Seanad Éireann - Volume 146 - 03 April, 1996

Order of Business.

Mr. Manning: It is proposed to take items 1, 2, 3, 4 and 18, motion 29. Item 1 will conclude today and will be taken from now until 1 o'clock. There will be 15 minutes for each speaker and if the need arises speakers may share their time, but I do not think that will happen. Item 2 will be taken from 2 o'clock to 3 o'clock, with Second Stage concluding today. Item 3 will be taken from 3 o'clock to 4.30 p.m. Depending on the number offering, speakers will not have more than ten minutes each. The Tánaiste will open that debate. Members may share their time. Item 4 will be taken from 4.30 p.m. to 6 o'clock with 15 minutes per speaker. Item 18, motion 29, will be taken in normal Private Members' time.

Mr. Wright: I thank the Leader of the House for the comprehensive list of issues and legislation to be dealt with. As regards item 2, can I take it that that Bill will be agreed today?

Mr. Manning: Item 2 will be concluded today.

Mr. Wright: Item 29 deals with tourism, which is an issue that has been raised by many Senators on both sides [2070] of the House. We tabled this Private Members' Motion to get the debate on tourism going. If it suits the Leader's agenda, can this item be brought back after Easter when we will be coming into the tourist season? I am aware that for various reasons some Senators are not here today, but they would like to have an opportunity to promote their own areas at a future date. Perhaps the Leader could consider that after Easter.

Mr. Dardis: In the event of item 2, the Freedom of Information Bill, 1995, being carried on Second Stage, does the Leader intend to take all remaining Stages today?

Mr. Roche: We will agree all Stages.

Mr. Dardis: I join with the Leader of the Opposition's request yesterday that Statements on the County Enterprise Boards should not be concluded today in the event that there are more than enough people to keep it going.

Am I to assume that when we resume after the Easter recess we will have a debate on the Independent Radio and Television Commission review, or would the Leader regard it as a serious error of judgment if we were to do so?

Mr. Roche: Can the Leader organise an early debate on the failure to implement legislation enacted 12 months ago providing for the seizure of assets related to the illegal drugs trade. Such a debate could examine the extension of powers currently enjoyed by the Revenue Commissioners to the Garda Síochána. We currently have a bizarre situation whereby the Revenue Commissioners, which is not a law enforcement agency, actually has more powers than the Garda Síochána in the matter of seizing assets. It is a matter that concerns Members on both sides of the House. Can the Leader assist by identifying an appropriate time at which we could debate this issue?

Mr. Norris: I caught the end of what was being said here and I have to say [2071] that we have had a wide ranging debate on drugs. Drug seizures, particularly seizures of cannabis, are complete and utter nonsense. They are a waste of time and mean nothing. Some of them were the result of sting operations and were not what the public was led to believe.

There are a number of ways to deal with the problem, although removing the financial incentive on a worldwide basis is the only way to eliminate it. Thousands of millions of pounds have been spent in the United States and it has not had the slightest impact. The Leader of the House could do something which might be positive in a small way. He could ensure that this House recognises and debates the report of the Inner City Partnership, which is being presented to the Minister for Finance today.

The partnership, which has worked in the inner city with deprived communities, is seeking a modest sum of money to deal with unemployment. Levels of unemployment are at 80 per cent and 90 per cent in some deprived areas in the north and south inner city and that is what provides a fertile market for drugs. It would be helpful if we could inject about £30 million into these areas. Up to £100 million was spent in Temple Bar, in ways which some of us would find questionable, and the Financial Services Centre was built in Sheriff Street. Can some money be directed at the population in the inner city areas, which is not just the source of the problem but is also the victim? That would do something about the drug problem.

Mr. Farrell: Could the Minister for the Environment or the Minister for Social Welfare come to the House to discuss rent systems for local authority housing? An eviction was featured on a radio programme recently and RTE saved the day for the person involved. However, how many people are evicted about whom we do not hear?

There should be a system whereby rent could be stopped out of social welfare payments. The most important [2072] thing anybody can have is a roof over their head. It is also unfair that local authorities are obliged to subsidise the Department of Social Welfare in that they are expected to provide housing at a differential rent which is uneconomic. The local authorities are therefore unable to keep housing in a proper state of repair.

If people are unable to pay rent they should be subsidised by the Department of Social Welfare. Local authorities have no funds, because there are no rates, and no way of getting funding. They cannot get sufficient funding to comply with the regulations. It is time the system was discussed and amended. There should be a system whereby rent could be stopped from social welfare payments so that no person would have to be evicted.

Mr. Manning: I will be happy to make time available after Easter for a debate on tourism. I am aware a number of Members who are not present today would like to contribute to such a debate.

Senator Dardis asked if all Stages of item 2 would be taken today. I do not envisage that being necessary. I would prefer to conclude the debate on county enterprise boards today but if there is a demand we can order it again. I am trying to allocate short amounts of time for the many topics raised during the course of the year so that we can cover topics of interest to Members. However, if there is a demand for more time I will make it available. I would welcome another debate on the Independent Radio and Television Commission and on broadcasting generally. The last debate was helpful but we had not exhausted all the possibilities of that subject.

Senator Roche raised the question of the seizure of drugs. That matter is envisaged in item 17 on today's Order Paper and it will be the subject of one of the first debates in the new session. I will allow adequate time for a wide ranging debate. Time will also be allocated early in the new session for a [2073] debate on the Inner City Partnership which was suggested by Senator Norris. Most of the points raised by Senator Farrell could have been raised yesterday in the course of the debate on the Social Welfare Bill but were not.

Order of Business agreed to.