Wednesday, 23 February 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: 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).
Mr. J. 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?
Mr. J. 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.
Mr. J. 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?
Mr. J. 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.
Mr. J. 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.
Mr. 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  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.
Mr. 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.
Mr. 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?
The Taoiseach: 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. 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.
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: 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.
An Ceann Comhairle: 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. 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  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: 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. 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?
Mr. 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?
Mr. 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?
The Taoiseach: 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: 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?
Mr. J. 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?
Mr. 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?
Mr. M. 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. 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?
The Taoiseach: 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.
|Last Updated: 11/09/2010 04:13:24||Page of 198|