Tuesday, 10 October 1995
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 5. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the following arrangements should apply in relation to No. 5. Statements shall be confined to the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications and to the main spokespersons for the Fianna Fáil Party and the Progressive Democrats Party. The statement of the Minister shall not exceed 45 minutes. The statements of the main spokespersons for the Fianna Fáil Party and the Progressive Democrats Party shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case. Following the opening statements, the Minister shall take questions. Such questions shall be brought to a conclusion within one hour. At the conclusion of questions, the Minister shall be called on to make a concluding statement which shall not exceed five minutes. If No. 5 concludes before 7 p.m., the sitting shall be suspended until 7 p.m.
Private Members' Business shall be No. 24. It shall be taken for one and a half hours on the conclusion of No. 5 or at 7 p.m. whichever is the later. The Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. and business  shall be interrupted on the conclusion of Private Members' Business tonight.
Mr. D. Ahern: While we on this side of the House will not press a vote on matters relating to No. 5, I would like to propose an amendment on the basis that we want more than one hour for questions and answers from the Minister. We made this clear in our negotiations with the Government over the past few days. The Minister on the airways undertook that he would sit in the Dáil until midnight. We have not looked for that but we would like him to stay to 8 p.m. answering questions. We would like two hours for questions.
The Taoiseach: On that occasion questions were allowed for 40 minutes. Questions are being allowed for 60 minutes on this occasion. I remind the House that the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications will answer questions in the Dáil on Thursday in the normal way. I have no doubt the Opposition will have ample opportunity to put any questions relevant to him and to have them answered.
Mr. D. Ahern: Will the Taoiseach respond to the reaction of the Minister on the television the other night? When I questioned the Government Chief Whip the next day, I was told it did not matter and that it was poetic licence on the Minister's behalf.
The Taoiseach: The Deputy has quoted fairly accurately what was said. It was, as he said, a figure of speech. The Opposition will not only have an hour to put its case, which it has been  putting quite freely elsewhere, but a further hour to ask questions. Furthermore, there will be questions again on Thursday in the normal way. This debate is exceptional.
The Taoiseach: That is adequate in view of the fact that the Minister will take Parliamentary Questions on Thursday. I am interested in Deputy Andrews's reference to precedents. The idea of Ministers making statements and answering questions was not one which his party was willing to put into practice when in Government.
Mr. B. Ahern: I am interested in getting on with the debate. However, when we debated the Greencore issue and last year when we discussed the matters which brought down a Government, the discussion was fairly free flowing as the Taoiseach, then Leader of the Opposition, will remember. Will the Taoiseach allow the Opposition to ask questions until 8 p.m.?
The Taoiseach: I have made the proposal which will allow one hour for Opposition speeches and one hour for Opposition questions. There will be questions on Thursday again. There is other legislation and matters of public business to be transacted. I know this issue has absorbed a lot of the energy of the Opposition for the past number of months, whether productively or not remains to be seen. I assure the House it is the Government's view that it is providing sufficient time on this occasion in view of the fact that there is a lot of other business to be transacted.
Mr. B. Ahern: I remind the Taoiseach that from 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. is Opposition Private Members' Time. We will concede our time. I ask the Taoiseach for the last time if we will have an extra hour.
The Taoiseach: I am sorry the Deputy must keep asking the same question. He must not be able to comprehend the answer. I said clearly it is my view that affording the Opposition one hour to make speeches about this matter and one hour to put questions, in view of the fact that it will be able to ask the same Minister questions which it has tabled on the same subject on Thursday, represents a reasonable amount of limited available parliamentary time being devoted to this matter. It is for the Opposition to explain why it is attaching such priority to this issue. It is being afforded ample opportunity through the speeches and questions which it is being allowed to ask to demonstrate the priority which it is giving to this matter over many others for which parliamentary time might be made available. The Government has made a decision which it recommends to the House.
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