Order of Business (Resumed).

Wednesday, 13 March 1991

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 406 No. 4

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Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John 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: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick 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 [801] estimates published by the Minister for Finance? Will the Minister for Finance come to the House to clarify these matters?

The Taoiseach: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  The Finance Bill is on target with the times I gave and all matters arising thereto will be dealt with in due course when the legislation comes before the House.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  May I ask the Taoiseach if it will be necessary to have revised Estimates because of the £15 million which the decision yesterday of the Minister for Finance will cost the Government?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I do not think we should pursue that matter now. There are other ways and means of raising these aspects of the matter.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick 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: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias 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.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Under what legislation as promised do you raise that matter?

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  I do not raise it under promised legislation——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The matter may well be sub judice.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  No.

[802]The Taoiseach: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  In any event the matter is sub judice.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  Is that updated?

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  The court proceedings——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  In any event it should not give rise to argument or disputation now.

The Taoiseach: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  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: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan 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?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The matter to which Deputy Shatter refers is clearly more appropriate to Question Time proper.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  It is a matter of——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  It is not relevant now. I am quite clear as to the Deputy's intention in the matter.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Yesterday the Taoiseach told the House that there was a variety of special measures to tackle the problems of unemployment under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The matter does not arise now.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  It is now clear that FÁS have terminated schemes——

[803]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy Shatter will please resume his seat. I am calling Deputy Bell. Order, please.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  ——and the Taoiseach should explain why there is a major cutback on FÁS schemes which are affecting black spots such as Tallaght, where schemes are being stopped.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Order, please. I am calling Deputy Bell.

Mr. Bell: Information on Michael Bell  Zoom on Michael 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?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  This is not promised legislation. Perhaps the Deputy would pursue it in the ordinary way. Deputy Garland has been offering for some time.

Mr. Garland: Information on Roger T. Garland  Zoom on Roger T. Garland  When does the Minister for Education intend to publish the report on Dublin Zoo which has been on her desk for almost a year?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I thought Deputy Garland had something relevant to raise on the Order of Business.

Mr. Garland: Information on Roger T. Garland  Zoom on Roger T. Garland  The animals are still suffering.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim 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 [804] 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?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  This is more appropriate to Question Time.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  I am asking for a special Dáil debate in advance of the emergency summit.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  That type of question is simply not relevant to the Order of Business.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  It will have to be next week.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay 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.

The Taoiseach: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  The first item would appear to be in order. That legislation is in the course of preparation. It will not be taken this session.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John 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.

[805]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  There are so many other ways of raising such matters.

The Taoiseach: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  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: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Is it not the case——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  This should not give rise to debate now.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John 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——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  This matter should be pursued by way of question or motion in the ordinary way. It may not be debated now.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  I was told by the Minister for Foreign Affairs that he would consider producing a White Paper but it has not yet been produced.

The Taoiseach: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  The Deputy is using this procedure to make false and misleading statements to the House.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  That is not so.

The Taoiseach: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  The position of this Government on economic and monetary union and on political union has been [806] stated and restated time and again to this House.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John 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.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  This type of wrangle cannot go on interminably. I am now proceeding to the Order of Business proper.

Mr. Byrne: Information on Eric J. Byrne  Zoom on Eric J. Byrne  A Cheann Comhairle——

Mr. Harte: Information on Patrick D. Harte  Zoom on Patrick D. Harte  On the Order of Business——

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  May I——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am not calling the Deputies. I am now proceeding to the Order of Business proper.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Are these matters relevant to the Order of Business?

Mr. Byrne: Information on Eric J. Byrne  Zoom on Eric J. Byrne  I should imagine they are most relevant, a Cheann Comhairle.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  I have an equally relevant question to ask.

Mr. Byrne: Information on Eric J. Byrne  Zoom on Eric J. 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.

[807]Mr. McCartan: Information on Patrick McCartan  Zoom on Patrick McCartan  That is a fair point to raise on the Order of Business.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  These grievances can be best ventilated on the Bill proper when we come to debate it.

Mr. McCartan: Information on Patrick McCartan  Zoom on Patrick McCartan  We deserve an explanation.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy Mervyn Taylor.

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn 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.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Do I take it the Deputy is referring to the Social Welfare Bill?

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn 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.

The Taoiseach: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  I am afraid the tradition to which the Deputy refers was more honoured in the breach than in the observance.

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  Only since this Government took office.

Minister for the Marine (Mr. Wilson): Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  That is not true.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  Does the Taoiseach intend [808] to remedy that matter and put this issue back on the rails?

The Taoiseach: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  As the Deputy knows well, this is a matter for the Whips.

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  It is a matter for the Government to provide time for such a debate.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan 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: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  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: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan 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: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John 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: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  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 [809] proper in the House. Deputy Rabbitte and then a final question from Deputy Allen.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Perhaps you would also allow me to get in as I have been trying to get in for some time.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy was already in.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  I want to raise another matter.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat 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——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I do not seek to cut the Deputy short or to be in any way discourteous, but surely this matter can be raised when we discuss the Bill. We will come to the Bill very shortly.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  May I——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I have a reply for the Deputy but I would rather wait until we come to the Bill.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I fear it will be too late then.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I will deal with it when we come to the Bill. Deputy Allen.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I accept your ruling.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  May I ask the Taoiseach to explain the reason the Social Welfare Bill was only circulated this morning when we were promised——

[810]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  We have already had that, Deputy.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  This House deserves an explanation——

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  We got no response.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am proceeding now to the Worker Protection——

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  We deserve an explanation as this Bill deals with deprivation, job creation——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  This matter has already been adverted to and repetition is a luxury we cannot afford.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  We got no reply. Surely we deserve an explanation——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy Allen, please desist and resume your seat. Deputy Shatter.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  May I ask the Taoiseach if time will be made available today to the Minister for Labour to explain the reasons for the cutbacks in the FÁS social employment schemes?

Minister for Labour (Mr. B. Ahern): Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  That matter was dealt with on the Adjournment last night.


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