Wednesday, 27 May 1992
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 10. It is also proposed that business shall be interrupted at 10.30 p.m. It is further proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) the proceedings on the Committee Stage of No. 10, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 6.30 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall in relation to amendments include only amendments set down or accepted by the Minister for Justice; (2) statements, to which Standing Order 41 shall not apply, shall be taken today on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the statement of the Minister for Agriculture and Food and of the spokespersons for the Fine Gael and Labour Parties shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case; (ii) the statement of each other Member called on shall not exceed ten minutes; and (iii) the Minister or a Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food shall be called upon not later than 10.20 p.m. to make a statement in reply.
Mr. Spring: With regard to items Nos. 1 and 10 on today's Order Paper, it was my understanding that the statements on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy would commence at 12.30 p.m. today. I am deeply disturbed at the idea that those statements will not commence until 9 p.m. taking into consideration the voting arrangements for this evening. Given the serious implications for Irish agriculture of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, I ask that the Whips meet again to see if more time can be allocated to this debate, even if the Committee Stage of item No. 10, the Criminal Evidence Bill, is concluded earlier. I believe agriculture warrants more than a one-and-a-half-hour debate.
Mr. Barry: The time allocated for the debate on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy is totally inadequate. Under the proposals put by the Government, this party will have only two speakers in addition to our spokesman. For a party with 55 Deputies, this proposal is totally inadequate. In order to have a lengthier debate on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy I suggest that the proceedings on the Criminal Evidence Bill be adjourned at 12.30 p.m. until another day rather than concluded at 6.30 p.m. I propose that as an amendment to the Order of Business.
Mr. McCartan: Those of us who have been actively involved in the debate on the Criminal Evidence Bill would be more than happy to conclude the debate today. Therefore, I ask that the debate not be adjourned, as suggested. I believe the debate can be concluded sooner than the time indicated and I ask that no guillotine be put on the debate. The reason I rise is to ask the Taoiseach if those amendments put down by Members on this side of the House which are acceptable to the Minister will also be agreed to.
The Taoiseach: The Government do not have a problem with when the proceedings on No. 10 are finished. Yesterday, an aspiration was expressed to the Whips that the debate would be concluded either last night or early today. The Whips can meet again after the Order of Business today to discuss the matter. If the debate can be concluded by 1.30 p.m. or 5.30 p.m. today that is acceptable to the Government. We do not have a problem with granting more time to the debate on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy — we wish to facilitate the debate in the House — but I would not be in favour of adjourning the debate on the Criminal Evidence Bill.
Mr. Barry: I wish to add to what the Taoiseach has said. He said he did not have a problem with when the debate on No. 10 was finished. That is not acceptable to us. We would like to commence the debate on the Common Agricultural Policy at 12.30 p.m. or 1.30 p.m. but we would not like the debate on No. 10 to be guillotined. We should like the debate on that Bill to be adjourned at that stage.
Mr. McCartan: The Criminal Evidence Bill has been hailed as one of the most fundamental milestones in the development of the law and any guillotine of that Bill on Committee Stage would not be welcome.
Mr. Barry: May I ask the Taoiseach if he will comment on a report issued by the European Community yesterday which draws attention to what is called the Irish tardy response to EC Directives on the environment and states it intends to take the Irish Government to court on matters of toxic waste, water, household waste and wild birds?
Proinsias De Rossa: We passed a Bill in this House some weeks ago which provides for the posting of polling cards to the electorate in relation to the Maastricht referendum. These are essential in order to provide the information the electorate require in order to make their decision. May I ask the Government what arrangements they are making, in view of the postal dispute, to comply with the legislation which obliges us to get a  card into the hands of every elector in the State?
Mr. Shatter: I would draw to your attention, Sir, a serious breach of the privileges of Members of this House. In this morning's papers there are widespread accounts of a report allegedly published by the visiting committee to Mountjoy Prison. It is my understanding that that report should have been laid before this House and copies should have been placed in the Library and given to Members of this House. As of 10.15 this morning no Member of this House had a copy of that report, nor was it in the Library. It is a report of considerable seriousness. I would ask that the necessary arrangements be made to deal with the difficulty and that an explanation be given to the House as to why the report has not been placed in the Library.
An Ceann Comhairle: I know nothing of the matter to which the Deputy refers, nor have I been given any notice of the matter. Perhaps the Deputy would refer the matter to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, which is the appropriate body to deal with such matters.
Mr. Shatter: I appreciate, Sir, that you  knew nothing about the matter but I am drawing it to your attention to ask you, as Ceann Comhairle of this House, to look into the matter and to advise the House of the position.
Mr. M. Higgins: May I ask the Taoiseach if he is aware of the widespread confusion created because of the conflict between his remarks to this House and the remarks of our ambassador to one of the European institutions in relation to the legislation promised as a result of the Norris case? Is the Taoiseach aware that the ambassador has stated, on behalf of the Irish Government, that amending legislation is to be introduced? Yet the Taoiseach told this House on some occasions that the legislation was ready, sometimes that it was being prepared and the latest information was that it would not be introduced this year. Is the Taoiseach aware of——
The Taoiseach: I am not aware of the confusion referred to by the Deputy. I have said on many occasions in this House that work is proceeding on the legislation and that it is part of the Programme for Government, but legislation that has greater priority in the Government's legislative programme takes precedence over it. Consequently, the  legislation referred to will not be introduced this year.
Proinsias De Rossa: May I ask the Taoiseach if he has received advice from the Attorney General on the potential threat to the outcome of the Maastricht Treaty referendum if the law is not complied with in regard to distributing polling cards to the electorate? Has the Attorney General given an opinion on this matter and, if so, could the Taoiseach convey it to the House?
Mr. Yates: I understand from tomorrow's Order of Business that Vote 35 dealing with transport will be taken. Perhaps the Taoiseach would avail of the opportunity today to communicate with the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications so that the Government can decide on the Shannon stop-over, thereby preventing constant leaks and confusion.
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