Dáil Éireann - Volume 615 - 22 February, 2006

Order of Business.

  The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 14, Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2005 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 1, Social Welfare Law Reform and Pensions Bill 2006 — Second Stage (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Report and Final Stages of No. 14 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, concerning amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. Private Members’ Business shall be No. 44, motion re establishment of department of and Oireachtas joint committee on labour affairs (resumed), to conclude at 8.30 p.m.

  An Ceann Comhairle: There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with item No. 14, conclusion of Report and Final Stages of the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2005, agreed?

12 o’clock

  Mr. Kenny: It is not agreed.

We have been consistent in our opposition to Bills being guillotined. A number of serious matters are relevant to this Bill. It behoves everybody to support the rule of law and to support Government initiatives to deal with breaches of the law. However, a number of serious matters are raised on the constitutionality of this proposal. Different legal opinions have been available to both the Minister through the Attorney General on behalf of the Government, and to the committee from its independent legal sources. These matters should be teased out fully.

It is inexplicable why, within the small but important fishing industry, allegations of scandalous breaches of the law to a huge extent have been ongoing for a number of years without the knowledge of the Government or the Ministers involved. It is a small world in that context and it seems inexplicable that such breaches could be going on to that extent without the knowledge of people in Government. While the Bill cannot deal with those persons retrospectively, we need a full and thorough explanation of the questions raised regarding the constitutionality of what is proposed. We also need an explanation as to why the Government has not been able to prosecute and deal with those who have breached the law to date, as this legislation cannot be made retrospective. On that basis, and on the basis of a proposed guillotine, I am opposed to taking the Bill in its entirety today.

[522]   Mr. Broughan: The Labour Party also opposes the guillotining of the Bill. We will only be allowed to speak for three and a half hours on the future of 8,000 people working directly in the fishing industry. Approximately 40,000 additional people depend on the industry day in day out. They do the most dangerous job in the country’s economy. Their future is on the line.

Instead of having a reasonable process of consultation on the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill over many months with this House and stakeholders, the Minister dropped it on us without warning as a fait accompli in early autumn. He gave the committee very little time to discuss it. It goes without saying that our party is bitterly opposed to illegality in fishing or in anything else. We believe the most severe criminal sanctions should be used against that type of behaviour. However, I agree with the leader of Fine Gael that it is astonishing that a Government entering its tenth year did not deal with problems in that industry under existing legislation. It is also astonishing that the three Ministers with responsibility for the marine who served during the past nine years did not improve the situation regarding the administration of the industry. Not only that, but the first of them, Deputy Fahey, made it a great deal worse and made it impossible for our country to argue its case fairly on the Common Fisheries Policy at European level.

It is disgraceful that we finally got a chance to hear this in committee last week and now vital issues will be discussed in only three and half hours, particularly the issue of administrative penalties. For a long time, the leader of the Labour Party has questioned the Taoiseach directly on the constitutionality of administrative penalties. The Taoiseach told him in a letter approximately two years ago that administrative penalties were constitutional and could be included in legislation. The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, has conceded——

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy cannot go into detail on the content of the letter.

  Mr. Broughan: The Minister has conceded they are constitutional. There is no reason the approximately 100 amendments to be considered today could not have included an amendment on administrative penalties. We strongly support law and order in industry. We are also deeply concerned for those 40,000 to 50,000 people involved in the industry, including in my home port of Howth, and other coastal communities around Ireland. I urge the Taoiseach to allow more time for this Bill.

  Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I want to address two matters to the Taoiseach. The first is on the wording of the proposition, which allows for the conclusion of Private Members’ Business at 8.30 p.m. [523] tonight rather than after 90 minutes. One can anticipate a vote at 7 p.m. and this matter has been addressed on many occasions where such a situation arises. I ask, through the Taoiseach, for the Chief Whip’s acceptance that Private Members’ Business tonight will conclude after 90 minutes rather than at 8.30 p.m. because of the intrusion of the possibility of a vote at the conclusion of Report and Final Stages of the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2005. Will the Taoiseach indicate acceptance of that? Precedent has been established time and again.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Ó Caoláin should make his second point.

  Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: The second point is that I join with colleagues in opposing the proposal to effect a guillotine at 7 p.m. regarding the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill, for all the reasons articulated by colleagues this morning. I will not repeat them. I have spoken on them on previous proposals pertaining to the passage of this legislation.

  The Taoiseach: This Bill was ready for publication before the summer recess last year. However, the committee and the industry wanted to give their views on it and the Minister held it over until the autumn. In the autumn, because of the strong views held by Members, it was held over to January. We have now reached the end of February. The Bill has received a long airing and much discussion.

In reply to Deputy Kenny, whenever information of wrong-doing or criminality was reported, it was reported to the Garda Síochána straight away.

Fishery offences have been the subject of criminal law for 46 years, since 1959. The Bill simply reiterates that long-standing position. Some Deputies have called for a system of administra[524] tive sanctions to be introduced for fishery offences. That matter has been repeatedly considered by the Attorney General, who consistently advises that while administrative penalties are permissible under Irish constitutional law they are only appropriate and suitable for technical breaches of law, such as the delivery of tax returns on time. The Attorney General advised they were inappropriate for situations involving fraud and falsification of documents, as such conduct is inherently criminal and must therefore be disposed of through the courts system, which administers justice under the Constitution.

Some Members proposed amendments on Committee Stage. The Minister has taken aboard many of these amendments. On Report Stage, the Minister will give his views on how he believes this can be progressed. That should help the situation. We have been repeatedly advised that we must pass this Bill. Currently we are unable to prosecute many serious offences detected. We are not able to manage the fisheries or generally meet the State’s legal obligations under European Union law. On Monday, the Minister met Commissioner Borg to discuss illegal fishing. We must address some serious issues. The Minister will examine some of these issues today in the context of the progress he is trying to make. It is important that we bring this to a conclusion.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The question before the House is, “That the proposal for dealing with No. 14——

  Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: On a point of order, the Taoiseach did not deal with the matter of Private Members’ Business.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I will return to that matter on the Order of Business.

Question put: “That the proposal for dealing with No. 14 be agreed.”

The Dáil divided: Tá, 76; Níl, 60.

    Ahern, Bertie.

    Ahern, Dermot.

    Ahern, Michael.

    Ahern, Noel.

    Andrews, Barry.

    Ardagh, Seán.

    Blaney, Niall.

    Brady, Johnny.

    Brady, Martin.

    Brennan, Seamus.

    Browne, John.

    Callanan, Joe.

    Callely, Ivor.

    Carey, Pat.

    Carty, John.

    Cassidy, Donie.

    Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.

    Cowen, Brian.

    Cregan, John.

    Cullen, Martin.

    Davern, Noel.

    de Valera, Síle.

    Dempsey, Noel.

    Dempsey, Tony.

    Devins, Jimmy.

    Ellis, John.

    Fahey, Frank.

    Finneran, Michael.

    Fitzpatrick, Dermot.

    Fleming, Seán.

    Gallagher, Pat The Cope.

    Glennon, Jim.

    Grealish, Noel.

    Hanafin, Mary.

    Harney, Mary.

    Haughey, Seán.

    Hoctor, Máire.

    Jacob, Joe.

    Keaveney, Cecilia.

    Kelleher, Billy.

    Kelly, Peter.

    Killeen, Tony.

    [525] Kirk, Seamus.

    Kitt, Tom.

    Lenihan, Brian.

    Lenihan, Conor.

    McDowell, Michael.

    McEllistrim, Thomas.

    McGuinness, John.

    Moynihan, Donal.

    Moynihan, Michael.

    Mulcahy, Michael.

    Nolan, M.J.

    Ó Cuív, Éamon.

    Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.

    O’Connor, Charlie.

    O’Dea, Willie.

    O’Donnell, Liz.

    O’Donoghue, John.

    O’Donovan, Denis.

    O’Flynn, Noel.

    O’Keeffe, Batt.

    O’Keeffe, Ned.

    O’Malley, Fiona.

    O’Malley, Tim.

    Parlon, Tom.

    Power, Peter.

    Roche, Dick.

    Sexton, Mae.

    Smith, Brendan.

    Smith, Michael.

    Treacy, Noel.

    Wallace, Dan.

