Social Welfare (Consolidation) Bill, 1980: Motion.

I move:

That the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Bill, 1980, be referred to the Standing Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills; and

That, notwithstanding anything in Standing Order 111, the first meeting of the Committee be held on Wednesday, 26 November 1980.

When the Minister withdrew the earlier Bill and sought leave to introduce this Bill some weeks ago I said that his predecessor's Bill had been on the Order Paper for three years without an attempt being made to advance it in any way, obviously because consolidation Bills are not measures likely to receive the same measure of publicity as the distribution of toothbrushes among the children of the nation.

Before by-elections.

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.

I understand it has been agreed between the Whips that more members will be added to the Committee, including the two spokesmen on Social Welfare. Once the motion has been passed we will have our Committee and we will then be able to circulate the detailed brief I referred to.

I would like an undertaking that the Committee will not be pressed to have the measure examined fully before Christmas.

I accept that. The leader of the Deputy's party gave us an underttaking in the House that he would do everything he could to facilitate the passage of the Bill.

As I will, as early as possible.

Question put and agreed to.

A message will be sent to the Seanad accordingly.