It is proposed to take Nos. 2, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 23. It is also proposed, subject to the agreement of the House, that: (1) the sitting shall not be suspended today; (2) Nos. 2, all stages of Nos. 9, 10, 11, and 12 shall be decided without amendment or debate and by one question, in each case; (3) statements on the European Council Meeting in Rome and bilateral meetings with other Heads of Government on 14-15 December 1990 shall be made now, and speakers shall be confined to a spokesperson nominated by each of the groups, as defined in Standing Order 89; and such statements shall not exceed 30 minutes for the Taoiseach and 15 minutes for each other speaker; and (4) at the conclusion of No. 23, the Dáil shall adjourn forthwith until 12 noon on Wednesday, 30 January 1991.
Order of Business.
Is the proposal in respect of No. 1, that the sitting shall not be suspended today, agreed? Agreed. Are the proposals for dealing with Nos. 2, 9, 10, 11 and 12 agreed?
We do not agree with the proposal for No. 11 which relates to a report on Dáil reform circulated to most Deputies this morning. It is proposed that the report, which I am sure most Deputies have not yet read, will be adopted by the House today. We are being asked not only to approve it without debate but without amendment. We are being denied the right to even propose amendments to the report. My party have submitted an amendment to No. 11: we have proposed that the rota for priority questions be changed to provide for the restoration of the priority question which was allowed to The Workers' Party up to about six months ago. We proposed that there should be three priority questions for Fine Gael, one for the Labour Party and one for The Workers' Party. I am sure——
The Deputy need not elaborate unduly now.
I am not elaborating unduly; I am simply explaining to the House why I am challenging a vote on this issue.
Shall I put the question then?
I am sure the Fine Gael Party have a view on the issue of priority questions, as indeed have the Labour Party, but I think neither party would want to deprive The Workers' Party of a priority question each day.
Whatever about us, you have no chance with them.
You had a good year, so behave yourself.
I am reluctant to destroy the good spirit but, nevertheless, I want to challenge a vote on this issue because there is a number of important principles involved.
In furtherance of the goodwill and generosity which I am used to, we suggested at a Whips meeting that the priority questions be extended by one to facilitate Deputy De Rossa and his party, but this has not been acceptable to the Government and thus we have to remain on the order of proportionality in relation to questions.
I am putting the question in respect of Item No. 11 dealing with Dáil reform: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 11 be agreed".
Will those who are demanding a division please rise?
Deputies De Rossa, Mac Giolla, Byrne, McCartan, Sherlock, Rabbitte, Gilmore and Garland rose.
As fewer than ten Deputies have risen, in accordance with Standing Orders, I declare the question carried. The names of those demanding a division will be entered in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.
Are the proposals for dealing with the Taoiseach's statement today agreed? Agreed. Are the proposals for dealing with Item No. 4 agreed?
Deputies Spring and Bruton rose.
I must call Deputy Bruton in relation to the Adjournment.
The proposal that the Dáil adjourn to 30 January is not agreed by the Fine Gael Party. The Dáil sat for barely 30 days since 1 July and we have not transacted all the business which needs to be transacted. Large amounts of legislation promised for this session by the Government have not been processed because the sitting times have been too short. As long as the Government continue to insist on operating an unreformed Dáil, where Committee Stages of Bills are taken in this House and where the Estimates of expenditure are not debated at all — because they are also taken on the Floor of the House rather than in Special Committee — the proposed number of sitting days is, quite simply, totally inadequate. Fine Gael, therefore, oppose an adjournment to 30 January.
You may recall, a Cheann Comhairle, that I raised this matter yesterday in the hope that the Taoiseach might listen. In relation to the recall of the Dáil, have the Government given any consideration to extending the sittings of this House and breaking them into four sessions per annum instead of the present three? The Taoiseach — and his Ministers — promised on numerous occasions that the Environmental Protection Agency Bill would go through the House this session. The same was promised in relation to the Roads Authority Bill and I suggest to the Taoiseach that we should come back two weeks earlier in January to get those Bills through the House.
The business of the House in the coming session will be dominated by the budget and the Finance Bill and we will get very little legislation through. Have the Government given any consideration to altering the sittings of this House?