    Walsh, Joe.

    Wilkinson, Ollie.

    Woods, Michael.

Níl

    Allen, Bernard.

    Boyle, Dan.

    Broughan, Thomas P.

    Bruton, Richard.

    Burton, Joan.

    Connaughton, Paul.

    Connolly, Paudge.

    Costello, Joe.

    Crawford, Seymour.

    Crowe, Seán.

    Cuffe, Ciarán.

    Durkan, Bernard J.

    English, Damien.

    Enright, Olwyn.

    Ferris, Martin.

    Gilmore, Eamon.

    Gogarty, Paul.

    Gormley, John.

    Hayes, Tom.

    Healy, Seamus.

    Higgins, Joe.

    Higgins, Michael D.

    Hogan, Phil.

    Howlin, Brendan.

    Kenny, Enda.

    Lynch, Kathleen.

    McCormack, Pádraic.

    McEntee, Shane.

    McGinley, Dinny.

    McGrath, Finian.

    McGrath, Paul.

    McHugh, Paddy.

    McManus, Liz.

    Mitchell, Olivia.

    Morgan, Arthur.

    Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.

    Murphy, Catherine.

    Murphy, Gerard.

    Naughten, Denis.

    Neville, Dan.

    Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.

    Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.

    O’Dowd, Fergus.

    O’Keeffe, Jim.

    O’Shea, Brian.

    O’Sullivan, Jan.

    Pattison, Seamus.

    Perry, John.

    Quinn, Ruairí.

    Rabbitte, Pat.

    Ring, Michael.

    Ryan, Eamon.

    Ryan, Seán.

    Sargent, Trevor.

    Sherlock, Joe.

    Shortall, Róisín.

    Stagg, Emmet.

    Stanton, David.

    Timmins, Billy.

    Upton, Mary.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Neville and Stagg.

Question declared carried.

[526]   Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I do not know whether the Taoiseach, the Chief Whip or the Ceann Comhairle can hear me. However, I seek the agreement of the Taoiseach, the Chief Whip and all parties in the House. On today’s Order Paper it is stated that “Private Members’ Business shall be No. 44 — Motion re: Labour Affairs: Establishment of Department of and Joint Oireachtas Committee on (resumed — to conclude at 8.30 p.m. tonight)”. As one can anticipate that a division may be called at 7 p.m., that will encroach on Private Members’ time unless we acknowledge that it concludes after 90 minutes, which is the understanding and intent always in this respect. I am asking that the usual practice applies in this case and that Private Members’ Business concludes after 90 minutes. Will the Taoiseach indicate his acceptance of that?

  Mr. Stagg: My understanding is that is what had been agreed by the Whips and it is normal practice.

  Mr. Kitt: Deputy Stagg voted against it yesterday.

  Mr. Stagg: That was because it was all taken together, but in fact it is normal practice.

  Mr. Sargent: I think 90 minutes is a reasonable request and is in line with precedent.

[527]   The Taoiseach: It is not in line with precedent. It was always the position for as long as I have been a Member of the House that the Private Members’ vote was at 8.30 p.m. Whips wanted to keep it that way over the years because there is always the danger that Members would drift out of the Chamber at 8.30 p.m. In my view some other arrangement needs to be found. Tonight I will agree to the Deputy’s request, but the Whips need to find some other way of doing it. The Private Members’ vote was always at 8.30 p.m. and always should be. Otherwise, it only creates difficulties and dangers.

  Deputies: Hear, hear.

  The Taoiseach: I agree to it on this occasion, but it is the last time I will do so.

  Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Will the Ceann Comhairle allow me to respond?

  An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot have a debate on this matter. The Deputy will have to find another way of raising it. The issue has been decided for tonight and that is what the Deputy’s question was about.

  Mr. Kenny: I notice the Minister of State, Deputy de Valera, was nodding vigorously in agreement with the Taoiseach. That is just for the Ceann Comhairle’s information, because he could not see her there, behind him.

Ministers on behalf of Ireland will shortly be embarking on the annual exodus to various points around the world, I am sure, to fly the flag and die for the country. In respect of the Taoiseach’s visit to Washington, I understand the family of the late Mr. Joseph Rafferty, who was murdered in this city——

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

  Mr. Kenny: It does arise.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Taoiseach’s visit to America was dealt with on Taoiseach’s questions last week. It does not arise on the Order of Business.

