Standing Orders: Motion.

Dún Laoghaire): I move:

That the following amendments and additions to the Standing Orders relative to public business of Dáil Éireann are hereby adopted:—

Standing Order 20

1. In paragraph (1), to delete the second, third and fourth lines and substitute the following:—

‘shall meet every Tuesday at 2.30 p.m. and every Wednesday and Thursday at 10.30 a.m., and shall adjourn not later than 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays'.

2. In paragraph (2), in the first line, to delete ‘10.30 p.m.' and substitute ‘8.30 p.m.'; and, in the eighth line, to delete ‘11 p.m.' and substitute ‘9 p.m.'.

3. In paragraph (3), in the first line, to delete ‘10.30' and substitute ‘8.30'; in the fourth line, to delete ‘4.30 p.m.' and substitute ‘4 p.m.'; and, in the eighth line, to delete ‘10.30 p.m.' and substitute ‘8.30 p.m.'.

Standing Order 21

4. In the first line, to delete ‘11' and substitute ‘9'; in the fourth line, to delete ‘8.30 p.m.' and substitute ‘6.30 p.m.'; and, in the tenth line, to delete ‘11 p.m.' and substitute ‘9 p.m.'.

Standing Order 22

5. To insert the following new paragraph:—

‘(1) On Wednesdays, the sitting shall be suspended from 1.30 p.m. to 2.30 p.m.'.

Standing Order 29

6. In the seventh line, after the words ‘without notice).', to add the words ‘In addition, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the Order Paper shall contain the text of Questions, other than Questions nominated for priority [S.O. 34C.], for oral answer on the following day.'.

Standing Order 30

7. In paragraph (1), in the seventeenth line, to delete ‘9 p.m.' and substitute ‘7 p.m.'.

Standing Order 31

8. To delete the Standing Order and substitute a new Order as follows:—

‘31. Questions to a member of the Government

(a) nominated for priority [S.O. 34 C.] or

(b) to which an answer is to be provided in the Official Report of the Debates [S.O. 35 (1A)]

must be in writing and must reach the Clerk not later than 11 o'clock a.m. on the third day preceding that on which they are to be asked, not reckoning a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday.

Other Questions to a member of the Government must be in writing and must reach the Clerk not later than 11 o'clock a.m. on the fourth day preceding that on which they are to be asked, not reckoning a Saturday, Sunday, or public holiday:

Provided that Questions relating to matters of urgent public importance may, be permission of the Ceann Comhairle, be asked on private notice.'.

Standing Order 33

9. In the fourth line, after ‘possible,', to insert ‘that it does not seek information provided within the preceding four months,'.

Standing Order 34

10. To delete the Standing Order and substitute a new Order as follows:—

‘34. (1) Unless the Dáil shall otherwise order on motion made by a member of the Government, Questions shall be taken from 2.30 p.m. to 3.45 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

(2) On each of these days, the time allowed for Questions, other than Questions nominated for priority [S.O. 34C.], shall not exceed one hour; and the time allowed for Questions nominated for priority shall not exceed fifteen minutes.'.

New Standing Orders

11. Before Standing Order 35, to insert the following new Order:—

‘34A. (1) Questions addressed to the Taoiseach may be asked only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and shall be placed on the Order Paper before Questions to other members of the Government to be asked on the same day.

(2) Questions for oral answer addressed to other members of the Government shall be asked on the basis of a daily rota in such order as the Dáil may from time to time decide and shall be in two categories:—

(a) Questions, the sequence of which shall be decided by lottery [S.O. 34B.], and

(b) Questions which have been nominated for priority [S.O. 34C.].’.

12. Before Standing Order 35, to insert the following new Order:—

‘34B. In relation to Questions, the sequence of which shall be decided by lottery, the following provisions shall apply:—

(i) The lottery, at which members may attend, shall be held on the fourth day preceding that on which the Questions are to be asked, not reckoning a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday.

(ii) No member may put down more than two Questions to each member of the Government for answer on any one day.

(iii) Where Questions to two members of the Government (other than the Taoiseach) are to be asked on the same day, Questions to the member to whom the lesser number is addressed shall be placed first on the Order Paper and shall be allocated not more than one half of the time available to both.

(iv) A member nominated by a group in Opposition may, on request, be provided with the text of Questions put down by members of that group.'.

13. Before Standing Order 35, to insert the following new Order:—

‘34C. In relation to Questions which have been nominated for priority, the following provisions shall apply:—

(i) Each Question shall be in the name of a member nominated by a group (as defined in Standing Order 85 (1)) in Opposition.

(ii) The number of such Questions for answer on any one day shall not exceed five.

(iii) Questions for answer on any one day shall be placed on the Order Paper so as to rotate between groups in Opposition, with preference being given to the larger group (preference being decided by lot in any case of equality between groups).

(iv) A member nominated by a group may nominate Questions put down by other members of that group in substitution for Questions which may be transferred or disallowed. Such nomination shall be made in writing and must reach the Clerk not later than 11 a.m. on the third day preceding that on which the Questions are to be asked, not reckoning a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday.'.

Standing Order 35

14. To delete paragraph (1) and substitute the following new paragraphs:—

‘(1) A member of the Government may, where appropriate, group both categories of Question put down for oral answer and Questions put down for written answer for the purposes of reply.

(1A) If a member distinguishes his Question by an asterisk, the member of the Government to whom it is addressed shall cause an answer to be provided in the Official Report of the Debates, unless the Ceann Comhairle is of the opinion that such answer would prejudice the answering of a Question put down earlier.

(1B) Where a Question is not reached, the member of the Government to whom it is addressed shall cause an answer to be provided in the Official Report of the Debates unless—

(a) the member in whose name the Question appears on the Order Paper requests, before 4 p.m. on that day, that the Question be addressed again to the member of the Government concerned on the next day on which that member is to answer Questions, or

(b) the Ceann Comhairle is of the opinion that such answer would prejudice the answering of another Question put down for oral answer on the next day on which the member of the Government concerned is to answer Questions.’.

Standing Order 37

15. To add to the Standing Order ‘: Provided that, in the time allocated to Questions nominated for priority, supplementary Questions may be put only by the member in whose name the Question appears on the Order Paper.'.

Standing Order 82

16. To delete the fifth and sixth lines and substitute the following:—

‘be, shall be interrupted between 7 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. to take private members' business: Provided that, where leave has been given to make a motion under Standing Order 30, such motion shall have priority: Provided further'.

