Order of Business.

Thursday, 10 April 1997

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 477 No. 4

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The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It is proposed to take the report from the Select Committee on Enterprise and Economic Strategy on the Credit Union Bill, 1996; No. 22, the Freedom of Information Bill, 1996 [Seanad], Report and Final Stages; No. 23, the Organisation of Working Time Bill, 1996, Report and Final Stages; and No. 2, the Youth Work Bill, 1997, Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) the Report and Final Stages of No. 22 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall be brought to a conclusion not later than two hours after its commencement by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Tánaiste; and (2) the Report and Final Stages of No. 23 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 4.30 p.m. today by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Enterprise and Employment.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Are the proposals for dealing with No. 22 agreed? Agreed. Are the proposals for dealing with No. 23 agreed? Agreed.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I understand that the Courts Service Bill is to be published shortly. In view of the comments by the Law Society regarding the urgency of this Bill, perhaps the Taoiseach will tell us when it will be published.

On a morning when the headlines in the newspapers are about the soaring profits quickly leading to the privatisation of Aer Lingus, may I ask the Taoiseach when the legislation——

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  That is a nonsensical statement and the Deputy knows it.

[742]Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Minister is handling the matter. Will he please tell Members of the House the story?

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  The Deputy is making an ass of himself again. The people in Aer Lingus are breaking their hearts laughing at him.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Is the Minister, against his colleagues in the Labour Party, going ahead and organising the privatisation? Will the Taoiseach or the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Dukes, please tell the House what cosy arrangement is going on behind the board and workers in Aer Lingus? What involvement has the Labour Party in what is going on in Aer Lingus?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Courts Service Bill is receiving urgent attention and will be ready next week. I am glad the Deputy mentioned the Law Society because it has particularly complimented the Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, on the priority she is giving to court reform and the unprecedented progress that has been made in court reform during her tenure.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  When will we see the Bill?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  As far as Aer Lingus is concerned it is a matter of congratulation for all involved in the company that such a high level of profit has been achieved. It is also prudent that the board should look at the possibility of making strategic alliances so that those profits can be enhanced and the job security of the employees in Aer Lingus can be enhanced also. The attempt by Fianna Fáil to politicise this issue in the way they are is detrimental to the interests of the employees in Aer Lingus whose job security will be enhanced by any arrangements that the board, upon which the employees have representation, makes in order to ensure that jobs are secure and that the business is in hand.

A Deputy:  What does the Tánaiste make of it?

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  This is a sell-off.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  No wonder the Minister for Finance is smiling beside the Taoiseach.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Forty pieces of silver.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I again ask the Taoiseach when we will see the Courts Service Bill. I heard what he said about the comments of the Law Society, which I have mentioned, but when will we see the Bill?

Will the Taoiseach acknowledge that it was I who, as Minister for Finance, gave £175 million to Aer Lingus to see them through a difficult period?

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I thought the Government had something to do with it.

[743]Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  As Leader of the Opposition I should know what deals are going on between at least one party in Government and the board and some sections of Aer Lingus about the future of the company. Will we see legislation in the life of this Government on the matter?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It was not exactly the Deputy's own money that he invested.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  No, it was not.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  This is pretended generosity.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  The Taoiseach is not bad at spending taxpayers' money himself.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The board of Aer Lingus is acting in a prudent, modern and businesslike way to build on the excellent profit performance that has already been achieved with a view to negotiating a strategic alliance which will strengthen the future of Aer Lingus.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  We want to hear the facts. Spell them out.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am surprised that Fianna Fáil is opposing such a move. It shows that its attitudes to industrial development, including airline development, are quite antediluvian.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  After £175 million of tax-payers' money has gone into Aer Lingus, will the Taoiseach give an assurance to the House that no such sell-off will take place without full documentation being laid before this House, unlike what happened at Telecom Éireann where no documents were laid before the House?

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  What did the Deputy do to B & I?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I am anxious to facilitate the Deputy but we cannot debate this on the Order of Business. It is not an appropriate forum.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Give us an answer.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  The Deputy does not deserve one for such a lame question.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The party opposite is desperate to find something to criticise when it is criticising a situation in which our airline company is profitable and engaging in prudent business arrangements to safeguard its future.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Release the documents.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  The Government is selling off the silver.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Opposition is not able to take off because of fog.

[744]Mr. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  The Taoiseach became involved in the Northern Ireland election yesterday evening by stating that a vote for Sinn Féin was a vote for the IRA. Will he show the same honesty during the election here in a few weeks' time by telling the electorate that a vote for Fine Gael is a vote for Democratic Left?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I will advise the people who intend to vote for Fine Gael to continue their preferences for the Labour Party and Democratic Left to keep a good Government in office. This Government has brought unprecedented success to this country which is causing considerable loss of nerve in the Deputy's party.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  People are going missing.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Are Aer Lingus workers included?

(Interruptions.)

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  When will the legislation to establish the food authority on a statutory basis be published?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That legislation is receiving priority, as I told the Deputy and other Deputies on a number of occasions. I expect it will be ready in the next few months but I cannot give a precise date.

