Tuesday, 5 December 1989
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, 9, 12, 13 and 15. It is also proposed that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. today and business shall be interrupted at 10.30 p.m. It is further proposed that Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, and No. 9 shall be taken without debate. It is further proposed that the Report and Final Stage of No. 12 if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 5 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only amendments set down by the Minister for Agriculture and Food. It is further proposed that the Supplementary Estimate to which No. 9 refers shall be taken at 8.30 p.m. and notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, the following arrangements shall apply: (1) the speech of the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food opening the debate, and any other Member called on shall not exceed 15 minutes; (2) the Minister of State shall be called on not later than 10.20 p.m. to conclude the debate and (3) if a division is challenged it shall be taken forthwith and the order shall not resume. Private Members' Business shall be No. 26, motion 43.
Mr. J. Bruton: On the question of whether we should set aside Standing Orders in order to facilitate a late sitting, will the Taoiseach agree that in the scale of urgency, the introduction of legislation today to deal with the problems of the ineffectiveness of the Air Pollution Act, 1987, is quantitatively and qualitatively more urgent than the Horse Breeding  Bill which has been on the Order Paper since 1985? Would the Taoiseach not agree that in the past when an urgent matter has arisen as in the case of the Child Care Bill, the Government, laudably, were able to act within 24 hours to introduce the necessary legislation? Would the Taoiseach not further agree that in view of the serious problem that now exists in many parts of Dublin city arising from smog——
Mr. J. Bruton: I am sure there are many ways in which that may be done. Does the Chair agree that in view of the fact that the House is being asked to agree to an Order of Business that does not contain provision to up-date the Air Pollution Act, it is perfectly legitimate for the main Opposition party to request the Government to include discussion on an amendment to the Air Pollution Act——
Mr. J. Mitchell: This side of the House is perfectly prepared to facilitate the extension of sitting time if the Government are prepared to allow time to discuss an amendment to the Air Pollution Act. We want to ask the Taoiseach if he would agree to that.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Burke, Raphael P.
Coughlan, Mary Theresa. Hilliard, Colm.
Kitt, Michael P.
Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).
de Valera, Síle.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
Haughey, Charles J.
Hillery, Brian. O'Connell, John.
O'Toole, Martin Joe.
Wilson, John P.
Belton, Louis J.
Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Farrelly, John V.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East).
Mr. J. Bruton: On a point of order, may I ask the Ceann Comhairle if he would, after due reflection tomorrow, give a ruling on whether he was correct in refusing the opportunity to Members to discuss a motion made under Standing Order 21 which was for a late sitting, in view of the fact that there is no provision in Standing Order 21 which allows or empowers the Ceann Comhairle to prevent debate thereon.
An Ceann Comhairle: I did allow a brief debate and comment on the matters to which the Deputy refers. If he thinks they should be subject to a debate in the proper sense of the term I suggest he refers the matter to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
Mr. J. Bruton: Without considering whether there is to be disputation about the matter, would the Ceann Comhairle agree that in matters of this kind, the Chair and Standing Orders are the judge and there should be no necessity for Members to refer to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges in order to vindicate their normal rights as conferred by Standing Orders?
Proinsias De Rossa: In relation to Nos. 1 to 5, I made this point last week when these matters came before the House. Nos. 1 to 5 deal with the question of the establishment of joint committees. I want to put on record again my objection to the fact that The Workers' Party have been excluded from four of the five committees concerned.
An Ceann Comhairle: As fewer than ten Members have risen I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 59 the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.
Mr. J. Bruton: On No. 9, given that this is the business that is to be taken during the late sitting, it would have been more appropriate for the Government to have taken the urgent matter of the air pollution legislation in that time.
The Taoiseach: I want to point out again to Deputy Bruton that his party agreed to the Order of Business which you read out. If we are to have any respect for the procedures of this House this sort of behaviour is not acceptable.
Proinsias De Rossa: On the Order of Business, I seek to elicit some information from the Taoiseach in relation to the Control of Clinical Trials Act in regard to which, I understand, it has been said that an amendment will be introduced to this House before the Christmas recess? Can the Taoiseach indicate if this is true and, if so, when it will be done and what time will be given to deal with the issue concerned?
Mr. Spring: I would like to draw your attention again, Sir, to the matter which I raised on Thursday morning, 30 November 1989, in relation to the manner in which you conducted the voting on the Criminal Justice Bill, 1989. Since then a meeting took place between your officials and the Chief Whip of the Labour Party and members of my staff. I received a letter from you for which I am grateful. However, my gratitude should not be taken as acceptance of the contents of that letter. I believe it is a most serious matter given that there is no precedent in the rules of the House or in the history of this House for the manner in which the question was put on Wednesday last and, second, given that you invoked your constitutional role in your casting vote on that evening. I would ask you to take the opportunity, perhaps on the Order of Business tomorrow, to clarify to the House exactly the reasoning for doing what you did last Wednesday night. I believe the implications are very serious particularly because the calling of a second vote on a Private Member's Bill is unprecedented in the history of this House.
An Ceann Comhairle: I want to say I am quite satisfied with the procedure adopted on the occasion. The officers of my Department were with your representatives. I have communicated with you at some length in the matter. I have nothing further to add. If the Deputy wishes to pursue the matter further he may do so. Especially if he is in doubt I would welcome that he would proceed with the matter so that there would be no taint of suspicion attached to the Chair.
