I wish to ask the Taoiseach for clarification on some aspects of the Social Welfare Bill. He will recall his strenuous arguments in Opposition about Second and Committee Stages of Bills being taken in the same week. We have been asked to take this Bill to the end of Committee Stage during Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week. We agree to process the Bill because I am aware of the importance of getting it through, but I would ask the Taoiseach to ensure, with the exception of the Finance and Social Welfare Bills, there will be a break between Second Stage and Committee Stage of the Bills, I know that is not easy in the case of the two Bills to which I have referred but it is unreasonable to ask us to deal with both Stages this week.
Order of Business (Resumed).
I understand the Government would have been willing to take Second Stage last week and Committee Stage this week, but I understand the Fianna Fáil spokesperson was not available to take Second Stage last week and that is the reason we are taking both Stages this week.
We were, and still are prepared to take the Bill over two weeks.
If that is the attitude of Deputies we will not agree to take it. I am trying to be co-operative.
I respectfully submit this is a matter for further discussion between the Whips.
Perhaps time could be made available for Committee Stage next week so that discussion will be spread over two weeks. That is not an unreasonable request. If the Government makes an issue of it we can be very unreasonable. I asked the Tánaiste last week for a detailed statement on the mechanism for dealing with equality payments, which we support, whether they will be made from the local loans funds and if that means a direct sale of the local loans find book, whether a loan will be raised by the Housing Agency, whether it will mean additional Exchequer borrowing or whether it will mean supply spending. We asked for those facts before commencing debate on the Social Welfare Bill. Perhaps that is not the Tánaiste's function, but will the Taoiseach outline how this money will be raised?
This is too detailed a matter to be discussed on the Order of Business.
I asked for this information eight days ago.
It should be dealt with in accordance with the procedures of this House.
Perhaps the Taoiseach will be helpful in giving the information.
There is no response.
That is unhelpful. We asked for the information eight days ago.
I will abide by the Chair as to whether I am in order in dealing with this matter.
It was in order last week.
On the matter of the legislation referred to, the Taoiseach is in order, but in respect of the other matters raised, he is not in order in dealing with them.
We were given a commitment that we would receive the information.
We have dealt with the timing of the legislation. I have no doubt any information sought on the legislation will be provided during the debate as it is relevant to the legislation. It is not the purpose of the Order of Business to put queries about the content or ancillary relationships of other issues of legislation. The question relates not only to the timing or taking of legislation.
This is the transparent Government.
This should not give rise to argument.
Since we are dealing with the Social Welfare Bill and there is £200 million additional expenditure involved, surely it is of relevance to the House to know from where the money will come. A short statement was made by the Government and I have been trying to find out for eight days from where the money will come. That is a relevant question on a Bill before the House.
The Social Welfare Bill is before the House.
We will deal with that matter in the debate.
The Taoiseach does not know from where the money will come.
The matter is before the House.
I agree with the points raised by Deputy Ahern on the Social Welfare Bill. Will the Government agree as a matter of principle that there will always be a gap between Second Stage and Committee Stage of Bills? This is the second occasion in recent times whereby all Stages of Bills have been taken in the one week, and that is unsatisfactory. Experience has shown that when that is done, we always end up with faulty legislation. Does the Government intend bringing forward legislation later this year to provide for an amendment to the sanitary services Act to prevent local authorities disconnecting service from those who do not pay service charges?
Of course it is desirable there be a gap between Second Stage and Committee Stage of Bills. We were willing to take Second Stage of the Social Welfare Bill last week but it was not possible because the principal Opposition spokesperson was not available. That would have allowed us to start Committee Stage this week. Second Stage will be completed at the set time. The Select Committee on Social Affairs will have the ability to set its own time to meet and discuss the Bill. If it wants to allow a gap between Second and Committee Stages, that is a matter for the committee, not the Government. The only requirement is that the legislation be passed by 6 April, which is the statutory deadline to allow the increases to come into effect and have statutory authority. On the other question raised by the Deputy, there are commitments in the Government programme on that matter which will be fulfilled.
Will the Government make a statement on the serious developments in the ESB, brought about largely by the Minister's intervention last week?
That is clearly not in order now and the Deputy knows that full well.
It will be if the lights go out.
Some lights are dim already.
Has the Taoiseach taken steps to progress the proposal to have a right of intervention or interruption during speeches in this House and, if so, when will a report be compiled on the Government's intentions in this matter?
That is appropriate to Question Time.
On a point of order, is it in order for the Taoiseach to wear an emblem in this House? I thought it was against the rules of the House to wear emblems here, but some of the St. Patrick's Day paraphernalia from the other side of the Atlantic is still stuck in the Taoiseach's lapel.
I have a sackful of badges from the United States and I am waiting for the opportunity to distribute them to other Members so that there will be absolute parity of esteem on all sides of the House in terms of metal displays.
That is the Taoiseach's idea of parity of esteem.
Deputies are laughing at the Taoiseach.
In regard to the shared campaign by Deputy McDowell and myself to allow orderly interventions in the course of speeches. I am pleased to tell him that a memorandum on the matter has been prepared by the Government Whip. It will be discussed at an early date by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and I hope we will be able to introduce it at an early stage. I welcome Deputy McDowell's constancy in raising this matter.
Is it envisaged that there will be a limit on the number of detention places available under the transfer of sentenced prisoners Bill?
It is not appropriate on the Order of Business to ask questions on the detail of legislation. One asks whether the legislation will be introduced and when?
The Taoiseach is taking on the role of Taoiseach and Ceann Comhairle all in one.
That legislation is at an advanced stage of preparation and when it is introduced the Deputy will have the opportunity to ask all those questions and more.
When will the Green Paper on broadcasting be officially published or is it proposed to proceed with a series of well measured leaks?
There is a distinction between legislation promised and a Green Paper.
A Green Paper is the basis of legislation.
I would be interested to know whether what we were reading in the Sunday Independent and The Irishimes were inspired leaks on the Green Paper? When will we hear the official position?
My earlier remarks apply.
On the transfer of sentenced prisoners Bill, will the Taoiseach be more specific in regard to when the Bill will be brought forward? People, not only here but across the water have an interest in it. The Tánaiste, I believe, said yesterday that the Bill would be brought forward in the next two months.
The legislation will be brought forward next month. Is that specific enough?
That is even better.
In view of statements made by the Minister for Justice yesterday following a meeting, may I ask the Taoiseach if the Government has decided to abandon the Courts and Court Officers Bill, and, if not when will it be brought before the House? The Minister for Justice implied that the Government would appoint more women judges and so on, but the Government will have no say in the matter if this Bill becomes law.
That was very crafty, Deputy.
That legislation is before the House.