Thursday, 16 May 1991
Seanad Éireann Debate
Mr. Fallon: It is proposed to take (a) items 2 and 3 on the Order Paper and, (b) subject to the Local Government Bill, 1991, being received from the Dáil — (i) motions regarding arrangements for the taking of business for the remainder of this week, and (ii) the Local Government Bill, 1991, itself. It is also proposed that the sitting be suspended from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.; that item 3 be taken at 2 p.m. and that the motions regarding the taking of business and the Local Government Bill, 1991, be taken at 6 p.m. if the Bill is received from the Dáil.
Mrs. Doyle: That is an amazing Order of Business. If it did not deal with the Local Government Bill — perhaps one of the most important pieces of legislation awaited in this House — we would nearly let it go, given the obvious difficulties being experienced by the Leader of the House. What I have heard effectively is, if I understand the Leader of the House correctly — and please correct me if I am wrong — that if they are finished with the Local Government Bill in the Dáil, if nothing more comes out of reform, or if there are no changes on Report Stage, it will be here at 6 p.m. If there are changes, it will not, or it might be, or it may be  here later, or it might be here tomorrow. I really think the Leader of the House deserves to tease out the situation a little more fully. As I understand it, even if we have the Bill at 6 p.m. it must be through all Stages by tomorrow evening, because the President must have it, we are told, by the weekend, if that is correct.
Assuming we get the Bill today I would like an explanation why this House is being treated purely as a rubber stamp and as a nuisance to the Government. Really, we are getting in their way of proceeding with their business. That is a great discredit to the Government and to this House. The Leader owes it to this House, to the dignity of this House and to the constitutional reason why this House was formed, to explain why we are being treated in this way on this important legislation. I can assure you, a Chathaoirligh, and the Leader, those on the other side of the House that we, on this side, will not tolerate any bully-boy tactics. We will not let any Bill — particularly a Bill of the status of the Local Government Bill — be jackbooted through this House, be it this evening, tomorrow or next week. I await a full and detailed explanation from the Leader of the House as to exactly what will happen with the Local Government Bill in regard to its passage through this House, so that we may tease out in detail, as we are charged to do as Members of this House, the contents of the Bill.
I would also ask the Leader of the House when we will be having the pleasure of the company of the Minister for Agriculture and Food to put on the record of this House the allegations made in the TV programme on Monday night, as I requested yesterday. As I felt I received a reasonably positive response from the Leader of the House I look forward to finding out today when we will have time for the Seanad to deliberate on this issue affecting a most important industry in our country.
Mr. O'Toole: We are being reduced to the ranks of a Chamber-in-Waiting on the basis of the Leader's proposals for  today's Order of Business. This is unprecedented. We will be determining the business on the basis of what might finish at a particular hour, or whatever hour, in the other House today. It brings the operation of this House into disrepute. It is an unacceptable way to do business. It reminds me of the way in which the Central Bank Bill and other Bills have been rushed through on previous occasions. This Bill may not come to this House today because of the way it is being dealt with. It is being presented as a most serious legislation by all parties on all sides. People may have reservations about certain aspects of it. Without a shadow of a doubt those of us who are neutral on this issue cannot accept that this is the way to do justice to what is being heralded and proposed as a most serious piece of legislation. It is unacceptable.
Dr. Upton: It looks as if 6 p.m. is a very dangerous hour in Irish political life. We are facing the guillotine at 6 p.m. this evening. The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy O'Kennedy, did his somersault yesterday evening at 6 p.m. The Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, fired Deputy Lenihan at around 6 p.m. earlier this year. It is a pity that this legislation is going to be handled in this manner. It is hotch-potch; it is instant legislation, and it is no way to do business.
Mr. McKenna: May I ask the Leader of the House if he has any information in relation to the publication of the Payment of Wages Bill by the Department of Labour, and if he has any information could he inform the House if that Bill will be initiated in this House?
Mr. Staunton: I join with my colleague, Senator Doyle, in asking the Leader of the House to reconsider his proposal. I found it extremely difficult to understand what he was proposing to do. Perhaps he might repeat it for our benefit. Is Senator Doyle's interpretation of what  the Leader is purported to have said correct? If it is correct, I join with her completely. I would like the Leader of the House, on a point of order, to clarify that position. If she is correct and if Senator Upton is correct, I agree with them that it is terribly inadequate parliamentary behaviour. We had this previously concerning the Broadcasting Bill which was rushed into the Seanad, in which we had compelling reasons to seek amendments to a Bill which could not be agreed by the Government because of the urgency that weekend of the President signing the legislation. It is treating this Assembly like a rubber stamp. It is demeaning our status. On a point of order, I would like the Leader of the House to clarify if the interpretation of Senator Doyle is the correct interpretation. I would suggest that if she is correct we should review this Order of Business as it is highly unsatisfactory.
Mr. B. Ryan: I will have spent ten years in this House in about three months' time. I have never in that period heard such an extraordinary proposal for the Order of Business. It gives me particular pain to say it because the present Leader of the House has made a considerable effort to improve the operations of this House to the satisfaction of all of us. I say this more, in the words of the cliché, in sorrow than in anger, because I know it is probably not his fault. It is being foisted on him.
