Dáil Éireann - Volume 387 - 23 February, 1989

Order of Business.

The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take Item Nos. 3, 4, 1 and 5. It is also proposed that the Dáil shall sit later than 5.30 p.m. today and business shall be interrupted at 8 p.m.

It is further proposed that the proceedings on the Report and Final Stages of Item No. 3 shall be brought to a conclusion, if not previously concluded, at 2.30 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only amendments set down by the Minister for Justice.

An Ceann Comhairle: Is the proposal for the late sitting today agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Item No. 3 agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Dukes: On the Order of Business, may I ask the Taoiseach whether he has any plans to make an announcement of any real initiative in relation to search and rescue services rather than the two flimsy announcements made last week by the Ministers for the Marine and Defence, particularly in the light of yesterday's disaster off our coast?

An Ceann Comhairle: This is the kind [1374] of issue that does not arise on the Order of Business.

Mr. Dukes: I am seeking to ascertain whether the Taoiseach intends making any announcement about that.

An Ceann Comhairle: There are other ways of dealing with such a matter.

Mr. Dukes: Obviously he does not.

Mr. Shatter: How many more lives will be lost before this Government take action?

Mr. Spring: In view of the obvious attempt by the multiple stores to take over the bread industry and of the obvious job losses which will result throughout the country, may I ask the Taoiseach or the Minister for Industry and Commerce if they intend taking any immediate necessary action on this matter?

An Ceann Comhairle: Again, this is a matter which must be raised at another time.

Miss Kennedy: Would the Taoiseach be prepared to follow in the footsteps of the former Taoiseach, Deputy FitzGerald, on the matter of State gifts?

An Ceann Comhairle: Would the Deputy please desist; we had that matter yesterday.

The Taoiseach: Perhaps the Deputy would address that question to her own party leader.

Mr. D. O'Malley: I think the same question does not arise. Anything I got was rather modest in comparison.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach: Deputy Desmond O'Malley's memory might be jogged also.

Proinsias De Rossa: In relation to the Government announcement yesterday [1375] that it is proposed to abolish Fóir Teoranta would the Taoiseach indicate when it is proposed to introduce legislation to do so?

An Ceann Comhairle: Is there legislation promised in this area?

The Taoiseach: Legislation is not promised. The Deputy is probably correct in that, ultimately, legislation may be required to wind up the company, but that is fairly far down the road.

Proinsias De Rossa: Would the Taoiseach provide time in this House to have this proposal discussed?

The Taoiseach: Certainly.

Mr. J. Bruton: In regard to that matter, would the Taoiseach acknowledge that it is important that this legislation be introduced soon in view of the fact that there may be a degree of competitive unfairness in that those who received finance from Fóir Teoranta prior to 23 February, in competition with other companies, have an advantage over those now precluded from applying, in the same circumstances, for assistance from Fóir Teoranta?

An Ceann Comhairle: I must advise the House that we cannot debate this matter now. There can be no debate now.

Mr. J. Bruton: In particular would he consider requesting the Minister for Finance to consider any unfairness that may exist in this area?

Mr. Quinn: A Cheann Comhairle, I have endeavoured to raise the following matter on a number of occasions and you correctly ruled me out of order. With your assistance may I ask the Taoiseach if he has requested his Whip to discuss with the other Whips the question of making Government time available to discuss EC Structural Funds in this House before 31 March next?

[1376] The Taoiseach: I have already given an indication that something of that kind is being favourably considered.

Mr. J. Bruton: Yesterday on the Order of Business I asked the Taoiseach the position about patent legislation. As he promised, I was given information as to the current position. I was informed that the Government intend to introduce a major Bill in this area and that they do not intend to proceed with a smaller Bill to deal with the problem of a given number of companies of which the Taoiseach is well aware. May I ask the Taoiseach for a clear assurance that this legislation will be both presented in good time to be enacted so as to cause no difficulty for this company and, given its complexity, be presented in sufficient time to allow its full debate here? May I have a firm assurance on this matter from the Taoiseach in view of the fact that substantial numbers of jobs are involved all over the country?