Clearly this issue, the date of the return of the Dáil, is linked to the issue I raised with regard to taking an important report on reform of the House without debate and amendment. I clearly support the motion that the Dáil should return at an earlier date. I, therefore, oppose Item No. 4.
I am putting the question——
The Taoiseach is in the dock.
- Ahern, Bertie.
- Ahern, Dermot.
- Ahern, Michael.
- Andrews, David.
- Barrett, Michael.
- Brady, Gerard.
- Brady, Vincent.
- Brennan, Mattie.
- Brennan, Séamus.
- Briscoe, Ben.
- Browne, John (Wexford).
- Calleary, Seán.
- Callely, Ivor.
- Clohessy, Peadar.
- Connolly, Ger.
- Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
- Cowen, Brian.
- Cullimore, Séamus.
- Daly, Brendan.
- Davern, Noel.
- Dempsey, Noel.
- Dennehy, John.
- de Valera, Síle.
- Ellis, John.
- Fahey, Frank.
- Flood, Chris.
- Flynn, Pádraig.
- Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
- Haughey, Charles J.
- Hillery, Brian.
- Hilliard, Colm.
- Hyland, Liam.
- Jacob, Joe.
- Kelly, Laurence.
- Kenneally, Brendan.
- Kirk, Séamus.
- Kitt, Michael P.
- Kitt, Tom.
- Lawlor, Liam.
- Leonard, Jimmy.
- Leyden, Terry.
- Lyons, Denis.
- Morley, P.J.
- Nolan, M. J.
- Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).
- O'Donoghue, John.
- O'Hanlon, Rory.
- O'Keeffe, Ned.
- O'Kennedy, Michael.
- O'Leary, John.
- O'Malley, Desmond J.
- O'Rourke, Mary.
- O'Toole, Martin Joe.
- Power, Seán.
- Quill, Máirín.
- Reynolds, Albert.
- Roche, Dick.
- Smith, Michael.
- Stafford, John.
- Treacy, Noel.
- Tunney, Jim.
- Wallace, Dan.
- Wallace, Mary.
- Walsh, Joe.
- Woods, Michael.
- Wyse, Pearse.
- Ahearn, Therese.
- Barnes, Monica.
- Barry, Peter.
- Belton, Louis J.
- Bradford, Paul.
- Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
- Bruton, John.
- Bruton, Richard.
- Byrne, Eric.
- Connor, John.
- Cotter, Bill.
- Creed, Michael.
- Currie, Austin.
- Deasy, Austin.
- Deenihan, Jimmy.
- De Rossa, Proinsias.
- Doyle, Joe.
- Dukes, Alan.
- Durkan, Bernard.
- Fennell, Nuala.
- Ferris, Michael.
- Finucane, Michael.
- Flaherty, Mary.
- Garland, Roger.
- Owen, Nora.
- Quinn, Ruairí.
- Rabbitte, Pat.
- Reynolds, Gerry.
- Ryan, Seán.
- Gilmore, Eamon.
- Harte, Paddy.
- Higgins, Jim.
- Hogan, Philip.
- Howlin, Brendan.
- Kavanagh, Liam.
- Kemmy, Jim.
- Kenny, Enda.
- Lee, Pat.
- Lowry, Michael.
- McCartan, Pat.
- McCormack, Pádraic.
- McGinley, Dinny.
- Mac Giolla, Tomás.
- McGrath, Paul.
- Mitchell, Gay.
- Mitchell, Jim.
- Moynihan, Michael.
- Nealon, Ted.
- Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East).
- O'Keeffe, Jim.
- O'Sullivan, Gerry.
- O'Sullivan, Toddy.
- Sherlock, Joe.
- Spring, Dick.
- Stagg, Emmet.
- Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.
- Timmins, Godfrey.
- Yates, Ivan.
On the Order of Business I have two questions I wish to raise with the Taoiseach one of which may be disagreeable to him and the other agreeable. I will take the disagreeable question first. May I ask the Taoiseach if he will appoint a Minister for Defence or if we will have another six weeks with a part time, half-time Minister for Defence in view of the fact that so many decisions have to be taken on the implementation of the Gleeson committee report in regard to Defence matters? It is entirely undesirable that we should have a part timer fulfilling this important role. I am asking the Taoiseach if he will make provision today for the appointment of an extra member of the Government which requires the consent of this House.
