Tuesday, 8 March 1983
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. N. Andrews: I wish to raise on the Adjournment the question of the Government's funding for women's groups taken from the Council for the Status of Women and put under the wing of the Taoiseach's Department.
Mr. B. Ahern: Has the Taoiseach thought any further about the Dáil  reform debate held here last January? During that debate I asked that consideration be given to continuing the process started last year of using the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and that the Minister for Industry and Energy, Deputy J. Bruton, be a member of that committee. Tomorrow the Committee on Procedure and Privileges meet for the third time and there has been no consultation between the Minister and myself or any member of that committee. I appreciate the difficulties which the Minister faces in his Department. Therefore, I suggest that it would be much better if the functions of Dáil reform were given to the Government Chief Whip because he has available people who were involved for many years in the procedure of this House. There are at least three private secretaries to the Chief Whip within that Department and rather than, as he is doing at present, setting up a new section within the Department, I would prefer if the Taoiseach gave urgent consideration to my suggestion so that we could make some progress and avoid the kind of thing we had here last Thursday. If we switched back to a very amiable Government Chief Whip, then may be we could make some progress.
The Taoiseach: I appreciate the Deputy's remarks about the amiability of the Government Chief Whip. The procedure we proposed is that the Minister for Industry and Energy would act as Leader of the House and have responsibility for the fundamental reform of the Dáil and bring forward proposals arising from that debate. That should not preclude matters being dealt with in the ordinary way by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges when they arise, and we would not wish to hold up any proposals of a routine character which could be raised in that forum. I am not clear what the Deputy has in mind, but perhaps it is something that could be discussed through the Whips. We wish to facilitate any improvements in Dáil procedure and will do nothing which would hold them up. There is a major task of Dáil reform to be undertaken as well as the continuing improvement of proce-pile  dures. They are somewhat different and are being tackled in tandem and in harmony by the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip.
Mr. B. Ahern: I appreciate that and will take it up with the Government Chief Whip, but because of the legitimate pressures on the Minister for Industry and Energy I consider that that is the wrong Department to have responsibility for this reform. We have not had any discussions for two months and I suggest that consideration might be given to giving this responsibility elsewhere.
Mr. Haughey: I want to be clear on what the Taoiseach is saying. Is he saying there are two types of Dáil reform, short-term and long-term? Was the gist of his reply to the effect that short-term law reform can go ahead in the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, but fundamental long-term reform will remain with the Minister for Industry and Energy?
The Taoiseach: It has been our view that there is a need to tackle Dáil reform at a fundamental level, and we have made provision for that by appointing the Minister for Industry and Energy to that task and providing staff for that purpose. He, reflecting on the very constructive debate which took place here, is now preparing proposals. What I am saying in reply to Deputy Ahern is that that arrangement should not preclude any proposal which in the ordinary way would have come up for discussion through the Committee on Procedure and Privileges from being brought up there, and we would not wish to hold up any change of a routine kind which is brought forward. Some of the issues raised of frustration about existing procedures could be dealt with through that mechanism while the more fundamental reform is being tackled.
Dr. Woods: First, when is it intended to bring forward the legislative proposals to implement the Government's decision  to create a special income levy of 1 per cent to be collected in association with PRSI? Second, has the Taoiseach made any progress with the wording of the pro-life amendment?
The Taoiseach: Yes, it is intended to reintroduce it but I cannot give an exact date without notice. I will be happy to get the information for the Deputy. As to our best assessment of when it comes before the House, we are anxious to have it proceeded with as rapidly as possible when certain outstanding issues have been dealt with.
Mr. Leyden: Will the Taoiseach be reintroducing the Committee Stage of the Bill or is he bringing forward a new Bill to comply with the reservations held by the Labour Party and expressed during the Second Stage?
Dr. Woods: When will the 1 per cent be brought into force? When will it become operative, because it could take some time to pass the Finance Bill? Can  the Taoiseach say when it will become operative?
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