Local Government Bill, 1991: Committee Stage.

Friday, 17 May 1991

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 128 No. 19

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SECTION 1.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  I move amendment No. 1:

In page 5, subsection (1), line 10, after “Government” to insert “(Enabling Provisions)”.

The purpose of this amendment is to clarify the intention and the functions of this Bill. If it is accepted, section 1 (1) would read: “This Act may be cited as the Local Government (Enabling Provision) Act, 1991”. We do not want the public to get the wrong impression, that this Bill is the totality of Government reorganisation in this area. The Minister stated that this is only part of the overall intent which includes financial provisions and a reorganisation of local authority structures which will come about in subsequent legislation so it is, effectively, an enabling provision. Because of the absence, particularly of funding, it is only a framework or a formulation and I should like in this amendment to emphasise that point so that it clarifies, defines and specifies more clearly the intention of this Bill.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Flynn): Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  The words proposed for addition to the Long Title and Short Title are unnecessary. This is a Local Government Bill. There have been well over 20 Local Government Acts and the Long Title “an Act to amend and extend the law relating to local government” describes what this Bill does. I hope the Senator will not press the point because it is not a substantial one. Considerable time has already been spent in the other House dealing with this matter and it was agreed there that it was not a substantial one.

The Bill contains provisions which are not enabling ones and which have effect directly on the Act, the Short Title is meant to be exactly as it is, short; introducing the words “enabling provisions” would be a misnomer. It also begs the question why other descriptions should not be added. This is an enabling Bill and confers certain other matters which would require the Title to be as it is now stated. It is totally adequate, and proper and should be agreed by all.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Does the Minister intend to accept any of these amendments? Are we totally bound by the timescale indicated by the Minister in his speech? Is this a charade? Will the Minister state his overall intention in relation to this Bill?

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  The intention is to discuss the amendments put down by the Senators in any detail they wish but the [2243] first amendment is not substantial. As it is factually incorrect and has no substance, the Minister is not obliged to recommend its acceptance.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  Further to the Minister's reply to Senator Costello, is it a correct interpretation that the Minister will be in a position to accept some of the amendments tabled this afternoon? There would appear to be logistical difficulties about this if the President must sign this Bill into law before 22 May — in other words by this weekend — because any amendments accepted here would mean the Bill going back to the Dáil. Logistically I am not sure how that can fit in. Perhaps the Minister could just expand whether — apart from amendment No. 1 which we are not supporting — the principle of amendments is acceptable to him and whether he is in a position to take amendments from this House?

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  I do not want at this stage to pre-empt the discussion which might take place on any of the amendments, but I will be happy to respond to those which are proposed and supported. It will be a matter for the House to decide whether they should be incorporated into the legislation.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  It is worth pointing out at this stage that a time allocation motion has been agreed to by the House. This means that the Bill must be passed by the House by 8 p.m. this evening. Therefore, we must do our business within that time frame. It is not fair to expect the Minister to answer for something in the House which up to now has been the responsibility of the House.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  We are well aware that the time allocation motion has been agreed to, even though we are reluctant to be bound by it, but what we would like to know is if the Minister is in a position to tell us, in the event of any amendment being accepted, that the Dáil would be reconvened to discuss any amendments [2244] passed here. We should not simply rubber stamp what is before us.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  I do not know why the matter is being pursued in this way. I cannot predict what may happen here this evening and I doubt if the Senator can either. I think we are wasting time discussing the matter at this time. We should press on and discuss the amendment which have been tabled.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  We must get back to the amendment and I invite the Senators to deal with the amendments put down. Any other questions are not relevant on Committee Stage. We must progress and deal with whatever arises.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  We are bound by your ruling but the way this issue is resolved might determine the way this afternoon's proceedings are dealt with. I am anxious that the House is not abused in any way and that our constitutional role is fully respected. I do not think the Minister is in a position to accept any amendment. You rightly spoke about the need not to waste time but most of us in the House could find better things to do this afternoon. We do not want to act as a rubber stamp no matter how good legislation is. We have been charged with the responsibility under the Constitution to tease it out properly. It is a matter of regret that this House has been brought into disrepute through the use of these tactics.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  The House has not been brought into disrepute. The Minister is not responsible for the decision taken by the House yesterday. The House decided to agree to a particular time allocation motion. It is the House which made the decision. Consequently, the House is responsible for its own actions and that decision must now govern the way in which we do our business for the rest of the day. Let me add further that it is a serious breach of Standing Order of the House to engage in further discussion on the time allocation motion which has been decided upon by [2245] the House. That is what we are doing in effect.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  We agree to be bound by the time allocation motion, albeit reluctantly——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  If you accept it and realise what that means——

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  We accept the decision but we did not support it.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  That is the decision of the House.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  We accept that.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  You cannot go back to discuss it again. Neither can you at this time deal with anything other than the Committee Stage. We are dealing with amendment No. 1.

Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  Since the House has decided on the time allocation motion, although we may not like it, I would urge all concerned to get on with Committee Stage debate. We may find, when we come to deal with amendment No. 50, that a further 100 amendments will not be discussed. We are not happy with the Bill but we are caught in a trap.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  Thank you, Senator, for your co-operation. I hope your experience and guidance will have an impact upon other Members.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  It could be a rubber stamp by 8 p.m.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  I do not like that description. The House has decided to deal with the Bill in a certain way. If that means that the House will rubber stamp the legislation, then the House has agreed to so do.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  It has not.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  The House has so agreed.

[2246]Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  But not to rubber stamp it.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  I am telling the Member of the House who has described the House as a rubber stamp that that is not accurate and it is tragic that that Member insists on describing it as such.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  How else can one describe it?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  Because the House yesterday made its decision.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  On the question of time.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  It is the decision on the question of time that is causing the difficulty here.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  No, it is not.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  Yes, it is.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  The problem is that none of the amendments will be accepted.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  I am not going to get involved in any argy-bargy with Members of the House. The position is that we are dealing with the Committee Stage of the Local Government Bill, 1991——

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  This is a farce. Histrionics.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  ——and unless Members are prepared to make contributions on that Bill we will have to move on in another direction.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  I wish to make it clear that I have at no stage questioned the decision of the House on the time——

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  Agreed.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  ——at which the discussion on this legislation will be terminated. I requested the Minister to give an indication of the time the Bill must be passed so that the President can sign it in time for the local elections. I want to [2247] know if we are wasting our time debating amendments which, if accepted, cannot be discussed by the Dáil or does time allow the other House to be recalled——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  I wish to make it clear, lest there be any misunderstanding, for the last time that that question is not relevant. The House is dealing with amendment No. 1 on Committee Stage.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  It is relevant.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  I am going to rule the Senator out of order if he persists.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  It is relevant. Is there any point discussing these amendments if they will not be taken any further?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  I must point out to the Senator that he started out by discussing amendment No. 1 in his name. Does he wish to press that amendment at this stage?

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  May I be of some assistance to the House in this matter? It is not for the Minister to decide if amendments should be taken or passed by the House but rather a matter for the House itself. The House will decide if amendments will succeed or not.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  I do not think anyone on this side of the House is questioning the time allocation motion but it is the responsibility of the Minister to see to it that this legislation passes into law by a certain time. What will happen in the event of the House accepting any of these amendments this afternoon? It is all very well for the Minister to say that it is not his responsibility——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  The Senator is wise enough to know that we will not deal with hypothetical questions here. We will get on with the business of Committee Stage. It will be another ball game if the Bill is amended but for the moment that question does not arise.

[2248]Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  I would venture to suggest that the Minister knows what the numbers are. I have no doubt that he has requested them to ensure that no amendments are accepted here this afternoon.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  The Deputy's remarks are superfluous. I cannot allow further discussion.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  It is quite obvious that they can vote down any amendment. That is the position, we will have nothing but hot air between now and 8 p.m.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  It is an appalling charade.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  Is Senator Costello pressing his amendment?

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  Can anyone in the House tell me what will happen in the event of the Bill being amended?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  There is no question of the Senator getting an answer to a hypothetical question. As far as I am concerned we are going back to the Committee Stage debate. We have strayed from amendment No. 1. Is amendment No. 1 being pressed?

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  I suggest that the Minister has already had a word with his troops——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  I am asking you to resume your seat.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  ——to ensure no amendments are passed, otherwise the Minister will be in a most embarrassing position.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  For the last time I am asking you to resume your seat. We will restore some order into the business of this House.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  I want to put on record — in response to what Senator McMahon said — that the Minister has not spoken to the Senators on this side of the House [2249] on what their attitude to any amendment might or should be.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  May I ask the Minister what his position will be in the event of the Bill being amended today?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  I have pointed out frequently that that is a hypothetical situation. Resume your seat.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  I was reluctant to say it but we are taking part in a charade.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  I do not want to be forced to have you named Senator.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  The Fianna Fáil troops are under instruction; I have no doubt about that.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  I have no option [2250] now. Senator McMahon has been named. I call on the Acting Leader of the House to move the suspension of the Senator.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.


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