhairle: He is doing so now.

  Mr. Rabbitte: I would be greatly obliged if the Taoiseach gave us a ballpark figure for the cost——

  An Ceann Comhairle: That does not arise. The Deputy should ask a question of the Taoiseach. If we were to allow those questions on the Order of Business, we would be here all day.

  Mr. Rabbitte: I am entitled on the Order of Business to ask a question about a Supplementary Estimate that is promised in the House.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Yes, the Deputy may ask a question on when it might come before the House, but not on its detail.

  Mr. Rabbitte: I am merely asking the Taoiseach to state the approximate cost for this financial year.

  An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot discuss what might be in an Estimate.

  Mr. Rabbitte: That is a simple, straightforward matter.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Yes, I agree, and there is a structured way of dealing with it in the House

  Mr. Rabbitte: If the Ceann Comhairle had his way, he would not permit anybody in the House to raise any issue of importance to citizens. The Taoiseach would have answered this question five minutes ago had the Ceann Comhairle stopped interrupting me.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy, the Chair does not interrupt anybody, the Chair intervenes. If the Deputy wishes me to read out Standing Order 26 once again, I will do so.

  Mr. Rabbitte: No.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The reality is that Deputies cannot enter the House morning after [360] morning and ask about the details of Supplementary Estimates. If this were permitted, every Deputy on all sides of the House would ask a question on a matter about which he or she was concerned and we would be here all day. I call Deputy Sargent.

  Mr. Rabbitte: With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I would like to ask the Taoiseach if the Government has a ballpark figure for the cost to be refunded this year in respect of nursing home charges.

  The Taoiseach: The overall figure that the Tánaiste has mentioned is €850 million. Obviously, it depends on when the legislation is passed and on the system set up to pay the claims. We have not got a figure for this year but if there is a payment to be made this year, a Supplementary Estimate will obviously be required.

  Mr. Sargent: Unless circumstances have changed rapidly in the past five minutes, I can take it that the national roads infrastructure Bill will not be published today. Will the Taoiseach state whether the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will take the opportunity to make a statement to the Dáil on his decision on the M3?

  An Ceann Comhairle: That does not arise on the Order of Business. I call Deputy Allen.

  Mr. Sargent: It arises in every media outlet in the country. Will the Dáil have any relevance——

  An Ceann Comhairle: There are ways of raising the matter in the House in a structured way. If the Deputy wishes to do so——

  Mr. Sargent: The Taoiseach has an opportunity to say whether the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government regards this House as relevant.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I call Deputy Allen.

  Mr. Boyle: On a point of order, my understanding of the Order of Business is such that if the Government has promised to introduce legislation and make legislative proposals, it is in order for any Deputy to ask a question——

  An Ceann Comhairle: A Deputy may ask a question on when Bills might come before the House but not on their content.

  Mr. Boyle: It has been reported in the media today that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will make a statement——

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is being disorderly. I call Deputy Allen.

[361]   Mr. Sargent: Where is the statement to be made?

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy knows how he can raise the matter when he is in order in this House.

  Mr. Sargent: I am asking a question which is fairly relevant to this House.

  An Ceann Comhairle: It does not arise on the Order of Business.

  Mr. Sargent: Will the Dáil be involved in that statement?

  Mr. Allen: When will the legislation dealing with the referendum on the draft EU constitution be considered in the House? Has the Government finalised its wording? There has been no consultation with my party in recent weeks but I have read reports about sections being added and deleted from the Bill.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Taoiseach, on the legislation.

  Mr. Allen: When will the final draft of the legislation be ready?

  The Taoiseach: The Government is working to finalise its proposals in that regard. The Minister for Foreign Affairs is away but we would be very glad to complete the consultations with the Deputy’s party.

  Ms McManus: I have two questions. First, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, misled the House this morning. He e-mailed——

  An Ceann Comhairle: That does not arise on the Order of Business.

  Ms McManus: I am asking a question about it. The e-mail is not mentioned in the Travers report. How does one ensure that the record of the House is corrected?

