Dáil Éireann - Volume 487 - 17 February, 1998

Order of Business.

The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 12, motion re. by-election in Dublin North and No. 2, Finance Bill, 1998, Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the motion for the by-election in Dublin North shall be taken without debate; and in the event of the motion for the by-election for Limerick East being moved, it shall be taken without debate; and the Second Stage of No. 2 shall be taken today and the following arrangements shall apply: the opening speech of the Minister for Finance and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party shall not exceed 45 minutes in each case; the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case; Members shall share time; and the Minister [413] for Finance shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed 20 minutes. Private Members' business shall be No. 36, Trade Union Recognition Bill, 1998 — Second Stage.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 12 and 13 agreed?

Mr. Quinn: Can I clarify that Nos. 12 and 13 are being taken together?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Yes. Are the proposals for dealing with Nos. 12 and 13 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 2 agreed? Agreed.

Proinsias De Rossa: Last week on the Order of Business I raised the need for a debate on the situation in the Gulf. I was assured that agreement had been reached that time would be found for such a debate this week. The schedule has been issued and there is no reference to such a debate. I understand that an agreement was reached at a Whips meeting last Wednesday night? Can the Taoiseach clarify the situation?

The Taoiseach: It was intended to hold such a debate. The Central Bank Bill has been ordered for Thursday. I understand that it might be possible to have a debate on the Gulf. Last week I stated that a debate should be arranged if possible.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We cannot debate this issue now.

Proinsias De Rossa: I am seeking a debate but not at this point.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We are not debating the issue now.

Proinsias De Rossa: The Taoiseach has stated that we might be able to have such a debate.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Taoiseach has already responded to the Deputy's question.

Mr. Quinn: A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, could you assist me on consistency regarding the transfer of questions? I have tabled a number of questions to the Taoiseach asking him to report on a meeting he had with a particular person. This question has not been answered. In an answer today he reports on a meeting he had with the Australian Foreign Minister. However, when I table a question asking him when he last met with the GAA I am told that he cannot answer.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair has no responsibility for the allocation of questions.

Mr. Quinn: This is why I wish to air this point in the House. When I make inquiries I am told [414] that the Department of the Taoiseach has no responsibility either. Responsibility lies somewhere between the Ceann Comhairle's office and the Department of the Taoiseach. Who has the responsibility?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair has no responsibility for the allocation of questions.

Mr. Quinn: I wish to comply with the rules of the House. If you are saying formally that the Chair has no responsibility for this matter, can we take it when a question is denied a reply by the relevant Department that it is the responsibility of the Department for not answering the question?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I do not expect the Deputy to draw any conclusion other than that the Chair does not have responsibility for the allocation of questions.

Mr. Quinn: I would have thought that you might use your medical skills to diagnose who has the responsibility.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I speak for the Chair in this capacity.

Proinsias De Rossa: On what date will the two by-elections be held?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We will take the motions first.

Proinsias De Rossa: I am asking a basic question. The Taoiseach must know the date on which the by-elections will be held.

Mr. Barrett: When is it proposed to take Second Stage of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Bill?

The Taoiseach: The Whips will discuss this matter tomorrow night.

Dr. Upton: When will the Refugee (Amendment) Bill be taken? This Bill was announced by Deputy O'Donoghue on “Questions and Answers” last night.

The Taoiseach: The Minister will shortly make an announcement on refugee matters.

Mr. Creed: Where stands the Minister for Finance's budget commitment to introduce a rural renewal scheme in the Finance Bill? Has this been approved by the Taoiseach?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy will have an opportunity to discuss that matter during the next two days.

Mr. Creed: It is not contained in the Finance Bill.

[415] An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The debate on the Finance Bill will start shortly and the Deputy will have an opportunity to raise the matter.

Mr. Creed: I will not have such an opportunity because the matter is not included in the Bill. It was promised in the budget.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy will have an opportunity to raise this matter in the debate on the Finance Bill.

Mr. Creed: It is not in the Finance Bill. Does the Government propose to introduce amendments to the Bill to include such a provision?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy can debate this matter on Second Stage of the Finance Bill. An amendment can be submitted on Committee Stage.

