Dáil Éireann - Volume 640 - 06 November, 2007

Order of Business.

[1786]   The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 11, Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Bill 2006 [Seanad] — Second Stage (resumed); and No. 12, Charities Bill 2007 — Second Stage (resumed).

Private Members’ business shall be No. 22, motion re Irish emigrants in the United States of America.

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

  Deputy Richard Bruton: I do not know whether I understood the Taoiseach wrongly when I read in the newspaper that he was appealing for wage restraint. I ask him whether we will see a Supplementary Estimate so that the Dáil can have a proper and informed debate on the proposals made by the review group on higher remuneration. We received a Supplementary Estimate today from the Department of Finance for a much smaller sum of money.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Is a Supplementary Estimate being promised?

  Deputy Richard Bruton: The Government has made the decision to implement this forthwith. No money has been provided in the Estimates for the matter, so I expect a Supplementary Estimate will be needed. Otherwise, how are we to have a proper and informed debate on the issue? Is the Taoiseach saying a decision such as this should not be debated in the Oireachtas? We need clarity because €16 million has been incurred by the State with the first instalment made and no report seems to have been made to the Dáil in any shape or form. The House should debate this important issue and decide to postpone it until matching changes which will deliver service at the frontline are made and that it is yielding value for money.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Is a Supplementary Estimate promised in respect of this matter?

  The Taoiseach: It was debated last week in this House and I answered questions on it then. I am not aware of a Supplementary Estimate. I am disappointed that Deputy Bruton says he does not feel senior officers in local authorities, the HSE and the Judiciary should receive their increases.

  Deputy Richard Bruton: We have just heard a couple of reasons why it should not happen.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: On 19 October, the High Court granted the first declaration of incompatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights to Ms Lydia Foy, whom the court found had been treated by the State in a way which was incompatible with the convention. Under the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003, the Taoiseach is required to lay before the House, within 21 days of such an order [1787] being made, a copy of the order containing the declaration of incompatibility. Does the Taoiseach have the declaration of incompatibility, when does he intend to lay it before the House, in compliance with the 2003 Act, and will the House be given an opportunity to discuss the matter?

  The Taoiseach: If it is the same issue, I understand it is being discussed within the Department and the Civil Registration Office. I have not yet received a report on the matter.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I wish to know——

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Taoiseach cannot go any further than that.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I wish to draw the Ceann Comhairle’s attention to the fact that there is a legal requirement to have this laid before the House within 21 days and, as I said already, the order was granted on 19 October. I am simply asking when it will appear before the House.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy has made his point.

  The Taoiseach: I have the order.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I call Deputy Crawford.

  Deputy Seymour Crawford: Thank you — third time lucky. I wish to ask the Minister about section C of a Bill due to come before the House. In County Monaghan, Eirgrid is proposing to erect a 400 kv line as part of the interconnector. When will the Electricity Regulation (Eirgrid) (Amendment) Bill come before the House so that we can discuss the major anxieties that people have regarding the issue?

  The Taoiseach: The Bill will provide a statutory underpinning for Eirgrid plc to build its own east-west electricity interconnector. The analysis of that is under way in the Department but there is no date set, as yet, for the legislation.

  Deputy Seymour Crawford: I am concerned about the north west.

  An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot regionalise the debate.

  Deputy Seán Barrett: When will the motion establishing the joint committee on climate change and energy security come before the House? The Taoiseach is probably aware that two weeks ago the leader of the Opposition, Deputy Enda Kenny, asked that the terms of reference be circulated. If the Government cannot establish the terms of reference, it should estab[1788] lish the committee, whose members would be prepared to do it.

  The Taoiseach: I understand consultations have been taking place.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Last week, the Government used the Markets in Financial Instruments and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill to enact a special measure to deal with the pension of one former Minister. I do not begrudge the Deputy concerned his rightful entitlements but much concern has been raised by pensioners and others who have not been able to access their entitlements because of late application or other such difficulties. I believe this is the real issue here and not the specifics of what has been addressed——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Does the Deputy have a question relating to legislation?

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I wish to know — if the Ceann Comhairle is patient with me — if, mindful of the numbers of people who have been denied their full entitlement to pensions and other payments, the Government will introduce facilitating legislation to ensure that all citizens are treated with the same consideration as was employed here last week in relation to a former Government Minister.

  The Taoiseach: I do not think legislation is promised in the area to which the Deputy refers. The Tánaiste stated that there was a small group of people that could have been disenfranchised. As I understand it, it is the other way around. The ordinary citizen has this right but somebody along the way decided that a politician should not have the right and the legislation was corrected to give politicians equity with the ordinary citizen. That is what the amendment does.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I could cite many cases of people who cannot claim their full pension entitlements.

  Deputy Charles Flanagan: I wish to revert to the matter raised earlier by Deputy Gilmore relating to the lodging by the Taoiseach of the declaration, which is a requirement under law. I ask the Taoiseach to assist the House by outlining what constitutes a working day. I understand the 21 days referred to are, in effect, 21 working days. In view of the recent lavish increase bestowed on himself and his Ministers, there should be no difference between 21 days and 21 working days and if that is the case, the declaration should be lodged this week.

  An Ceann Comhairle: You can move into the Statute of Limitations if you want.

[1789]   Deputy James Bannon: It is reported in today’s newspapers that an Irish student is taking a High Court challenge to the quota on the number of undergraduate places in medicine allocated to EU students. His legal team includes the former Tánaiste, Mr. Michael McDowell. If the case is successful, will the Education Ireland Bill be brought forward to remove discrimination against Irish and EU students? I understand the Bill is due to come before the Dáil next year, but will the date be brought forward in the event of a successful case being taken?

  The Taoiseach: The Bill is due next year.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: The Chemicals Regulation and Enforcement Bill is to be published in 2008. Will the Bill be published and agreed in sufficient time to enable the widest possible consultation among the various groups, in view of its widespread implications?

  The Taoiseach: The Bill is due in 2008.

  Deputy Joe Costello: My question relates to the EU reform treaty and the fact that Ireland is the only country that will hold a referendum on the issue next year. I am sure the Taoiseach saw The Irish Times MRBI poll yesterday that showed——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Opinion polls are not a matter for the Order of Business.

  Deputy Joe Costello: My question relates to the results, which showed the highest “don’t know” response ever. In that context, can the Taoiseach give an indication as to when the Government proposes to present its plans for the referendum and particularly when it proposes to publish the enabling legislation?

  The Taoiseach: We cannot do any of that until the actual agreement is signed. As soon as it is signed, we will move ahead quickly.

  Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Seven years and ten months after it was promised, when will we see BreastCheck in the south of Ireland? It still has not been rolled out. I know the Ceann Comhairle is very concerned about this issue as it affects women in his constituency too.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Yes, and the Taoiseach answered questions on the matter earlier. We cannot go back over it now, not on the Order of Business.

  Deputy Kathleen Lynch: He answered questions and basically he said it was rolled out in the south, but it is not.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I have the greatest sympathy but cannot go back to that issue now.