Wednesday, 20 April 1994
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take item No. 6. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) the proceedings on the Second Stage of No. 6, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 6.45 p.m. and the Minister for Finance shall be called on not later than 6.30 p.m. to make a speech in reply; (2) Private Members' Business shall be No. 9 and the proceedings thereon shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m.
Mr. J. Bruton: No, Sir. Before we conclude the Second Stage of the Finance Bill the House should know what are the terms of reference of the Star Chamber that has been set up to plan the Fianna Fáil-Labour house tax and to know whether the report will be published before 9 June next so that the people can pass judgment on it.
Mr. J. Bruton: Sir, I am afraid this horse is running in the Reynolds-Spring colours and will not run very far or very fast, that is if we have anything to do with it. We would like this matter to be flushed out before the European elections. We would like to see this horse in the parade ring before the European elections. We do not want it reintroduced after the elections.
Miss Harney: I raised with the Taoiseach yesterday the reason the Community Support Framework plan had not been published on 8 April in accordance with Community regulations but the Taoiseach did not reply.
Miss Harney: However, his spokesperson later said and I quote: “The plan will be published after the election” A spokesperson in The Sunday Press told us that the plan will be published at the end of April. Will the Taoiseach say when we will have the plan?
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Harney, there is a convention in this House that, when the Chair rises, the Member in possession resumes his or her seat. I would rather expect that Leaders of the Opposition parties would obey that rule.
Mr. Rabbitte: Can we establish at this point whether the Minister for the Environment has overruled the Taoiseach, whether this poll tax is dead or is it that their deficit on the National Development Plan will be made up——
The Taoiseach: No, they will not. I am sorry to disappoint Deputy Barrett, Deputy John Bruton or any other Deputy over there; this is a dead horse and they should not be flogging it because they are merely wasting their time.
The Taoiseach: What I put on the record yesterday — and if we had a little bit of ciúnas it would be helpful — was  that despite what the Opposition, with all their scaremongering, would like the people to believe, this Government is committed to reducing the overall burden on taxpayers, including householders — which Deputy Yates might be interested to know — during our term of office. Time will prove us right.
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Bruton, you have made a very serious allegation against a Member of this House. You may not say that a Member of this House was guilty of an untruth or deception of any kind.
Mr. J. Bruton: Sir, the evidence is there. The Government has set up a committee to investigate the house tax. How can it possibly be a dead horse when they have set up a committee to investigate how to do this?
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Bruton, I said earlier that when the Chair rises the Member in possession should resume  his or her seat. I would expect you, as Leader of your party, to give good example in this regard.
Mr. G. Mitchell: On a point of order, is there any point in having a Parliament  if you continually reflect on the Opposition in this way? It is our job to pursue the Government as we are doing. How dare you continue to reflect on the Opposition in this way. It is totally unacceptable, Sir.
Mr. G. Mitchell: Sir, I will not sit here and allow you reflect on the Opposition morning after morning. We are here to ask questions of the Government which are of importance to the people. It is absurd that Deputy Bruton can say outside the House what he cannot say in the House.
An Ceann Comhairle: This is not Question Time. I will not permit the Order of Business to be turned into a mini-question time. You are supreme in such matters. If you want to change the Order of Business into a mini-question time do so and I will loyally abide by your decision.
Mr. J. Bruton: What is the point in proceeding with the Finance Bill if the Government has a secret agenda and a secret committee whose conclusions they have no intention of publishing until after the election?
Miss Harney: There seems to be confusion when members of the Government go to Killarney so perhaps they should stay away from there. In relation to a motion the Government intend to put before the House I wish to complain that the Government did not follow the procedure of consulting the Opposition. The Tánaiste and the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, while in Opposition complained here on 14 December 1989  that the then Government did not consult with Leaders of the Opposition parties in relation to the appointment of the Ombudsman. I regret the Government did not choose to consult with the Opposition. This is a matter for the House and not a matter for the Government.
Miss Harney: I am speaking about a matter that is due to come before the House. The Government was in breach of the spirit of the Act in not consulting with the leaders of the Opposition. This is not a matter for a majority Government putting through their own nominee. It should have been done by consultation. I regret that what the Tánaiste said on 19 December 1989 was not done.
Mr. J. Bruton: I do not know if this is a point of order but I hope the Chair will be able to assist me as I do not want to be in the position where I am in conflict with you, Sir. A statement made here by the Taoiseach is in direct conflict with a report which appears on the front page of a major national newspaper today in which it is indicated that the Government has set up a committee to investigate the property tax. Will the Government agree to refer the terms of reference of this committee to the Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs so that we can discover who is telling the truth about Government intentions in regard to a property tax?
The Taoiseach: I should not have to comment on the question of who is telling the truth. It is beneath the Leader of the Opposition to make such a rash charge or innuendo that I have misled the House or told an untruth.
The Taoiseach: Last year the Government set up a tax strategy committee whose sole terms of reference were to examine ways and means by which the overall burden on the PAYE taxpayer could be reduced during the lifetime of this Government. No new committee has been set up for any specific purpose that Deputy Bruton may like to allude to. Those are the facts. We are in the run-up to an election and I am aware, like Members opposite, that these issues give rise to political scaremongering——
An Ceann Comhairle: The House will appreciate that we cannot have a debate on the Order of Business; it is not in order. If it wants to change the Order of Business I will gladly implement it but these matters are out of order now. There will be ample scope in the debate on the Finance Bill, which is about to commence, to deal with them.
Ms McManus: We were given a promise in this House that the national health strategy would be published. I understand that this strategy is to be unveiled at the IMO conference. Will the Taoiseach note——
Mr. E. Kenny: Last Sunday the Taoiseach attended a three tier summit conference in Carrobrinoge, Castlebar with the European Commissioner. In view of the fact that certain personnel are straining at the leash, is it the Taoiseach's intention to hold the by-elections before 9 June and to move the writs in the House at an early date?
Mr. Crawford: We will discuss today the promotion of the tourism industry and the Minister's proposal to allocate extra funding for this purpose. How can we promote this industry when property owners are not protected?
Mr. J. Bruton: Is the Government planning to make any amendments to the legislation relating to the Ombudsman in view of the fact, in defiance of precedent, it did not consult with the Opposition about the appointment of the Ombudsman? In 1986 the Government consulted the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Haughey, very extensively before Michael Mills was appointed.
Mr. Rabbitte: The Minister of State at the Department of Social Welfare is back in her favourite seat — in camera shot — behind the Taoiseach. Does she intend to make a personal statement to the House about misleading women in Killarney about taxing unemployment benefit?
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