Order of Business.

Wednesday, 8 February 1995

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 448 No. 7

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The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  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: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  May I take it that the proposal for the late sitting and the adjournment is satisfactory?

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  As details of the budget are revealed in all the papers today, is it necessary for the Minister to go ahead with the charade this afternoon?

(Interruptions).

[1638]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I must dissuade the Deputy from putting on a display at this time, let us await the Budget Statement.

A Deputy:  That is Dáil reform.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  It is what they call openness and transparency.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  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. E. O'Keeffe: Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  To clarify the leaks.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' Business agreed? Agreed.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie 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: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  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: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I appreciate that.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  The Deputy is waffling.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Deputy should listen while I give him some facts.

[1639]Mr. H. Byrne: Information on Hugh Byrne  Zoom on Hugh Byrne  Deputy Jim Mitchell is a long way back from the front benches.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie 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——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I have given the Deputy some latitude. He has made his point.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie 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?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Order of Business is turning into Question Time.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Is it true that based on last night's leaks those will be the figures?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  May I reply?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Taoiseach may respond if he wishes.

Mr. Sheehan: Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  The Deputy should await the budget speech.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  We wanted to help Charlie McCreevy with his reply.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. H. Byrne: Information on Hugh Byrne  Zoom on Hugh Byrne  Did I hear Deputy Rabbitte say something?

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  He is out feeding the baby.

[1640]The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  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: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary 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.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  There will be ample time to debate this later.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Will the Taoiseach inquire into how those leaks occurred? Will he do anything about the matter?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  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.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Will the Taoiseach do something about the leaks?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. 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.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  We should await the statement of the Minister for Finance. Deputy Tom Kitt was offering.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Will the Taoiseach elaborate on the time that may be required? It seems as if it will not take very long [1641] as most of the items have already been published.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  There will be ample time for debate later.

Mr. T. Kitt: Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom 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.

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins): Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  This is dangerous territory.

Mr. T. Kitt: Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  The public is very concerned about this matter——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  We must come to the Order of Business proper. There are no grounds for continuing this debate now.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie 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: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  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. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  We will see today if the figures are right. The current budget [1642] deficit is now £310.9 million with an EBR of 2.4 per cent.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot 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.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  It is not in order to challenge the Chair in this fashion.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Will you make new rules after today's situation? I am seeking guidance.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  If the Deputy wishes for any guidance or elucidation of explanation of the questions I disallowed he may contact my office on the matter.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Will you be changing the rules as a result of all the leaks in anticipation of the budget?

(Interruptions.)

Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned 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?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That is devastating stuff.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel 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——

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  When he has fed the baby.

[1643]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Let us not try to turn the proceedings into a comedy.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary 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——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The budget debate is of a marathon nature and Members can ventilate their grievance on these matters to a wide extent over a number of days, weeks or perhaps months.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is a very serious matter and the Taoiseach should treat it seriously.


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