This is a rehash of a matter that has come up on numerous occasions recently.
By way of reply, and entirely in the spirit of Christmas, may I ask the Leader of the Fine Gael Party when is he going to appoint his full front bench?
I would like to thank the Taoiseach for the interest he takes in the party of his ancestors. I can assure him that the Fine Gael Party are in good hands for the years in front of us.
I am calling Deputy Spring.
I now come to the other question I wish to raise. It is a disgrace that we have not got a full time Minister for Defence. I will leave it at that. May I ask another question? I realise, Sir, that it has not been the precedent for the House to have an opportunity to pay tribute to an outgoing President of Ireland at the end of his or her term but it is a precedent we should break on this occasion in order to provide an opportunity for the party leaders to pay a brief tribute to Dr. Patrick Hillery for the distinguished conduct of his office of President over a period of 14 years. It is appropriate that the House should have that opportunity and I am sure the Taoiseach, as a former colleague of Dr. Hillery, would wish to be associated with a tribute to him on the work he has done, particularly in view of the time of year.
As Deputy Bruton has said, there is no precedent to follow but it would be a very good idea and I will ask the Whips to discuss it and see when it might be appropriately done.
I am afraid I have to be disagreeable. The matter of the appointment of the Minister for Defence has been mentioned many times in this House and the Taoiseach gets quite upset and, indeed, has done on two or three occasions. I wonder whether he can give us one sensible logical reason why he has not appointed a Minister for Defence.
I do not have to.
It is the Taoiseach's prerogative but I would say he is not doing himself, his Government or this House a service by not appointing a Minister for Defence. We will now have to wait until February before we have a Minister for Defence or, perhaps, the Taoiseach will wait until the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis.
This matter has been raised on numerous occasions.
It has, a Cheann Comhairle. At the risk of you accusing us of rehashing it——
It is not appropriate now Deputy Spring.
It is appropriate every day that the vacancy persists.
On a point of order, not alone is it not appropriate but I suggest to put it is completely out of order. We have a new system of dealing with the Order of Business and if it is not going to be adhered to we will withdraw from it.
The Chair would be very anxious that the procedure for dealing with the Order of Business be strictly adhered to. I cannot permit the Order of Business to be turned into a mini Question Time. We do have a Question Time in this House. We do have many ways and means of raising questions and asking Ministers or the Taoiseach to make statements. This is not the appropriate time.
You can rest assured that I will not disturb you for the next six weeks.
That is no great comfort to the Chair.
Meanwhile, I would say to the Taoiseach that it is far more——
This is a real love-in.
A Cheann Comhairle, as I always say, old friends are best.
I would have to say to the Taoiseach that it is far more in order to raise the matter of his failure to appoint a Minister for Defence than for him to say it is out of order.
Likewise, it is the Taoiseach's prerogative to nominate a Minister for Defence.
I am calling Deputy Nealon and I trust the Deputy will not follow the example of others.
May I just——
The Taoiseach has until 5 o'clock today to show that he has the confidence to appoint a Minister for Defence.
I want to inquire——
Deputies must resume their seats.
I would just like to say that I do not need any instruction from Deputy Spring as to how to discharge the duties of my office. Thank you very much.
I am calling Deputy De Rossa.
The Taoiseach has not got the confidence to do it.
The Taoiseach is accountable to this House for his failings in this area.
Anyone who goes to the Westbury will not get a job.
We do not have a new procedure for the Order of Business——
We have an established procedure of long standing.
I think the Taoiseach is confusing other decisions of this House. On a different matter, may I ask him if either he or the Minister for Foreign Affairs intend to make any approach to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State or British Prime Minister in regard to the decision of the Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions not to take charges in relation to the killing of three men in West Belfast last January?
This is not appropriate now, Deputy De Rossa.
We will not have any opportunity to raise this matter for a number of weeks. May I ask if it is intended——
Would it be a suitable matter to raise on the Adjournment?
No provision has been made for an Adjournment debate today.
Will the Taoiseach indicate if it is intended to raise this matter with either the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland or the British Prime Minister?
