Order of Business.

Wednesday, 5 March 2003

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 562 No. 5

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The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 18, Finance Bill 2003 – Report and Final Stages (resumed); No. 7, Motor Vehicle (Duties and Licences) Bill 2003 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; No. 1, Immigration Bill 2002 [Seanad] – Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing [1141] Orders, that the proceedings on the resumed Report and Final Stages of No. 18, shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1.30 p.m. 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 Finance; the Second Stage of No. 7 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. Private Members' Business shall be No. 34, motion re nursing home care and respite and residential care (resumed – to conclude at 8.30 p.m.).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with item No. 18 agreed to?

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I object to this proposal. There are 80 amendments left to be considered in the time allocated and it will be virtually impossible to do this. One of these amendments deals with the recommendation by the Ombudsman for repayments from the Revenue Commissioners to certain taxpayers, including widows. The Ombudsman went so far as to give a special report to Dáil Éireann that the authority of his office was being seriously undermined by the attitude of the Revenue Commissioners. This amendment will not be reached in the allocated time. We must object strongly to this contemptuous treatment of very serious issues.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I move amendment No. 1 to the Order of Business:

In No. 18, to delete “1.30 p.m.” and substitute “7 p.m.”.

On 20 February the Tánaiste took the Order of Business and I raised the question of the emergence of completely new amendments on Report Stage of the Finance Bill. She told me she would raise it with the Minister for Finance and that she hoped the Minister would revert to me. He did not, which will not come as a surprise to anybody on the Front Bench of the Government side.

Amendment No. 26 is a completely new amendment, the purpose of which is to give extensive capital allowances to an unnamed private health facility. This is in keeping with a number of projects in the private health area over the past five years that have been conferred with the benefit of significant capital allowances. The beneficiaries in all cases were very specific. I do not know, nor has the House been told, who is the beneficiary in this case. It seems to be a day care clinic. It is entirely wrong, based on what the Tánaiste told me on 20 February, that for the first time such an amendment can be introduced on Report Stage. We do not even know when it will be reached – there is no guarantee it will be reached at all.

Since 1998 extensive changes have been made to the Finance Acts, extending the provision in [1142] question to private nursing homes in that year and to convalescent homes the year after that. The year after that charitable trusts were permitted this facility and in 2002 they were excised. Now private facilities are being assisted in this way, yet the Minister will not say who is the beneficiary, only that it was a ministerial initiative. It may be perfectly creditable, I do not know. However, this is no way to enact finance legislation.

I ask the Tánaiste to agree to an amendment to the Standing Orders that would delete “1.30 p.m.” and substitute “7 p.m.” and provide that, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, amendment No. 26 be recommitted to the Select Committee on Finance and the Public Service, which shall complete its deliberations not later than whatever time the Tánaiste wishes. The intention is that the select committee meet in this Chamber, recommit the amendment to Committee Stage and allow it to be discussed. It is completely unacceptable that we do business in this fashion on such an important matter, the major financial instrument of the year.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  It must be clear to the Tánaiste that there is considerable interest in the Finance Bill, with 93 amendments, only 11 of which have been dealt with so far. Deputy Rabbitte referred to a more profound issue, the question of why the Minister for Finance was so keen to take into account the views of bodies outside this House although he has not accepted any amendments from the Opposition. It is strange that in this Parliament the Opposition seems to have so little influence on the Minister, yet those outside the House seem to have so much.

