It is proposed to take No. 13, Competition (Amendment) Bill, 1994, Order for Report Stage; No. 5, Motion re: Health Insurance Regulations, 1996, and No. 14 Transport (Dublin Light Rail) Bill, 1996, Second Stage (Resumed). It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, and the Order of the Dáil, of 22 May 1996, that the proceedings on No. 5 shall be brought to a conclusion within one hour and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the opening speech of the main spokesperson for the Fianna Fáil Party, of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokesperson for the Progressive Democrats Party shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; (ii) the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed five minutes in each case; (iii) Members may share time and (iv) the main spokesperson for the Fianna Fáil Party shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes. Private Members' Business shall be No. 38, Motion 11 re. subjects on junior certificate curriculum.
Order of Business.
Are the proposals for dealing with No. 5 agreed?
When we initially put down this motion the Government declined to provide time to discuss it but eventually changed its mind. Last week it was proposed to provide time for a two hour debate but this week the time has been reduced to one hour. This is not sufficient to enable all speakers to contribute to this very important debate. If the Government does not agreed to provide time for a two hour debate we will vote against this proposal.
If the Deputy's party wants a two hour debate then it can have it.
With all due respect to the Taoiseach, I asked his Whip on umpteen occasions last week and again today for extra time but I was told no.
There is a lack of communication.
I have considered the matter and the Deputy's party can have a two hour debate.
The Taoiseach has said no so often lately that he has to say yes.
The Taoiseach should keep an eye on what happens on 10 June.
Order, please. Is the proposal, as amended, for dealing with item No. 5 agreed? Agreed. I call Deputy Bertie Ahern.
Will the Taoiseach change his mind about replying to the three questions?
The disruption tactic has fallen flat.
Will the Taoiseach answer the three questions?
If the Taoiseach wishes to tell my colleagues why he will not take their questions about the Attorney General I will not interrupt him and will raise my question later.
So much for transparency.
I should clarify that the Ceann Comhairle, not the Taoiseach, takes that decision.
And we all believe in the tooth fairy.
We cannot understand why the other questions we put down are deemed to be in order while the questions put down by three Members on a very important matter have been ruled out of order. Can the Leas-Cheann Comhairle explain why the Chair disallowed those questions?
It is a cover up.
Deputies cannot debate this matter now but the Ceann Comhairle's office will be willing to assist them.
What is the Deputy's party tackling the Chair over this time?
Deputy Bertie Ahern without interruption, please.
The electorate are waiting for the Minister.
The Deputy must be joking.
His party will be wiped out.
That is what the Deputy likes to think.
I accept that the Ceann Comhairle will explain later why these questions have been ruled out of order.
I said the Ceann Comhairle's office would explain it.
Will his office explain why only the three questions relating to the Attorney General's office were ruled out of order?
The Ceann Comhairle's office will give every assistance in the matter. That is the normal position.
Thank you. On proposed legislation, will the Taoiseach say which of the Government's legislative plans will improve the competitiveness of the country? I am sure he and the Minister for Finance were gravely upset to see that Ireland has been ranked 22nd in the latest world competitiveness list, a fall of six places over the past 18 months. As a former Minister for Finance, the Taoiseach will be aware that people who invest here in the gilt and bonds markets in the long-term do so on the basis of our ranking on the world competitive list. What legislative action is the Government taking to deal with this issue?
The evidence suggests that Ireland is in a very competitive position, bearing in mind our large trade surplus — we export more than we import — and the recent announcement by the Minister for Enterprise and Employment of 2,000 jobs at Clonshaugh in North Dublin. The House will see that in terms of investment and exports Ireland in very competitive and well run.
What about beef exports?
Can the Taoiseach explain why, within a 16 month period, we have dropped six places on the world economic competitive league, which is the indicator used by the financial markets, and today we have heard IBEC express grave concern at the way our economy is handled?
That is not a very good example——
Since our world-ranking position has dropped considerably, the Taoiseach should not answer by way of a snide little joke.
The people who will gain employment in Gateway and Clonshaugh would not regard that announcement as humorous. Since we came into office, there has been a net increase of almost 100 per day in the number of people at work——
What about those who lost their jobs?
There have been 100 people per day at work more than were at work the day before this Government came into office. That is a more persuasive indication of the true competitiveness of an economy than any of the reports to which the Deputy referred.
So the world is wrong and the Taoiseach is right.
Does the Government intend to give legislative effect to the call by the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Rabbitte, for a ban on Shell products? Did the Cabinet agree with his proposed boycott today and will the Taoiseach state what is the Government's position thereon?
As no doubt Deputy Harney is aware, the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, indicated a political point of view on a political platform.
Please, Deputies let us hear the reply.
I notice the smiles of anticipation on the faces of Members right around the House so perhaps they would allow me——
The Taoiseach's brother is not laughing.
The Government, through the European Union, has expressed its concern on a number of occasions about the serious infractions of human rights in Nigeria. Human rights in Nigeria is a matter that ought to be taken into account by those who invest in that country because I have no doubt the House will agree with me that investors can have a positive influence in the promotion of human rights in all countries. However, in trade matters, as members of the European Union we act collectively with our colleagues in the European Union——
That is your way out.
The Government does not act collectively.
