Tuesday, 4 February 1992
Dáil Éireann Debate
11. Proinsias De Rossa asked the Taoiseach if, in regard to the commitments given in the Review of the Programme for Government, he will outline the proposals for Dáil reform which the Government have presented to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges for implementation in 1992; if, in view of the recent judgment given in the High Court by Mr. Justice O'Hanlon, the Government intend to put forward any proposals regarding the application of the subjudice rule; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Taoiseach: The Review of the Programme for Government contains a number of proposals in relation to Oireachtas reform, including a proposal to codify the practice in the application of the sub judice rule to Dáil proceedings. Some of these proposals have in fact been implemented already, while the others are being proceeded with as quickly as possible.
Proinsias De Rossa: The current Government promised on taking up office that they would introduce a series of Dáil reform proposals within a matter of months. We are now two and a half years into the life of this Government and still no substantive proposals have been brought before us. Would the Taoiseach, outline the specific proposals which have been implemented so that we might adjudge their importance? Can he say, too, where the proposal with regard to moderating or modifying the sub judice ruling will be brought before the House in view of the fact that there is constant aggravation here about that ruling?
The Taoiseach: As I said, a number of proposals have already been adopted of which the Deputy, as an attender of this House, must already be well aware. With regard to the sub judice rule I think all of us have been conscious of the fact for a long time that the situation was unsatisfactory. The recent decision in the courts has given an impetus to bringing forward some new proposal in that regard. The proper procedure is for the Government to put some proposals before the Committee on Procedure and Privileges with a view to having them adopted here in the House.
Mr. McCartan: Is the Taoiseach aware that the Review of the Programme for Government agreed some months ago between his party and the Progressive Democrats specifically undertook that the Government would introduce in 1991 a set of proposals with regard to Dáil reform which would be implemented in 1992? Can the Taoiseach explain the reason that that undertaking in the Programme for Government, as reviewed by him some months ago, has not been implemented or honoured?
Mr. J. Bruton: Is the Taoiseach aware that this time last year when the Dáil adopted a resolution permitting the televising of our proceedings the Government were requested in that resolution to introduce legislation to clarify the situation with regard to privilege for witnesses appearing before committees of this House in order that such committees might also be televised? Would the Taoiseach outline the present position with regard to that legislation which rather uniquely and unusually the Government were requested by the House in a formal resolution to introduce but have not yet done so?
Mr. J. Bruton: Does the Taoiseach not regard it as a serious matter that the Government of the day — who are responsible to this House and appointed by it — should have ignored for the last 12 months a specific request by this House in a resolution drafted by the Government — who are still the Government — to prepare legislation to provide privilege for witnesses appearing before the committees? Will the Taoiseach take steps, in whatever time remains to him in the next few days as Taoiseach, to ensure that this legislation is expedited because  it is unsatisfactory that the committee work of this House does not get fair tele-visual representation?
Proinsias De Rossa: I take it that the Taoiseach is not prepared to read out the list of so-called reforms of the Dáil undertaken by this Government because they are so minor he does not wish to put them on the record. In relation to the package being prepared, will the Taoiseach outline what specific proposals are being prepared, their headings and if it is proposed to bring the package forward as a single package or whether it is intended to deal with specific items one after another such as the sub judice ruling, the voting system, and so on?
The Taoiseach: For a Deputy who purports to be very interested in this, I am quite surprised that he has to ask me what has been introduced because every  Member of the House knows full well what has been introduced.
The Taoiseach: The matters introduced include the feasibility of allowances for committee chairmen which is being referred to the Gleeson Review Body; legislation on ministerial pensions has been enacted; the establishment of a committee on European affairs and on foreign affairs is actively under way——
The Taoiseach: Might I perhaps suggest, in a sort of a valedictory way, that the best possible reform which the Deputies could bestow upon themselves would be to be much more orderly and respectful to the rulings of the Chair? In that regard I single for special reproof The Workers' Party who, consistently, day after day, interrupt our proceedings, call unnecessary votes, make specious points of order——
Mr. McCartan: May I annoy the Taoiseach a little bit more by asking him whether the undertaking in regard to Dáil reform in the programme specifically dealing with an undertaking that a register of Members' interests will be introduced this year will be honoured?
An Ceann Comhairle: I am now proceeding to deal with questions nominated for priority. I appeal to Members to have regard to the stipulation that 15 minutes only is provided to dispose of the five questions before us.
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