I ask the Tánaiste to take into account the strong case that has been made for many of the amendments. The Minister for Finance would have more time to reflect on them if we could have more time to discuss the Bill. He should reflect on areas such as biofuel, on which we have a much higher excise duty compared to other countries. We are essentially becoming uncompetitive due to the short-sightedness of our Minister for Finance. He is also denying farmers opportunities for alternative enterprise as well as the chance of cutting down on CO2 emissions. It is strange, when there is such an advantage in responding to some of the Opposition's amendments, that the Minister turns his face against all of them and instead takes the word of outside bodies that are not elected to this House.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  I object strongly to the proposed guillotining of the Finance Bill. What time will there be at the conclusion of the Order of Business to address the body of amendments still before us? We had a longer period of time for discussion yesterday, yet amendments Nos. 12 and 13 have not yet been dealt with. What point will we have reached by the time the debate is finished today? On Report Stage, dealing with this Bill it is absolutely unacceptable that key and [1143] critical areas will not be addressed, including the removal of the roll-over relief on capital gains tax for farmers facing CPOs and those within the small business sector seeking to upgrade and relocate as well as the levies on the banks and financial institutions. There are many important issues which will not be addressed and the Minister and the Cabinet are showing their disregard for the views of other Deputies. On Committee Stage, the Minister refused to take a solitary Opposition amendment, despite the sustainability of each argument presented and obstinately rejected them out of hand. The same attitude is demonstrated here and it is not acceptable. We need more time if we are to do justice to this important Bill.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is always desirable to have more time. Since I came to the House, Members have sought more time, but time is limited and it is impossible to give more time to the Finance Bill 2003, because of statutory deadlines governing its completion.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  What is the time limit?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The limit is 80 days after the budget, which was on 2 December, 2002.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Are we close to that date?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Motor Vehicle (Duties and Licences) Bill 2003 also has to pass Second Stage by tomorrow for similar reasons. When Deputy Rabbitte raised the case of amendment No. 26, my impression was that he was saying it was being introduced for one particular case and individual.

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  We do not know that.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Deputies know that because if they read the amendment, they will see that it is capital allowances—

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  We just received it at lunch time yesterday.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I am not a lawyer, but it is clear from the amendment that it is not specific to one case.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  It certainly is.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputies should allow the Tánaiste to speak without interruption.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I will not go into detail because it is inappropriate to do so, but in recent years, the Government has sought, through capital allowances, to bring on stream additional pieces of infrastructure in the health area. It has been successful in the area of nursing and convalescence homes—

[1144]Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  That applies to private health care and it has not been successful.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Tánaiste without interruption.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Thanks to the hospital treatment fund, these facilities are being used for public patients too.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I ask the Tánaiste the address her remarks through the Chair, rather than invite interruption. Deputy Richard Bruton on a point of order.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  The Tánaiste indicated that we could not pass the Bill if 80 days had passed but, according to my arithmetic, it appears 80 days have already passed. Are we therefore not entitled to proceed?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  We are only looking for a few hours.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Perhaps when the Minister has a chance to come in, we can move on to the debate. The concern—

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Is it not just the amendment, but the time—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Tánaiste without interruption. I appeal to the Tánaiste to address her remarks through the Chair.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Rather than there being anything sinister in this amendment, it is being proposed for genuine reasons to bring more infrastructure on board in the health area. These facilities are being used by the public sector too, thanks to the hospital treatment fund.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is Deputy Rabbitte pressing his amendment?

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Yes. On a point of order, may I draw the Chair's attention to Standing Order No. 130? It states that, on Fourth Stage, no new section or other amendment may be proposed which creates a charge on the public revenue or upon the people but the Bill may be recommitted in respect of any such section or amendment.

Mr. McCreevy: Information on Charlie McCreevy  Zoom on Charlie McCreevy  This amendment was notified on Committee Stage.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  It was notified but not entered.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  It was not entered.

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  On a point of information, on Committee Stage the Minister made numerous references to tabling an amendment. He did not say what it was. I only received it—

[1145]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That issue can be raised on the Bill itself. At this stage we are merely discussing—

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  On a point of order, we are not within the 80 days the Tánaiste said was required. If we are not—

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  That is on Second Stage.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  We are well past Second Stage. What deadline applies to Report Stage? We are seeking an extension for time on Report Stage and the Tánaiste is imposing an 80 day rule which is irrelevant to giving extra time to the issue. We want extra time to debate these amendments.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It applies to the next Bill.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  The Tánaiste can order time next week—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We cannot have a debate on that at this stage. I call Deputy Rabbitte.

(Interruptions).

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  It is up to the Ceann Comhairle to rule whether we can—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Chair has ruled. Sorry Deputies, we cannot have a discussion on this matter at this stage. The Chair is ruling that what we are discussing at this moment is the proposal for dealing with No. 18, conclusion of Report and Final Stages of the Finance Bill 2003. We are not discussing the content of Report Stage or anything else. Deputy Rabbitte has an amendment and I call on him now.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  The reason the Tánaiste is saying we cannot have more time is one on which I seek a ruling from the Chair.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Rabbitte has an amendment.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  It seems that if Deputy Bruton is correct, and he is one Deputy in the House who can count, that the entire Bill is invalid, but I will allow him to return to that.

Perhaps if the buffoonery from the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism would stop, we could dispose of this matter.

