Order of Business.

Wednesday, 18 February 1998

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 487 No. 4

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The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is proposed take No. 2, Finance Bill, 1998, Second Stage (resumed) and Private Members' Business No. 36, Trade Union Recognition Bill, 1998, Second Stage (Resumed).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There are no proposals to be put to the House.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John 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: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  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: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí 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: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  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: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias 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?

[646]The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  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: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora 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.

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  That is not true.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora 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: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  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.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Part of my question was to ask the Minister if she had met the chief executive. That is nothing to do with trade union recognition.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy cannot challenge the ruling of the Chair. That is another precedent in this House.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  I do not wish to have a dispute with you, a Cheann Comhairle.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should resume her seat. My office is available to discuss the matter further but the Standing Order is there and the Chair has no choice.

[647]Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  I appeal to you, a Cheann Comhairle. Do you not think that having tabled a priority question —

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I have explained my reasons to the Deputy and I must follow Standing Orders. My ruling cannot be challenged.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  You do not know what is going to come up in any debate. The concept of priority questions—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy cannot make any point. The rulings of the Chair must always be adhered to.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  On a point of order.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  This is not a point of order.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  It is a point of order.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  It is not a point of order if the Deputy is challenging the Chair.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  A Cheann Comhairle, you have not heard my point of order.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is continuing to challenge the ruling of the Chair. She cannot do that. She should resume her seat and discuss the matter further with my office.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  I am seeking your assistance, a Cheann Comhairle.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  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.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  That is what she wants.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  I do not wish to leave the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  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——

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  This has nothing to do with the rules of the House.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  This has nothing to do with the ruling.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  It has. The Deputies are continuing to challenge the ruling of the Chair. The Chair's ruling is the final word on the matter.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  The Chair should not give in to her.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  I wish to make a general point.

[648]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I will not permit further discussion. The Deputy must resume her seat. We cannot continue to debate the matter or challenge the ruling of the Chair.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  A Cheann Comhairle, may I——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Chair is on its feet. The Deputy is out of order. Challenging the ruling of the Chair makes a farce of the rules. I ask the Deputy to resume her seat or leave the House.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Do priority questions have any benefit——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I will not discuss the matter further. The Deputy has been out of order for the past five or six minutes.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  I am not out of order. The ruling is wrong. The interpretation of the rule has been too penal.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The ruling is wrong.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  If the Deputy does not resume her seat I will have to name her. The Deputy may not challenge the ruling of the Chair in this matter.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Harney, has——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy leaves me no option but to name her. I call Deputy Quinn.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí 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?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Government has concluded its deliberations on the matter and the wording will be put forward today or tomorrow.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí 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?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The most appropriate course of action can be agreed with the Bills Office. We will be clearly setting out the new wording.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Is it the ruling of the Ceann Comhairle that questions relating to all industrial disputes, irrespective of where they occur, are out of order until the Labour Party Bill is taken?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is challenging the ruling of the Chair.

[649]Mr. Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  This has nothing to do with the rules.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  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. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Are all rules interpreted in accordance with facts?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy cannot cross examine the Chair on these matters. The Deputy should know that doing so is completely out of order.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am inquiring as to the basis for the Chair's ruling.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy may make such an inquiry at my office. We cannot have inquiries of this nature on the Order of Business.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Deputy is entitled to know the basis of the ruling.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy knows he is out of order.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I do not know the basis of the ruling.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should resume his seat. The Chair is on its feet.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  This is a bad ruling.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The rule is in accordance with the Standing Orders of the House.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The ruling is wrong in law and in its interpretation of Standing Orders.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I call Deputy Gormley.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Ceann Comhairle is absolutely wrong. The ruling is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John 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?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is a matter for the Whips as to whether time will be made available for a debate. The issue can be raised at the meeting of the Whips tonight.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda 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 [650] 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——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should table a parliamentary question or raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  What happened Knock airport?

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan 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?

A Deputy:  What about postal voting?

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan 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: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I will consider this. Most colleges will be on a break during the by-elections and the problem, therefore, does not arise.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Some students remain at college to study for examinations.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  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.

I am conscious that in recent referenda there has not been a high turn out, so we will consider a date which will be suitable for younger people and people who travel.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat 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?

[651]The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  A parliamentary question on this matter has been tabled for today. Is the Deputy referring to the Insurance Bill?

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I am referring to the Bill setting out regulations for the insurance industry.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Insurance Bill will be introduced in the middle of the year.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That concludes the Order of Business. I call item No. 2.


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