Standing Order 123

17. To delete ‘10.15 p.m.' in each place where it occurs and substitute ‘8.30 p.m.'.".

The main purpose of this motion is to continue in operation the new system for Parliamentary Questions, which was introduced on an experimental basis in June 1985. The motion proposes to end the experimental status of the new system and to introduce it as a permanent feature in Standing Orders.

In addition the motion incorporates permanently into Standing Orders the current Dáil sitting times, which were introduced on an experimental basis in 1976 and renewed when each new Dáil met.

The new Questions system has proved to be far superior to the one which it replaced and has been widely acknowledged as such. When I spoke last year on the motion introducing the system on a trial basis I set out the main advantages which I believed would accrue from it. I feel that it is worth repeating the more important of these, which are: quicker rotation of Ministers answering Questions; Questions are less likely to be overtaken by events which would make them out of date or cause them to lose much of their relevance; and parties in Opposition can now ask Questions of national importance on a more regular basis, through the introduction of Priority Questions. Through the lottery system, each member has an equal chance of his or her questions being answered.

The benefits which have followed from the new procedures are evident. In particular there has been a major improvement in the frequency with which Ministers answer Questions relating to their Departments. In a comparison made between two nine month periods, one in 1984-85 under the old system and the other in 1985-86 under the new system, the following emerged: in the period under the old scheme, Questions relating to four Government Departments only were taken on three occasions; Questions relating to four other Departments twice only; Questions relating to a further three Departments once only; while, in the case of five Government Departments, Questions relating to their activities were not reached at all during the period. The Departments not reached at all were Social Welfare, Agriculture, Justice, Education and Labour. By contrast in a similar period in 1985-86, under the new procedures, Questions relating to all Departments were reached on at least four occasions, and in the case of six of those Departments, on five occasions.

This, in my view, is the most significant achievement of the new system.

I do not propose to discuss the detailed provisions of the Questions procedure as these were dealt with at length during the debate in May 1985. This present motion simply incorporates into Standing Orders the provisions in the 1985 motion, with two changes.

These changes provide that repeat Questions can be tabled again after four months rather than the six months currently in force. They also enable a party in Opposition to nominate lottery questions as replacements for Priority Questions, in the event of any of the latter being disallowed or transferred after the time limit for submission of Priority Questions has expired. Both changes have been requested by the Opposition and agreed by the Government in an attempt to overcome certain difficulties being experienced in those areas.

Similarly, I do not think it necessary to cover in detail the provisions of the motion relating to the sitting times of the Dáil and other related matters. The reality is that the House has been functioning for ten years now under those provisions, which have been introduced by way of a sessional order at the commencement of each Dáil. It is way past time to put them on a proper footing and incorporate them into the Standing Orders. Subject to approval of this motion by the House I feel that the existing Standing Orders should now be reprinted in updated form — the last edition was prepared over 12 years ago, in 1974.

I commend this motion to the House.

I am not too sure what the procedure is in relation to amendments of this kind.

The procedure is that the Deputy will now move his first amendment and all other amendments will be discussed together with items Nos. 9 and 10 and separate decisions taken.

On a point of order, are you calling Deputy De Rossa now? Is it not normal practice to call somebody from this side of the House first?

I looked over that side and I did not see any indication that you wanted to speak.

I have a short contribution.

I deliberately looked in that direction. Deputy Brady wishes to make a short statement and then I will call on Deputy De Rossa if that is agreeable.

Basically we are in agreement with the proposals contained in this motion. The matter has come before the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and we have had a number of discussions on it. While we are not completely satisfied with the new system of Question Time for a number of reasons, nevertheless, taking all circumstances into consideration, it probably has proved much more effective than the older system. I presume that this new format of Question Time is a step in the direction of Dáil reform which the Government promised to take when the Dáil commenced in 1982. I must express my disappointment at the very slow rate of reform that has taken place. I appreciate that there may be difficulties in some areas but nevertheless in view of the fact that the Minister of State's predecessor, now the Minister for Finance, indicated that one of his main priorities would be major Dáil reform, that has not been forthcoming. All Deputies in the House must express a certain amount of disappointment at that.

One of the main areas on which most Deputies have expressed disapproval and dissatisfaction with Dáil proceedings is the fact that major issues of immediate interest cannot be debated. The objective of the priority questions at Question Time was to try to meet that situation in some way. That has not been completely successful for the reason that it will take 15 or 16 sitting days before the rotation comes back to a particular Department or a particular Minister. Nevertheless, I hope that the Minister of State with responsibility for looking at Dáil reform will look at all of the systems to ensure that there are some measures that can be taken to improve the overall effectiveness of the Dáil. We all know that there is very little time left for this present Dáil. Presumably it will be the responsibility of a Fianna Fáil Minister to look into these matters during the next Dáil session, whenever that might be.

To come back to the subject under discussion, I mentioned that I was dissatisfied with certain aspects of the new system. One of these areas relates to the number of questions that is being taken and the number of answers provided during Question Time each day. For example, yesterday we put down something in the region of 41 questions and out of that only ten questions were taken. By any normal standard this is most disappointing and unsatisfactory. This is a matter that has been referred to on numerous occasions and various causes have been put forward. We all acccept that there are a number of reasons for this. For example, some Ministers are inclined to give too lengthy answers. Very often much of the information is not necessary. Ministers often use the opportunity to make a policy statement rather than just reply directly to a question. We must accept that the whole point of putting down a question for reply is to obtain specific information on a certain topic. Because some Ministers are inclined to use that opportunity to make policy statements the time of the Opposition is lost.

Question Time which takes up one hour each day has always been the time of the Opposition. In the past 18 months to two years more and more Government Deputies are also availing of that opportunity to raise questions for political reasons. Much of the information which has been sought by Government backbenchers could have been obtained quite easily by going to the Minister's office or by speaking to him in the corridor. Therefore there would be no necessity to wast the time of the House and to take the time of the Opposition in raising those matters during Question Time. It is, of course, the democratic right of every Deputy to submit questions. I would not attempt to deny or to challenge that in any respect. Nevertheless in the interest of the House we should try to get through as many questions as possible, which is the whole purpose of Question Time. Up to two years ago 90 per cent of questions on the Order Paper came from Opposition Deputies.