  An Ceann Comhairle: If the Deputy has an allegation to make against the Minister, she can table a motion of substance. The Deputy stated that she had a second question.

  Ms McManus: Have I no other way of correcting the record of the House?

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy may put a substantive motion before the House. If the Deputy has an allegation to make against the Minister——

  Ms McManus: Is it the case that I have no other way of getting the record of the House corrected?

[362]   An Ceann Comhairle: Has the Deputy a second question?

  Ms McManus: I am asking the Chair to confirm that there is no other way in which the record can be corrected.

  An Ceann Comhairle: As I understand it, the Minister made a disclaimer in the House this morning and, if so, it must be accepted. That has always been the procedure. Many rulings have been made by my predecessors since the establishment of the State.

  Ms McManus: I appreciate that.

  An Ceann Comhairle: If the Deputy is not prepared to accept the disclaimer, the only way forward is to lay a substantive motion before the House.

  Ms McManus: I am prepared to accept the information the Chair is giving me but this is a matter of fact rather than opinion.

  An Ceann Comhairle: As the Chair has pointed out, if the Minister made a disclaimer to the House this morning, the Deputy must accept it. If she does not, the option open to her is to table a substantive motion.

  Ms McManus: Even if it is not true.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy must accept the disclaimer. Many rulings have been made by the Chair, dating back to the establishment of the State.

  Ms McManus: Even though it is not true.

  An Ceann Comhairle: As I have pointed out, the Deputy must accept the disclaimer. This is not a court of law and one cannot run the business of the House unless Members show some respect for each other. If the Minister made a disclaimer to the House, we must accept it. If the Deputy has a problem with it, she knows the option available to her.

  Ms McManus: May I ask my second question?

  An Ceann Comhairle: Yes, if it is in order.

  Ms McManus: The Health (Amendment) Bill 2005 was rushed through this House and guillotined. The Minister stated it had to be rushed through because money was being lost to the State. The Bill legitimised charges on elderly people in nursing homes and it was passed in the House. Will the Taoiseach confirm that the relevant regulations have not been made?

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Taoiseach, on the regulations.

[363]   Ms McManus: Is it true that the regulations will not come into effect until autumn, as reported today?

  The Taoiseach: I confirm that the regulations have not yet been made. They are being drafted and I do not know the date to which they will apply.

  Mr. Timmins: The Chairman will be surprised to hear that 40% of the cost of a new house goes to our caring Government. In view of the fact that my good colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, states on his website that levies are “a crude form of taxation on home ownership”——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Has the Deputy a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

  Mr. Timmins: ——and that it is “immoral for any Council to impose such a massive tax burden on people building a home”, when can we expect the planning and development amendment Bill to amend section 48 of the Planning and Development Act?

  The Taoiseach: There is no planning and development amendment Bill.

  Mr. Timmins: It is on the Minister’s website.

  The Taoiseach: It is not on my list.

  Mr. Timmins: The Minister states that the levies are “a crude form of taxation on home ownership”.

  The Taoiseach: Legislation has been enacted but there is no Bill proposed to amend it.

  Mr. Timmins: On this occasion, I agree with my colleague——

  An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot have a debate on the matter.

  Mr. Timmins: I expect to see another Bill shortly.

  Mr. Gilmore: Let me refer the Chairman to the documents laid before the Dáil, as referred to on today’s Order Paper. The first is the National Monuments Act 1930 (Section 14B) Regulations 2005, a copy of which I have obtained since the Order Paper was circulated this morning. The regulations anticipate the announcement which I understand the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is about to make to the public on the M3 motorway running through the Tara-Skryne valley.

The regulations provide for changes to the environmental impact study process and I have two questions thereon. First, given that they were made on 29 April, why did they not appear on the Order Paper until today, 11 May? Second, [364] will the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government make a statement in the House today on the changes that have given rise to the regulations and to the reference thereto on today’s Order Paper? Will we have an opportunity to question him on this issue?

  An Ceann Comhairle: The first question is in order. The Taoiseach, on the regulations.