Mr. O'Donoghue: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  There is only one here.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  This is not a question of the amendment being notified on Committee Stage. Standing Order No. 130 is clear that no new section or amendment may be proposed. This is the first time that this is being proposed and I ask the Chair to rule on it.

[1146]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  On the information that the Chair has, it arose on Committee Stage.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  On the matter that Deputy Rabbitte raised, the Ceann Comhairle has written to me stating: “I regret to inform you that an amendment tabled by you on the Report Stage of the above Bill must be adjudged out of order as it involves a potential charge on the people”. This highlights what Deputy Rabbitte said. It creates further difficulties for Opposition Deputies. A ruling has been made by the Ceann Comhairle's office on the inadmissibility of the amendment I tabled, yet the Minister can proceed without objection or restraint. That is unacceptable, because it shows two approaches to dealing with the matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The information that Chair has in regard to the Minister's amendment is that it arose on Committee Stage.

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  No. It did not.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We cannot have a discussion on it now, Deputy Bruton. The Chair has ruled. Deputy Bruton on a point of order.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  The Tánaiste has said the reason we must have a guillotine on this debate is that there is a time restriction applying to our debate on the Report Stage of the Finance Bill 2003. I want a ruling from the Chair as to whether there is such a time restriction or whether we can provide more time, either tomorrow or next week, so there can be a full debate. We are seeing great effort by the Government to prevent open debate on issues of public importance.

Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy): Information on Charlie McCreevy  Zoom on Charlie McCreevy  The arrangements for taking Report Stage of the Finance Bill 2003 were agreed in consultation with Deputies Bruton and Burton.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  There was no suggestion that there would be a guillotine on Report Stage as has been imposed today by the Government.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I have the amendment before me and I will put it to the House shortly. The House will decide.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Burton must allow the Tánaiste to speak without interruption.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Some two and half hours will be the sum total of debate on Report Stage which I suggest is unprecedented.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I mentioned earlier that the Motor Vehicles (Duties and Licences) Bill 2003, [1147] which we are taking today must be past Second Stage by tomorrow and all Stages by 11 April.

Mr. Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  We will take that today.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  That also implements a financial resolution of the budget. The Finance Bill has to be passed here and sent to the Seanad. As the Minister for Finance said, he agreed the time scale with the Opposition.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  There was no such agreement that there would be a three hour guillotine on Report Stage.

Mr. McCreevy: Information on Charlie McCreevy  Zoom on Charlie McCreevy  There was.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Rabbitte's amendment changing the time to 7 p.m. is in order. We are putting the amendment in the name of Deputy Rabbitte.

Question put, “That the figure proposed to be deleted stand.”

The Dáil divided by electronic means.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  A Cheann Chomhairle, in accordance with Standing Orders and in protest at what the Labour Party regards as your partisan ruling in this matter, we call for a physical vote.

[1148]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy will have to withdraw the—

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  On behalf of the Labour Party, I withdraw it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy, I must ask you to withdraw the reflection on the impartiality of the Chair.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  On behalf of the Labour Party, I withdraw the reflection on the Chair.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  On your own behalf, Deputy, not on behalf of the Labour Party.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  I was speaking on behalf of the Labour Party.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy, on your own behalf, you must withdraw the allegations against the Chair.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  I will.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  As the request has come from a teller who was nominated for that division, I request the Clerk to ring the division bells.

Question: “That the figure proposed to be deleted stand.” again put.

Ahern, Michael.
Andrews, Barry.
Ardagh, Seán.
Aylward, Liam.
Blaney, Niall.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Brennan, Seamus.
Browne, John.
Callanan, Joe.
Callely, Ivor.
Carty, John.
Cassidy, Donie.
Collins, Michael.
Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
Cowen, Brian.
Cregan, John.
Cullen, Martin.
Curran, John.
de Valera, Síle.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dempsey, Tony.
Dennehy, John.
Devins, Jimmy.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Finneran, Michael.
Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
Fleming, Seán.
Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
Glennon, Jim.
Grealish, Noel.
Hanafin, Mary.
Harney, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Healy-Rae, Jackie.
Hoctor, Máire.
Keaveney, Cecilia.
Kelleher, Billy.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Seamus.
Kitt, Tom.
Lenihan, Brian.
Lenihan, Conor.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McDaid, James.
McEllistrim, Thomas.
Martin, Micheál.
Moloney, John.
Moynihan, Donal.
Moynihan, Michael.
Mulcahy, Michael.
Nolan, M. J.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
O'Connor, Charlie.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Donovan, Denis.
O'Flynn, Noel.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Malley, Fiona.
O'Malley, Tim.
Parlon, Tom.
Power, Seán.
Roche, Dick.
Ryan, Eoin.
Sexton, Mae.
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Treacy, Noel. Wallace, Dan.[1149]

Wallace, Mary.
Walsh, Joe.
[1150]Wilkinson, Ollie.
Woods, Michael.

