Wednesday, 13 March 1991
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. J. Bruton: I should like to ask a question in respect of two items of promised legislation, namely, the provisions in the Finance Bill concerning the business expansion scheme and the suggested amendments to the family planning legislation. In view of the fact that the Government seem to be changing their intentions on both these items almost daily, would they agree they are creating the impression that nobody is actually in charge of Government business and, to put it mildly, that the Government are quite simply incompetent?
Mr. Spring: May I seek some information from the Taoiseach in relation to the Finance Bill? Will he tell us when the Finance Bill will be published? Is it correct to assume that the Government will lose £15 million from the budget  estimates published by the Minister for Finance? Will the Minister for Finance come to the House to clarify these matters?
Mr. Spring: Given the difficulty of keeping up with the Government's U-turns in recent days I think we are entitled to some courtesy and some clarification in relation to whether revised Estimates will have to be published.
Proinsias De Rossa: I wish to ask the Taoiseach if he proposes or, indeed, if the Minister for Social Welfare proposes to make a statement to the House today with regard to the decision of the European Court of Justice which has found the State in breach of equality directives for social welfare recipients which, I understand, can cost the State up to £80 million? It is a serious matter which needs to be addressed urgently.
The Taoiseach: The position is that the matter is sub judice. The Supreme Court referred the matter to the European Court for an opinion and the European Court has given that opinion. That opinion will now go back to our Supreme Court. The matter is still sub judice.
Mr. Shatter: In the light of the reply the Taoiseach gave yesterday to two separate questions concerning unemployment, will time be made available for the Taoiseach to come to the House to explain why — perhaps by accident — he misled the House in that it now appears that there has been a major cutback by FÁS in funds for the social employment scheme?
Mr. Bell: May I ask the Taoiseach in view of the virtual daily adverse comment from members of the Judiciary, and the latest one yesterday, in relation to the prosecution and detention of young offenders when he intends to introduce legislation in this regard?
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Legislation will be necessary following the completion of the Inter-Governmental Conference on political union in Europe. Arising out of that and in the context of a special emergency summit on 5 April, may I ask the Taoiseach whether in advance of the completion of the conference and of the publication of the legislation he will have a special Dáil debate to discuss and debate Government policy, if any, on common foreign security and defence policies in Europe? Can the Taoiseach  confirm that he will allow a special Dáil debate in advance of the emergency summit on 5 April so that we can debate those issues?
Mr. G. Mitchell: I wish to raise two matters on the Order of Business. May I ask the Taoiseach when we will see the promised legislation on reform of the powers of the Comptroller and Auditor General? Will the Taoiseach allow a debate on item No. 1 which has been on the Order Paper for some considerable time? This is a special interim report of the Public Accounts Committee on the sale of Tara Mines.
Mr. J. Bruton: In the matter of Dáil business, Sir, would the Government agree that they are promoting disorder in this House if the House is treated with contempt? Would they agree they are treating the House with contempt by failing to allow a debate on what stance the Government intend to take at the European summit in regard to economic and political union? In this House we deserve to hear a democratic discussion on clearly stated Government proposals in regard to this very important matter. The Government's continuing silence on this matter is bringing the democratic process in this State into disrepute.
The Taoiseach: I have been given an opportunity to totally reject that unfounded allegation. First, the forthcoming proposed European summit is not on foreign and security policy; it is a meeting which has been called at the French request to discuss the situation in the Gulf. Secondly, we have already had in this House a major debate on the question of the IGC and a common foreign security policy for the Community. We have also had a major debate on the situation in the Gulf. The Deputy is completely misleading this House and the public in this absurd suggestion he is making.
Mr. J. Bruton: ——that we do not know what the policy of this Government is in regard to either economic and monetary union or European political union? As long as we have a Government in office who do not know their minds on this matter, they will be unable to defend Ireland's position——
Mr. J. Bruton: On a point of order, is it in order for the Taoiseach to continue making misleading statements when it is clearly true that this Government have published no clear policy in regard to either economic and monetary union or political union? We have a Government without a policy.
Mr. Byrne: May I ask the Taoiseach why he failed to honour the commitment given in this House that the Social Welfare Bill, of 43 pages, would be circulated in adequate time so that we could prepare ourselves for the debate? It is listed for Second Stage tomorrow, but we only received it slightly over a half an hour ago. This runs counter to the commitment given to me in this House by the Taoiseach that this Bill would be circulated in adequate time so that the Opposition could deal with it properly.
Mr. Taylor: May I ask the Taoiseach if the Government have totally abandoned the practice which existed for many years in this House of providing time to debate the booklets produced and circulated to us reviewing events in the EC during the previous year or six months? Traditionally time was allocated on a half yearly basis to debate those reports. That opportunity has not been afforded to the House for many years.
Mr. Taylor: No. A white book is produced regularly on events in the EC and circulated to Deputies. It was always the tradition that time was allocated on a bi-annual basis to debate such reports. However, this has not happened for some time.
Mr. Howlin: On the Order of Business, may I ask the Taoiseach if he has given any further consideration to item No. 8 on today's Order Paper, the establishment of a Select Committee on Crime? In view of the ongoing discusions which Whips have had on this matter and the clear views of all the parties on it, of which the Government Whip is in possession, have the Government decided a strategy on the establishment of this much wanted and very important committee of the House?
The Taoiseach: I would like to see that committee established and I am proceeding with my efforts to have it established but, unfortunately, my information is that there is some disagreement among the Opposition parties on the matter.
Mr. Howlin: What are the Government's intentions in this regard because it is they who will make the final decision on this matter? Has the Taoiseach discussed the matter with the Government Whip? Does he have a view on the establishment of this committee?
Mr. J. Bruton: On the same matter, in view of the fact that I wrote to the Taoiseach about the establishment of a committee on crime and a foreign affairs committee and that to-date he has given no substantial response to my letter, would he accept that the matter rests with the Government?
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Pat Rabbitte has been offering. I want to bring the Order of Business to finality. We are now 35 minutes on the subject; that is not good enough in respect to business  proper in the House. Deputy Rabbitte and then a final question from Deputy Allen.
Mr. Rabbitte: As we are about to initiate the discussion on the Committee Stage of the Worker Protection (Regular Part-Time Employees) Bill, I seek your guidance on a letter Opposition spokespersons have just received from your office judging to be out of order the more meaningful amendments submitted. Is there any opening available to us at this stage to intercede with your office to have some of these decisions reconsidered having regard to the fact that some of them——
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