  The Taoiseach: The Deputy asked me why the regulations were not referred to on the Order Paper before today if they were made on 29 April. I will ask the Department to provide an answer, which I will forward to the Deputy.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I call Deputy Pat Breen.

  Mr. Gilmore: The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government was in the House until approximately ten minutes ago. He left to attend a press conference.

  An Ceann Comhairle: That does not arise on the Order of Business.

  Mr. Gilmore: He left in circumstances——

  An Ceann Comhairle: As the Deputy knows, under Standing Order 26, the Taoiseach is entitled to defer an answer on regulations until another day.

  Mr. Gilmore: The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government should be in this House to answer questions that relate to his area of responsibility.

  An Ceann Comhairle: That does not arise on the Order of Business. I call Deputy Pat Breen.

  Mr. Gilmore: This is a discourtesy to the House.

  An Ceann Comhairle: It does not arise on the Order of Business.

  Mr. Gilmore: It arises because——

  An Ceann Comhairle: It does not arise. The Chair has ruled on the matter.

  Mr. Gilmore: ——the document is on the Order Paper.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I ask the Deputy to accept the Chair’s ruling.

  Mr. Gilmore: On a point of order, this document is on the Order Paper.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Yes. The Deputy was entitled to ask a question, he did so and the Taoiseach answered it.

  Mr. Gilmore: Will the Ceann Comhairle hear me out? There is a procedure which provides for [365] the annulment of regulations within 21 sitting days from the time the regulations are made. The regulations were made on 29 April but did not appear on the Order Paper until 11 May. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government who was in the House until ten minutes ago has scarpered off to attend a press conference to address this issue.

  An Ceann Comhairle: That does not arise on the Order of Business.

12 o’clock

  Mr. Gilmore: I want an answer. One of our responsibilities in this House is to address regulations, for which a procedure is provided. Regulations made on 29 April did not appear on the Order Paper until today. What caused that delay? Will that delay affect the right of Members to put down a motion annulling the regulations within the 21 days permitted, if they so wish?

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is being repetitive. He asked the question and the Taoiseach has answered it. Under Standing Orders the Taoiseach is entitled——

  Mr. Gilmore: The Taoiseach did not answer. He deferred the answer.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Standing Order 26 states specifically the proviso that “the Taoiseach may defer replying to a question relating to the making of secondary legislation to another day.”

  Mr. Gilmore: The question is not about the making of secondary legislation.

  An Ceann Comhairle: We are not debating the matter. The Chair has ruled on the matter.

  Mr. Gilmore: On a point of order.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Chair will take a point of order.

  Mr. Gilmore: My question was not about the making of secondary legislation.

  An Ceann Comhairle: That is not a point of order.

  Mr. Gilmore: The question was about——

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should resume his seat. He has asked a question which the Taoiseach answered in accordance with Standing Order 26.

  Mr. Gilmore: The Taoiseach did not answer the question.

  An Ceann Comhairle: In accordance with Standing Order 26, the Taoiseach answered the question.

[366]   Mr. Rabbitte: This matter goes to the heart of the way this House conducts its business.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Rabbitte should sit down.

  Mr. Rabbitte: There are long-standing provisions for the making of a regulation and the facility available to this House, if it has the votes, to annul those regulations within 21 days. Deputy Gilmore asked whether 14 of those 21 days have elapsed.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy asked a legitimate question to which the Taoiseach gave a legitimate answer under Standing Order 26.

  Mr. Rabbitte: Have 14 days elapsed? Why can we not get an answer? What is the answer?

  An Ceann Comhairle: Standing Order 26 is quite specific, a question on secondary legislation need not be answered on the day it is asked. It may be deferred to another day. The Standing Orders are laid down by the Members of the House.

  Mr. Rabbitte: I am asking for a ruling. The Ceann Comhairle has a responsibility to protect the rights of this side of the House as well as those of the Government side. Why can the Taoiseach not tell us why 12 or 13 days have elapsed since the making of the regulations? Do we still have 21 days from today to put down a motion to annul the regulations if we are so minded?