The first thing one can say is that if a Government treat the second House of the Oireachtas with the sort of contempt we are now being treated with, how could they possibly take the devolution of power to other levels of government around the country the least bit seriously? All the reservations that have been expressed about this legislation, and the way it will be abused by Government, are quite clearly epitomised in the way the Government are abusing this House.
Let me say, too, that I would have expected, from you, Sir, given the sensitivities that were displayed here yesterday for propriety and for ordering of business in accordance with the highest  standards your defence of this House when we are being abused by the Government and by the Leader in this fashion.
An Cathaoirleach: My function rests in another area. I had enough unacceptable remarks from you yesterday. Regardless of what your judgments are, I want to tell you here and now that it is not my function to order business in this House. If you do not know that after ten years, then I cannot help you.
Mr. Norris: May I also express concern at the way in which this House is being treated? It is all of a piece with the Government's attitude, who seem to be bothered by the existence of this House and merely want to use it as a rubber stamp? I would also say that although, you may well be correct in your ruling in terms of the rules of this House, in terms of logic there is a defect in what the Leader has proposed which would be excluded by the operation of the term known as Occam's razor which forbids, in logic, the hypothetical use of the nonexistent. The Bill does not exist until it is passed by the Dáil. Therefore, its proposed discussion in this House is complete and utter nonsense.
Mr. Norris: That is precisely the thought the learned philospher, Mr. Occam, addressed. It is one which appears to be lost on the Leader of the House. Could I ask, with regard to current issues, whether it is true that there is a proposal to exclude journalists from the Dáil bar and if this is the case——
Mr. Cosgrave: On the Order of Business, I hope the Leader of the House can clarify the position in regard to what Senator Doyle, Senator O'Toole and others have said in relation to the either/or Order of Business and the two Orders of Business apparently touted by the Leader. In relation to the Bill arriving at 6 p.m., we can at least see a certain situation there. If it does not arrive here at 6 p.m., what arrangements will be made? Could I ask the Leader to inform Senators as to the time it might arrive at? Could I ask the Leader of the House, in that scenario, to say what is going to happen?
Mr. Fallon: What I said on the Order of Business was that I was ordering items Nos. 2 and 3 on the Order Paper, and, subject to the Local Government Bill, 1991, being received from the Dáil, motions regarding arrangements for the taking of business for the remainder of this week' that is, the Local Government Bill, 1991, that the sitting today be suspended from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. I said I was ordering that item No. 3 be taken at 2 p.m. and that the motions regarding the taking of business and the Local Government Bill, 1991, be taken at 6 p.m., if the Bill is received from the Dáil.
May I just explain, in reply to a number of queries from Senators Doyle, O'Toole, Staunton, B. Ryan, Norris, Cosgave and Upton, that the Bill is not at present before the House? Therefore, it would be inappropriate to circulate the allocation of time motion at this stage. However, I am advising the House of my intention, which is that Second Stage will conclude by 1 p.m. on Friday, that the remaining Stages and the earlier signature motion will conclude by 8 p.m. tomorrow night, that the sitting will be suspended from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, 17 May, and that matters under Standing Orders 28 and 29 may not be raised on that day. A number of Senators have raised the question of precedent, and so on. There is precendent for allocation of time motions on what will be, in effect, a supplementary Order Paper. There is precedent for Bills coming from the Dáil to the Seanad on the same day.
Mr. Fallon: A supplementary Order Paper will be issued this evening. That is the situation. I have explained it as well as I can. A lot of time will be given to this Bill. If it is debated for a full day and six hours tonight, that will repesent a  substantial amount fo time give to this Bill.
Mrs. Doyle: On a point of order, we now know what will probably happen tomorrow, but I would like to know when the Local Government Bill, is likely to be circulated and how Senators, once we have a sos at 4 p.m., are to know that at some stage this evening we may be called back in to commence Second Stage of the Bill? The logistics are lost on me still.
Mr. Fallon: If it is not passed by the Dáil, we are in a different ballgame, obviously. We must then consider many factors. Obviously, if it is not passed by the Dáil tonight those arrangements do not apply. The intention is that we start discussion on Second Stage at 6 p.m. this evening. That is the intention assuming the Bill comes from the Dáil this evening.
Mr. Fallon: That is a different situation. My apologies to Senator Doyle. She asked about the debate on the beef industry and yesterday I was very willing to have a debate on the meat industry. The Minister announced last night that he is going to set up a judicial public, inquiry. I would, therefore, see this as being very important. I see very little merit in us having a debate. It would be most inappropriate if we debated the matter. Therefore, I have decided that we should not have a debate.
Senator McKenna referred to the Payment of Wages Bill. The position on that Bill was mentioned previously by Senators. The intention is that this Bill will be published on Monday. The Bill is coming to this House for discussion on Wednesday next. I am very pleased with  this. I do not accept the rubber stamping suggestion by the Senators on the other side of the House. The Environmental Protection Bill is a clear example of what we have done. There is no intention on the part of the Government that this should be the case.
Mr. Fallon: Of course, it started in this  House. I do not wish to sound political, but the way forward on local government reform should be that all parties get together and join in the preparation of the Bill. Regrettably — and I do not wish to be political — your party, for whatever reasons, did not see fit to do that. That was a pity. It was a chance lost, and I regret it.
Haughey, Seán F.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Donovan, Denis A.
Ryan, Eoin David.
Hourigan, Richard V.
|Ó Foighil, Pól.
Ross, Shane P.N.
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