asked the Minister for Social Welfare whether he is aware of the anomaly that exists in the operation of the urban and national fuel schemes; and if he intends to introduce reforms to remove this inequity.
Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Fuel Schemes.
I accept that anomalies exist in the operation of the urban and national fuel schemes, particularly in relation to differing criteria for eligibility.
I am proposing to have the schemes reviewed with the intention of combining both schemes to provide a single scheme based on uniform criteria of eligibility.
Can the Minister give any indication when he might be in a position to provide a single comprehensive scheme?
Certainly by the end of this year we should have a single scheme in operation and there is provision for the one unified scheme in the 1984 Estimates. I agree that the current schemes are wholly unsatisfactory.
Would that mean before next winter's fuel requirements?
Certainly it would be not earlier than October next. As the Deputy knows, April and October are the critical months.
Would the Minister make provision immediately to alleviate the 5 per cent VAT imposition on fuel, which will have a very serious effect on elderly people in receipt of fuel vouchers? I raise that matter as it is one of grave urgency resulting from the budget in the preparation and presentation of which the Minister collaborated.
That is a separate question and there can be no speeches.
I do not believe it is a separate question.
Well, it is what the Chair believes that rules.
Is it not the Minister who decides?
No, it is what the Chair rules.
I recall, when I was Minister of State that I decided to take questions, as requested or not. Has there been a change in the precedent?
No, Deputy, there is no change, but——
On a point of order, a Cheann Comhairle, I am putting a question to the Minister in relation to a very urgent matter which has arisen as a result of the budget introduced yesterday. I recall that when I was over on those benches if a Deputy put a question to me, I would, if possible, answer that question. The Chair did not protect me.
There is no question of the Chair protecting anybody. The Chair, having before him the question and hearing the supplementary question, decides whether it is a separate question. I am ruling that it is a separate question.
A Cheann Comhairle, does the fact that the Minister has not answered indicate that his answer would be in the negative?
The Chair is not aware of what would be the Minister's answer.
A Cheann Comhairle, with respect——
Question No. 3.
On a point of order, a Cheann Comhairle, this has serious repercussions for any Member of this House. Are you now saying, Sir, that you will decide on the content of supplementary questions? What precedent are you using, a Cheann Comhairle?
I am referring the Deputy to the Standing Order dealing with supplementary questions which confers on the Chair a discretion both as to the number and content of supplementary questions.
Well, I totally disagree with your ruling on this one.
I would refer the Deputy to Standing Orders.
On a point of order, would the Ceann Comhairle not deviate from the usual practice on this occasion in view of the fact that it is a matter of national importance for the elderly?
There is another reason why this type of question cannot be allowed. We are having a budget debate and this affords ample opportunity to raise this matter.
The Minister for Labour is collaborating in a budget which is anti-social.
The Deputy is being disorderly.
I am being realistic.