The Taoiseach: There will be amendments.

Mr. J. Bruton: It is a fiasco, not a Finance Bill.

Ms Shortall: We were promised a Bill to establish a social services inspectorate. In No. 43 of the Government's programme, there is reference to an inspectorate of child care services. Will the Taoiseach clarify whether we are talking about one or two separate inspectorates?

The Taoiseach: I stated last week that the item was removed from the list of legislation. In view of the urgency involved, the social services inspectorate will now be established on an administrative basis.

Ms Shortall: That is not the question I am asking. What kind of inspectorate will it be? Will it be a social services or a child care inspectorate as listed in the Government's programme?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

Ms Shortall: The question concerns promised legislation.

The Taoiseach: It is expected to deal with child care.

Ms Shortall: Are we not, therefore, going to have an inspectorate of social services?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: It is not appropriate to pursue this matter on the Order of Business. The Deputy should table a parliamentary question to get the detail she requires. I call Deputy Farrelly.

Mr. Rabbitte: The Chair has dangerous tendencies.

Ms Shortall: I insist in pursuing this issue. We were promised legislation.

[416] An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair has ruled that it is not appropriate to the Order of Business. I ask the Deputy to resume her seat while the Chair in on his feet.

Ms Shortall: A Cheann Comhairle, I must insist——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I ask Deputy Shortall to leave the House.

Mr. Howlin: A legitimate question is being asked.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I ask Deputy Shortall to leave the House.

Mr. Howlin: A legitimate question asked by a Deputy should not be responded to in this manner.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy's question was answered. She persisted in defying the Chair.

Mr. Howlin: If the House is to operate at all, it should be on the basis of some order and of allowing Deputies ask legitimate questions. I ask the Leas-Cheann Comhairle to review his decision.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I have asked Deputy Shortall to leave the House. I will not review my decision.

Mr. Currie: There is a difference between a social services inspectorate and what the Taoiseach referred to. As somebody responsible for introducing it, I know the difference.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: It is not appropriate to ask for detailed information on the Order of Business. I ask Deputy Shortall to leave the House.

Ms Shortall: We were promised legislation to establish a social services inspectorate. What are the intentions of the Taoiseach in relation to that promise?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I ask the Deputy to leave the House. She has not obeyed the Chair. We must have order in the House.

Mr. Currie: The Deputy deserves an answer.

The Taoiseach: The Deputy asked about an inspectorate of child care services and what was happening the relevant legislation. The issue will be initially dealt with on an administrative basis. Preparations to establish a social services inspectorate in the Department of Health and Children, which will have immediate statutory functions for inspecting health board residential homes for children under the various parts of the Child Care Act, particularly Part VIII, are at an advanced [417] stage. The inspectorate will have wide powers of inspection of child care services operated by the health boards under section 69 of the Act. Authorised officers of the Minister for Health and Children and the inspectorate will also be able to exercise the general powers of inspection assigned to the Minister under the various health Acts. I hope this detail is sufficient.

Mr. Currie: It will also be able to hold inquiries.

Ms Shortall: The title on the——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We cannot have a debate on the matter. In view of the fact that the Taoiseach intervened I withdraw my ruling that the Deputy should leave the House. However, I ask her not to persist.

Mr. Farrelly: Does the Government intend introducing legislation to license the security industry? A consultant's report was presented to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in late December 1997.

The Taoiseach: Legislation is not pending, but I understand that a report is with the Minister.

Mr. Farrelly: Does the Government intend introducing legislation as was promised by the Minister to the consultative group?

The Taoiseach: Legislation is not pending. A question can be tabled for the Minister concerning his plans.

Mr. Farrelly: The previous report was issued in 1984 and it is gathering dust.

Mr. Gormley: When can we expect conservation legislation, as promised in the programme for Government, given that many of our historic interiors are not properly protected and in light of the comments made by Mr. Trimble and Mr. Taylor yesterday concerning Edward Carson's birthplace?