Allen, Bernard.
Boyle, Dan.
Breen, James.
Breen, Pat.
Broughan, Thomas P.
Bruton, Richard.
Burton, Joan.
Connaughton, Paul.
Connolly, Paudge.
Costello, Joe.
Coveney, Simon.
Crawford, Seymour.
Crowe, Seán.
Cuffe, Ciarán.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
Durkan, Bernard J.
English, Damien.
Enright, Olwyn.
Gilmore, Eamon.
Gogarty, Paul.
Gormley, John.
Gregory, Tony.
Harkin, Marian.
Healy, Seamus.
Higgins, Joe.
Higgins, Michael D.
Hogan, Phil.
Howlin, Brendan.
Kehoe, Paul.
Kenny, Enda.
Lynch, Kathleen.
McCormack, Padraic.
McGinley, Dinny.
McGrath, Finian.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Morgan, Arthur.
Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
Murphy, Gerard.
Naughten, Denis.
Neville, Dan.
Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
O'Dowd, Fergus.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
Pattison, Seamus.
Penrose, Willie.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Ring, Michael.
Ryan, Seán.
Sargent, Trevor.
Sherlock, Joe.
Shortall, Róisín.
Stagg, Emmet.
Stanton, David.
Timmins, Billy.

Question declared carried.

Question, “That the proposal for dealing with item 18 be agreed to”, put and declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is proposal No. 2 for dealing with item 7, conclusion of Second Stage of the Motor Vehicle (Duties and Licences) Bill 2003, agreed to?

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I have to object to this proposal on the same basis, that there is insufficient time to debate the measure. This Bill represents a tax by stealth and this side of the House objects to the amount of time being allocated for discussing it today.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I agree entirely with the leader of Fine Gael. This Bill is another stealth tax and an inadequate amount of time is being provided to debate it. Contrary to what the Tánaiste has told the House, I happen to know that on 24 February there was a meeting between the Department of Finance and the promoters of the project we have just dealt with, at the request of the Minister for Finance. It may be perfectly in order but the Minister should have told the House and the committee the detail relating to it.

Mr. McCreevy: Information on Charlie McCreevy  Zoom on Charlie McCreevy  There is the report of the committee. I said I would introduce an amendment on Report Stage regarding the capital allowance regime for private hospitals. Deputy Boyle asked what did I intend to do in response to which I said that I intend to extend the regime and introduce some changes to the conditions.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I have read that. The point is that the Minister met the promoters of this project in his Department on 24 February.

Mr. McCreevy: Information on Charlie McCreevy  Zoom on Charlie McCreevy  As a matter of interest, I did not.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  No, the Minister did not, his officials met them at his request.

Mr. McCreevy: Information on Charlie McCreevy  Zoom on Charlie McCreevy  I agreed to take this report last November.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I would prefer if the Minister did not intervene because we have moved on from that item. We are now dealing with the proposal for dealing with the conclusion of item No. 7, Second Stage of the Motor Vehicle (Duties and Licences) Bill 2003.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  What is the secrecy about it?

Mr. McCreevy: Information on Charlie McCreevy  Zoom on Charlie McCreevy  There is no secrecy.

[1151]

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Who are the promoters?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  If Deputy Rabbitte addressed his remarks through the Chair, he might not invite interruption from the Minister.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Through the Chair—

(Interruptions).

