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Home > 1. Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach when the Cabinet sub-committee on drugs and social inclusion last met. [42778/06]

[Oireachtas] 1. Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach when the Cabinet sub-committee on drugs and social inclusion last met. [42778/06]. (14 Feb 2007)

External website: http://debates.oireachtas.ie/dail/2007/02/14/00004...

2. Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach when the Cabinet sub-committee on drugs and social inclusion last met; when the next meeting is due to be held [2036/07]
3. Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach when the Cabinet sub-committee on drugs and social inclusion last met [2352/07]

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 3 together. The Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion last met on 7 December 2006. The next meeting is due to be held on 21 February 2007. As I have outlined to the House now on a number of occasions, Cabinet committees are an integral part of the Cabinet process. Questions as to the business conducted at Cabinet or Cabinet committee meetings have never been allowed in the House on the grounds that they are internal to Government. The reasons for this approach are founded on sound policy principles and the need to avoid infringing the constitutional protection of Cabinet confidentiality.

Mr. J. Higgins: Was the last meeting held in September or December?

The Taoiseach: December.

 Mr. J. Higgins: It is interesting that nearly one half of the Taoiseach’s short reply was devoted to an argument as to why he should not give any information in regard to his own policies and approach to the issue of drugs in this country.

An Ceann Comhairle: That is a long-standing rule of the House. It is a constitutional obligation intended to protect Cabinet confidentiality.

 Mr. J. Higgins: During the previous Dáil and the current Dáil, the Ceann Comhairle has allowed more flexibility with regard to teasing out the drugs issue during Taoiseach’s questions.

An Ceann Comhairle: It is not appropriate to debate anything discussed at Cabinet or by a Cabinet sub-committee in the House, but it is appropriate to submit questions to the line Minister on issues relating to drugs, if the Deputy wishes to do so. I would prefer if we did not have this argument. The Chair has pointed out a number of times in recent years that these questions should be tabled for written answer. The Deputy’s question simply asks when the sub-committee last met and, therefore, in the Chair’s view, no scope remains for supplementary questions.

Mr. J. Higgins: What is the Taoiseach’s view of the role of the sub-committee into the future? What new initiatives does it propose to take?

The Taoiseach: The Cabinet sub-committee on social inclusion comprises a large number of Ministers and Ministers of State and it meets at least once a month. It covers education and science; enterprise, trade and employment; community and rural affairs; finance; the environment, heritage and local government; health and children; and social and family affairs. Usually a number of Ministers of State involved in housing, urban renewal, the drugs strategy, equality, disability and labour issues are in attendance. The sub-committee involves practically the entire range of Ministers and Ministers of State. The question about responsibility should be tabled to all Ministers, who will then outline their role in these issues.

Mr. J. Higgins: It should be possible for the sub-committee to adopt an overarching approach to the issue of social exclusion whereas Ministers and Ministers of State are coming at it from sectional points of view. Does the sub-committee benchmark itself in regard to dealing with the serious social exclusion issues in many communities?

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should submit a question to the line Minister.

Mr. Rabbitte: I refer to the scale of drugs finds over the past year, amounting to approximately €70 million, which is estimated to be only 10% of what is brought into the State and the fact there is no scarcity of drugs, despite the big seizures.

 An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should submit a question to the line Minister.

 Mr. Rabbitte: Given the enormous profits from the drugs trade are——

An Ceann Comhairle: That does not arise out of this question. I cannot give a different ruling to the Deputy than I gave to

Deputy Joe Higgins: The Chair has pointed out clearly that what is discussed at the Cabinet sub-committee is covered by Cabinet confidentiality. If the Deputy has a question for the line Minister, he should submit it to him or her.

Mr. Rabbitte: I did not ask anything about Cabinet confidentiality.

An Ceann Comhairle: I know but, unfortunately for the Deputy and for the Chair, we all have to obey the rules.

Mr. Rabbitte: But I did not break any rule yet.

 An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy did. He asked a question, which has been ruled out of order by the Chair and which should be submitted to the line Minister.

Mr. Rabbitte: The Chair does not know what is my question.

An Ceann Comhairle: I do. The Deputy asked a question.

Mr. Rabbitte: What was it?

