Wednesday, 8 February 1995
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take Nos. 5, 6, 1, 2, 3 and No. 4, which shall be taken at 3.50 p.m. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) The Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. today and the motion for the General Financial Resolution shall be moved not later than 12.00 midnight whereon business shall then be interrupted and the Dáil shall adjourn forthwith. (2) Following the Budget Statement of the Minister for Finance and the statements by the main spokespersons of the parties in Opposition, the sitting shall be suspended for 30 minutes. (3) Private Members' Business, which will be No. 10, shall be taken at 11.45 a.m. today and the proceedings thereon shall be brought to a conclusion at 1.15 p.m.
An Ceann Comhairle: May I take it the arrangements regarding the late sitting and the adjournment are agreed? Agreed. Is it agreed that following the Budget Statement the sitting shall be suspended for 30 minutes? Agreed.
Mr. B. Ahern: Over many decades this House has adhered to a certain tradition on budget day. I asked the Taoiseach yesterday if he believed that tradition, whereby only a few items from the Budget Statement were leaked, was beneficial. Is he seriously pleased that last night at least five Ministers, their programme managers and handlers were involved in the wholesale leaking of the contents of today's Budget Statement to the extent that we were told it contained 22 pages and were given enough data to work out the crucial information?
An Ceann Comhairle: I must dissuade the Deputy from making a speech at this time. I am permitting the Deputy to raise the fundamental matter of alleged leaks in this regard, but we cannot go beyond that now.
Mr. B. Ahern: The Chair has always correctly made the point that we should live by certain standards, traditions and orders and this has applied in particular on budget day. Perhaps officials in the Department of Finance have tended to defend, more than necessary, information from Budget Statements in the past, but this morning without great difficulty we were able to work out——
Mr. B. Ahern: May I ask a question? Will the Taoiseach confirm that based on last night's figures the Exchequer borrowing requirement will be £813 million which is 2.4 per cent of GDP, that the current budget deficit will be 0.9 per cent and that the GDP will be 2.5 per cent?
The Taoiseach: I said all I propose to say about that matter when it was raised yesterday. Deputies who wish to express their views on these issues will have ample opportunity to do so during the debate.
Miss Harney: I am surprised the Taoiseach did not express concern at the number of leaks which have taken place. If he were in Opposition I am certain he would take a different view. It is clear that the number of Ministers or people closely associated with them leaked the contents of entire documents to various newspapers and journalists from RTE last night.
The Taoiseach: This is a matter of concern but, as I said, Members can express their views in the House later. It would be inappropriate for me to confirm, or otherwise, anything that appears in newspapers.
Dr. Woods: On item No. 4, Financial Motions, will the Taoiseach tell us roughly what time the Minister for Finance will require to make his presentation — he will hardly need much time — so that Deputies may make their preparations? Perhaps he would try to arrange in future that the traditional standard of behaviour of Members of the three ring circus is resumed in this House.
Mr. T. Kitt: Will the Taoiseach agree that what we have seen in regard to leaks — I agree with what my party leader said — demonstrates what we had to put up with from our partners in Government who, obviously, were experts on leaks? The Taoiseach has always been a great defender of tradition and precedent in this House and, like my party leader, I am disappointed that he has not seriously addressed the issue this morning.
Mr. B. Ahern: We worked hard to do away with the budget deficit and finally succeeded in getting a current budget surplus but, based on last night's figures in the three newspapers, the current budget deficit is £310.9 million. That shows sensitive information means nothing any more.
The Taoiseach: I do not know if Deputy Ahern remembers the “Soundbyte” programme and a comment on a budget he introduced where one of the contributors said there were two versions of his budget: one presented on “Morning Ireland” and the other presented by himself later. The con-tributor said he preferred the former because it was crisper.
Mr. D. Ahern: I seek your guidance in relation to a number of questions which I put down for answer yesterday on a number of items which are of concern mainly to farmers. You ruled them out of order on the basis that they were in anticipation of the budget.
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: In view of the very serious situation which has arisen because of the leaks of budgetary and State financial matters, will the Taoiseach make his views known to the House and request the Minister for Finance to resign?
Mr. N. Treacy: Will the Taoiseach confirm the rumour that the Government has appointed Deputy Pat Rabbitte to be Minister for fiction and leaks and further would he place an advertisement looking for——
Miss Harney: Last week in this House Members on all sides were concerned about a leak of a different kind because we could see the dangers it could cause. These leaks can cause equally serious damage because market sensitive information is now——
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