  Mr. Kenny: It does arise, and if the Ceann Comhairle will allow me to explain, I will tell him how. I understand the family has been invited to the White House. Will the Taoiseach support and give his imprimatur to the visit, as it is being received in the White House——

  An Ceann Comhairle: The matter does not arise. I should prefer if the Deputy raised it in another way.

  Mr. Kenny: ——in respect of a matter which is of national importance.

[528]   An Ceann Comhairle: I know it may be important, but——

  Mr. Kenny: My second question is concerned with the announcement today in the Irish Independent of another report in respect of literacy levels, which show a serious decline-——

  An Ceann Comhairle: I again ask the Deputy to please return to Standing Order 26.

  Mr. Kenny: I am out of order again. However, I will prove to the Ceann Comhairle that this question is in order. This is the fourth time he has tried to rule me our of order before I have finished my contribution.

  An Ceann Comhairle: If the contribution is obviously out of order the Chair has no choice. The Chair has to implement Standing Orders and if the Deputy does not like that——

  Mr. Kenny: If the Ceann Comhairle knows the question I am going to ask the Taoiseach, that is fair enough. Today a national newspaper has details of another report on literacy levels.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Is the Deputy seeking a preamble on Standing Orders?

  Mr. Kenny: It shows that Irish students are now the second worst in Europe at languages. There has already been a report which the Minister for Education and Science has been sitting on for the last three months, which showed a devastating decline in the quality and standard of spoken Irish in primary schools. Will the Taoiseach say when the House will see Bill No. 39, which for the interest of the Ceann Comhairle is the education Bill dealing with these matters. I am quite certain the Taoiseach knows that question is in order.

  The Taoiseach: In 2006, later this year.

  Mr. Rabbitte: Will the Taoiseach say whether the Abbotstown Bill is being published today?

  The Taoiseach: Which Bill?

  Mr. Rabbitte: The Abbotstown Bill. The Taoiseach will recall that place out the country where he wanted to bring us all, watching——

  The Taoiseach: It is a lovely place.

  Mr. Rabbitte: It is out there in Deputy Dempsey’s constituency, someplace.

  The Taoiseach: The heads of the Bill have been approved by Government and it will be published in the next day or two.

  Mr. N. Dempsey: If it was in my constituency it would be built now.

[529]   Mr. Gormley: Yesterday, the Taoiseach was quoted as saying he did not condone drink driving, which is very welcome. However, why has the Government not introduced the alcohol products Bill, as he promised? It was listed on promised legislation but it has disappeared. While the Taoiseach does not condone drink driving, he is certainly kowtowing to the drinks industry.

  The Taoiseach: Voluntary agreements on advertising have been reached with the drinks industry. Therefore the Department wishes to hold off the introduction of this legislation pending the outcome of these voluntary agreements. The heads of the Bill are ready. If it has a positive effect, then we can consider the position. If the effect is negative, we can go ahead with the legislation.

  Mr. Gormley: Will the Taoiseach say how long, roughly, he can wait?

  The Taoiseach: I believe the Minister agreed a period.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The House will move on to the Order for Report and Report Stages of the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2005.

  Mr. Stanton: The Ceann Comhairle has cut short the discussion.

  An Ceann Comhairle: It is 12.30 p.m. and this is entirely at the discretion of the Ceann Comhairle. The Deputy will be called tomorrow morning.

  Mr. Durkan: The Ceann Comhairle ruled me out of order yesterday morning as well.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The House will hear Deputy Durkan because the Chair told him he would be called today.

  Mr. Durkan: I thank the Ceann Comhairle. On promised legislation, and in view of recent disturbing changes in the electricity business, will the Taoiseach indicate if it is intended to bring in the single electricity market Bill at an early stage?

I noticed some leaks in regard to broadcasting — they are not all in the aquatic centre. It would be an appropriate time to put an end to the leaks, give us some substance and introduce the broadcasting authority Bill.

  The Taoiseach: Both of those Bills will be published this year.