Order of Business.

Wednesday, 23 February 2000

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 515 No. 1

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The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Today's Order of Business is No. 4, Finance Bill, 2000 – Second Stage (resumed); No. 52, financial motions by the Minister for Finance, 1997, motion 9 (resumed); No. 49, financial motions by the Minister for Finance, 1998, motion 5 (resumed). Private Members' Business shall be No. 99, motion re pensioners and car testing (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 Finance Bill, in view of the fact that the Taoiseach, together with the Tánaiste, and not the Minister for Finance, is meeting the Irish League of Credit Unions, will he be willing to accept questions on the matter and report to the Dáil at Question Time next week, given that the Minister for Finance cannot be asked to report on a meeting which he is not attending?

[2]

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  That is not a matter for the Order of Business.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  This is a question on the Finance Bill because clearly it will require changes to that Bill. If the Taoiseach is accepting responsibility for one part of the Finance Bill, I hope he will report to the House on that part of the Bill for which he is accepting responsibility in view of the shrinking violet characteristics of the Minister for Finance on the matter.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Deputy is probably not aware that a priority question is down today to the Minister for Finance on the issue.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  How can the Minister for Finance answer questions on an issue the Taoiseach has taken over from him? That question is irrelevant. Will the Taoiseach answer questions about the fact that he is having this meeting and will he alone be able to report to the House on his meetings?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  This Administration has collec[3] tive responsibility in government; therefore, we talk to one another all the time.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am concerned to know whether the Taoiseach will talk to the House about his meeting. We need to know from the Taoiseach what happens at this meeting. Clearly the Minister for Finance cannot report on it because he will not be there. Will the Taoiseach give the House an assurance that he will answer questions on his meeting in the Minister for Finance's current portfolio, but in the absence of the Minister for Finance, in regard to credit union taxation? It is an easy question.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is a very easy question. I will inform the Minister for Finance of what took place at the meeting and he will inform the House.

(Interruptions).

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That is not funny. It is not possible for someone who is absent from a meeting to report fully or to be accountable to the House for what happens at the meeting. The Taoiseach is accountable to the House and if he undertakes a meeting, only he can report back to the House on his actions, not the Minister for Finance. I again ask the Taoiseach will he be willing to answer questions to the House on this subject which he has taken from the Minister for Finance and is dealing with himself.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  If a question is put down, I am sure the normal arrangements will apply. If the normal arrangements in this case apply, the Minister for Finance will answer the question.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That is not acceptable.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is being repetitive. There is collective responsibility under the Constitution.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The position is that someone who is absent from a meeting cannot possibly report on it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Deputy Quinn, on the Order of Business.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  This is the Order of Business and we are getting items refused, Sir, in relation to questions. Do I take it that what the Taoiseach has said is that he and the Tánaiste will meet representatives of the Irish League of Credit Unions, they will then convey the information to the Minister for Finance and if a parliamentary question is put down to the Taoiseach or the Tánaiste in respect of this specific meeting scheduled to take place tomorrow, it will inevitably be ruled out of order by you, Sir, on the grounds that it is pertinent for the Minister for Finance? This is abusing the Chair and implicating you, Sir, in attempting [4] to frustrate the efforts of the Opposition to do the job it was elected to do. I am asking the Taoiseach to stop the nonsense and give a direction to the Minister for Finance to meet these people.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  He can give millions of pounds to the GAA and other groups. We are talking about 1.9 million people who represent all sections of society and who are being persistently insulted by this Administration, and Members on the Government side seem to think it is funny.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Taoiseach, a final comment on this matter.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I do not understand Deputy Quinn's logic. How could any group say it is being insulted by the Administration when the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste are meeting it?

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We must proceed. I have allowed sufficient time for this matter.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  On the Order of Business, Deputy Austin Deasy is offering.

Mr. Deasy: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin Deasy  Is legislation promised to provide pensions for former staff of the Irish Hospitals Sweepstake? Fianna Fáil promised this prior to the last general election.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Legislation is not promised. There have been discussions on proposals put by former staff members to the Minister for Finance.