Mr. Spring: ——but I find it extraordinary that the tenor of those remarks was not present last week when it was argued on your behalf, by your officials, that the situation that arose last Wednesday night was unprecedented whereas, in fact, a very similar situation had arisen in this House in the conduct of the Private Members' Business legislation, the Oireachtas and Ministerial Pensions Bill, 1987. A similar situation occurred on that occasion yet it was argued on your behalf that this situation had never arisen before; two years hence, it should not have been forgotten; the precedent was there and it should have been conducted according to the Standing Orders of this House.
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: On that issue I share the concerns expressed by Deputy Spring. In your consideration of this matter I think it is proper to refer to the precedent which Deputy Spring touched on. On 28 October 1987, there was a vote on that Private Member's Bill to which he referred, and, in fact the manner in which that vote was taken — column 1762 of the Official Report of 28 October 1987 — was different from the manner in which it was taken last week. I am greatly concerned that the procedures of this House would be followed completely according to the letter and spirit of the Standing Orders. From that point of view I would support Deputy Spring in his suggestion that you would look at the matter again and make a further statement to the House so that we can be absolutely sure——
Mr. J. Bruton: May I ask the Taoiseach when it is intended to introduce the proposed amendments to the Air Pollution Act in order to render the action necessary to be taken against smog effective and speedy.
Mr. Shatter: This is promised legislation. Under the Air Pollution Acts it is reasonable on the Order of Business to ask when that legislation will be brought into the House? I would ask the Taoiseach or Deputy Flynn to respond to that query.
Mr. J. Bruton: I wish to move a motion under Standing Order 143 (2) to provide for the suspension of Standing Orders to allow a debate on a proposition that the Order of Business for today be supplemented by a further late sitting to allow debate on the Government's legislation to amend the Air Pollution Act, 1987, to render it effective in combating the problem of smog which is now endemic and urgent and has become so since the Order of Business for today was agreed last Thursday.
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Standing Order 143 (2) makes it clear that the House may be suspended upon a motion made without notice. It does not say that such a motion must be moved in Private Members' Time. It provides that an application can be made at any time, Sir.
Mr. Quinn: I wish to raise on the Adjournment the problem caused to the citizens of Dublin by the continuation of the smog, which is above EC levels, and the failure of the Government to take effective action to deal with it.
Mr. T. O'Sullivan: I should like to ask the Minister for Finance on the Adjournment if he will encourage the Bank of Ireland to use the services of An Post to communicate with their customers in this country instead of using the Royal Mail to send several thousand items to people here. The items in question were posted in Southend-on-Sea.
Mr. Cotter: I wish to raise on the Adjournment the extreme difficulties which are being experienced by retail traders in Clones, County Monaghan. A number of factors have led to these difficulties, geographic and the position of the punt.
Mr. O'Shea: I am seeking your permission to raise on the Adjournment the problem of the 10,000 students who annually fail to pass mathematics in the leaving certificate examination and the need for three levels of certification in leaving certificate mathematics.
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: I want to raise on the Adjournment the inadequate facilities of Cork Regional Technical College, particularly in relation to the library, where there is only one place for every 17 students.
Mr. Connor: I wish to ask the Minister for Energy on the Adjournment if he has been informed by the Electricity Supply  Board of their intention to close the coal burning power station at Arigna——
Mr. Byrne: I wish to raise on the Adjournment the question of extending the Christmas bonus to those on FÁS or social employment schemes and other categories on social welfare who are eligible at present.
Tomás Mac Giolla: In view of your rejection of my Private Notice Question on the matter, I ask your permission to raise on the Adjournment the widespread breaches of the EC levels in regard to smog in certain areas of Dublin. I also want to ask the Minister why he refuses to encourage the greater use of smokeless fuels, which is open to him under the Air Pollution Act and for which no amendment is necessary.
Professor Hillery: I should like to raise on the Adjournment the question of the demolition of Talbot Lodge, a building  of architectural and historic merit, in the constituency of Dún Laoghaire.
Mr. J. Higgins: In view of the precedent of paying compensation of £185,000 in the case of the Dodder flooding and the payment of £1.3 million in the case of the Dargle River flooding, I wish to raise on the Adjournment the need for the Minister for the Environment to make financial provision for paying compensation for flood damage to non-insured properties in County Mayo.
Mr. Rabbitte: I again seek to raise on the Adjournment the question of the non-provision in the Book of Estimates for a second level school at Castleview, Tallaght, because children have to be bussed long distances to school in smoggy conditions.
Mr. Gilmore: With your permission, Sir, I wish to raise on the Adjournment the recent practice by many developers, of which Talbot Lodge is the most recent example and the Drogheda grammar school and the house on Bachelor's Walk  were other examples, of destroying buildings without planning permission. What legislative measures does the Minister for the Environment intend to take?
Miss Flaherty: On the Order of Business, I wish to ask the Minister for Social Welfare when he will have legislation published or before this House on the appeals office which was announced in his Estimates speech last week. He gave us details of it but gave us no indication of what stage of preparation it had reached.
Mr. Ryan: I wish to raise on the Adjournment the massive difference in the mark up price on toys here compared with similar goods in Northern Ireland and I wish to know what the Minister for Industry and Commerce will do about this before Christmas.
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