Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 8, Votes 20, 21, 22, 36, 37, 38, 31, 32, 33, 40, 41, 42, 44, 45, 46, 1, 2, 6, 8, 10, 15, 16, 19, 49, 50 and 48. All the remaining Supplementary Estimates must be passed before 31st March and it is proposed by agreement to pass them without debate this morning. The token Estimates will be allowed to lapse in accordance with usual practice, with the exception of the Health token Estimate which will be debated and passed today, by agreement. Questions will be taken from 2.30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

If I might mention a matter which was raised by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, I have since made fuller inquiries and the position, I understand, is that the normal procedure in the case of many pre-budget documents—the Estimates Volume, the Capital Budget booklet, the White Paper on Receipts and Expenditure, the Review and Outlook Paper—is to present the documents the last thing before the Oireachtas Library closes on the evening prior to publication, and to deliver copies to the General Office for circulation to Members in the post that night. As the House is aware, the purpose of the procedure is to preclude the premature release to Press or radio, while at the same time ensuring normal presentation prior to publication, and also that Members of Dáil and Seanad will have received copies in the post to coincide with publication.

I understand this general rule is followed even if, in the case of some documents, Press meetings or conferences may have been held, under embargo as to release. This procedure was scrupulously followed by the Department of Finance in the case of the abridged version of the Estimates for 1974. I am informed that the facts are as follows: 275 copies of the volume were, in accordance with normal practice, delivered confidentially to the Dáil General Office at 5 p.m. with the verbal instruction that they were for circulation to Members by post that evening. The Estimates Officer of the Department of Finance formally delivered the presentation papers to the Oireachtas Library at about 10 p.m. on Tuesday night. He then reported to the General Office that formal presentation had taken place. A member of the personal staff of the Minister for Finance arranged for a delivery of a courtesy copy of the volume on a personal basis to the Leader of the Opposition in Leinster House at 7.30 p.m. on Tuesday.

I accept the Taoiseach's explanation of what happened yesterday but I want to make it clear that the substance of the complaint I made yesterday is valid even though it appears now there is a break in practical communication between the Department of Finance, the Dáil Office and Deputies. The point I was making yesterday was that although I accepted entirely the practice of giving the Press representatives a preview of the documents which are lengthy and complicated, these documents should be in the hands of Deputies simultaneously with their publication in the Press. The Taoiseach has said the usual procedure was followed yesterday. I said it was not because Deputies had not copies of the relevant documents in their morning post.


Hear, hear.

I accept there is an explanation for that slip-up and I hope it will not happen again.

The only point I wish to emphasise is that the Department of Finance followed the usual procedure.