Mr. Deasy: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin Deasy  This legislation was promised prior to the last general election.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Discussions have taken place but legislation is not promised.

Mr. Deasy: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin Deasy  Will the Taoiseach do something about this issue?

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I am pleased to hear the Taoiseach speak about collective responsibility on the part of the Government. I listened yesterday to the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands speak about burying the ideals of the previous Arts Council and the review of legislation. When is this new legislation likely to appear on the legislative programme for this year? In view of the reports in today's Irish Independent that the central core of the Broadcasting Bill, the presentation of Digico for the advent of digital television, is not to proceed, will there be a new Broadcasting Bill or is the Minister, who does not appear to know what is happening, likely to bring in a series of collective amendments?

[5]The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I said yesterday that the Minister had made some proposals about a new arts Bill. The Deputy should table a parliamentary question to the Minister about that matter. It is not on the current list of legislation. The Broadcasting Bill is before the select committee at present and there are not any other proposals at this stage.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Are the heads of the legislation agreed by the Cabinet and which inform the text of the Broadcasting Bill the same as those which will now proceed?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Bill is before the select committee at present. There is not any other proposal at this stage.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  The text of the Bill is not in accordance with the decision announced by the Government.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot discuss the text of the Bill now.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  The Minister of State, Deputy Jacob, promised the House that he would have an urgent meeting with officials from the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland when they returned from Sellafield yesterday evening in relation to what they found in terms of the safety of the plant.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is not a matter for the Order of Business.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  Does the Minister of State intend to make a statement to the House on that matter which is urgent?

The Children Bill received its Second Reading in the House this week three years ago, although I do not expect any celebrations to mark the anniversary. Will the Taoiseach outline the position with regard to the other Children Bill which was introduced in September 1999? This Bill has been hanging around for 30 years. When will those necessary reforms be introduced?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Deputy's first matter should be dealt with by way of a parliamentary question or as a matter on the Adjournment. I presume the Deputy is referring to the Children Bill, 1999. This will be debated in the House in a fortnight.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  Will there be any fireworks displays?

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Is the Taoiseach aware that 13 environmentalists are incarcerated in Mountjoy Prison and have been denied free legal aid?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is not a matter for the Order of Business.

[6]Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Can we expect more of this justice in the new Criminal Justice Bill?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is not in order. That is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  I am asking about promised legislation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  In that case, will you ask about promised legislation?

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  I am asking about the new Criminal Justice Bill. Will the right to silence be denied to tax evaders and other criminals or are there different laws for some?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The content of legislation is not appropriate to the Order of Business. The Deputy should resume his seat. He is being disorderly.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Will the Taoiseach intervene to ensure—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I will not continue to call on the Deputy to resume his seat.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Will the Taoiseach respond?

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

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Excuse me, I am asking—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Will the Deputy resume his seat? The Deputy was disorderly and I told him he was being disorderly. If the Deputy thinks he can disrupt the Order of Business, I will ask him to leave the House.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  I do not wish to disrupt the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is disrupting the Order of Business and should resume his seat.

Mr. Finucane: Information on Michael Finucane  Zoom on Michael Finucane  It is related to the Taoiseach's knowledge of trees.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should resume his seat or leave the House.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  When can we expect the Criminal Justice Bill to be published?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The heads of the latest Criminal Justice Bill are in preparation.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Last year a difficulty arose during Committee Stage of the Finance Bill because of an order of the House. It was not possible to press Opposition amendments at the committee and the order had to be amended in the House. Will the Taoiseach give a commitment that the procedure ultimately used last year will also apply during Committee Stage of this year's Finance [7] Bill, that Opposition amendments may be put and the committee may divide on them in the traditional way and that the order of the House will reflect that position?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Whips will need to discuss the matter. Rules are set down regarding the ordering of amendments on Committee Stage of the Finance Bill. They have been the same for a number of years and I do not know what technical difficulties the select committee encountered last year.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  They were changed last year and they had to be changed back.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  In that case, there should be a discussion on them.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Is it still the Government's intention to enact the Bill relating to minimum pay before 1 April?