When I first came to the House in 1977 about 25 to 30 questions a day were answered. It is unfortunate that that number has tumbled back to ten questions, as happened yesterday. Other days only seven or eight questions were answered. Very often, a Cheann Comhairle, you are placed in a difficult position. The solution to this problem lies in your hands. The Ceann Comhairle is the chairman of the proceedings and if there is to be an improvement in the number of questions being answered you will have to be a little more insistent that replies should be shorter. Perhaps some supplementary questions are unnecessary or there may be too many supplementary questions but this is something that I hope, a Cheann Comhairle, you will look into in the future. I am certain also that while there may be teething troubles in that respect you will have the full support of the House in ensuring that we can have a more smooth, efficient and better format for Question Time.

In regard to the hours of the House, what we are doing today is bringing into line the hours of sitting that we have had for the past ten years. This should have been done some years ago. The hours in which we operate at present are far better, more effective and more civilised than the hours which the House sat prior to 1975. That is a good thing. There is also the opportunity that the House may sit on Fridays if necessary to take additional business. We also have on the Order Paper a motion that the House should sit on Fridays in the future to take Private Members' Bills. That should meet the requirements and requests of the amendment that has been tabled by The Workers' Party.

When talking about Dáil reform I would like to mention that the recent innovation of broadcasting Dáil proceedings has been a very good thing. It has been very well accepted. I have received many complimentary comments from the public about the new broadcasting service. We could look at this again in the future and maybe even extend broadcasting time because it is important that the public should be brought closer to what happens in this House. They should be able to identify more closely with the happenings and proceedings of the Dáil. After all, we must never forget that we are very much involved in a democratic process. Apart from the Members of the House, the public must also play their part.

So that the House is clear, we are now discussing together items Nos. 9 and 10 and all the amendments on the Order Paper relating to these items.

I move amendment No. 1:

Standing Order 20

In amendment 1 to delete the words "at 2.30 p.m. and every".

I shall address myself mainly to the amendments I have put down to the motion amending Standing Orders. The main point is that we are today making permanent a number of changes that were made over a year ago to Dáil Question Time procedure. Many Members of this House will be aware that we had grave reservations about the procedures as proposed at the time. I have to say that the procedure worked out far better than we had anticipated in terms of the balance achieved on the questions taken. Nevertheless, there are a number of aspects about which we are still concerned, resulting in our amendments.

We also considered it opportune to place a number of other amendments concerning the times at which the Dáil sits. This is because we are aware, as is every other Member, I am sure, that the public, regardless of the fact that they may not be fully aware of the way in which the House operates, have the perception that the Dáil does not sit very often and does not do much work. I would not agree that the House does not do much work but there is the perception that it does not sit very often. We know that there are literally dozens of pieces of legislation which the Dáil should be dealing with as a matter of urgency. It is for that reason that we have tabled a number of other amendments.

The members of my party, Deputy Mac Giolla and I, are not members of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and so are not privy to the discussions which take place concerning Dáil reform and the procedures of this House. I have yet to see any reports of the proceedings of that committee. I understand that they meet in private and I do not know where the minutes are kept, or what discussions take place. Deputy Mac Giolla and I have written to the committee on a number of occasions relating to matters about which we were concerned and, while on one or two occasions we received acknowledgments of our letters, we have never been consulted or involved in a discussion on Dáil reform.

Deputy Bruton, when Leader of the House, met Deputy Mac Giolla and myself on one occasion to discuss a submission we made on Dáil reform but again we have not been involved in the general discussions. That may be an aspect of reform of this House which perhaps we should also consider at some stage — the manner in which places are allocated on the various committees of the House.

The first amendment concerns the time at which the Dáil sits on a Tuesday. I note from the Minister's statement that the present Dáil sittings were introduced on an experimental basis in 1976 and have been renewed by each Dáil ever since then. A Dáil sitting which starts at 2.30 p.m. on a Tuesday is no longer realistic or acceptable in view of the volume of work which this Dáil has to get through and also in view of the much more speedy and modern means of transportation available to get Members to this House. It is not inconceivable that work could be structured in such a way that not every Member need necessarily be here on the Tuesday morning. I am thinking, in particular, of Members who may live very long distances from the House, in particular, in places like Donegal, Kerry and other remote parts of the country from and to which, because of our present system of transportation, it is quite difficult to get. There is no argument in this day and age for a Dáil sitting which starts at 2.30 p.m. on a Tuesday. For that reason, I have submitted an amendment that the words "2.30 p.m." be deleted. This would have the effect of the Dáil sitting on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 10.30 a.m. It would not affect the times at which the Dáil rises.

My second amendment concerns Friday sittings. It is intended to set aside Fridays for, mainly, the discussion of Private Members Bills. Again, there is quite a number of Private Members' Bills on the Order Paper and those of us who do not belong to large parties, or parties or groups of more than seven, have not the right to have such Bills discussed in this Dáil unless the largest Opposition party, Fianna Fáil, agree to allocate time to us on a Tuesday and Wednesday night. Alternatively, the Government, presumably, could facilitate by allocating time.

Of course, the argument — and it is a good one — is that the normal time of the Dáil on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays is taken up fully with discussion of Government business and presumably Fianna Fáil, as the largest party, have some claim to at least a major portion of Private Members' Business. At the same time, the rest of us in this House — and I think that we number around ten or 11 Deputies who are not members of the Labour Party, the Fianna Fáil Party, or the Fine Gael Party — should have some right to have our motions and Bills discussed in the House. Every Deputy in this House is elected by a quota of electors. For that reason they should achieve equal access to time in the House. We are proposing that Fridays from 10.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. be set aside to discuss Private Members' Bills, and that where there are no Private Members' Bills in progress the Dáil should deal with Private Members' Business or any such business as it may decide. If there are no Private Members' Bills in progress there are motions many of which have been on the Order Paper for three or four years. The Dáil could also discuss Estimates on Fridays in the way they have done in recent years. That would be an important reform to the procedures of the House. I regard this as our most important amendment and I would press the House to support it even if they cannot support the extension of sitting time on Tuesdays or my other amendment about Question Time.

My third amendment concerns Question Time, in particular the allocation of time from 3.30 p.m. to 3.45 p.m. for priority Questions. At the moment the only party in this House who can qualify for priority Questions are Fianna Fáil, simply because Standing Orders define the right to priority Questions as a right applying to groups in the House. The definition in Standing Orders of a group, is any party of seven or more, who may form a group in the Dáil, or who have been elected as a group to the Dáil. I contend that the relevant Standing Order should refer to parties, so that any party in the House would have the right to place priority Questions before the Minister. Our amendment seeks to substitute "party" for "group" so that each Opposition party could table priority Questions.

