Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Abortion Bill will not be published before Easter

The Government will today promise it will publish almost 30 new Bills between now and Easter including major legislation in the employment, enterprise and justice areas.

However, it was confirmed by the chief whip’s office last night that the list will not include a Bill on abortion – while a Heads of Bill (draft legislation) may materialise before the Easter break, the Bill is not now expected to be published until after Easter.

Government chief whip Paul Kehoe will today announce the list of Bills to be published in this Dáil session. Almost one-third of the Bills are carry-overs from the session before Christmas, when 21 of the 31 Bills promised were published.

Some of the major Bills in the enterprise area will give effect to plans to rationalise and reduce the number of State agencies. 

Others will be included as part of the Government’s commitments under the bailout programme agreed with the troika of the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.

Among the major Bills to be published will be legislation to rationalise the existing commissions, authorities and courts that deal with industrial relations and equality at work into one all-encompassing agency.

Enterprise agencies 

The Department of Jobs and Enterprise is also expected to publish a Bill that will effectively abolish all 34 county and enterprise boards and subsume their functions – including a micro-enterprise aspect – into the existing structures of State enterprise agencies.

There is also a major consumer competition Bill, that is in part the result of interaction between the Government and the troika.

Another major rationalisation announced in November 2011 was the abolition of a number of agencies in order to establish a Child and Family Support Agency with wide powers and extensive functions.

In the justice area at least five new Bills are expected to be published before Easter, including legislation in relation to DNA and forensic evidence as well as a Bill dealing with human trafficking.

There is also a Bill in the justice area that will bring clarity to the matter of mental capacity.

Four of the Bills pencilled for this session – the Child and Family Support Agency Bill; the Consumer and Competition Bill; the Mental Capacity Bill and the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database) Bill – were among the 10 on the autumn list that were not published before yesterday’s deadline. All are scheduled to be published early this year.

Other Bills on the list but not yet published were the Mineral Development Bill; the Children First Bill; the Further Education and Training Authority (Solas) Bill; the Non-use of Motor Vehicles Bill; the Consumer and Competition (Bill); and a Health (Amendment) Bill relating to GP services.

Abortion Bill 

It is expected the Bill that will legalise abortion in restricted circumstances will be on the priority list for the summer session.

Minister for Health James Reilly has said he expects the legislation to be enacted before the summer but many of his colleagues in the Dáil and Seanad say that his timetable is too ambitious. 

Chairman of the Oireachtas health committee Jerry Buttimer is holding a meeting with committee colleagues this week to finalise arrangements for writing its report on last week’s hearing from medical and legal experts as well as churches and advocacy groups.

Last autumn’s list of Bills was the biggest the Coalition had published since coming into power and its two-thirds success rate was its best to date.

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