Order of Business (Continued)
Dáil Éireann Debate
Deputy Micheál Martin: It should not take seven months to be cleared.
An Ceann Comhairle: I have called Deputy Mattie McGrath.
Deputy Mattie McGrath: I am ready and willing, a Cheann Comhairle. My first question relates to the electoral (amendment) (referendum spending and miscellaneous provisions) Bill. I am glad the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is here as I raise this issue. We had a unanimous Supreme Court decision last November regarding the misspending of money by Government in the campaign leading up to the referendum on children's rights. The Bill we are discussing later today relates to a Supreme Court decision taken years ago.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy must confine himself to proposed legislation.
An Ceann Comhairle: I am sure the Deputy will not allow that to happen.
Deputy Mattie McGrath: The Government is simply ignoring it.
An Ceann Comhairle: Let us hear the Taoiseach's response.
Deputy Mattie McGrath: I have a second question, if the Ceann Comhairle will allow it.
An Ceann Comhairle: Go ahead, Deputy.
Deputy Mattie McGrath: Perhaps I will not ask it, after all.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should get all his questions out of the way.
Deputy Mattie McGrath: I want a proper answer to both questions, not one half-answer and the second question ignored. When is it proposed to publish the criminal procedure Bill to provide for the reform of pre-trial processes? There are people throughout the country whose mortgages are in negative equity. Houses are being repossessed and people being beaten up in their homes-----
An Ceann Comhairle: All of that will be discussed when the Bill is brought forward.
Deputy Michael McNamara: Members of the Government have welcomed recent progress on immigration reform in the United States. However, the answer my colleague, Deputy Derek Nolan, has been given on the issue of immigration reform in this State is exactly the same as the one I received six months ago. It is very difficult to take seriously the Government's commitment in this regard.
An Ceann Comhairle: To which Bill is the Deputy referring?
Deputy Michael McNamara: When will the Government's Committee Stage amendments to the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill be published? If it were serious about immigration reform, particularly the reform of direct provision, the Government would sign up to the European Union's directive on the reception of immigrants.
Deputy Michael McNamara: It is not a separate issue, it is a question.
An Ceann Comhairle: It is a query suited for a parliamentary question.
Deputy Michael McNamara: When will implementing legislation be published to enable the State to sign up to the reception directive? When will the Government's Committee Stage amendments on the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill be brought forward? These are two concrete questions and I look forward to two concrete replies from the Taoiseach.
An Ceann Comhairle: There are certain issues which are in order on the Order of Business and certain issues which should be dealt with by way of parliamentary question. The Taoiseach should reply to what is in order.
The Taoiseach: I am not sure of the extent of Government amendments to the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill that are required to be published following the consultation process which took place. These are serious matters and it is not simply a case of saying they will be published by Wednesday week or whatever. I cannot, at this time, indicate the extent of the amendments that will be introduced or the date on which they are likely to be published. As I understand it, the relevant committee is anxious for the Bill to proceed to Committee Stage. The Minister will update Members in due course. I am sure that in the context of that Bill, there will also be an indication of the decision in respect of the directive to which the Deputy referred.
Deputy Pat Deering: There has been rumour and speculation for many years regarding unfair practices within the grocery sector, in the context of the uneasy relationship that exists between producers and large multiples in this country. A statutory code of conduct is long overdue to regulate the conduct of the grocery sector. Will the Taoiseach indicate the progress that has been made on the consumer and competition Bill?
The Taoiseach: The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel provided revised drafts of the provisions of that Bill which relate to the amalgamation of the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority on 28 June. In addition, the office sent a memorandum to the Department regarding certain legal issues on 21 June. A response to most of the issues raised was conveyed back to that office on 8 July.
In regard to the media merger provisions in the Bill, the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel raised a series of very detailed questions on 25 June which are being jointly considered by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. The Bill is at a very advanced stage, but publication might not happen before the Dáil rises for the summer recess on account of the extensive and very particular range of issues raised by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: In the context of the ongoing debate on fraud and the difficulty of proving it in this jurisdiction, when is it intended to bring the criminal records information system Bill before the House? I understand the heads of the Bill, which will facilitate exchange of criminal records between member states of the European Union and other designated states, have already been published. There is an urgent need to bring it forward in the current climate.
The Taoiseach: That Bill is expected to be published later this year.
Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: When will legislation to implement the Government's proposal to reduce the voting age from 18 to 16 years come before the House? Foróige has welcomed the announcement in this regard, but there has been no clarification of the timeframe involved.
The Taoiseach: This was one of a series of recommendations by the Constitutional Convention. The Whips have arranged for a discussion on the first report of the convention next week, which includes this particular issue. Yesterday the Government accepted in principle the recommendations made and, in line with our undertaking in this regard, we are giving an indicative timeline for implementation of the end of 2015.
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Will the Taoiseach indicate the status of the criminal justice (corruption) Bill? As we approach the end of the session and enter into the third year in which there has been no resolution for the residents of Priory Hall, is there any prospect of an announcement in that regard? Given that the Taoiseach has a personal interest in the matter, will he undertake to give clarity on the matter?
The Taoiseach: The heads of the criminal justice (corruption) Bill have been referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. I inquired this morning about the ongoing situation in regard to Priory Hall and am sorry to tell the Deputy that it is still tied up in the courts. I hope it will begin moving a little more rapidly toward a conclusion for the people involved.
Deputy Willie O'Dea: I seek further clarification on a matter raised by one of the Taoiseach's backbenchers, namely, the consumer and competition Bill. It is a very important Bill, as the Taoiseach has often acknowledged, dealing as it does, among other issues, with media monopolies. The Taoiseach has indicated on several occasions that it would be dealt with in this session. With only five sitting days remaining, what is the position in this regard?
The Taoiseach: As I outlined to Deputy Pat Deering, the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel raised a series of very detailed questions on the media merger provisions of that Bill on 25 June, which are being consider by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.
Deputy Charles Flanagan: I understand the Government has considered the various reports from the Constitutional Convention, which has been operating successfully since January. Will there be an opportunity before the summer recess to consider the content of those reports?
The Taoiseach: As I stated in response to Deputy Michael Healy-Rae, there will be an opportunity next week to debate the first report of the convention. Yesterday the Government approved in principle the recommendations of the convention, with an indicative timeline to deal with those recommendations, and possibly others, of the end of 2015.
Deputy Robert Troy: I move:
An Ceann Comhairle: Is the Bill opposed?
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): No.
Deputy Robert Troy: I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I move: "That the sitting be suspended from 11.30 a.m. until 11.50 a.m."
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