I also have an amendment relating to the number of questions. This amendment, No. 4, seeks to delete paragraphs (ii) and (iii) of the Government amendment No. 13 and substitute the following:

the number of priority Questions which may be tabled by a qualifying member shall not be more than 2, and the sequence in which such questions shall be taken shall be determined by lottery.

That is a reasonable allocation of time for priority Questions. I have noticed on priority Questions that in many cases the person asking the first or second priority Question spends most of the time on the first or second Question so it would be reasonable to allocate two Questions to each nominated member.

My fifth amendment is a consequential amendment which seeks to replace the word "group" with "party" where it appears in Standing Orders relating to Parliamentary Questions.

My sixth amendment is related to priority Questions and to Questions in general. The practice at the moment is that the Minister may in replying to a priority Question take a Question which is not a priority Question which was put down by another Member of the House for oral answer and answer two Questions or even three or four Questions together. However, the only person entitled to put supplementaries to the Minister is the person in whose name the priority Question has been listed. This ignores the other Members whose Questions are being taken along with the priority Question. My amendment would give the right to a Member whose oral Questions have been grouped with priority Questions to ask supplementaries.

Those are the amendments which I and Deputy Mac Giolla are seeking to make. We are seeking to improve the workings of the House. We are seeking to make Question Time, particularly the time devoted to priority Questions more equitable. We are seeking to extend the hours during which the Dáil sits. We seek to move the starting time on Tuesday from 2.30 p.m. to 10.30 a.m. and we are anxious to ensure that the Dáil will sit on Fridays to take Private Members' Bills and other Private Members' Business, so that every Member of the House will have an opportunity to have matters discussed in the House. At the moment we have a number of Private Members' Bills on the Order Paper including the Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Weapons (Controls) Bill which we moved recently but which will not be discussed in the House during the lifetime of this Government. This Bill seeks to restrict the access of ships or planes which may be carrying such weapons to this country and it is unfortunate that it will not be discussed in the House. The other Bills should also be discussed. It is a reasonable request that this House should sit on Fridays to deal with those Bills.

In general terms I welcome this motion and what it proposes to do to bring Standing Orders into line with what has now been the practice in the House for some time. I welcome the proposal of the Minister of State to reprint Standing Orders in their new form. I hope this will be done as soon as this motion is passed and that they will be made available quickly to Deputies as the present situation is most unsatisfactory.

While I welcome what is proposed in this motion, I have a number of comments to make. The statement in the first page of the Minister's speech today was that parties in Opposition can now ask Questions of national importance on a more regular basis, through the introduction of priority Questions. That statement is untrue. The statement would be true if it read "One party in Opposition can now ask questions of national importance on a more regular basis". As Deputy de Rossa made clear, that is the position and only one party can ask questions. That is unsatisfactory. There are eleven members in this House in Opposition who are not Members of that party and who find many aspects of Question Time unsatisfactory. One can put down questions for oral answer on matters of some importance and which should be answered orally but one finds that the day before they are due to be answered one gets a letter from the Ceann Comhairle saying that a month or two earlier a written question was asked on that topic and that that precludes one from asking an oral question on — it appears in practice — anything relating to that topic for six months. It may well be that the topic is such that it should be pursued by way of oral answer rather than by way of written answer. Now it is proposed to change the time limit to four months but that is a very marginal change because the thing may be just as irrevelant after four months as it is after six months.

I regard that as unsatisfactory and I do not think an oral question should be displaced in that way. It may well be that at times when the oral question comes in and if reasonable notice is given of it that it can be arranged that an innocuous written question on the same topic can be put down and answered in order to dispose of the oral question and prevent it ever being asked. That has had quite an effect on Question Time because it has prevented many matters of importance being raised in the House, where they should be raised. It has caused them to be dealt with in a perfunctory and brief way, not on the floor of the House, but by way of a two or three line written answer which closes off the topic for six months. The amendments in the motion do not deal with the problem. I should like them to do so because it is an urgent problem and one that has taken the value out of Question Time. It does it quite fortuitously simply on the basis that someone has put down a written question that has some relevance to the subsequent oral one. It is almost impossible for the average Deputy to keep track of what has been asked and answered in previous weeks because, on occasions, there are literally hundreds of written questions on the Order Paper. The Minister of State should take steps to ensure that what he says here about parties in Opposition becomes the practice because that would be quite satisfactory. Unfortunately, though, what he says is not correct.

There is a way open to parties in Opposition, who are not the main Opposition. party, to form an artificial procedural alliance under Standing Order 85. If such an alliance were formed it would be a procedural one for the purpose of trying to overcome the existing difficulties under Standing Orders. It would not be in any sense a political alliance. It is very unsatisfactory for people who have quite disparate political views to find themselves either largely silenced under the matters dealt with in this motion such as Private Members' Business, priority Questions and so on or to enter into a procedural alliance of convenience. That is not satisfactory and one should not have to resort to an artificial operation of that kind in order to be able to exercise one's rights in this House.

On the question of Private Members' Bills referred to in the motion and the amendments, it is unsatisfactory that a Bill for which there is very substantial support in the country and put forward as a Private Members' Bill cannot even be debated in this House, let alone passed or rejected as the House thinks fit. There are a number of such Bills on the Order Paper, one put forward by the Progressive Democrats dealing with Oireachtas and ministerial pensions for which there is substantial support in the country but which, apparently, is opposed by the two Government parties and the main Opposition party. Their method of opposing it is to use Standing Orders as they are — and as they will continue to be if this motion is passed — and not going into the lobbies of the House to vote on it having discussed it. They use this procedural device under Standing Orders to prevent the Bill from being debated and passed. There is also a Bill in the name of The Workers' Party relating to bringing in nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to this country in ships or aircraft. This proposal would have widespread support in the country and it is a great pity that it cannot be debated and then either enacted or rejected by the House.

This morning an extremely important report was published by the NESC which goes to the very root of the problems of this country. Incidentally, it repeats many of the arguments I and my colleagues have been making over the past 12 months. That report is surely one of the most important documents of its kind that has appeared for some time. Because it goes to the very root of our problems it should be debated in the House. However, there is no prospect of that happening which is most regrettable. If a similar report were produced in another country which found itself in the same public financial difficulties as we do, I have no doubt that it would be very rapidly debated in their Parliament. Indeed, the Parliaments of nearly every west European country would deal with a matter of that kind very rapidly. The only prospects within the rules of order of making references to that report might be on an adjournment debate immediately before Christmas. In the meantime we will spend time discussing matters which are peripheral to the real difficulties facing us.

