Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Ministerial Information Directive.

79.

asked the Minister for Education whether the Minister for Education, during the period July, 1969, to March, 1973, issued a directive to his officials to the effect that information should not be given to members of the Oireachtas except through the Minister's office.

Mr. R. Burke

As I have already informed the House there is an instruction of long standing that telephone and written representations or requests made by Members of the Oireachtas be replied to by the private secretary to the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary as appropriate.

No specific directive in this regard was issued by the Minister for Education during the period July, 1969, to March, 1973.

Can the Minister inform me why on 6th December, 1973, he deliberately tried to mislead the House into believing I had issued such a directive to the officials of my Department?

Mr. R. Burke

There is no basis for the Deputy's allegation.

Is it not a fact that on 6th December, 1973, when I denied at Question Time that I had issued such a directive the Minister, referring to an alleged directive, asked if I were Minister on 5th December, 1972, by imputation attributing to me the issuing of the directive, knowing full well I had not issued such a directive?

Mr. R. Burke

There was no such imputation. The Deputy is not warranted in drawing that inference.

Is the Minister aware that the only comment made on this matter was inThe Irish Times on the following day? In an article in that paper the columnist pointed out that the Minister had stated that a directive had been issued and that it had been issued during my time. The only conclusion one could come to from what was written in that article is that the commentator also accepted that I had issued the directive.

Mr. R. Burke

That is not the case. I am not responsible for what commentators write.

I am calling Question No. 80.

This is far too important.

We cannot have an argument at Question Time.

Does the Minister not agree that he shows contempt for the Deputies of this House in allowing his officials to give information directly to the public while, at the same time, refusing to give similar information to Members of this House unless they make their inquiries through his office?

Mr. R. Burke

I do not accept that. In fact, I have already answered this question by saying that no Member of the Oireachtas is denied information which can be obtained by members of the public. I answered this question on 28th February, 1974.

I am calling Question No. 80.

This matter should be clarified.

There will be no more points of clarification. I have already called Question No. 80.

The Parliamentary Secretary should sit down.

This is an important matter.

I have allowed several supplementaries on this question. I have called Question No. 80.

The Minister is telling lies in the House.

The Deputy will have to withdraw that statement.

I will not withdraw the truth.

The Deputy must withdraw the statement that the Minister is telling lies.

The Minister is deliberately trying to mislead the House.

The Deputy must first withdraw his statement that the Minister is telling lies.

The Minister is deliberately misleading the House. If it is unparliamentary to use the word "lie" then I must, as a parliamentarian, withdraw it.

It is the imputation, Deputy.

Mr. R. Burke

Could I also ask him to withdraw a similar imputation in regard to a reply last week?

The Chair is dealing only with what is before the House at the moment.

I have never taken this attitude before on what I regard as the entitlement of Deputies to get a true statement of a position.

The Chair cannot take statements. The Deputy may only ask a question.

It was stated that there was no basis for the question and a similar direction had issued from a previous Minister——

Now the Deputy must not make a statement.

——and he comes in now and, rather than admit he may have made a mistake——

The Deputy must withdraw the statement he made that the Minister was telling lies.

I have withdrawn what was regarded by you as unparliamentary language. On the other hand, I think it is improper for the Minister to call in his Parliamentary Secretary to stand between the two——

I want to ask the Minister to clarify——

There can be no clarification at Question Time. The Deputy may ask a supplementary question. The Deputy who asked the question has been allowed to ask a supplementary.

The implication was reflecting on Deputy O'Kennedy.

If the Minister was referring to a directive issued by me as Parliamentary Secretary in the Department of Education for a specific purpose, if that was the directive he had in mind and was quoting as a precedent for his present decision——

Mr. R. Burke

The question of a precedent for the present position does not arise. As I have informed the House on a number of occasions, the instructions are of longstanding, dating from the 1920s.

With your permission, Sir, I wish to give notice that I intend to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

The Deputy is aware he will have to raise the matter next week? He is too late today.