  The Taoiseach: The rule regarding the making of regulations has been stated. I am not sure whether the 21 days is effective from the date the regulations appear on the Order Paper, or from the date they are made. That can be easily checked. I will find out why there was a delay and will shortly inform the Deputy about that matter.

  Mr. P. Breen: We are all aware of the recent case in New York involving a Limerick woman who died following cosmetic surgery. When will the medical practitioners Bill be published? Will it protect patients from foreign practitioners who have been the subject of medical negligence in other countries?

  The Taoiseach: Further heads of this Bill are expected. The Bill was almost ready but other issues are under examination. I do not know what those issues are but the Bill is likely to be published early next year.

  Mr. Kenny: When can we expect to see No. 83, the transport reform Bill and No. 86, the transport - increase in CIE borrowings - Bill? Will the Taoiseach indicate when the Cabinet will receive the McCann report on the proposal for re-opening the Sligo-Ennis line, western rail corridor?

[367] Has the Government contacted the British Government in respect of the savage murder of a young woman in London, to assist with, or inquire into, the arrest of those responsible? The young woman’s father is from my area.

  The Taoiseach: The McCann report is not yet with the Government but the Minister for Transport will attend a conference about that matter at the weekend. He may have the report now.

There is no date for the transport reform Bill, to reform public transport. The work on draft heads of the transport (increase in CIE borrowings) Bill is under way and the legislation is expected later this year.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has been in touch with the British Government about the case Deputy Kenny mentioned but I am not aware of the arrangements made.

  Mr. Broughan: What is delaying the Foyle and Carlingford fisheries Bill and when can we expect it? Many urban areas, including Dublin and Cork, urgently await the business improvement districts Bill. When can we expect to see that Bill?

I urge the Taoiseach to ensure the employment permits Bill is brought forward before the end of the session, in light of the continuing complaints we each receive about the serious mistreatment of migrant workers.

  The Taoiseach: The Bills will be before the House in this session. The Foyle and Carlingford fisheries Bill is a large Bill but will be here in this session. The employment permits Bill will be available soon.

  Mr. Kehoe: The Taoiseach is to visit the sunny south east on Friday at the invitation of the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, Deputy Browne. Will he avail of the opportunity to visit Wexford General Hospital?

  An Ceann Comhairle: That does not arise on the Order of Business.

  Mr. Kehoe: The visit would give the Taoiseach an opportunity to see the crisis there.

When will the health Bill come before the House?

  Mr. Kenny: The Deputy is learning very fast.

  The Taoiseach: The Bill will come before the House later this year.

  Ms Cooper-Flynn: No. 57 on Tuesday’s Order Paper concerns the western rail corridor. I understand Mr. McCann’s report was presented to the Department of Transport yesterday. Given the Taoiseach’s positive comments about this——

  An Ceann Comhairle: That matter has been dealt with already.

[368]   Ms Cooper-Flynn: I am entitled to ask a question about a matter on the Order Paper.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy may not be repetitive. The question has already been asked and answered.

  Ms Cooper-Flynn: My question is not repetitive. Deputy Kenny asked when Mr. McCann’s report would be with the Minister. I understand it is already with the Minister. In light of that——

  An Ceann Comhairle: That is not the question.

  Ms Cooper-Flynn: The Taoiseach seems anxious to answer because he made positive utterances about this matter in Sligo last week, which were most welcome. In those circumstances——

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is making a speech.

  Ms Cooper-Flynn: I am not. The Taoiseach would like to reply.

  Mr. Timmins: The Taoiseach should take the Deputy back into Fianna Fáil.

  Ms Cooper-Flynn: When will the Government be in a position to make a decision on this matter? Will the Minister be in a position——

  An Ceann Comhairle: That question has already been answered.

  Ms Cooper-Flynn: The Taoiseach has not answered this question. He answered a separate question. Given that he was very positive——

  Mr. P. McGrath: The Taoiseach should invite the Deputy back into his party.

  Ms Cooper-Flynn: The Taoiseach wants to answer.

  The Taoiseach: Up to last week the report had not been published. It will be part of the ten year multi-annual transport plan.