Therefore, the suggestion I made in the House a week or two ago and which is now contained in one of Deputy De Rossa's amendments, that is, that the House should sit on Fridays to discuss Private Members' Bills, is a perfectly reasonable one. If the House does not want to sit on Fridays it could sit, as suggested in another amendment, on Tuesday mornings to deal with these matters. It is not unreasonable to ask for that especially when the recesses — especially in the summer — are so long. The summer recess is extraordinarily long by any standards. It would not be necessary for every Member of the House to be present and if a vote arose on any of these matters it could take place at another time as is already done in regard to Estimates. We describe ourselves in this House as sitting on a Tuesday. However, when Question Time is left out and the inevitable ten or 15 minutes which the Order of Business seems to take nowadays, the public business of the day does not really begin until 4 p.m. and ends at 7 p.m. when Private Member's Business begins and it ends at 8.30 p.m. That means, in effect, that there are three hours available on a Tuesday for legislative business.

I do not think that anyone, by any stretch of the imagination, could describe a three hour day as a full day. It is an illusion to describe it in that way. It would be more meaningful if the House sat on Tuesday mornings, taking public business in the afternoon, to deal with Estimates, Private Members' Bills and motions etc. Private Members' time which is now available on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings should be made available for public business when legislation could be debated. There is a long list of Bills on the Order Paper. I know that the Government do not want to proceed with many of them because they have lost their enthusiasm for them and because there is disagreement within the Government parties on a number of them. Leaving those Bills out there are many other Bills which have not been dealt with. If we are going to have a general election in the very near future, as most people seem to think, most of the Bills on the Order Paper will never be touched again in this present Dáil.

Let me give a brief history of one of those Bills to show how slow the legislative process is. I refer to No. 37 on today's Order Paper, The Bankruptcy Bill, 1982, which is on Report Stage. That Bill was introduced in the House in 1982. It is not a controversial or an opposed Bill. It is a very technical but necessary Bill because our bankruptcy laws date from the 1860s and 1880s when commercial circumstances were totally different from what they are now. When I was Minister for Justice that Bill was handed to me in draft form in 1972 by the late Mr. Justice Gardner Budd who was chairman of a committee which had been set up in the late sixties to look into the modernisation of our bankruptcy laws which were then 100 years out of date. That committee were asked to propose amendments and draft a new Bill. They did so and they handed it to me in late 1972. I handed it over to the Department of Justice and asked them to put it through Government procedures and produce it in the House in early 1973.

The Bill saw the light of day in the House in 1982, ten years after it was drafted. This Bill did not have to go through the ordinary procedure in having to be drafted in the parliamentary drafts-man's office; it was actually drafted by a group of people who were then the leading experts on bankruptcy law in Ireland and who were in a better position to draft the Bill than anybody else. The Bill saw the light of day in the House ten years after it was handed to the relevant Minister and now four years again after that it still has not been enacted by this House although no one has any objections to its provisions. It is now 14 years since the Bill was drafted and 17 years since the request was made to have the Bill drafted and a committee set up to do so.

This is the legislative process of Dáil Éireann in the eighties. I do not think it is satisfactory. Report Stage of the Bankruptcy Bill could go through this House in three, four or five hours. I doubt if it would take much longer than that. The points which would be made would be technical and they would not be made in any spirit of animosity or in any party political spirit. The Bill is still there four years after it was introduced in the House and 14 years after its drafting was completed. In the meantime there is the farcical situation in the country with regard to personal bankruptcies where the laws of the 1860s apply. That is only one example from the Order Paper. I could go through a number of other Bills which one might have thought could be easily enacted. The possibility of their being passed in the present Dáil is fairly remote. Therefore, the question of sitting hours should be much more actively reviewed than is the case at present when we have very short periods of sittings. To describe Tuesday as a working day in this House is a misnomer because, in fact, it is only three hours. It is rather meaningless. Either the House could sit on Tuesday mornings and do a full day's business or alternatively if it does not want to do that it could sit on Friday mornings and do at least a half day's business up until 1.30 p.m. or 2 p.m. Anything would be better than the present system where urgent and non-controversial legislation lies here for years on end.

There is another Bill on the Order Paper which proposes to abolish juries which got its Second Reading in the House, as far as I can recall, last May but which we are told has been precluded by the pressures of the parliamentary timetable from proceeding any further. Apparently, the Government are totally committed to the Bill. When I said that the Bill proposed to abolish juries I meant to abolish juries in civil cases, in the assessment of damages. I did not mean in criminal trials. The Bill's Committee and Final stages have not come forward. Factories are closing down, frequently because they have no insurance. More of them are continuing to work without insurance and as soon as there is a serious accident in one of them the business will close down.

I do not think it is in order for the Deputy to go into the merits of each Bill. The Deputy can refer to Bills which should be processed and say what they are about.

It is very important to have that Bill brought forward and passed as quickly as possible. I am referring to No. 44 on today's Order Paper, Courts (Supplemental Provisions) (Amendment) Bill, 1984.

I welcome this proposal so far as it goes but it should go rather further than it does. When the motion is passed, whether with or without the proposed amendments, I hope a copy of the full up-to-date Standing Orders will be printed and circulated to Deputies as rapidly as possible.

First of all, I welcome this opportunity to review Standing Orders in so far as there is not a day's sitting that goes by when some Member does not have difficulty with the Ceann Comhairle in his abiding by Standing Orders. There are a number of points with which I as a backbench Deputy find frustration. I wish to raise some points which I would like the Minister of State to reply to. The relatively short sitting hours have been referred to in the contributions so far. I share the view that the existing hours are very restricted. I fully appreciate the difficulties of the Whip's office in so far as they not only have to manage on an agreed basis the affairs of the House but they also have to manage all the Members in the House on a three-line whip basis.

It is difficult, because of the constituency commitments of TDs through being members of local authorities and other statutory bodies in their constituencies, for the Whips to have a full complement of Members in the House. We need an extension of sitting hours to deal with non-partisan business that will not involve a vote in the House but if a vote is called it could be deferred. I am thinking of areas such as the discussion of reports of Oireachtas committees. I am Chairman of the Joint Committee on Small Businesses. Of the six reports we have produced only one has been debated in the House. The Seanad have discussed all the reports and it seems most unfortunate that time could not be set aside, perhaps on a Tuesday morning when a lot of Members are in the House, to discuss matters that arise out of those reports. It should be remembered that Members put a lot of work into those reports on a non-partisan basis. The committee system has been one of the positive developments of Dáil reform but it just stops at that and it is left to each Government Department to pursue matters raised in the reports.

