Friday, 5 July 1991
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Flanagan: I beg your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, to move a motion under Standing Order 143 to rescind those sections of the Time Allocation Motion of Thursday, 4 July 1991 which deal specifically with Estimates in order to provide for a separate debate on each of the spending Estimates before the House.
An Ceann Comhairle: I have to tell Deputy Flanagan that I cannot allow a Private Members' motion to suspend Standing Orders to be moved in Government time. This is in accordance with long standing precedent.
Mr. Flanagan: May I ask the Government to give consideration to allowing this motion in the interests of parliamentary democracy and the ordering the business of this House in keeping with the long standing tradition of providing time for a proper debate on the spending of £6.7 billion? Members on this side of the House, and Government backbenchers, should be given the opportunity to scrutinise the Estimates and ask questions of the various Ministers.
The Taoiseach: On this occasion the Government first proposed that the normal practice be followed, but in deference to the wishes of the Opposition parties, which I understood at that time included Fine Gael, we agreed to a different form this time because Deputies opposite were anxious to discuss the general financial situation. In order to facilitate such a discussion the Whips agreed, perhaps with the exception of the Fine Gael Whip, to this new procedure——
The Taoiseach: They also wanted a debate on European union, which has also been granted. I believe the Government have been generous to the extreme in trying to facilitate the wishes of the Opposition in the handling of parliamentary business.
An Ceann Comhairle: I must assert that the business of this day was determined by the House yesterday and, consequently, I cannot at this stage entertain any extraneous matter. However, I will hear Deputy Bruton briefly.
Mr. J. Bruton: This is the first time in the history of Dáil Éireann that the Government have asked this House to agree to all the Estimates for public expenditure en bloc in one debate without any possibility of individual Estimates being scrutinised or Ministers being questioned on them.
Mr. J. Bruton: This is not acceptable to my party as Deputies on all sides of the House will be denied the opportunity of querying individual Ministers about the Government's intentions for cuts in  spending once the Dáil has been sent safely on its holidays.
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Bruton, the views expressed now are ones which can be expressed during the course of the debate on the Estimates. I am now asking the Minister for Finance to move the Estimates in question.
Mr. J. Bruton: On the Order of Business, the Fine Gael Party have tabled a motion of no confidence in the Coalition Government. On most previous occasions when motions of confidence or no confidence were tabled — October 1974, October 1976, July 1982 and February 1986 — the Government of the day immediately provided Government time for a debate on the motion. In view of the fact that the main Opposition party have tabled a motion of no confidence in the Government, may I ask if the Government will provide time so that this motion can be taken quickly?
The Taoiseach: I have to say again that I regard this motion as nothing more than parliamentary gamesmanship. It is not a serious motion and does not address itself, as normal votes of no confidence do, to the Government's behaviour, the conduct of the economy or the nation's affairs.
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: I appeal to you as our Chairman to say whether it is accepted  practice in every parliamentary democracy that the tabling of a motion of no confidence is given precedence over other business? Do you not accept that the attitude of the Government will mean that this motion of no confidence will not be taken for four months?
An Ceann Comhairle: It is not a matter for the Chair as to whether a motion of no confidence shall be taken or not. Usually it is taken in Government time but, of course, it may be taken in Private Members' time.
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