Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 12, the Adoption (No. 2) Bill, 1996 from the Select Committee on Social Affairs, Order for Report; No. 1, Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1996, Order for Second Stage and Second and Remaining Stages; No. 9, Motion concerning Statement for Information of Voters in relation to the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1996.

It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Second Stage of No. 1 shall be taken today; No. 9 shall be debated with the Final Stage of No. 1 and the proceedings on the Second and Remaining Stages of No. 1 and on No. 9, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 1.15 p.m. tomorrow by one question in the case of the proceedings on No. 1 which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Justice; and one question in the case of the proceedings on No. 9; such questions to be put from the Chair forthwith and successively. Private Members' Business shall be No. 35, Motion 1 concerning EU Funding for Border Counties.

There is just one matter to be put to the House. Are the proposals for dealing with items Nos. 1 and 9 agreed to?

No, item No. 1 is asking us to agree procedures for tomorrow that would allow the debate on the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill to continue until 1.15 p.m. For the past week the Opposition has been endeavouring to get replies from the Government to questions regarding the hepatitis C debate. These questions were put down in the name of our spokesperson, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, last week but were ruled out of order on the basis that they anticipated a debate in Private Members' time. On Wednesday last the Minister replying for the Government stated that if we put down the questions it would answer them. He also said, on two separate occasions during that debate, that any time we put down questions he will answer them. The Opposition put down the questions again this week but the Government has refused to allow them to be taken. The view of both Opposition parties is that we cannot have a meaningful debate tomorrow without these questions being fully and comprehensively replied to, it is a nonsense to try, on this important issue, where no facts have been given to the Opposition.

The Taoiseach spoke here last week about answering questions. We all remember what Mr. Justice Hamilton stated at the beef tribunal, that there would have been no reason for a tribunal if questions had been answered in this House. We have tried for the second week running to have important questions replied to to have a meaningful debate but the Government is refusing to reply. So far as we are concerned we cannot agree on times for tomorrow without information or facts from the Department of Health. The Government is refusing to reply to these questions. I ask you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, as the protector of fair play in this House that before we have that debate you order the Government to give us replies to these questions.

Decisions as to the admissibility of questions are made not by the Government but by the Ceann Comhairle. If questions were ruled out of order they were ruled out of order——

If we send them to you by courier will you answer them?

——on the basis of the established rule of the House by the Ceann Comhairle. However, I made it clear on a number of occasions in the House on the Order of Business and otherwise that the Government has no difficulty answering any questions about this matter.

Why does it not answer them?

We intend to provide time tomorrow for a full debate on this subject commencing at 4.15 p.m. wherein there will be statements and a question and answer session where the Minister will answer there and then any questions put to him. If the Opposition parties are unhappy with the length of time, up to 7 p.m. for the questions the time can, if necessary, be extended. There will be an extensive period during which the Minister will answer questions. If any questions tabled by the Opposition which the Ceann Comhairle, for good reasons in accordance with procedure, did not allow at Question Time are put during the course of the debate to the Minister I have no doubt he will answer them as fully as they would otherwise have been answered.

This is a reasonable approach to the matter. If the Opposition wants to call a vote on this separate issue, which is the timing of the debate on the bail referendum, and does not want to order the provisions for the referendum proposed by the Government it is entitled to have a vote on that matter.

The Taoiseach should not try to twist the issue.

This is a different issue.

The Taoiseach, and those Members who have been Minister, know the procedure governing the disallowance of questions or their answer by the relevant Department. There is no need for me to spell out how the procedure works.

The Deputy probably used it.

I will not, therefore, allow the Ceann Comhairle's office to take the blame. Everyone knows what happened in this instance and why the questions were disallowed.

Limerick East): That is correct.

Put the answers on the record.

(Interruptions.)

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle——

It is——

The Leader of the main Opposition party is in possession. The Taoiseach cannot stand up when he likes.

Am I in possession?

It is the Chair's function to rule on questions. These questions were disallowed on the well established grounds of anticipation.

Prompted by the relevant Government Department.

(Limerick East): I wanted to answer them.

Something similar was said last week.

I know the rules and how the questions are checked.

We will send the questions over to the Minister and see how many he answers.

Let us hear the Member in possession.

In commenting on this matter the Taoiseach should tell the House about the new procedure in his office, that is the appointment of a disallowed questions co-ordinator to co-ordinate these matters. This is a new post in the Government services.

The Opposition believes that these written questions should be answered. Under the procedure for answering written questions in the House, the Minister for Health should give us comprehensive replies. In fairness to him, the Minister has stated on two occasions that he is happy to give us such replies. All we are asking is to be given those answers before tomorrow's debate. We can then look at the time allotted and see whether it is adequate. The questions have been in the domain of the Minister's office for more than a week and we cannot have a meaningful debate tomorrow without detailed replies to these questions. I ask the Ceann Comhairle's office to consider instructing the Office of the Minister for Health to give us the replies which I am sure have been drafted by the Department. We can then decide on the arrangements for dealing with No. 1 and have a meaningful debate tomorrow.