I should like to see reform in regard to Private Members' Bills. At Westminister they have a well established lottery system under which Bills introduced by Members are brought forward. For example, my Bill on the Order Paper, Retail Sales Below Cost (Groceries) Bill, has been there for some months awaiting an order for Second Stage. I am happy that the Minister for Industry and Commerce will be able to deal with that directly but a backbencher pursuing a Private Members' Bill, if he is lucky enough to get a letter from the Whip to get it on the Order Paper, if he is lucky enough to get agreement from the Opposition to put it into Private Members' Business and if he is lucky enough to get a Second Stage debate — these are all very big "ifs"— will find that the Bill will be sent to a select committee of the House to be studied before Committee Stage is taken. There is no way that a Private Members' Bill can get through unless it is taken wholeheartedly by the Opposition.

When looking at legislation we must bear in mind that the structure of legislation here is that the base of power is in the Dáil; the Seanad has very limited powers. Within the Dáil the base of power is operated by Government business. That presupposes that the legislative wisdom in the country lies in the Civil Service, something I do not accept. They should have the right to vet any legislation but there are other sources which Members can pursue outside the House. Members can get professional advice outside and bring forward legislation that is not contentious or party political and which would be for the good of the country. While welcoming this revision of Standing Orders I appeal to the Whips to try some other changes on an experimental basis. There is no need to put them down in the diktat of Standing Orders that are subsequently almost immutable. The changes may not work but we should experiment. For example, if some Members have an interest in legislation banning below cost selling they could discuss it on a Friday and if the Opposition decide to oppose a Bill on that topic the division could be deferred. In that way the House would become more efficient and we would increase the throughput of legislation here. At the moment there is no facility for getting Bills through other than through the Government. I do not say that in any tone of criticism but as a matter of fact.

When the Dáil is in recess matters arise from time to time for which there is little or no accountability and it should be possible for the written answer procedure to continue during that time. Departments could be given two weeks to answer a written question on any matter during recess. Such a procedure would give Ministers an opportunity to make statements of detail in regard to important matters.

One matter that is of grave concern to me is the decision to disallow a number of questions I have tabled in regard to semi-State bodies.

I agree with the Deputy.

I have been told that the reason for refusing my questions is that the Minister does not have any responsibility to the House in relation to the companies concerned. However, that same Minister gets money from the House. The Minister is responsible for allocating money to semi-State bodies either through the public capital programme or through moving a Supplementary Estimate.

I could not agree more with the Deputy.

For example, in regard to the ESB or CIE the original Act setting up those companies was passed by the House. When the Ceann Comhairle disallows a question about those companies he is saying that under Standing Orders the House does not have any accountability over companies or bodies established by the House. If the House does not have accountability over those bodies, who has? Is it the Minister? In turn, who is the Minister accountable to? Is he accountable to the media or some type of nebulous interest? The position in regard to semi-State companies is most unsatisfactory and there should be a change in the Dáil questions procedure, on a written or oral basis, so that matters of significant public importance could be raised with the Ministers who had ade facto responsibility in the area. Alternatively, other bodies should be established to police Semi-State bodies with whom Deputies could raise questions. At present there is little or no accountability for not only tens of millions of pounds, hundreds of millions of pounds but, in some cases, sums in excess of £1 billion of State borrowing is being entered into by companies who are not answerable to the House in any way.

I am not satisfied with the procedure in regard to Supplementary Estimates. Last week I had a difficulty with the Chair in regard to the Supplementary Estimate on Energy. The Minister said he would not answer the questions I raised and the Ceann Comhairle ruled the discussion out of order. On the rare occasions when Supplementary Estimates are taken we should be afforded an opportunity to have a fuller debate.

The Whips should get together to try to find ways of allocating time to discuss Oireachtas reports and to allow for the possibility of Private Members' Bills being debated. Deputy De Rossa complained that he failed to get a Bill discussed and that is bad but what is worse is that if it was discussed it would not be passed by the House. The same applies to other Members. There should be a facility for Members to obtain written replies to questions in recess time and there should be changes in regard to the accountability of semi-State bodies. If changes are made in those areas the House will be more relevant to the public and Deputies will be able to participate more fully, as they have done in the committee structure. At the moment one gets the impression when making a contribution on Second Stage that one is talking in a vacuum. One's level of contribution is very limited. It is a case of restoring power to the House because power has moved out to the different Departments across the city and throughout the country. That is an unwelcome development because at the end of the day the only people who are accountable to the public are the Members of the House.

Dún Laoghaire): I should like to thank Members who contributed to the debate. I do not in any way suggest that we should be on the defensive when discussing the way we should run our business in the House. Therefore, it is not a question of the Government opposing good suggestions from either side of the House in relation to Dáil reform. I would be only too delighted to take on board some of the suggestions that have been made. It may be possible in the future to bring in more changes on the lines suggested and I will be only too delighted to do that.

I would like to deal with some of the points made. Deputy Vincent Brady, Opposition Chief Whip, was somewhat critical of the lack of Dáil reform. In fairness I should outline that we have done a fair bit in a short time. We have introduced the new committee system which is working reasonably well and in future we can have a look at it to see if we could improve on it. We now have a new parliamentary question system and the new format for debating Estimates. We have introduced broadcasting which is a great step forward. I join with Deputy Brady in saying that I am very pleased with the public response to Dáil broadcasting and hope that in future we will see it extended and more time given to it. RTE might put out their programme earlier than 10 o'clock in the evening because there is obvious interest in that programme. I hope that in the not too distant future we will see television in here allowing the public the opportunity of watching on their screens what is happening here. There may be a difference of opinion among Members as to whether that is advisable, but I am in favour of it.

There has been some progress in regard to debates on reports. There is a motion on the Order Paper to extend sitting hours on a Tuesday. I am surprised that some of the speakers, particularly Deputy O'Malley who has spoken and has left the Chamber without even waiting to see how the criticism that he levelled at all of us——

That is not unusual.

(Dún Laoghaire): Unfortunately some of the members of the Press who came in to listen to him have now left and perhaps will not give me the same opportunity of answering the ridiculous charges he has made purely for political purposes. He is not even present to listen to the winding up of the debate. He was not even aware that there was a motion on the Order Paper to extend sitting hours on Tuesdays from 8.30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. to debate reports.

On a point of order, it is being debated in the House next week.