The Taoiseach: I would like to be able to give the Deputy as much assurance as possible. It is a very important aspect of industrial development. It is complex and difficult. I would like to assure the Deputy that the legislation is with the Attorney General at present and will be pushed ahead as rapidly as possible. I should like to assure the Deputy that the Minister will be available to talk to him about any particular aspects of it.

Mr. J. Bruton: I will always be delighted to accept such an invitation but, notwithstanding that, may I ask the Taoiseach if he is aware that there is a risk that if any problems arise in regard to another matter in this legislation, that legislation may be held up? Is he aware that, therefore, the problem of the particular companies may not be dealt with in time?

An Ceann Comhairle: There is a tendency towards debate and I must dissuade the Deputy from entering into a debate on the matter.

[1377] Mr. J. Bruton: This question is in regard to promised legislation and, with the utmost respect, it is entirely in order.

An Ceann Comhairle: It has been answered. I should like to point out to the Deputy that the Chair decides these matters.

Mr. J. Bruton: The Chair does so in accordance wth precedent.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should leave that to the Chair.

Mr. J. Bruton: Will the Taoiseach ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce to prepare as a contingency a short piece of legislation that could be put through the House relatively quickly in the event of any unforeseen delay in dealing with the more complex piece of legislation?

An Ceann Comhairle: I have given the Deputy a lot of latitude in the matter.

Mr. J. Bruton: May I ask the Taoiseach for that assurance?

The Taoiseach: I cannot give that assurance. It can be considered but my advice is that such a short Bill as the Deputy has in mind would not necessarily solve any particular problems.

Mr. J. Bruton: I should like the permission of the Chair to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

An Ceann Comhairle: I will communicate with the Deputy.

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): I should like to ask the Taoiseach in respect of the Finance Bill and the Social Welfare Bill if either or both will be published before the Easter recess.

The Taoiseach: The Social Welfare Bill will be published next week and the Finance Bill may not be published before Easter but we are well within our time and we hope to have plenty of time to [1378] discuss it. The Deputy can have his Easter holidays in peace.

Miss Quill: I should like to ask the Minister for Finance if the 3,000 new jobs in the tourist sector, promised by him in his budget statement, will be real jobs catering for tourists.

An Ceann Comhairle: This is clearly not in order. Indeed, there are questions tabled in respect of that matter and it may not be adverted to now.

Miss Quill: I should like to know on what statistics the Minister has based his figures.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy must desist.

Miss Quill: What kind of tourists are we talking about, or does the weekly visit to the mother-in-law for afternoon tea qualify for inclusion as a tourist statistic? Is putting up afternoon tea for the mother-in-law counted as a job in the tourist sector? What kind of jobs is the Minister talking about?

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Quill is clearly disobeying the Chair.

The Taoiseach: There was a time when the Deputy would have had full access to all this sort of information.

Miss Quill: That was before I saw the light.

Mr. Farrelly: The only problem then was that she was not a Deputy.

Mr. J. Mitchell: The Government promised before Christmas industrial legislation to reform industrial relations and I should like to ask the Taoiseach to say when it is likely that the Bill dealing with this matter will be circulated. The Minister for Labour promised that legislation before Christmas.

The Taoiseach: We will probably have some progress on it after Easter.

[1379] Mr. J. Mitchell: That is very uncertain particularly when the Minister promised it before Christmas.

Mr. Dukes: In view of the Taoiseach's failure to give any response to the question I put to him earlier I should like the permission of the Chair to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

An Ceann Comhairle: I will communicate with the Deputy.

Mr. Crotty: I wish to raise on the Adjournment the decision by the Revenue Commissioners on 20 February to withdraw until further notice all postal facilities for applicants for stamp duty and the decision not to deal with postal and telephone queries.

An Ceann Comhairle: I will communicate with the Deputy.

Mr. M. Higgins: Through the Taoiseach I should like to ask the Minister for Social Welfare if the Social Welfare Bill will address the anomalies that have arisen in relation to the changes in the periods and stamps required for disqualification for different benefits in view of the hardship that is causing.

An Ceann Comhairle: We should await the Bill.