It is entirely wrong for Deputy Ahern to suggest that the Minister for Health, or any other member of the Government, sought to have these questions blocked.

Is the Taoiseach saying they had no input?

We have not got the answers.

The Minister for Health has said he is willing to answer all of these questions. If the Opposition wishes to have the answers provided in writing——

——they will be provided to it in writing today.

That is what we asked for.

That is all we asked.

I want to make it absolutely clear that the Minister for Health has never had any problem answering questions in regard to this matter.

The Taoiseach said the same last week.

Let us hear the Taoiseach without interruption.

Deputy Ahern is skating on thin ice——

The Taoiseach is on thin ice.

——when he suggests that the Ceann Comhairle could in any way be influenced in making his decisions in regard to the admissibility of questions. He makes those decisions and they are accepted by the Government and should be accepted by all Members.

Can we have the answers?

As the Leas-Cheann Comhairle has made clear, that was a decision of the Chair. Any inference by Deputy Ahern that the Ceann Comhairle was suborned in any way in this matter. should be withdrawn.

Can we have the answers, please?

I very much agree with what Deputy Ahern said in regard to this matter. When the Taoiseach was in Opposition in November 1994 he said that if Ministers did not answer parliamentary questions Fine Gael, in Government, would propose that the Ceann Comhairle should be given a new power to require Ministers to answer questions.

The questions we are asking did not arise in the past two weeks. Since 28 March Deputies have been asking the Minister for Health when he became aware that the woman whose plasma was used in 1976 to make the anti-D product had been clinically diagnosed as having hepatitis C and pointing out that that was on the files of the Blood Transfusion Service Board. We have been trying for the past seven months to find out from the Minister when he became aware of that information.

(Limerick East): I have answered that several times.

Tell us again.

(Limerick East): As I said previously, the information——

If the matter is being contested I will put the question.

It is not being contested. I understand we will get the answers this evening.

The Opposition is trying to create the impression that the Minister for Health and the Government do not want to answer questions on this matter.

That is precisely what has been happening.

That is not true; the Government and the Minister for Health are perfectly happy to answer any question which is in order.

Give us the answers.

The person who decides whether a question is in order is the Ceann Comhairle.

We must ask the right questions to get the right answers.

The Government will abide by the independent decisions of the Ceann Comhairle in that matter.

Is the Taoiseach saying the Government had no input?

I have further stated in regard to the questions which were tabled for this week but which the Ceann Comhairle, independently and of his own accord, decided he could not allow this has been explained by the Leas-Cheann Comhairle that as a courtesy to the Opposition the Government is prepared to provide those answers. We have no difficulty providing any of the answers.

The public, and not just the Opposition, wants the answers.

It is a duty, not a courtesy, to answer questions.

(Interruptions.)

The Opposition is trying to generate heat about this matter——

We are trying to reflect the heat among the public on the matter.

——rather than trying to assist those who need to be assisted in finding the truth in a non partisan and fair way.

In view of what the Taoiseach said, are the proposals agreed?

May I clarify the matter?

Deputies may not debate the matterad nauseam.

I do not wish to debate the matter, I merely wish to clarify a point. It is the duty and responsibility of the Minister and the Government to answer questions and not a courtesy offered to the Opposition. The Taoiseach stated that the Opposition was trying to create——

I did not suggest it was a courtesy.

The Taoiseach should sit down.

I said that in respect of questions disallowed by the Ceann Comhairle the Minister would provide the information to the Deputies who tabled the questions as a matter of courtesy.

(Interruptions.)

Let us hear Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn. I want to bring the matter to a conclusion and I will do so as soon as the Deputy has concluded her contribution.

I wish to remind the Taoiseach that my 20 parliamentary questions, plus a significant number of parliamentary questions tabled by the Progressive Democrats, were tabled for written, not oral, reply prior to last week. These were refused on the basis that they anticipated a debate during Private Members' time. On two separate occasions on Wednesday, 9 October last the Minister said: "Put down the questions and I will answer them". He also said: "Any time you put them down I will answer them". All the questions were resubmitted for written reply after the Private Members' debate last week and we got the same answer.

The Deputy should ask the Ceann Comhairle's office.

The Taoiseach said that the Minister is now prepared to answer those questions. Will he clarify that each of the 20 questions in my name will be answered separately and distinctly and will not become part of an overall speech material answer, for which the Minister has a fondness?

Members opposite are well aware the decision to rule these questions out of order this week, in anticipation of a debate that will start at 4.15 p.m. tomorrow, was not made by the Government. It was made properly and independently by the Ceann Comhairle.