The Taoiseach: Preparations for legislation on the national inventory of certain houses is well advanced. The Bill will be published shortly.

Mr. Gormley: When will the Bill be published?

The Taoiseach: It will be published shortly.

Mr. Quinn: Does the Taoiseach intend making time available for a debate on the formation of the European Central Bank and, in particular, the prospects, if any, of Ireland nominating one of the six executive directors?

The Taoiseach: The Central Bank Bill is before the House. However, I think the Deputy's reference is in the context of EMU. There will be a debate on EMU in the House before Easter.

[418] Mr. Quinn: I attempted to table three or four questions to the Taoiseach on a number of occasions. On 2 May the Taoiseach and the other Heads of State and Government will have the responsibility of deciding the six directors of the European Central Bank. Has the Government developed a policy in consort with any of the member states to ensure that one of the executives is an Irish representative? I have been frustrated in my efforts since Christmas in trying to get a response from the Government on this very important matter. The EU Central Bank will effectively set interest rates in future for the Irish economy and for the economies of the ten other member states. So far there has only been evasion and silence from the Government on this issue. The Taoiseach and his colleagues rather than the Minister for Finance will have to make this decision. Does the Government have a policy on the matter? Is there a strategy? If there is, will it be communicated to the Members of the Oireachtas?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy should table a question on the matter.

Mr. Quinn: I could paper the walls with the refusals I have received when I have tried to table a question. This is why I am raising the issue now. We should have a debate on the matter.

Mr. Rabbitte: Could we nominate the general secretary of the Credit Unions?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Taoiseach has stated that there will be a debate on the matter and an opportunity to raise the issue.

Mr. Quinn: I appreciate the response. I heard the Taoiseach say there would be a debate in the context of the Central Bank Bill. That Bill does not refer to the composition of the executive board of the European Central Bank.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: There will be an opportunity to debate the issue before Easter. In the meantime the Deputy may submit a question.

Mr. Quinn: On what basis will there be a debate on the composition of the European Central Bank?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: It can be raised during a number of debates.

Mr. McCreevy: A debate on EMU is scheduled to take place before Easter.

Ms McManus: Last week the Taoiseach, in response to my question, stated that the Prison Service Bill would not be published until 1999. In view of the statement made by the chairperson of the Mountjoy Prison visiting committee, will he consider speeding up the publication of that Bill and the Bill relating to the attachment of earnings? The Taoiseach must be aware that these [419] two Bills would considerably improve the situation which resulted in serious overcrowding in one of the prisons last weekend.

The Taoiseach: Regarding the Prison Service Bill, it is hoped to submit a general scheme to Government around Easter 1998 for drafting, which will take some considerable time. I answered the question relating to the attachment of earnings Bill last week. It will be some time before that Bill is published. I know there were conflicting reports over the weekend, some of which said there were in excess of 100 prisoners being held in part of Mountjoy when the actual figure was ten. Therefore, while it is important to bring forward the legislation, it will not dramatically alter the position.

Mr. Howlin: On the promised urban renewal Bill, has the Government made a decision on the timing of the next round of urban renewal? When will the legislation be published?

The Taoiseach: It is expected the urban renewal Bill will be published in the middle of this year. The date for the new scheme of urban renewal is 1 August this year.

Mr. Penrose: In view of the anti-competitive practices engaged in by retail stores in England and the impact on our fresh meat market — our export market is worth £200 million annually — has the Government considered exploring this matter at European level to see whether——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is not a matter for the Order of Business. It is more appropriate to a question. It was debated by the Deputy on the Adjournment last week.

Mr. Penrose: No progress has been made.

Mr. Gilmore: In view of the increasing difficulties experienced by people in buying a home and the rapidly escalating house prices, will the Taoiseach consider holding a debate in the House on housing policy?

The Taoiseach: It may be best to await the report on that matter which will be published next month.

Mr. Finucane: Having been invited to the official opening of Limerick prison extension prior to Christmas, will the Minister consider another official opening during the by-election campaign as that building has not been occupied since?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is not a matter for the Order of Business. [420]