(Dún Laoghaire): We have an explanatory memorandum now for all Bills. That is in progress also. It is on the Order Paper. More information will have to be given in relation to Bills coming before the House and Private Members' Bills. There is at present before the CPP a proposal to have Friday sittings to deal with Private Members' Bills at least once per month. That proposal before the CPP is being examined and Standing Orders are being drawn up to bring about its implementation. I hope it will be before this Dáil in the very near future.

That is not bad, given that previously there was practically nothing in terms of Dáil reform. I join with Deputy Brady in relation to a point he made about the number of questions that are taken here on a daily basis. At the CPP we discussed this recently and it was agreed that party Whips would support the Ceann Comhairle in limiting the number of supplementary questions put by Deputies here at Question Time. On a number of occasions we have seen that Question Time is now more like a debate than seeking information through parliamentary questions. Ministers do not deliberately set out to give long replies in order to reduce the number of questions which may be taken. Those replies have to be given anyway so their length is irrelevant. We are trying to give adequate information so that we will limit the necessity for a number of supplementaries. Unfortunately, we have got into the habit here that once you table a question you feel obliged to ask a number of supplementary questions irrespective of whether you have got adequate information. It is entirely for the Chair to decide whether the Deputy who has asked the question has got sufficient information.

In relation to Deputy De Rossa's amendments, which unfortunately I cannot accept for reasons which I will outline, I am delighted with Deputy De Rossa. I recall a debate 12 months ago when he was highly critical of this new Question Time. I welcome the fact that he was big enough to say that it worked better than he thought it would and that there was no deliberate attempt to exclude small parties like The Workers' Party from being able to ask a PQ. The Workers' Party have been extremely fortunate in the way their Questions have come out of the lottery. They are very lucky and I suggest that the first day national lottery tickets go on sale they buy one.

We might buy one in common.

(Dún Laoghaire): Deputy De Rossa said that public perception of what we do in here is not entirely in keeping with what goes on, and it is the sort of comments that I hear from Deputy O'Malley that make the public cynical. He failed to recognise that we are extending Dáil sitting times on Tuesdays from 8.30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. He failed to explain that on numerous occasions when the Dáil sessions are in progress we have special sittings every Friday. He failed to explain that on numerous occsions over the last three or four years when I was Whip, and I was working with Deputy Brady, the same thing was happening, the Dáil sat till midnight on numerous occasions and it is a regular occurrence here that, even though Standing Orders say that the Dáil shall sit until 8.30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday and until 5 p.m. on Thursday, Whips come in and by agreement Dáil sitting times are extended to midnight. Such irresponsible remarks lead to the public perception that Deputy De Rossa talked about. It is very unfortunate that the same Deputy picks up his newspaper and his Order Paper and walks out of the Chamber having made his onslaught and is not even here so that I can inform him in order that in future he will not make such wild statements. I hope that those remaining on the press gallery will report to those who left shortly after he had finished that we sit on a regular basis till midnight and on Fridays and we are extending the sitting hours on Tuesdays from 8.30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.

I will be delighted to consult at any time with The Workers' Party or any party in relation to ideas they may have on Dáil reform. I think that any time they contacted us they found that we tried to pass on the information they sought or give them a reason as to why perhaps a suggestion could not be implemented.

There is a proposal to have time available on a Friday in future to take Private Members' Bills. Deputy O'Malley was also very scathing about how difficult it is for Private Members' Bills to be taken in the Dáil. It is very peculiar that he should say that because he was chairman of an informal committee on Dáil procedure in 1972, and the same chairman produced a report: "Private Member to be allowed to initiate Bill without leave of the House if nominated by group and if no other Bill sponsored by group before the House." He chaired the committee which brought in the Standing Order that a certain number is needed to form a group and that a party must consist of at least seven members. He is highly critical of us today and says that small groups cannot be heard in this Parliament. He chaired the committee which brought that position about. The only recommendation that committee made in relation to Dáil sitting hours was that the Dáil should sit on Church holidays.

He was very critical of the fact that a matter of public importance could not be repeated for six months and he was glad that we were making a petty change and reducing the time to four months. The chairman of the committee who introduced that six month rule was Deputy O'Malley. The committee recommended that the reopening of discussion on a matter discussed within the preceding six months be prohibited. I wonder why people make such statements? Are they sincere in their belief or are they just making political points?

I suggest that he look at the number of hours the Dáil sat when he was Chief Whip. The record speaks for itself. Perhaps it is just as well he is not here to hear the reply because he would not like to have to listen to it.

Will the Minister send him a copy of it? It makes good reading.

(Dún Laoghaire): I am sure he will read it in the Official Report. In relation to the amendments put down by The Workers' Party their proposal to bring forward the sitting hours to 10.30 a.m. on a Tuesday is not realistic and I hope they accept the fact that extending the hours at the other end of the day is a better proposition. We had thought of bringing forward the sitting hours but after discussions with members of the Opposition it was felt it was better to extend the sitting. Some of us are fortunate to represent Dublin constituencies but those who have to travel from Goleen or north Donegal would have to leave on a Monday in order to be here at 10.30 a.m. on a Tuesday. A number of Members are also members of local authorities and have to attend to constituency work on a Monday. For that reason we are not proposing that the Tuesday sitting be brought forward to 10.30 a.m.

In relation to the point made by Deputy Yates, we are extending the sitting hours specifically for the taking of committee reports. There is a motion on the Order Paper which will be taken next Thursday, I understand from the Opposition Whip by agreement, without debate.

As regards Friday sittings the Dáil regularly sits on a Friday. It is more usual for that to happen after Christmas but if the Whips consider it necessary there is no reason we cannot have sittings on a Friday. It is not incorporated in Standing Orders but if the motion in relation to the taking of Private Members' Bills is accepted by the House Standing Orders will be amended to make it possible for sittings on Friday for the taking of Private Members' Bills.

The purpose of amendments Nos. 3, 4 and 5 is to enable The Workers' Party to qualify for priority Questions and to limit the number of priority Questions to two per party. If a party in Opposition have far more Members than any other party it is only reasonable that they would get more time; being the bigger party, they represent more people. What we are being asked to do is to treat a party consisting of two Members in the same way as a party with 70 Members. That is not equitable or reasonable. The definition of a group as comprising seven or more Members is a long standing one. It goes back to the committee chaired by Deputy O'Malley and was incorporated in Standing Orders in 1974. Given the increase in the number of Deputies since 1974 a case could be made for increasing the numerical requirement. It is open to those Members who are not members of a party with more than seven Members to form themselves into a group and avail of the rights which exist under Standing Orders for a group consisting of more than seven Members of the Dáil. That is open to The Workers' Party, to the Progressive Democrats and to the Independents.

