Order of Business.

It is proposed to take Nos. 3 and 8.

It is also proposed that the following arrangements shall apply to the proceedings on No. 3.

(1) The Second Stage shall be brought to a conclusion not later than 2.30 p.m. today and the Minister for Social Welfare shall be called on to conclude not later than 2.20 p.m. today.

(2) With the exception of the opening speech of the Minister for Social Welfare, who shall be confined to 35 minutes, all other speakers on the Second Stage shall not exceed 30 minutes,

(3) The proceedings on the Committee and Remaining Stages shall be brought to a conclusion not later than 5 p.m. today by one Question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only amendments set down by the Minister for Social Welfare.

It is further proposed that the speech of each Member contributing to the debate on No. 8 today shall not exceed 45 minutes.

Is the Order of Business agreed?

We cannot agree to the procedure outlined here. We expressed our reservations in regard to the Social Welfare Bill being dealt with in such a short period——

Is the Deputy referring to Items Nos. 1,2 or 3 on today's Order of Business?

I am referring to Item No. 3 on the Order Paper, the Social Welfare Bill. I was informed the Bill must be dealt with before 6 April — I do not know the reasons for the magic date and why it must be dealt with before then — and we expressed the view that the Dáil should sit later than 5 p.m. today. It could also sit tomorrow as the Seanad has to deal with this Bill to ensure it is passed in time. Could the House agree to extend the period of debate to 10 p.m. tonight which would give us time to have a reasonable Committee Stage which would include amendments? It would also give the House time to have a proper Second Stage debate as this is a most important Bill affecting the lives of many people.

I too object to taking the Bill in this fashion. It is a major Bill in relation to social welfare containing ten sections. Even if speakers were to confine themselves to a minimum amount of time, only six or eight speakers would manage to speak on the Bill. Even if the Government are determined to ensure that this legislation is enacted by early next week, I cannot understand why we cannot extend the sitting of the House today or meet tomorrow. It is the only opportunity which Members on all sides of the House who should be taking an interest in the Bill will have to discuss matters ranging from the rate of social welfare increases, which look like being less than inflation, to the very serious question of the halving of pay-related benefit for all new claimants from next Monday.

We also need to discuss the increased contributions which will be required for unemployment, disability and maternity benefit from next week. It is also the only opportunity in the budget context to discuss on Committee Stage the job search programme about which we have been hearing for the last two days and the reduction in payments in the social welfare employment schemes from £70 to £60. On that basis, will the Taoiseach consider making more time available to discuss the Bill because there must be Deputies on this side of the House and on the Fianna Fáil back benches who want to discuss the implications of the Social Welfare Bill? We heard about disunity in Fianna Fáil yesterday; perhaps some of it will be evident in the House today.

These arrangements were made by the Whips of the major parties and I am sorry that the Labour Party and The Workers' Party do not find it possible to agree to them. The budget debate is now coming up and Deputies in all parties will have a full opportunity to discuss everything in the budget of which this legislation is essentially a part.

Deputy Quinn rose.

I trust we will not have a long debate on this matter as I was about to put the question.

I want to make the point——

The Taoiseach has replied to the debate but if the Deputy wishes to put a very brief question I will permit it. That concludes the debate as far as the Chair is concerned.

With all due respect, you should allow me the democratic right to ask a question in this House without anticipating what I might ask——

The Deputy was asleep.

The Chair would have to put a question on this matter before proceeding to any other business.

I want to be in order and to raise the matter on the Order of Business before the Order of Business is agreed lest I would be deemed to be out of order. If I can proceed, with your permission I would like to ask the Minister for the Environment and the Taoiseach, in view of the chaos that is now raging outside with approximately 20,000 individuals who are in the process of trying to extricate themselves from contracts arising out of the decision to arbitrarily terminate the grants——

I am sorry, this does not arise on the Order of Business. I cannot allow the Deputy to persist along those lines. I thought he had a relevant question appertaining to the Order of Business. Clearly he has not.

I ask your permission to raise this matter——

I will communicate with the Deputy.

I would like to proceed to see that it is possible——

Deputy Michael Noonan wishes to——

I would like to ask some member of the Government to clarify now, because questions are coming to every Deputy's office, whether the people who have signed contracts——

This is out of order. I must keep within the Order of Business.

——up to 27 March last will be able to get the grants they expected at the time.


I intend to clear the items before us just now and I will hear questions on the Order of Business later. Deputy Quinn, please resume your seat.

Will I be able to resume after the Order of Business?

The matter you refer to is out of order and I have told you already I will communicate with you if you intend to proceed further with the matter.

With due respect, I do not believe it it out of order. Certainly it is out of order for the 20,000 people affected.

The Chair is on its feet, Deputy Quinn.

I will comply with your ruling if I can raise this matter after you finish with the Order of Business, but it is not out of order for the people who are going to lose their deposits.

The Deputy is persisting to speak while the Chair is on its feet. Deputy Quinn must resume his seat.

Those losing their deposits——


Deputy Quinn will resume his seat or leave the House.

A Deputy

He wants to be put out.

I do not want to be put out. They are going to lose their deposits because this Government betrayed the building industry.

Deputy Quinn will now leave the House.

I will not, Sir.

The Deputy must be named, then.