Order of Business.

It is proposed to take Nos. 7 and 8. It is also proposed that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. today and business shall be interrupted at 10.30 p.m. Private Members' Business shall be No. 24.

Is the proposal for the late sitting today agreed? Agreed.

May I ask the Taoiseach when he proposes to provide time for a debate on the special report of the Comptroller and Auditor General in regard to the extension of his functions and those of the Committee of Public Accounts to whom he reports? On a number of occasions the Taoiseach has promised that this matter would be discussed through the Whips but my information is that these discussions from the Government side have been, to say the least, desultory and no serious intention has been displayed to bring forward the debate.

I am not sure that that matter is in order now, Deputy.

These are very serious accusations.

May I ask the Taoiseach if he is aware that there is a need to eliminate waste in the public service——

Please, Deputy, that is a matter which can be raised at another time.

The Comptroller and Auditor General has an important function to perform and if he says he needs these extra powers——

I am calling Deputy Ruair iá Quinn.

——the Government should take the matter seriously and not treat it as they are now treating it.

Order, please, Deputy Bruton, Deputy Quinn.

Can I ask the Taoiseach if the Government have reconsidered their position in relation to the publication of the draft EC structural plan and the provision of parliamentary time to discuss this in the House prior to 31 March?

The plan is almost completed and will be lodged in plenty of time in Brussels. I have not considered whether it might be debated here but that is something we can consider.

May I suggest to the Taoiseach that in the course of his considerations he has regard to the fact that since Ireland is one region and this is the only elected assembly representing all of that region it might be helpful for the Government if a debate took place before 31 March?

That is a point of view.

Deputy Noonan (Limerick East) rose.

Deputy Dick Spring is offering. I will call the Deputy.

I seek your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, to raise on the Adjournment the lack of ENT services in County Kerry.

I will communicate with the Deputy.

(Limerick East): In the course of his Budget Statement the Minister for Finance announced that the proposed increase of 5p per gallon on the price of petrol would be cancelled by a similar reduction at the pumps. In view of the announcement by the Department of Industry and Commerce this morning that petrol is going up 4p a gallon, will the Minister or the Taoiseach clarify the position now?

That is clearly not in order now, Deputy.

(Limerick East): We got a commitment that there would be no increase in the price of petrol——

The Deputy should put down a question on the matter. It is not in order now.

(Limerick East):——but it is now being increased. I think the House has been misled.

The Deputy knows full well that this matter is not in order now.

(Limerick East): The House was misled; we were told there would be no increase in the price of petrol but petrol is now going up by 4p a gallon and auto diesel by 2p a gallon.

The Deputy should raise that matter at another time and in another way.

(Interruptions.)

Deputy Avril Doyle.

(Limerick East): This is ridiculous. I seek your permission, A Cheann Comhairle, to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

I will communicate with the Deputy.

I should like to ask the Taoiseach when the Minister for Agriculture and Food will issue the regulations to Teagasc which he promised many months ago to enable farmers to switch from farm improvement programmes to the western package in order to avail of the higher rates of grants for anti-pollution measures.

Is this legislation promised?

They are underway. They are in course of preparation.

Will they be issued shortly?

I seek your permission, A Cheann Comhairle, to raise on the Adjournment the theft of a 16th century manuscript map from the National Library and in particular the lack of security at the library which makes recurrence of theft possible.

I am aware of the Deputy's interest in the matter and I will communicate with him.

I seek your permission, A Cheann Comharile, to raise on the Adjournment the need to set up an independent inquiry into the manner in which the ESB disposed of asbestos waste last weekend at Portarlington.

I will communicate with the Deputy.

I should like to ask the Minister for Health if he will make all the necessary resources and expertise of his Department available to the North-Western Health Board to contain and counteract the serious outbreak of salmonella in County Donegal.

I ask the Deputy to desist; this matter is not in order now.

I wish to raise on the Adjournment the inadequacy of the funding available to Kildare VEC with the consequent loss of teachers and subjects and curtailment of school hours.

I will communicate with the Deputy.

A Cheann Comhairle, I want to draw your attention once again to the fact that Ministers are refusing to answer questions on the basis that the budget is under discussion in this House. In this connection I refer to the type of question asked by Deputy Noonan just now. We are asking about the increase in the price of petrol — who authorised this increase and why was a commitment given here on budget day that there would be no increase?

The Chair has no function in the matter.