With no input from the Minister's office?

I know of no precedent where a Government volunteered to provide the relevant information to the Opposition on questions that had been ruled out of order which it was not required to answer.

The Taoiseach is hiding behind the rules and he will not get away with it.

That is what the Government is willing to do in this case. We are willing to provide the answers to the Opposition——

At last.

The Taoiseach is hiding behind the rules.

——so that there can be no question of a Government unwillingness to answer questions and no suggestion that the Government wishes to——

The Taoiseach attempted to hide behind the rules but he did not get away with it.

——avail of the decisions of the Ceann Comhairle, although they are entirely independent of the Government, to avoid answering questions. We do not want to avoid answering questions on this matter.

The Government is avoiding answering the questions.

If we had not raised the matter today the Taoiseach would have hidden behind the rules.

The Minister for Health wishes to answer questions and to have his activities in this matter subject to full scrutiny.

The Taoiseach should have said all this before he came into the House.

The Government is avoiding answering these questions.

I would like to contrast the behaviour of this Minister with that of Fianna Fáil at the time of the beef tribunal when not a single question was answered. We had a tribunal which cost £60 million and not a single question on the matter was answered by Fianna Fáil.

(Interruptions.)
(Interruptions.)

What about openness, transparency and accountability on this matter?

Yet, we have hypocritical Fianna Fáil Members trying to pretend the standards they applied in refusing to answer questions apply to this Government. They do not. The Government is willing to answer questions.

The Taoiseach did not say what type of questions.

The Government should answer the questions.

In order to cobble together its future, I Fianna Fáil set up an extremely expensive and extensive tribunal and when it reported Fianna Fáil Ministers were not willing——

Why is the Taoiseach so sensitive?

——to answer questions here on its findings.

Does the Taoiseach accept the tribunal's report?

That was a disgrace on the part of Fianna Fáil and it will not be repeated by this Government.

Is the Taoiseach saying the Department of Justice did not have an input?

Deputy Ahern, resume your seat.

It is a disgrace and clearly shows the difference between the Government and Opposition sides of the House—

(Interruptions.)

The Deputies to the right of Deputy O'Donnell did not believe in answering questions on the beef tribunal.

The Taoiseach knows the Department of Health had an input into these questions.

Those Deputies were unwilling to answer questions at that time.

This is shameful hypocrisy.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach is presiding over a farcical situation.

I will hear no more on this issue. Order.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle——

Order, please, The Chair is endeavouring to deal with the business of the House.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle——

As Chairman of the Joint Committee——

The Chair is on its feet and the Deputy will resume her seat.

As chairperson of the Joint Committee on Women's Rights——

The Deputy will resume her seat.

I cannot resume my seat because as chairperson I cannot believe——

Deputy Wallace should resume her seat, I do not want to have to ask her again.

This is a disgrace.

I cannot resume my seat.

Resume your seat, Deputy.

I cannot believe——

The Deputy is Chairperson of the Joint Committee——

I am in shock.

I will not allow the Chair to be disregarded in this way. If the Deputy is not prepared to resume her seat, she must leave the House. I ask the Deputy to resume her seat or leave the House.

I will certainly not resume my seat to listen to——

The Deputy should leave the House. I must put on record that the role and actions of the Chair in this regard have been clarified by the Chair.

Deputy M. Wallace withdrew from the Chamber.

In view of what the Taoiseach said about answering the questions raised by the Opposition parties, are the proposals for dealing with items Nos. 1 and 9 agreed?

Question, "That the proposals for dealing with items Nos. 1 and 9 be agreed to", put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 67; Nil, 54.

  • Ahearn, Theresa.
  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Bhamjee, Moosajee.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Bhreathnach, Niamh.
  • Bree, Declan.
  • Broughan, Tommy.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, John.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Liam.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Connor, John.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Doyle, Avril.
  • Dukes, Alan M.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Fitzgerald, Brian.
  • Fitzgerald, Eithne.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Gallagher, Pat (Laoighis-Offaly).
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • McDowell, Derek.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Mulvihill, John.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • Noonan, Michael (Limerick East).
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Penrose, William.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, John.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sheehan, P.J.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Upton, Pat.
  • Walsh, Eamon.
  • Yates, Ivan.

Níl

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Fox, Mildred.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Hilliard, Colm M.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Keogh, Helen.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDaid, James.
  • Moffatt, Tom,
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Morley, P.J.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Liz
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Batt.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond J.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Ryan, Eoin.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Woods, Michael.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies J. Higgins and B. Fitzgerald; Níl, Deputies D. Ahern and Hillard.
Question declared carried.

Apropos the vote that has just been passed, is it the case under the new rules of the House that questions adjusted to be in order by the Ceann Comhairle's office will be answered if the Ministers so wishes? Has the Taoiseach agreed that the Minister for Health will answer the 20 written questions individually rather than by way of a composite reply? That question was not dealt with before the vote.

