Tuesday, 21 May 1991
Dáil Éireann Debate
An Ceann Comhairle: Since it is not agreed I will ask, as usual, for a brief comment from each of the spokespersons for the Opposition parties in respect of this matter and we will then put it to a vote. Is Deputy John Bruton offering?
Mr. J. Bruton: I am concerned that this has been the pattern in recent years and we cannot make the case that it did not happen when other Governments were in office. Every year the Finance Bill tends to be put through in this fashion under a time allocation motion where most of the amendments are not discussed. It would be hypocritical of me, having been a member of a Government in the past where this sort of procedure  was followed, to make a big song and dance about it and I presume that other people who were members of the same Government would share that view.
Mr. J. Bruton: ——we should accept the need to establish an economic affairs committee of the House — as Fine Gael have proposed — which would allow Committee Stage of a Bill of this kind to be taken in committee where we would not be operating within time constraints where individual amendments simply cannot be dealt with. While it would not be a useful gesture to simply oppose this proposal, as it has many precedents, it would be useful to raise the possibility that an economic affairs committee of the House would be established so that this will not happen in future years.
Mr. Spring: We object to the Order of Business for this afternoon and indeed for the rest of the week. I shall confine myself to parliamentary debate as I do not consider myself an expert on either song or dance. I wrote to you, Sir, last week after the discussion we had in relation to the Standing Orders for the Order of Business last week and I forwarded a legal opinion which I had obtained in relation to the conduct of business in this House. I am grateful for your reply, which I received today, in relation to that matter. It appears that you are not prepared to dissuade the Government from this practice which you inform me is part of procedure in this House, despite the fact that it is not within Standing Order 143. I do not believe — I say this to the Taoiseach — that this is the proper way to do business, as was the case last week in relation to the Local Government Bill and this week in relation to the Finance Bill. I also hear that next week we will have a guillotine motion on the Health Bill; this is not the  way to do business. We are opposing the Order of Business today and we will continue to oppose it as the Government's parliamentary programme for this term falls into tatters.
Proinsias De Rossa: I specifically oppose the motion being taken without debate which is a bad precedent, and I dealt with this matter on a previous occasion. I do not have any objections to dealing with subsection (2) of the motion which deals with the Adoption Bill; in relation to the Finance Bill, it is a bit much to introduce the budget in late January, to introduce the Finance Bill almost three months later and to expect it to be dealt with, including more than 160 amendments, in a matter of three days. The time of the House could be used more effectively if the Government would agree to have a committee established to deal specifically with the Finance Bill a short time after the budget is introduced in this House. It would certainly be a more rational way of dealing with a major portion of the business of this House. On that basis, a Cheann Comhairle, I oppose the proposal under No. 7, with the exclusion of the matters relating to the Adoption Bill.
The Taoiseach: We would never get legislation of any kind through this House if we continually accepted Opposition demands for longer and longer time to debate every legislation which is introduced. I find it depressing that Deputy Spring who, as a member of a Government responding to the exigencies of the parliamentary programme, from time to time supported these time allocation motions——
The Taoiseach: Deputy Spring was a member of Government and I distinctly  remember one particular Bill under the direct control of Deputy Spring when exactly this type of time allocation motion was accepted before the House.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Burke, Raphael P.
Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
de Valera, Síle.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Haughey, Charles J.
Kitt, Michael P.
Noonan, Michael J.
O'Malley, Desmond J.
O'Toole, Martin Joe.
Wilson, John P.
De Rossa, Proinsias. Gilmore, Eamon.
Higgins, Michael D.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
Garland, Roger. O'Sullivan, Toddy.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Taylor, the Chair is perfectly aware of that and that is why the Chair put the question: “Is the Order of Business agreed?” and nobody dissented. You did not dissent, Deputy.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Will Deputies bear with the Chair? If people were not applying themselves to what was before them, the Chair is prepared to accept that oversight and on this occasion will listen and take a question.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair is very mindful that when a problem arises all the Deputies I see around me are very smart and quick to produce the “green book”, but when it does not suit them they apparently want me to by-pass it.
Mr. Taylor: In the matter of the promised Notice of Motion to set up a judicial inquiry arising out of the television programme, and having regard to the fact that a gap will arise in the period between the promise by the Minister to set up that inquiry and the actual setting up of it, may I ask——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Taylor is, I think, better equipped than most people here to distinguish between what is promised legislation and what is not. There is no legislation promised on the matter in which he refers and I am sure Deputy Taylor will accept that, and accept that the question he poses is not in order on the Order of Business.