Mr. M. Higgins: My point about this matter is that that was promised in the Minister's speeches. The changes in the requirements for benefit are causing great hardship. My question is whether the legislation to which reference has been made will be the conventional Social Welfare Bill to implement normal changes in benefit or whether it will address the anomalies to which I have referred.

An Ceann Comhairle: This is anticipatory of the Bill.

The Taoiseach: The Bill will be published next week.

Mr. M. Higgins: That is not an answer. [1380] The Government do not care about social welfare recipients.

Mr. R. Bruton: I should like to ask when it is intended to lay before the House regulations in relation to multipoint microwave distribution systems.

The Taoiseach: Shortly.

Mr. R. Bruton: Does that mean within a week or a month?

The Taoiseach: I do not mean shortwave; I mean shortly in time.

Mr. R. Bruton: Does that have the same meaning as the phrase used by the Minister for Labour before Christmas?

Mr. J. Bruton: One would hope that it does not mean a short fuse in the Taoiseach's case. Will the Taoiseach give a specific indication, in view of the Government's decision, when it is intended to introduce a Bill to repeal the Fóir Teoranta Act, 1972? I should like to ask the Chair if it is in order for the Government to suspend the operation of that Act by Government decision in view of the fact that it was a decision of the House taken in 1972 to establish that body on certain criteria. Will the Taoiseach give a clear indication when such legislation will be before the House so that this foolish and unnecessary decision can be debated here?

An Ceann Comhairle: What is the position about this legislation?

The Taoiseach: No legislation has been promised but in my usual way I have been endeavouring to be helpful to the Deputy by telling him that the ultimate step in the procedure will probably be legislation to wind up Fóir Teoranta which, as everybody knows, has long outlived its usefulnesss.

Deputies: No.

The Taoiseach: Its functions have been overtaken by legislation and otherwise.

[1381] Mr. Dukes: Legislation has not been debated.

The Taoiseach: When all the necessary arrangements have been made to deal with the situation the legislation will be introduced but there is no particular urgency about the legislation.

Mr. J. Bruton: Is the Taoiseach aware that the legislation referred to by the Minister for Finance——

An Ceann Comhairle: This is not Question Time.

Mr. J. Bruton: ——is providing a substitute and has not been debated in the House but yet he is suspending Fóir Teoranta?

An Ceann Comhairle: I cannot permit the Order of Business to be turned into a mini-Question Time.

Mr. J. Bruton: I should like to ask if the Chair is aware that substantial employment could be lost because of the suspension of this body.

An Ceann Comhairle: That is not a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Quinn: I have sought permission on a number of occasions to raise on the Adjournment the decision of the Department of Education to put out to developer competition schools for which design and contract documents had been prepared and fees paid, and I should like, with the permission of the Chair, to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

An Ceann Comhairle: I am aware of the Deputy's interest in the matter and I will communicate with him.

Mr. Durkan: I should like to ask the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will state whether he intends to introduce any legislation relating to the food industry with particular reference to mergers and take-overs and the possible creation [1382] of monopolies in certain areas of distribution.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is raising a wideranging matter.

Mr. Durkan: It is an important matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should adopt another method to raise the issue.

Mr. Durkan: The Minister may want to answer my question because this is an important issue.

An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry, Deputy, but you should put down a question to the Minister on the matter.

Mr. Durkan: With respect, I have already tabled a number of private notice questions on the matter but they were refused. I accept the decision of the Chair's office in regard to them, but I should like permission to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

An Ceann Comhairle: I will communicate with the Deputy.

Mr. McCartan: I should like to ask at what stage the preparation of the Solicitors (Amendment) Bill is and how soon the Minister for Justice believes it can be introduced into the Chamber for debate. I should like to know if it will address the recent decision of the High Court in the McGowan case in regard to access to legal education.

Mr. Connolly: Is the Deputy going to declare his interests?

The Taoiseach: The legislation is at a fairly advanced stage.

Mr. McCartan: I appreciate it is long and complex, but could the Taoiseach say if it is likely to be circulated this session?

The Taoiseach: The Deputy should take that as very definite information. I am telling him it is fairly advanced.