The purpose of amendment No. 6 is to enable a Member who has put down a lottery Question which is subsequently grouped with a priority Question to join in the supplementaries to that question. I have some sympathy with what the Deputy says. I will have a look at it and discuss it with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. The problem is that we do not get through enough questions. A lottery Question could not be grouped with a priority Question if the lottery Question was taken first. A lottery Question which is not reached can be joined onto a priority Question later on. The answer to the problem is to get through all the Questions on the Order Paper. If Deputies were more co-operative with the Chair that would be feasible. I hope the appeal made by the Whips of the main parties will be listened to and that we will get through the maximum number of Questions possible.

I have dealt with the points raised by Deputy O'Malley. There must be some number and seven is reasonable bearing in mind the fact that the number of Members has increased since 1974. As I have said, it is open to those who are not members of an Opposition party to form themselves into a group of more than seven and avail of their rights under Standing Orders. That is something they must decide for themselves.

Deputy O'Malley was highly critical of the fact that the House only does Legislature business for three hours on a Tuesday. The Dáil will now sit from 2.30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. minimum when the Order is passed next week. That is an eight hour sitting but of that time only three hours will be taken up by the Government. Seven hours will be given to other business. One and a quarter hours will be given for Question Time, one and a half hours for Private Members' Time and three hours for committee work. In relation to that, rather than having committee reports debated in this House, there is no reason committees should not have an open session where Members who are not members of the committee could attend and where the Minister could be invited to attend. The report could then be discussed and the time of the House would not be taken up. It could be used for something else. The same result would be achieved in the end. Committees should look at that possibility.

In reply to Deputy O'Malley's charge that the recesses are too long it should be remembered that all committees now sit during the months of July and September. Some of those committees sat on numerous occasions during the recess and a great deal of work was done, and will be done in the future. I reject what I would term cheap party political comment for the sake of getting a line in the press, because it is giving the public a wrong impession of what we are trying to achieve. Nobody can deny we are sitting longer hours and that we have formed committees which sit when the Dáil is in recess and that the media are reporting the findings and the work of those committees. What I am saying is backed up by evidence. There are people who will avail of any opportunity to convey an impression to the public that we are doing nothing. That is totally and utterly unfair and unreasonable and I hope the press, when reporting this debate, will take what I have said into account for the sake of giving proper information to the public. I am extremely annoyed that the said gentleman picked up his papers and walked out of this Chamber before I had a chance to reply to his cheap political comments.

Every effort has been made by the Whips over the last number of years to extend sitting hours, to make this Chamber more relevant and to introduce a committee system which I believe in years to come will be just as important as discussion in this Chamber. If I am around, I will support the extension of the powers of committees and their ability to bring forward more ideas and suggestions for whoever are in Government.

Deputy O'Malley also said that matters crop up from time to time which should be debated, and he referred to the NESC report. When I was Whip, both in Opposition and in Government, I worked with both Deputy Bertie Ahern and Deputy Vincent Brady and on many occasions we had special debates when, on the Order of Business a Deputy suggested that a particular matter necessitated urgent debate. We provided time regularly for special debates by suspending Standing Orders. If Deputy O'Malley is so concerned about the NESC report, he could have raised this matter on the Order of Business this morning and asked that the Dáil give special time to debate that report. The record will show that in the past three or four years we have introduced a number of special debates in areas where the Opposition of the day thought it necessary to have a special debate and we suspended business as ordered to enable those debates to take place. There is no reason that that procedure cannot continue. I sincerely hope it continues. Every Deputy is entitled to ask for a special debate if he thinks the matter is important enough and if he gets the support of the Government and the Opposition Whips. There is no reason such a debate cannot take place because it is not necessary to write everything into Standing Orders. They are only a guideline. There is a lot of merit in having these debates because they show the public that we are aware of what is happening and that we are prepared to debate a live issue rather than letting it lie for a number of months.

I think I have dealt with all the points raised by Deputy O'Malley. I have answered the questions raised by Deputy Yates dealing with hours, committee reports — they will be debated on Tuesday evenings — and Private Members' Bills. I will investigate the possibility of having written Questions taken while the Dáil is in recess. This is a valid point and we should look at it. As regards questions on State companies, these are disallowed. The only thing I can say is that I will make inquiries about this matter, but State companies have their own chief executive officers, boards of directors and chairmen and they must be answerable for the working of their State bodies. It would be wrong to convey the impression to the public that the Minister of the day is responsible for the day to day running of these State bodies when we are paying salaries to the chief executives and when they also have boards of directors and chairmen. However, it is wrong to say State companies cannot be investigated because we have two committees who regularly investigate the activities of State bodies — the Joint Committee on State-Sponsored Bodies and the Committee on Public Expenditure.

Whether we use the parliamentary Question system or the committee system to investigate is open to debate. I suggest that the committee system is the better way because Question Time is for the purpose of getting information which can be supplied by the Minister of the day in a letter. This is something we should clear up once and for all. I will take on board the views that have been expreseed.

I hope I have replied to all the points made and I recommend the motion to the House.

Deputy De Rossa rose.

I am sorry Deputy but there can be no further debate.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 2:

Before paragraph (2) of the Standing Order to insert the following new paragraph:

"(2) The Dáil shall meet at 10.30 a.m. on Friday and adjourn not later than 3.30 p.m. for the purpose of dealing with Private Members Bills. When there are no Private Members Bills in progress, the Dáil shall deal with other Private Members Business, or such other business as it may by motion decide".

Amendment put.

Deputies

Vótail.

I am putting the question: "That amendment No. 2 be made". On that question a division has been challenged. Will those Members supporting a request for a division please rise in their places?

Deputies Mac Giolla, De Rossa, O'Malley, Keating, Wyse and Molloy rose.

As fewer than ten Deputies have risen, in accordance with Standing Orders, I declare the question lost. The amendment is rejected.

The names of those Members demanding a division will be entered in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

I move amendment No. 3:

New Standing Orders

In amendment 13, paragraph (i), to delete the words "group (as defined in Standing Order 85 (1))" and substitute the word "party".

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 4:

In amendment 13, to delete paragraphs (ii) and (iii) and substitute the following:

"(ii) The number of priority questions which may be tabled by a qualifying member shall not be more than 2, and the sequence in which such questions shall be taken shall be determined by lottery".

Question "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 5 cannot be moved.

Amendment No. 5 not moved.
Is amendment No. 6 being pressed?
Amendment No. 6 not moved.

Is motion No. 9 agreed to?

Question put and agreed to.