Mr. Taylor: There is a promise by the Minister for Agriculture and Food on the record of this House to introduce what is in effect, legislation, to set up a sworn judicial inquiry and a notice of motion in respect of what either has been published or is about to be published. If that is not a promised activity of this House I do not know what is.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: If the House wishes to change what has been traditionally agreed — I heard Deputy Bruton refer earlier to tradition — there are ways and means to embrace all the matters Deputies wish to change.
Mr. Taylor: With respect if this House adopts the motion to be introduced by the Minister setting up a judicial inquiry, it will be put into effect in accordance with the terms of that Notice of Motion. It is tantamount to legislation and all the consequences of legislation follow from it. That is the legal position. With respect, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I am entitled to raise a question on this important matter. It has exactly the same effect as a Bill of the Oireachtas. It requires nothing more than this House to adopt the motion to set up that inquiry, with all the important consequences which will follow from it. May I please put it to the Taoiseach——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I will reply to Deputy Mervyn Taylor. The Deputy can state the premise and presume what he thinks should follow, but he has not in what he has said indicated  to me that there is promised legislation before the House.
The Taoiseach: On a point of order, may I point out to you, Sir, for your guidance that not very long ago in this House the Ceann Comhairle laid down very specifically what may or may not be raised on the Order of Business under the heading of promised legislation. This was very specifically spelt out by the Ceann Comhairle and I suggest, Sir, that we adhere to that——
Mr. J. Bruton: In respect of the motion in the name of the Minister for Agriculture and Food which has just been circulated, can the Minister indicate if the Minister for Justice will be making an order under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, with a view to ensuring that the proposed tribunal will have the full power to obtain documents and subpoena witnesses?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Gabh mo leithscéal, Deputy Bruton. In respect of what has been said in the matter of the Order of Business, it arose following an exchange of views between Deputy Bruton and myself where it was suggested that the matter should be cleared up once and for all and where, subsequently, the House was advised as to what is proper on the Order of Business. I do not want to bore the House again by reading out what they are, and Deputy Spring knows it well. As in character, I suppose we are all forever trying to get around or evade the rules. The rule is there and it is no pleasure for me or any occupant of the Chair to appear to be resisting. That is the arrangement which is agreed, and I must carry it out.
Mr. J. Bruton: I do not want to find myself in conflict with you, but may I ask the Taoiseach if he would communicate a response to the question I asked, through  the Whips, to the other parties so that we will know what to do in regard to the tabling of amendments. I am sure this is a simple matter.
The Taoiseach: I am not clear as to the point the Deputy is making but the intention is that on Friday morning this motion will be put before the House and debated. Any questions in regard to it can be raised and debated at that time.
Mr. J. Bruton: The question is whether an order will be made under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, as was done in the case of the Kerry babies inquiry. We wish to know if that will be done in this case so that the tribunal will be able to subpoena witnesses and send for papers. It is a simple enough question and it would be useful if the Taoiseach, by whatever means are available to him, would convey an answer to it.
Mr. Spring: On the Order of Business, may I ask the Taoiseach to indicate if the Government expect to introduce further emergency legislation in relation to the Companies Act which was passed last August?
Mr. Shatter: In the context of promised legislation or not promised legislation, may I ask the Taoiseach, in the light of the horrific incidents which have been so widely reported recently, if the Government intend to introduce legislation to ban and outlaw the keeping of pit bull terriers or rottweilers as pets——
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: The matter of a foreign affairs committee and a crime committee has been raised regularly in the House. Can the Taoiseach now tell us the reason for the delay in regard to these committees? Why are we not going ahead with these committees? Is there a particular reason?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Will Deputy Jim O'Keeffe accept it from me that this is the unfortunate thing about matters which have been raised and which have, for one reason or another, been accepted? The question you pose is not in order on the Order of Business. There are other ways and means by which you can elicit the information which you seek.
Mr. J. Higgins: I want to raise a procedural matter. May I ask if the official secrets Act will be involved in relation to Government papers and documents regarding the judicial inquiry? Secondly, what measures will be taken in relation to impounding files and documents——
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