Mr. T. Kitt: Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  The Taoiseach's outburst yesterday about Sinn Féin shows he is not the bridge builder he claims to be.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  Did the Deputy disagree with what he said?

Mr. T. Kitt: Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  What action is the Taoiseach taking to prevent the ambulance drivers' strike which is due to start on Monday?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am interested that a member of Fianna Fáil's junior bench seems to disagree with what I said yesterday about Sinn Féin. Does Deputy Tom Kitt not realise that Sinn Féin and the IRA are part of the one movement or does he believe, like Deputy Reynolds, that it is appropriate to support Mr. Adams against Dr. Hendron?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I call Deputy Davern.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  The Taoiseach is interfering in another election. He should let the people in the North decide for themselves.

Mr. T. Kitt: Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  I stand over my point that the Taoiseach's actions yesterday show he is not the [745] bridge builder and inclusive leader he claims to be.

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

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I ask that the Deputy in possession be allowed to speak.

Mr. Davern: Information on Noel Davern  Zoom on Noel Davern  Given the reply by the Minister for Justice to a parliamentary question yesterday that there are not enough whistles for the Garda Síochána, is this morning's political statement supporting Democratic Left whistling past the graveyard?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That is below the Deputy's normal standard.

Mr. Davern: Information on Noel Davern  Zoom on Noel Davern  I know, but if the Garda Síochána cannot get whistles, how will it get cars?

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  The Freedom of Information Bill, 1996, will be taken in the House shortly. When will a date be set to discuss the report commissioned by the Select Committee on Legislation and Security on the Official Secrets Act?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That is a matter for the Whips. The Freedom of Information Bill, 1996, is before the House today.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  A promise was made to discuss the report of the select committee in the House, but that has not happened yet.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  It will be discussed immediately after the summer break.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That is a separate matter, although it is related to the Freedom of Information Bill, 1996. I suggest the Deputy raises it with his party Whip, Deputy Dermot Ahern, and we will see if we can arrange a debate.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Today and next Tuesday the Select Committee on Social Affairs will take oral submissions from approximately 15 bodies on the Education Bill. An attempt was made to take Committee Stage on Wednesday, but I am glad that pressure forced the Government to relent. An attempt was also made to reduce the status of the Select Committee on Social Affairs in the Government scheme of things. Some 300 amendments have been submitted by interested parties. Will the Taoiseach give a commitment not to guillotine Committee Stage of the Education Bill because I want to avoid the unseemly rows we had in this House when Second Stage was guillotined?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It is a matter for the committee to regulate how it handles its business.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  The Government is leaning on the select committee.

[746]The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  We can leave the matter confidently in its hands. It is important that this legislation is passed so that parents will, for the first time, have an opportunity to participate in educational decision-making and that an Irish statutory base is set up for Irish education so that we do not continue to rely on British statutes in this regard.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Earlier this week the Government published its list of legislation but it did not include legislation on the hepatitis C compensation tribunal. The Taoiseach seemed to suggest that I should amend his list. At the Whips' meeting last night we were given an indication of the business to be taken in the House in the next three weeks. However, there was no mention of the hepatitis C Bill. The Family Law Bill, which seeks to change the situation in relation to void marriages, was not included either. The Government has given a commitment on these issues, yet it has not included them in the list for the next three weeks.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  We will be sitting until August.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Is the Taoiseach giving priority to that legislation?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  As regards the question about marriages, a written question on today's Order Paper to the Minister for Health will provide the Deputy with the relevant information. As regards the other matter, I do not expect the relevant legislation to be before the House within the next three weeks but it is being worked on intensively at present. I have already indicated it is a priority issue.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  I congratulate Aer Lingus on its figures which were published yesterday and the workers for the role they played. Statements by Deputy Séamus Brennan are hollow, given that he is one of the greatest proponents of privatisation.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  Is the Deputy feeling a cold draught?

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  The Government just sold Telecom Éireann.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  It was not until the Labour Party came into Government that £475 million was given to save Aer Lingus. Fianna Fáil did nothing. It played ducks and drakes with the workers in Aer Lingus.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  The Deputy should talk to his friends.

(Interruptions)

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  The record will show that Deputy Seán Ryan voted to privatise part of [747] Telecom Éireann approximately three months ago.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  Yes.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  The Deputy should not upset Deputy Seán Ryan; he is not fit for it.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Deputy Burke upsets him every day; I only do it occasionally. On the Order of Business yesterday the Taoiseach promised competition between MMDS and deflector television systems. Given that announcement, does the Taoiseach plan to issue licences to the deflector groups and when can we see legislation to that effect?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Is legislation promised?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I have nothing to add to what I said yesterday on this matter. The Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications is working on the general issue, which has its origins in licences which were issued by a Government composed of the Deputy's party.

Mr. D. Wallace: Information on Dan Wallace  Zoom on Dan Wallace  Two and a half years ago.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  And prepared by Deputy Jim Mitchell.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  What progress has been made on the promised non-national legislation and what is the reason for the delay to date?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I answered that question yesterday.


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