Wednesday, 18 February 1998
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. J. Bruton: On the Order of Business on 15 October the Taoiseach told the House that he expected to receive the report of the National Minimum Wage Commission by December 1997. When will this report be produced?
The Taoiseach: The commission produced an interim report some time ago and stated that it needed more time. It gave a date for the final report which I cannot recall but I will inform the Deputy of the date during the day.
Mr. Quinn: We read in the newspapers today that the Minister for Finance and the Government have agreed to establish a working party with the Irish League of Credit Unions to examine proposals for the preparation of the next budget. Does the Taoiseach intend to arrange a debate in the House on the report of that working group prior to the budget so as to avoid another calamity such as befell the Government last week?
The Taoiseach: The group will report at the end of September. Like many groups reporting to the Minister in preparation for next year's budget and Finance Bill, the report will be considered by the Minister in the first instance.
Proinsias De Rossa: Will the Taoiseach make a statement to the House when a decision has been made on Sinn Féin's position in the talks? Will he assure the House that the Government will do everything possible to ensure that the injunction sought by Sinn Féin is resisted and that the talks process will continue unhindered?
The Taoiseach: There is a case pending in the High Court this morning. I am not precisely sure when that will be heard, nor are our representatives in court. We are not a party to the case. The papers which have been issued have put us on notice. The House can be assured that the Government will do everything possible to keep the peace process and the talks moving forward.
Mrs. Owen: It has come to my attention this morning that the Department of the Environment and Local Government and the Minister have reduced the length of time in which people can submit supplementary register forms for the by-election. This measure has been introduced today with only two days left for people to submit the forms.
Mrs. Owen: It is true. Until yesterday we did not know when the by-election would take place so people cannot get the forms in on time. Will the Minister or the Taoiseach consider giving people another week to submit forms as the date of the by-election was only made known yesterday? A Cheann Comhairle, could I ask why you found it necessary to rule out a priority question to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment on the Ryanair dispute? This is a very specific dispute but the question was ruled out on the basis that the matter was due for discussion on the Private Members' Trade Union Recognition Bill. This Bill deals with a general policy area. This is my first opportunity as Opposition spokesperson to ask the Minister about the Ryanair dispute on priority questions — the last priority questions were before Christmas. Whatever about ruling out my questions on mandatory trade union membership, the Ryanair dispute is a separate issue from the general policy. Can you restore this as a priority question? I gave notice to your office that I would raise this matter.
An Ceann Comhairle: I have already communicated with the Deputy as to why the questions were disallowed. This was done under Standing Order 34(6). There is long standing precedent for this and we cannot have the ruling challenged.
An Ceann Comhairle: If the Deputy persists I will have to ask her to leave. She knows she is breaking the rules of the House by continuing to challenge the Chair on the matter. I ask Deputy Owen to leave the House.
An Ceann Comhairle: Then the Deputy must obey the rules of the House. I have no option but to apply the rules of the House. If the Deputy wishes to change the rules she may do so in another manner. If the rule is changed——
Mr. Quinn: Has the Government had sufficient time to consider a revised wording for the Bill to give effect to the Amsterdam Treaty? If so, when will the relevant legislation be brought before the House?
Mr. Quinn: Is it the intention of the Government to introduce a new Bill or will a revised wording be taken in parallel with Second Stage and the current unacceptable wording? If the Government pursues the latter course, will it signal its intention to move an amendment on Committee Stage?
An Ceann Comhairle: If the Deputy wants information on these matters he should consult the Office of the Ceann Comhairle. We will not have a debate on this matter on the Order of Business. If Members want the rules to be changed they should bring the matter before the appropriate committee of the House. We cannot discuss the rules.
Mr. Gormley: Will the Taoiseach say when a statement will be made in the House on the multilateral agreement on investment which was agreed in principle yesterday? Will an opportunity be provided to debate it in the House?
Mr. Kenny: In Galway yesterday the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment said, in response to Bishop Finnegan, that it was and is not possible to bring high-tech jobs  to rural Ireland. Will the Taoiseach comment on this statement? Is this a matter of Government policy and does it make it very difficult for the IDA——
Mr. Howlin: Regarding the referendum on the Amsterdam Treaty and mindful of the pledge of the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to the National Youth Council, will the Taoiseach consider weekend voting? The Government has ignored the request of the National Youth Council and many student groups to have weekend voting for the by-elections. Will weekend voting be considered in setting the date for the referendum?
Mr. Howlin: I know about postal voting. It was introduced by the Government of which I was a member and provided for in the Electoral Act. I know of some Deputies' attitudes to the Electoral Act and their dislike of the disclosure threshold. Can we have an assurance from the Taoiseach that he will consider the requests of the National Youth Council and student groups in setting a date for the referendum?
The Taoiseach: Students can also avail of the postal vote supplement until Friday. The Minister for the Environment and Local Government has made provision for the offices of the local authorities in both constituencies to remain open late on Friday night to facilitate this.
Mr. Rabbitte: Has the Government any plans to bring forward legislation in respect of the insurance industry? The Competition Authority has struck down the agreement on commissions in the insurance industry which makes the decision of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to remove the requirement for disclosure of commission wholly untenable. Following the squeezing out of the Ombudsman in the context of the insurance industry, is it the intention of the Taoiseach to reintroduce the legislation prepared when the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Treacy, was appointed?
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