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Dáil Éireann debate -
Friday, 6 Mar 1992

Vol. 416 No. 9

Oireachtas Joint Committee on Employment: Statement.

I informed the House on 19 February 1992 that I was considering the various suggestions that have been made by Opposition parties, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and others for some kind of forum in which new measures necessary to create employment could be studied and discussed.

The House subsequently resolved on 26 February 1992 — by way of an amendment to an amendment to the jobs forum — to await the positive proposals that I informed the House on 19 February 1992 I was considering for an appropriate structure which would enable new ideas and proposals to be identified and implemented with wide political support.

I now wish to inform the House that the Government Chief Whip will be putting detailed proposals to the other Whips next week for the creation of an Oireachtas Joint Committee on Employment to identify and recommend proposals and measures to accelerate the creation of employment and alleviate the grave problem of unemployment.

I trust that what the Government will propose will be seen as a constructive step to providing a political structure in which new practical ideas and proposals to accelerate employment can be identified and brought into force while drawing on the knowledge, experience and insight of the social partners and other informed and concerned interests.

Deputy John Bruton, in the exceptional circumstances, without precedent. Agreed?

I thank the Chair for his consideration. I am not happy with what I know about this proposal, from a number of viewpoints. The proposed arrangements do not involve either the social partners or the unemployed directly in interaction with the politicians in this House in the way in which the employment policy is to be developed. This is not an all-party jobs forum but simply a Dáil and Seanad Joint Committee. The success of the New Ireland Forum was in no small measure due to the fact that there was an independent chairman, that it was not a chairman chosen from either the Opposition or the Government. There is an indication in this announcement that, as this proposal is for Oireachtas Joint Committee, the only person eligible to be in the Chair is a Member of the House. Therefore, it does not appear that we will have an independent chairman.

I had hoped for the utmost brevity.

This is of the utmost brevity and it is as brief as the Taoiseach's remarks. I am also worried that there is no indication that this body will have any supervisory role in ensuring that its recommendations are translated into action and therefore it may simply be another talking shop. It is extremely important, if this is to work, that there be an atmosphere of all-party agreement. The Taoiseach indicated that he will be having detailed communications with the Opposition parties through the Whips. I hope that that will be the first and only communication of any of these details and that we will not be reading about this over the weekend in greater detail. Since this is something which must be agreed in this House, it should be the Members of this House——


——through their parties who should be the first to hear the details of the Government's intention.


Unless, of course the Government intend to approach this matter on the basis of diktat.

I am now calling on Deputy Quinn.

You have very little confidence in the Members of this House.

What can you expect when you see what happened two weeks ago?

Deputy Farrelly should allow proceedings to continue in an orderly fashion.

I would be remiss if I did not thank the Chair for his interpretation of Standing Orders to allow brief comments to be made by the Opposition parties. I have four questions to put to the Taoiseach in response to his announcement. Before a final decision is made could the Taoiseach consider having constructive consultations with the various Whips in relation to this matter? When the Whip communicates with the other parties can we have a clear indication of the resources that will be made available in what I interpret will be an Oireachtas Joint Committee? Can the Taoiseach clarify the point in relation to whether submissions can be taken from the social partners and other interested bodies, as has been suggested in the course of various debates, in this type of committee? I hope that, out of courtesy to the House and in line with the precedent the Taoiseach has sought to set in train, we will be no more the wiser on Monday than we are now in relation to this matter.

More censorship.

That is what it is.


Perhaps it is less propaganda.

It was the Taoiseach who imposed censorship last time and he could not hold his tongue for an hour.

Please, Deputies. Deputy Pat Rabbitte.

I welcome the Government decision to proceed with the establishment of this committee, although it is not the kind of jobs forum that was envisaged in the debate in this House a couple of week ago. I regret if it is intended to confine it to elected Members of this House and not to involve the social partners. One of the main complaints put forward by Opposition parties in this House at the time of the ratification of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress was that the Opposition parties had no input or involvement of any kind and that effectively a major area of social and economic policy was taken outside the remit of the Oireachtas. The question of the resources available to the Oireachtas Committee will effectively determine whether or not it will bring the combined ingenuity of this House to focus on the most fundamental problem confronting us. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy O'Malley, told the House yesterday at Question Time that——

The utmost brevity, please.

I am concluding. He told the House that implementation of all the recommendations of the Cullition report would make no appreciable impact on unemployment for two to three years.

That does not arise now, Deputy Rabbitte. The Taoiseach may intervene now and reply.

Finally, I trust that, although Deputy McCartan was not consulted on this, I and my colleagues will be consulted on it before it is established.

In the past we had excellent all-party committees of this House dealing with various matters. This vacuum with no political involvement by the House has been mentioned on many occasions in the House. I hope that all sides of the House will approach this single biggest problem, this challenge facing the Government and the Oireachtas, on an all-party basis of co-operation and that we will take full advantage of the collective wisdom of this House to make the greatest impact we can on the biggest problem facing us. I hope that all parties approach this on that basis. The question of input from the social partners and other groups is a matter on which the committee can certainly take effective action in due course.