Despite repeated requests, an attempt was not made to advance the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Bill. The Minister has sought privately through the Whips to get an assurance that this Bill will have gone through all Stages and be passed by both Houses before Christmas. That is an extremely unreasonable attitude, particularly because of the vast complexities and technicalities of a consolidation Bill of this nature.
The explanation advanced was that if the Bill has not been agreed before Christmas further social welfare measures that will become necessary after the next budget will mean that a consolidation Bill would not be consolidating all social welfare legislation. My point is that that will be the position in regard to a consolidation Bill at any time because in any year there will be two or possibly three social welfare measures. Therefore it will be impossible always to have a single Bill embracing all of the social welfare code at any one time.
It is unfair to the House to suggest that it can deal with the entire complicated social welfare code between now and Christmas. There will be agreement from this side of the House for the Bill to be referred to the Joint Committee on the basis that the Committee will be given the time necessary to deal properly with the Bill. The Minister said he would circulate a detailed explanatory memorandum to help the Members to handle this consolidation measure. The only documeant I have seen emanate from the Department is so complicated that it would need an explanatory memorandum to help Members to interpret it.
In these circumstances it is not fair to expect the Joint Committee to have conducted an entire examination of the social welfare code before Christmas. On the basis that the Committee should be allowed the time necessary to deal adequately with the Bill, and on the assumption that the explanatory memorandum promised by the Minister will be forthcoming soon, I reluctantly agree with the motion. I ask the Minister to tell us who will sit on the Joint Committee.