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

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): Will specific legislation be prepared and introduced in the House to compel RTE to sell off its transmission network? Is RTE the next public asset to fall in front of the Government's privatisation axe? If so, when will the legislation be brought forward?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The only legislation in this area at present is before the select committee.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): Is there no truth in the story in today's Irish Independent that a significant section of RTE's transmission network is to be privatised? Will the Taoiseach confirm that the Government is not discussing such a move?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot discuss the matter.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  More propaganda.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): The Taoiseach should answer.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Perhaps the Deputy should put down a parliamentary question.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Jim Higgins  Zoom on Jim Higgins  (Mayo): The Irish Independent seems to have the inside track in relation to what is happening in Government. Another article in the Irish Independent by the security correspondent, Tom Brady, states that work has begun on legislation to deal with white collar crime. Does this mean work has begun on the heads of a Bill?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot discuss what it means.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  What is the legislation?

[8]Mr. Higgins: Information on Jim Higgins  Zoom on Jim Higgins  (Mayo): Does it mean work has begun on the heads or the text of the Bill? When can we expect it to be published?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I presume the article refers to the Criminal Justice (Fraud Offences) Bill which will amend and update the law on fraud offences with reference to recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission and the Government advisory committee on fraud and which is due this session.

Mr. Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  In light of a number of recent school bus accidents and the fact that 50% of drivers do not wear seat belts, when will the Road Traffic Bill be introduced? Will it include measures regarding seat belts on school buses?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  What the Bill will include is not proper to the Order of Business.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  A Road Traffic Bill is due to be introduced later this year.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Is the Taoiseach aware that in February last year he promised that the Local Government Reform Bill would be introduced in June? However, in June, he promised it would be introduced in the autumn and before Christmas he promised it would be introduced after Christmas. It has not yet appeared. When will the Local Government Reform Bill eventually appear?

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

Mr. Finucane: Information on Michael Finucane  Zoom on Michael Finucane  The team is working on it.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Has the Ceann Comhairle's attention been drawn to remarks I made to the Leas-Ceann Comhairle on the Order of Business yesterday in relation to the interpretation of precedence and the restrictive effect it is having on debate?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That matter cannot be discussed on the Order of Business.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Has the Ceann Comhairle's attention been drawn to it?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The whole question of whether there should be changes to Standing Orders is now before the sub-committee on Dáil reform.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  It was not the whole idea of the Government Whip either.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Can we have an indication as to when that committee might complete its deliberations?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  It is to report back within six weeks to the full committee.

[9]Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Is legislation planned to facilitate the sale of the transmission system which was previously used for public service broadcasting? I am anxious to be orderly but the Broadcasting Bill, about which I asked a question earlier, does not contain a clause which would allow for the total sale of the transmission system with all its dangers for democracy and public service broadcasting. The Minister made an announcement but has the Government taken a decision and will separate legislation be introduced to facilitate this final sell-off of what is a basic pillar of democracy?

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  Another £30,000.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should not embellish the question.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Government has not made any such decisions and there is no such proposal before the Government at this stage.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Can the Taoiseach confirm that the people advising on the value of the system are not in a conflicting position through participation in any of the offers being made for it?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot discuss the matter.

Mr. Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  The Údarás elections were held last December and the Government has only appointed one of its three nominees. When will the Taoiseach make the further two appointments? Who will win this row, the Progressive Democrats or the de Valera wing of the party?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should put down a parliamentary question.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Neither of them belongs in the current set-up. They have been ethnically cleansed.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Will the Taoiseach indicate what his response will be to the request to intervene in the IFSC and certain matters being inquired into by the Revenue?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  It is not really a matter for the Order of Business.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I think the Taoiseach indicated that—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There are questions down to the Minister for Finance today.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  But he will not answer that.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  The Taoiseach indicated he wanted to reply.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Does the Taoiseach wish to comment?

[10]The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I have received representations and I understand there are meetings between the financial services association and the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners scheduled for this week.


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