Dáil Éireann - Volume 475 - 19 February, 1997

Order of Business.

The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 19, Dublin Docklands Development Authority Bill, 1996 — Order for Report and Report and Final Stages; No. 20, Central Bank Bill, 1996 — Order for Report and Report and Final Stages; No. 3, Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1996 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. Private Members' Business shall be No. 33 — Prisons Bill, 1997 — Second Stage (Resumed) and the proceedings thereon shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m.

An Ceann Comhairle: There is but one matter to put before the House. Are the arrangements for dealing with Private Members' Business, item No. 33, satisfactory and agreed? Agreed.

Mr. B. Ahern: Yesterday Deputy O'Donoghue published the Punishment of Aggravated Robbery Bill, 1997. Since I believe there is agreement on all sides of the House to deal with the serious issue of attacks on individuals with syringes and since Deputy O'Donoghue has drafted a comprehensive Bill which is adequate to deal with the matter, will the Taoiseach agree to take it in Government time next week?

The Taoiseach: The Government is preparing the Offences Against the Person Bill which will deal with the matters contained in Deputy O'Donoghue's Bill. I think that is the better vehicle for progress on this matter.

Mr. B. Ahern: Since we have a Bill we could deal with the matter. The experience is that only the titles change.

Mr. Howlin: Not so.

Mr. B. Ahern: The Taoiseach told me last week the Government Bill will not be ready until the summer. What is the reason for the delay in dealing with this Bill? We could take it next week, deal with all Stages and have it enacted. The drugs problem is reverting to where it was last [286] summer. Community groups are not continuing their action and crime——

An Ceann Comhairle: This should not lead to argument.

Mr. B. Ahern: ——and the drugs problem are building up at an horrendous rate.

Miss Harney: There was a policy initiative yesterday from Fine Gael with the launch of the sports strategy. I understand a sports council will be established on a legislative basis. When can we expect legislation to establish the sports council?

The Taoiseach: At a very early stage.

Mr. R. Burke: Does it have Government approval?

Miss Harney: Last week a junior press officer was dumped on and yesterday it seemed a junior Minister was going to be dumped on. Is it Government policy to establish the sports council on a statutory basis?

The Taoiseach: Yes, this is Government policy and the approach of the Minister has been approved by the Cabinet.

Éamon Ó Cuív: In his reply to me yesterday the Taoiseach made some vague constitutional reference to transposing European directives. Will he confirm that the transposing of directives takes place under the European Communities Act? Is it intended to amend that Act to ensure openness, accountability and transparency in the transposing of European Union directives and to bring it before the Dáil in advance of it being enacted into Irish law?

The Taoiseach: As Members will recollect at the time we entered the European Union — Dr. Hillery was Minister for Foreign Affairs — arrangements were made for the examination of secondary legislation. That led to one of the first committees of the House, the Joint Committee on European Affairs, being established which has the responsibility of scrutinising all delegated legislation arising from EU obligations under various treaties of the European Union. If the Deputy has concerns in that matter I suggest he raise them with the relevant member of his party who serves on the committee.

Éamon Ó Cuív: Did not the Taoiseach say we are operating behind a pane of glass?

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy has many other ways of——

The Taoiseach: We are operating under arrangements made by the Deputy from Clare, Dr. Hillery who was Minister for Foreign Affairs at the time. I believe Dr. Hillery's arrangements [287] have stood the test of time. It is quite churlish of Deputy Ó Cuív to criticise this arrangement.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. S. Brennan: There are eight or nine consultants' reports dealing with a range of issues piled up in the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications.

A Deputy: What did the Deputy do about them?

Mr. Dukes: They all tell me how the Deputy got it wrong.

Mr. S. Brennan: Another report issued yesterday deals with the MMDS system. When is it proposed to bring forward legislation in this regard? Is it proposed to release the consultants' report received by the Minister yesterday so that we all know the position or will it remain secret like previous reports?

The Taoiseach: The Deputy should put down a question on that matter to the Minister who will be more than happy to reply to it.

Mr. Dukes: As always.

Mr. S. Brennan: I take that to mean “no”.

Mr. Dukes: The Deputy should ask nicely.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Interjections from either side of the Chamber are not welcome.

Mr. O'Dea: When is it proposed to introduce the promised legislation to amend the Nurses Act, 1985? I am concerned only about the legislation and will not mention the war.

The Taoiseach: Legislation amending the Nurses Act will follow any new arrangements which might be made arising from the examination of the nursing profession which the Government wishes to institute. There is a nursing Bill, consisting of 85 heads, which addresses the restructuring of An Bord Altranais, fitness to practise procedures, registration provisions and assignment of education functions. We may be able to proceed with some of these provisions in advance of the report of the commission but other provisions may more prudently be retained until we receive the report so that any recommendations which go further can be incorporated in the legislation. The proposal at this stage is to have the nursing Bill in its present form ready by the end of the year. However, it may be necessary to defer the Bill or to make arrangements for further provisions to be added to it in light of the commission's report.

[288] Mr. M. McDowell: Is it intended to introduce legislation to amend the Act dealing with An Bord Gais to allow for additional appointments in the Cork area?

An Ceann Comhairle: Is legislation promised in this area?

The Taoiseach: I am not aware of any promised legislation on that matter.

Mr. M. McDowell: The job is promised.

Mr. Dukes: That went down like a flat balloon.

Miss Quill: There is great gas in Cork.

Mr. Sargent: On promised legislation——

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Sargent: Yesterday I asked the position in regard to the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill. Given that previous deadlines were only aspirational, was the May-June deadline announced yesterday by the Taoiseach an aspirational or definite one? The Plant Varieties (Proprietary Rights) (Amendment) Bill is related to the wildlife Bill as it deals with the patenting of living species. When is it proposed to publish this Bill?

The Taoiseach: As I have explained to the Deputy on several occasions, the procedure I have adopted for giving the best estimate of the date of publication cannot be a guarantee as one cannot foresee difficulties which may arise during the drafting of legislation. I have given the Deputy the best estimated deadline for the publication of the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill. I hope the plant varieties legislation, which will allow us to ratify UPRV, will be ready by the second half of the year.

Mr. M. Ahern: I wish to bring to your attention, a Cheann Comhairle, a very serious matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: Is it relevant to the Order of Business?

Mr. M. Ahern: It is very relevant.

An Ceann Comhairle: I will decide that.

Mr. M. Ahern: I am referring to the blatantly and deliberately misleading reply given by the Minister for the Environment to a parliamentary question from me on——

An Ceann Comhairle: If the Deputy wishes to make a charge against a Member of the House he must do so in a more responsible manner. He may not cast aspersions in this way on the Order of Business.

Mr. M. Ahern: The facts speak for themselves.

Mr. D. Ahern: If the cap fits wear it.