An Ceann Comhairle: I will not repeat the Deputy’s question. If he is not happy with it, he should read the Official Report.

Mr. Rabbitte: I did not ask a question. I prefaced my remarks about the scale of drug seizures, which represents approximately 10%——

An Ceann Comhairle: I ask the Deputy not to go down that line.

Mr. Rabbitte: I frankly admit I intended to break the rules but I had not broken them at the time the Chair intervened.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should table a question and Members should take the Chair’s rulings seriously.

Mr. Rabbitte: With regard to the composition of the Cabinet sub-committee, does its remit cover the demand reduction side of the drugs issue or does it cover the supply side and criminal law as well?

An Ceann Comhairle: Again, it is not appropriate to ask what the sub-committee does.

 Mr. Rabbitte: That is absolutely absurd.

An Ceann Comhairle: I made a similar ruling regarding Deputy Joe Higgins’s questions.

Mr. Rabbitte: I am asking about the remit of the sub-committee and the Ceann Comhairle is telling me with a straight face that the Taoiseach cannot outline to Dáil Éireann what is its role.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy asked about what is discussed at the sub-committee.

Mr. Rabbitte: I did not ask the Taoiseach anything about what was discussed at the sub-committee. Mr. Kenny: The Deputy asked about the role of the sub-committee.

Mr. Rabbitte: I asked the Taoiseach whether the focus of the sub-committee is on demand reduction or whether drugs supply and criminal law considerations are also examined, having regard to the extent that the crime wave is driven by the proceeds——

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is going into what is discussed at the sub-committee.

Mr. Rabbitte: No, I am asking about the purview of the sub-committee.

The Taoiseach: All aspects of the supply side are discussed but the Deputy would obtain much more information from the relevant Minister. A great deal of information is available on the supply of these drugs, the international syndicates involved and the locations from which they are sourced, such as Iran and Afghanistan through markets across Europe. The issue of the supply of drugs has been examined as well as the measures taken by the State to address it and enforce legislation. All aspects of supply are examined in detail. The Minister of State with responsibility for this issue has a great deal of information on it. The sub-committee not only discusses what happens in Ireland, but it also discusses co-operation with international organisations and groups to deal with the issue.

Mr. Sargent: I would like to ask a question and I will try to stay within the terms of the Standing Order, as defined by the Chair, although I am not sure how much interest there is in this, given that the Gallery is empty.

An Ceann Comhairle: Will the Deputy get on with a question?

Mr. Sargent: I will do my best. The Taoiseach stated the remit of the sub-committee covers “all aspects” and it met last December. The reason my question was tabled was to establish the frequency of the meetings. What does the title of the sub-committee mean? Does “all aspects” refer to only illegal drugs or does the term cover addictive substances and practices? Where does the term “drugs” fit in within the sub-committee’s remit? Does social inclusion take into account ongoing work in communities such as my own in Balbriggan where parent-to-parent courses are provided? Does the sub-committee examine how social inclusion relates to drug abuse or does it have a wider remit?

The Taoiseach: Drugs are one aspect of the sub-committee’s work. Meetings are held regularly to discuss only the drugs issue because it is a major problem. We discuss drugs in the community, drugs in the broadest sense that are creating difficulties for individuals, the drugs strategy and everything related to it. However, the office of social inclusion under the aegis of the Minister for Social and Family Affairs has a broad remit. The Cabinet sub-committee also deals with education issues, difficulties in rural communities and environmental, health and children’s issues. These issues have nothing to do with drugs and, therefore, the sub-committee’s remit is broader than just the drugs issue. The sub-committee regularly dedicates itself to an issue or two. That is why so many Ministers are involved and that is why, therefore, questions are relevant to the line Ministers. Mr. Morgan: Has the sub-committee examined the impact of the drugs problem outside the greater Dublin area because every town and village on the island is affected by it? Will it examine services for dealing with the problem in those areas?

An Ceann Comhairle: A question to the line Minister would be more appropriate.

 Mr. Morgan: Is it within the sub-committee’s remit and scope to examine such issues?

The Taoiseach: Yes, it is nationwide. Leaders’ Questions. Wednesday, 14 February 2007

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