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  The Minister should stand up when he speaks.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I ask the Minister to allow Deputy Rabbitte to continue without interruption.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The Minister will not find—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I remind Deputy Quinn that only Deputy Rabbitte is entitled to speak at this point.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  If there is no secrecy surrounding who are the promoters in this case, the Minister could have told us all about it, but he has not told us. I have told him about the meeting in his Department on 24 February arranged by his officials with the promoters at his request. When we move on to Report Stage of the Finance Bill, we will move to recommit it to Committee Stage so that the Minister can put on record what exactly is involved in this respect. There is no point in the Tánaiste misleading the House by saying that this was for general application. Once an amendment is passed, it will have general application, but this was brought forward for one particular promoter.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  I also wish to object to the proposal for dealing with the Motor Vehicle [1152] (Duties and Licences) Bill 2003. Once again the Government is proposing to guillotine the debate on this important Bill which arises out of measures announced by the Minister in the budget prior to Christmas. This is unacceptable in the same way as is the manner in which Government is addressing the issue of the Finance Bill.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  On item 7, we have heard about the limitations on time for dealing with the Finance Bill. Having come back after a 35 day break at Christmas, three weeks after the British House of Commons, I hope the Tánaiste will agree that if there are to be time limitations on dealing with legislation, we should put the appropriate time into parliamentary work and try to comply more with the standards in that regard that apply in Parliaments internationally. The Motor Vehicle (Duties and Licences) Bill brings to mind again the anomaly in that regard here in comparison to the position in other countries where a lower excise regime in relation to biofuels is pursued.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We cannot discuss the content of the legislation at this point.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  I agree with the Ceann Comhairle that we cannot do so, but this point has been missed by the Government and advantage needs to be taken of any opportunity that presents itself to raise it.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Deputies are free to oppose the legislation, but I do not believe that opposing the taking of it is desirable. This matter has already been introduced and it needs statutory backing.

Question put: “That the proposal for dealing with item No. 7 be agreed to.”

Ahern, Michael.
Andrews, Barry.
Ardagh, Seán.
Aylward, Liam.
Blaney, Niall.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Browne, John.
Callanan, Joe.
Callely, Ivor.
Carty, John.
Cassidy, Donie.
Collins, Michael.
Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
Cregan, John.
Cullen, Martin.
Curran, John.
de Valera, Síle.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dempsey, Tony.
Dennehy, John.
Devins, Jimmy.
Ellis, John.
Finneran, Michael.
Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
Fleming, Seán.
Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
Glennon, Jim.
Grealish, Noel.
Hanafin, Mary.
Harney, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Healy-Rae, Jackie.
Hoctor, Máire.
Keaveney, Cecilia.
Kelleher, Billy.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Seamus.
Kitt, Tom.
Lenihan, Brian.
Lenihan, Conor.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McDaid, James.
McDowell, Michael.
McEllistrim, Thomas.
Martin, Micheál.
Moloney, John.
Moynihan, Donal.
Moynihan, Michael. Mulcahy, Michael.[1153]

Nolan, M. J.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
O'Connor, Charlie.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Donovan, Denis.
O'Flynn, Noel.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Malley, Fiona.
O'Malley, Tim.
Parlon, Tom.
[1154]Power, Seán.
Roche, Dick.
Ryan, Eoin.
Sexton, Mae.
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Treacy, Noel.
Wallace, Dan.
Wallace, Mary.
Walsh, Joe.
Wilkinson, Ollie.
Woods, Michael.
Wright, G. V.

Allen, Bernard.
Boyle, Dan.
Breen, James.
Broughan, Thomas P.
Bruton, Richard.
Burton, Joan.
Connaughton, Paul.
Connolly, Paudge.
Costello, Joe.
Coveney, Simon.
Crawford, Seymour.
Crowe, Seán.
Deasy, John.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Enright, Olwyn.
Ferris, Martin.
Gilmore, Eamon.
Gormley, John.
Harkin, Marian.
Hayes, Tom.
Healy, Seamus.
Higgins, Joe.
Higgins, Michael D.
Hogan, Phil.
Howlin, Brendan.
Kehoe, Paul.
Kenny, Enda.
Lynch, Kathleen.
McCormack, Padraic.
McGinley, Dinny.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Olivia.
Morgan, Arthur.
Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
Naughten, Denis.
Neville, Dan.
Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
O'Dowd, Fergus.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
Pattison, Seamus.
Penrose, Willie.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Ring, Michael.
Ryan, Seán.
Sargent, Trevor.
Sherlock, Joe.
Shortall, Róisín.
Stagg, Emmet.
Timmins, Billy.
Upton, Mary.