We cannot raise important matters because Ministers are turning down questions on the basis that the budget debate is proceeding. That is very unsatisfactory.

A Deputy

We are being gagged.

(Interruptions.)

(Limerick East): On a point of order, A Cheann Comhairle, you advised me to put down a question but if I put down a question you will rule it out of order on the basis that it is a matter for the budget debate. I cannot follow your advice.

I think you might follow my advice if you consult me in my office. Deputy Jim O'Keeffe.

(Limerick East): On a point of order——

(Interruptions.)

It is not a point of order anyway. Deputy Noonan and I seem to have some trouble here this morning.

(Limerick East): It is a legitimate point of order.

The price of petrol is going up but the Ministers will not answer questions on the increase.

(Limerick East): I understand the Committee on Procedure and Privileges made a decision that no question of the type I raised should be answered within three weeks of the Budget Statement. I am seeking a way of raising this matter since both Ministers have misled us——

Please, Deputy Noonan, we cannot debate this matter now.

(Limerick East): Can you advise me on how I can raise it legitimately?

My office will be glad to communicate with the Deputy in relation to the matter.

(Interruptions.)

Deputy Jim O'Keeffe.

Could I raise on the Adjournment the circumstances in which Department of Social Welfare documents covered by the Official Secrets Act were found floating in a Dublin city street?

I shall communicate with the Deputy. Deputies Sherlock and McCartan are offering.

Could I ask the Taoiseach or the Minister for Health if, in view of the grave concern, particularly in the Southern Health Board area in my constituency, at the lack of services being provided in all sectors it is intended as a result of the——

Is the Deputy seeking to raise that matter with me or with a member of the Government?

Is it intended to bring forward a Supplementary Estimate for Health so as to increase the allocation to health boards?

I am sorry Deputy, the matter is not in order. I was asking if the Deputy was putting the question to me with a view to raising it on the Adjournment or if he was putting it to a member of the Government?

He is looking for enlightenment.

Perhaps he could visit the Ceann Comhairle in his office later. Perhaps he could join the queue.

If the question is addressed to a Minister of the Government, it is not in order.

Could the Taoiseach indicate when the Minister for Justice is likely to present a new solicitors Act to implement, amongst other things, the recommendations of the Restrictive Practices Commission in regard to the ban on advertising by solicitors?

I am not sure if any legislation has been promised.

It has been.

I can assure the Taoiseach that it has been promised for many years.

I shall check on the position and let the Deputy know.

I wish to raise on the Adjournment the question of the number of deaths in Irish prisons during the last year, the inquests that have been held into some of them and the recommendations of juries and riders attached to their verdicts upon which the Minister for Justice has not yet acted.

I will communicate with the Deputy.

In respect of promised legislation could I remind the Taoiseach of the long promised and very urgent legislation on the reform of the patent laws which, if it is not enacted quickly, puts in jeopardy employment in a firm with four plants in Ireland? Is he aware that this matter is extremely urgent? Will the Taoiseach give a definite commitment as to when this reforming legislation will be introduced or, if the Government have made a decision not to proceed immediately with the full Bill, if they intend to introduce a limited Bill to deal with the particular problems of the firm in question?

I take it that the legislation is promised?

Certainly.

It is our intention to have it this year.

Is it possible that the Taoiseach is not aware that that is not good enough from the point of view of the firm in question?

Deputy, you may not enter into argument now on the matter.

I would draw the attention of the Taoiseach to the extreme urgency of the matters in respect of this firm. The indication from him——

I think that the Deputy has made his point.

——that this legislation which was promised before last Christmas is now changed to some time before the end of the subsequent year, is simply not good enough and will cause alarm.

The Deputy knows full well that there were complex constitutional issues to be sorted out with regard to this legislation, which I think is the reason that his Government did nothing about the matter for four years.

Could I remind the Taoiseach that——

Please, Deputy, this cannot continue on the Order of Business.

This is a matter of grave concern to the firm in question.

The Deputy has already made that point.

Could the Taoiseach give something better than that? Could he indicate whether it is being introduced this year?

I am proceeding to deal with Item No. 7.

I wish to raise on the Adjournment the matter of the failure of Avonmore Creameries to keep the number of jobs in Clonmel Bacon Factory.

I will communicate with the Deputy.

I would remind the Taoiseach that his Government have been in office for two years. Could he tell the House when this legislation will be introduced?

I again call Item No. 7.