Within the European Union we have been associated with expressions of concern about the situation in Nigeria but we are not in a position to take unilateral action in the matter.
That is what I might call a gentle slap on the hand.
While Deputy Rabbitte is full of ideas, unfortunately they never come to fruition.
That is not a compliment I can reciprocate.
Let us hear the Deputy in possession.
When does the Taoiseach propose to introduce legislation to establish a separate agency to run the courts? Can he give an approximate time scale and has he anything similar in mind with regard to our prisons?
As the Deputy is aware, the Government decided last week on the establishment of a separate agency for the courts immediately on receipt of the report of the Denham Committee; there was not any delay in taking a decision in principle on the principal recommendations of that committee. Obviously, work has not yet commenced on the drafting of the legislation but I can assure the House the Government and Minister for Justice are giving high priority to the reform of our courts system, which structure effectively has not changed since the 1920s. By the prompt manner in which she brought this matter to a decision point in addition to the prompt way in which she established the Denham Committee, the Minister for Justice is to be complimented on the work she is doing in this area. I am glad the Deputy is interested in the manner to the point of asking questions about it.
I want to bring this to a conclusion. I will call Deputy Martin and then Deputy Michael McDowell.
Will the Taoiseach confirm that the Price Waterhouse inquiry into the Arts examination fiasco last year will not now be published until July and that the Dáil debate promised by the Government Whip on this very important issue — given the necessity to ensure the integrity of the public examination system — will not take place until October next? Almost 12 months after this fiasco began the Minister for Education has not come into the House to answer questions we want to put to her about that fiasco. With the Dáil intending to go into recess by the end of June, we are almost into the summer recess and she is talking about publication during the summer holidays.
The Deputy must find another way of raising this matter. I am calling Deputy McDowell.
The Minister for Education hopes the matter will go away, yet we might have a debate in October next. It is a disgrace, a complete lack of accountability to the House on this very important matter.
If the Minister for Justice is working as well as the Taoiseach claims, can he explain to the House what exactly is delaying the publication of the 1994 and 1995 annual reports on the prisons and why, in the middle of 1996, we must still make do with the 1993 report?
That matter is more appropriate to a parliamentary question.
Since the consultation period expired on 15 May, will the Taoiseach agree to a debate on the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht published plans for the Burren, a report prepared by Brady, Shipman and Martin? I have been seeking this debate from the Government Whip for some weeks now. My party Whip has done his utmost but has not received any co-operation in this matter. Even at this late stage can we have a proper debate on that plan?
A request has been received from Deputy Dermot Ahern on the matter and it is under consideration. Obviously, there are time-tabling requirements in regard to Government business but we will consider the request and communicate with the Deputy.
Will any debate take place before the summer recess or will there be further prevarication?
The Deputy must have misheard me. I did not give any guarantee in the matter. I simply said this request is being considered and we will revert to the Deputy, through her party Whip, with the appropriate answer.
Can we expect this debate to take place before the summer recess or is there to be further prevarication on this matter?
The original request was to disrupt the process of public consultation.
The consultation period is now over. Before Easter the Minister indicated to me this debate would take place after Easter. Easter is now well passed. We are tired of waiting for this debate, so are the people of the Burren. I hope there will be no further prevarication on the matter.
Is is clear that the Minister consults only those who agree with him.
It is only across from Mutton Island. The Minister could very easily give us his views at the same time——
Assuming that result emanates from those who agree with him.
I remember talking to Deputy Cowen regularly during the term of office of the last Government.
You will be aware, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that I sought to table a Private Notice Question——
Let us hear the Member in possession, please. Interruptions are not helpful.
I am delighted I have raised that hare, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.
The Deputy should not allow himself to be distracted.
I sought to table a Private Notice Question on the immediate problem surrounding the rendering industry and the decision was that, because we are to have a debate on it on Thursday, it was not of sufficient urgency, or was not considered more urgent than a discussion on the internationalist tendencies of the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Rabbitte, in relation to the Orgoni people of Nigeria. Since there are thousands of farm families who warrant some consideration by this Government——
The Deputy may not proceed in this vein.
Should I be in a position to table a Private Notice Question on this matter tomorrow, when the meat plants may well be closed, will the Chair consider it sufficiently urgent to allow it to be answered?
If the Deputy wishes to consult the Ceann Comhairle's office, he will receive all the co-operation he needs.
Were we to face closure of the meat processing sector, is it the intention of this Government to introduce legislation to ensure that circumstances do not arise in which the rendering and meat processing industries would close down——
Is legislation promised in this area?
——or is it regarded of any significance at all by this Government that our major industry is drawing to a halt?
Legislation is not promised in this area.
Given that the Minister for Justice appears to be in The Hague while a meeting is taking place in Iveagh House, will the Taoiseach indicate who represents the Government at Anglo-Irish meetings?
Following the Taoiseach's reply to the question raised by Deputy Harney on the Shell issue, will the Taoiseach introduce legislation to instruct semi-State companies not to do business with Shell? Does he agree that the announcement by the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, was inconsistent with the Government's appointment of a senior member of the Shell organisation to a semi-State body, CIE?
The Deputy is using the pretence of raising something appropriate to bring in something quite irrelevant.
He worked hard on that one.
He was pointing to the Government's tendency towards inconsistency.