Question declared carried.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I regret that the matter in the Finance Bill dealing with the Ombudsman's special report to the Dáil about payments from the Revenue Commissioners will not now be reached. Are we going through a complete farce here with the references from Government to a time schedule in respect of the Freedom of Information Act? Last night the Seanad sat until almost 3 a.m. and there were very few Government speakers. One of them, Senator Mansergh, cast serious doubts on what is going on here. What is this schedule that is laid out by Government? Why is there a need for it? In view of all the comments and concerns about this, can the Tánaiste confirm—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We cannot have a debate on the Freedom of Information Act, which is at present before the other House and will be coming to this House, when we can debate it fully.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Will the Government delay this so that a committee of the Dáil can have adequate time to hear from those who are involved?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That may arise when it comes before this House.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Are we going through a charade?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I call Deputy Rabbitte.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  The Tánaiste wants to answer.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  What is the schedule in respect of the Freedom of Information Act as outlined by Government?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Act is currently being discussed in the Seanad. I understand it will discuss the amendments next week. It will then be a matter for the Whips to agree when it will be taken in this House.

[1155]Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Would the Tánaiste be prepared to persuade Government to take on board the Labour Party Bill, the effect of which would be to extend the life of the Freedom of Information Act for 12 months while we are having the kind of genuine public consultation that we ought to have? This would be entirely consistent with Deputy Kenny's request for a committee of the House to hear submissions on the Bill from a number of interested parties. Is it not eminently reasonable to extend the life of the existing Act for 12 months during which the NUJ, the Information Commissioner, Mr. Kevin Murphy, and the civil servants who think these changes are necessary can come before the committee to give evidence? While we are not opposed to the Act being revised we are opposed to it being completely undermined, which is what is happening at the moment. I do not know how the Tánaiste can stand over it, given the matters she held dear in politics.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  So that the Tánaiste will be clear, the Labour Party Bill will have the support of the Sinn Féin team here and I expect it will have the support of a number of Members of the Opposition. I reiterate Deputy Rabbitte's appeal—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  You have made the point and should allow the Tánaiste to reply.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  A Bill is currently being discussed by the Seanad and will then come here. The Government is not prepared to withdraw its legislation in favour of accepting the Labour Party Bill.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Back to the good old days.

Mr. Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  The Tánaiste will be aware there is a growing crisis in the beef industry following the Government decision to withdraw the subsidy for the rendering of meat and bonemeal. I call on the Tánaiste to ask the Minister for Agriculture and Food to reintroduce this subsidy before the difficulty increases. When will the Veterinary Medicines Bill come before the House? She might use the opportunity to outline the position on the withdrawal of—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  You will have to find another way of dealing with the second issue.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  We will see that legislation in the middle of this year.

Ms O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  Yesterday, the Minister for Defence told me the Government had no plans to introduce financial legislation that would provide for a graduate tax. Is there any other legislation planned that might introduce either fees or some kind of loan system for third level education? Perhaps the Tánaiste can give her views on that issue.

[1156]The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  There is no legislation promised in this area. A review is under way and we are awaiting the outcome of that.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Last week the Equality Authority hosted a successful national conference which identified the need for new legislation to make promoting equality a statutory duty in this State in line with the Good Friday Agreement.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Has the Deputy a question on proposed legislation?

Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  It is in line with proposed legislation because it is based on obligations in the Good Friday Agreement. Will either of the promised Equal Status (Amendment) Bill or the Equal Status (Amendment) (Equality Legislation) Bill cover this aspect of the Good Friday Agreement?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We cannot discuss the content of legislation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Neither of them seems to mention this.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I suggest the Deputy submits a parliamentary question to the appropriate Minister.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  If neither of them addresses this there should be new legislation in line with the commitments of the Good Friday Agreement, which is the top priority of the Government.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Before Christmas the Government pushed through, by means of a guillotine, the Planning and Development Bill to deal with social housing. Since then no guidelines have been sent to local authorities regarding the very important matter of social housing. Why has the Minister for the Environment and Local Government not sent the essential guidelines to local authorities so that they can deal with developers in the provision of social housing or the alternatives provided for in the Bill?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  While I do not have any information on secondary legislation, those aspects of the Bill were not fundamentally changed.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  There were major changes that had implications for local authorities. When will the guidelines be available to local authorities so that they can get on with their work of providing social housing?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  There is no difficulty in local authorities providing social housing, as the Deputy is aware, and many schemes are under way.

[1157]

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  They cannot do it if they do not know what guidelines are available to them. May I have an answer?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  If guidelines are forthcoming from the Minister for the Environment and Local Government I do not have any information in relation to them.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  On a point of order, if the Tánaiste does not have the information concerning a legitimate request on secondary legislation, she is required to say she will send the information to the Deputy.