I had intended seeking permission to raise this matter on the Adjournment tonight. It is incumbent on the Government to point out the efforts all of us have made to build confidence in the law and security forces in Northern Ireland. The decision by the Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions yesterday not to prosecute the soldiers involved causes grave disquiet to me and to other Members of this House, particularly when it is taken in conjunction with the decision made in England the previous day in regard to the Birmingham Six. I wish you would give us time to denote this matter in the House.
The Deputies have made their point in that regard. Deputy Pat McCartan, on the same subject?
No, it is on a different matter. In regard to the patents Bill which is supposed to have been circulated during the current session, the Taoiseach recently indicated that the matter was with the Attorney General. It now appears that at least some members of the Government are of a different opinion. They say that the Attorney General has ruled on the matter and has considered it impossible, in view of our constitutional constraints, to have a Bill endorsing the European convention dealt with in this House. May I ask the Taoiseach to clarify the position and to indicate whether it is intended to bring in the patents Bill during the next session?
The position is as I have outlined. The Bill will be brought forward during the next session.
That was the advice the Taoiseach gave us recently but I took part in a programme——
This matter should not give rise to argument or disputation.
I want to be clear about this. In a recent programme in which I participated a junior member of the Government indicated that the Attorney General had decided it was impossible——
The Deputy has already made that point.
Will the Taoiseach clarify the position?
I told the Deputy solemnly here in this House that the Bill is on the way and will be introduced next session.
Deputy Mitchell is offering.
May I ask the Taoiseach if any decision has yet been taken by the Government as to when the budget will be introduced?
The budget will be introduced the day we come back, 30 January.
The Taoiseach gave the House an assurance last week that the Bill on the protection of part-time workers would be circulated before the recess. Can I take it that this Bill will be circulated today?
It was in the Deputy's post this morning.
I was in early.
The Taoiseach has given us assurance that the patents Bill will be taken during the next session. May I ask him for a similar assurance in relation to the promised legislation on phone tapping?
It is not promised.
It is promised.
Deputy Pat Rabbitte was offering.
On a point of correction, the Bill was promised in the Joint Programme for Government and has also been mentioned in this House——
It has not been promised in this House, Deputy. Deputy Pat Rabbitte has been called and will be heard.
Can I now take it that——
Deputy O'Keeffe, please desist.
——the Taoiseach is now——
Deputy O'Keeffe must now resume his seat.
Of course I will.
I still have not got any information about the Bill which was promised by the Government in the Joint Programme for Government.
It was not legislation promised in this House.
In regard to promised legislation, I want to welcome the honouring of his commitment by the Minister for Labour at the time of the introduction of The Workers' Party Bill on the protection of part-time workers. A Bill has been published this morning and I welcome it.
May I ask the Taoiseach if he intends to ensure that time will be provided during the next session to discuss the very belated publication of the second triennial report on industrial performance? Does he intend to make any statement before we rise on the termination of talks yesterday on a new programme for social and economic development?
Some matters are quite irrelevant to the Order of Business.
May I ask the Taoiseach or the Minister for Social Welfare if an announcement will be made today on the composition of the new pensions board as was promised during the debate on the Pensions Bill? A promise was given at that time that this board would be in place before 1 January.
It is not appropriate to the Order of Business.
It will be announced shortly.
I am moving on to item No. 2——
I want to ask a brief procedural question. I want to put it to the Minister that in view of the fact that we have lost 30 minutes this morning having two votes, slow, cumbersome and procedurally——
On a point of information, you wasted 30 minutes this morning.
It is our democratic right to have a vote. Is it not past time that electronic voting, such as that in every other civilized parliament, was introduced here?
That is a matter for the Deputy and the committee in which he has been so active in recent times. We will now have a statement from An Taoiseach.
The Taoiseach should spend a little while over here to remind him of what it is like.
Even if we had electronic voting the results would still be the same.
What about item No. 2?
I will come to it, Deputy. I understand we are having the statements now. I will come to the other items afterwards.
Surely we have to take items Nos. 9, 10, 11 and 12 before the statements?
They will be dealt with in the ordinary way. I have been advised that the statements will be taken now. Items Nos. 2, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 23 will be taken later.
That is very unusual.
The Ceann Comhairle is right, he knows.
Those items are listed first on the Order of Business.