Mr. Smith:  She said that.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  I could not hear her.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Yesterday at the Irish Council for Civil Liberties conference on the establishment of an ombudsman for the Garda, the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform repeated what his senior Minister has said again and again that an inspectorate with powers of an ombudsman would be established to address the difficulties with the present disgraced complaints body. We still have no date for the introduction of this legislation. Does the Tánaiste have any information on this?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The heads of the Bill are expected before Easter and the legislation is due later this year.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  This week sees international women's day. Does the Government have any plans to introduce legislation that would bring about a statutory obligation to have gender balance in appointments to State bodies? Can such appointments be made by a public appointments commission rather than by relevant Government Ministers?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  It would be more appropriate to submit the second question to the Minister for Finance.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  There are no plans to introduce legislation in this area.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Yesterday the Minister, Deputy Ahern, said he would welcome hearings by the Committee on Finance and the Public Service on the Freedom of Information Bill. However, today the Tánaiste appears to be saying she is not willing to change either the timetable or the proposals within that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We have dealt with that issue.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  The committee, which the Minister, Deputy Ahern, said should deal with this issue, is meeting today at 3 o'clock. We need to [1158] have clarity on the order from Government in respect of this Bill.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  It is appropriate to ask whether legislation might be brought forward. The legislation is before another House. It is very unusual for this House to debate legislation which is before the other House.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  A proposal supported by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Dermot Ahern, which is due to come before a committee later today is being undermined by the Tánaiste's comments.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The matter does not arise at this stage.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  The matter is perfectly within the business of the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I suggest the Deputy submits a question on the issue to the Minister.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  When will the Tánaiste—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  There are other ways of dealing with the matter.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  There is a conflict between the Ministers.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I call Deputy Sherlock.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  Last evening—

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  On a point of order, in respect of the issue raised by Deputy Bruton there is a contradiction between an indication—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That is not a point of order.

A Deputy:  We are on the Order of Business.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We want to move on to Report Stage of the Finance Bill.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  On a point of order, I draw attention to the fact that there is a conflict between the statement made yesterday by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and the comments of the Tánaiste today.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That is not a point of order. We are on the Order of Business.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  There is a serious conflict between the information—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I ask the Deputy to resume his seat and allow Deputy Sherlock to speak.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Deputy Richard Bruton is entitled to an answer.

[1159]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Allow Deputy Sherlock to speak.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  A Cheann Comhairle, you are preventing the Deputy from receiving an answer.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Chair must operate according to Standing Orders.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  The Tánaiste also has a right to answer the question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Tánaiste can answer questions which are appropriate to the Order of Business.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I do not wish to be disruptive.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I fully appreciate that.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I want to make my point again.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy is being grossly unfair to Members who wish to debate the Finance Bill. I call Deputy Sherlock.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  The Chair is forcing me to be disruptive.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I will force the Deputy to leave the House if he does not resume his seat.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I want an answer. Once again, I ask that the Tánaiste be allowed to answer the question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy must resume his seat. I call Deputy Sherlock.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Will you allow the Tánaiste to answer?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I ask the Deputy to obey the Chair.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I have raised a matter relevant to the Order of Business.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  It is not relevant to the Order of Business. I ask the Deputy to resume his seat.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  You are forcing me to be out of order.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That is a reflection on the Chair. I ask the Deputy to withdraw the remark.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I have been given no option.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy must withdraw the remark or leave the House.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I will leave the House if I am forced to. The Ceann Comhairle is forcing me to be out of order. A question has been raised by [1160] Deputy Richard Bruton which is relevant to the Order of Business.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I ask the Deputy to leave the House.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I will leave under protest.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Chair has ruled. I call Deputy Sherlock.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Our Whip has made a valid point concerning the ordering of the business of a committee. The Chairman, who is present, will not know where he stands when the committee meets at 3 p.m. The Tánaiste indicated she is not willing to entertain any changes in the schedule or the proposal. We need to know how this matter will be dealt with.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  That is not what she said.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Chair has dealt with the matter and the Tánaiste has answered the question.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  The Tánaiste has indicated she is willing to answer the question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That decision has been made. The Deputy is not entitled to contribute further. Deputy Durkan agreed to leave the House.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  A Cheann Comhairle, you are forcing me to bring about circumstances—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  If the Deputy does not leave, I will move that he be suspended from the House.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  —in which the House becomes unworkable.


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