No precedent is being established here. Where a question is put down the decision on ruling it in or out is made independently by the Ceann Comhairle. The questions were ruled out as anticipatory of the debate, but in order that it can be demonstrated to everybody in the House that the Government has no problem answering questions, I have volunteered that the information will be supplied in the format in which it was prepared. The Minister for Health had prepared replies to all these questions anyway. I am not certain whether the Ceann Comhairle will decide to rule them in or out, but the replies are ready and will be furnished in the form in which they were prepared. Some of the questions will be taken together while others will be taken individually, and they will be provided as a courtesy. This is not normally done to the Deputies concerned and to anybody else who wishes to receive them. If the press wish to receive the replies they will be made available to them also.

The Government has no interest in this matter other than to allow the truth to come out. The Government, particularly the Minister for Health, has nothing to hide in this regard and is willing to co-operate fully with any entity or with this House in any way necessary to get the information. Given the seriousness of the matter, the Opposition should not be so political in its approach to it.

Will questions be answered individually? That has been at the kernel of the dispute at the outset.

This cannot continue. Let us not anticipate the debates that will take place on this subject.

Some of the replies were prepared on the basis that the questions would be answered individually and some were prepared on a grouped basis. That was done in any event in anticipation that the questions would be allowed, but they were not. The information in the format prepared for answers to the questions will be supplied in that form to Deputies and to anyone else who wishes to receive them. It will not be altered one way or another. Those questions that would have been grouped will be grouped and those that would have been taken individually will be taken individually.

Limerick East): Will Deputy McCreevy answer the questions when he goes before the High Court in London?

With great pleasure.

Let us move away from the subject, please. The House will have more than adequate time to deal with this matter.

On the proposed tribunal of inquiry, I take it the Government has agreed its terms of reference. Will those terms cover the years up to 1996 or only up to 1994?

The Government has offered the two Opposition parties a briefing on the subject this evening when all the information requested by the Deputy will be provided. If Deputies subsequently wish the information to be put on the record of the House, the questions will be answered on the record. I will not anticipate the briefing the Minister will give to Deputies O'Donnell and Geoghegan-Quinn. He will provide all the answers to the Deputies concerned in the normal way. That is the best way forward.

I asked the Taoiseach last week if he would consult the Opposition parties so that the terms of reference would be acceptable to all parties, but that has not happened. A briefing is different from consultation. In advance of the briefing will the Taoiseach say whether the terms of reference will include what happened up to 1996? The media probably knows the answer to that question; as I walked in here I heard that a meeting was taking place at 3.30 p.m. because the matter had not been finalised this morning. For the information of Deputies, will the Taoiseach say whether the agreed terms of reference will include what happened up to 1996?

As a courtesy if that is not an inappropriate word to use to the Opposition, the briefing is being provided to the Opposition in advance of publication. It is perfectly reasonable for the Opposition to make a request for a briefing in advance, and that is being done. It would be best if the Deputy would allow Deputy O'Donnell, on behalf of her party, to be briefed in the normal way about the matter and not try to do the work for the Deputy on the Order of Business. There would be no point in providing a briefing for the Opposition in advance of publication if I were to answer the Deputy's question now on the terms of reference. That would remove the value of any briefing from the point of view of the Deputy's party and I do not think the Deputy would wish that to happen.

I am proceeding to the business of the House proper. The matter of the hepatitis C issue has taken up enough time at this juncture.

It is a very important subject.

In anticipation — to use the Taoiseach's words — of the briefing from the Minister for Health, the Taoiseach will recall that I specifically asked him last week if he would give a commitment that the Leaders of the Opposition or spokespersons would be consulted in advance of agreement on the terms of reference of the tribunal. He indicated then that he would be openminded about the matter. As I understand it, the purpose of today's briefing will not be to consult us but to tell us what has been agreed by Government, with no input from the Opposition. One of the difficulties that has beset the Minister for Health on this matter——

Deputies tend to debate this matter now, which is out of order.

I have no wish to debate it, I want to clarify the matter with the Taoiseach. This is a very serious issue on which there must be all-party agreement, particularly in terms of a tribunal of inquiry which will investigate medical and political aspects of the handling of this controversy from the beginning. If the Opposition believes that the terms of reference of the inquiry need to be amended, is the Taoiseach or the Minister prepared to accept such recommendations from the Opposition?

The Government is about to provide a briefing to the Opposition on the matter. I do not wish to anticipate problems that may or may not arise in consideration of the matter by the Opposition. The Government has nothing to hide. It is most anxious that the facts be brought out about the activities of this Government and all Governments in the matter back to 1976, as is appropriate. The medical facts should also be brought to knowledge and all the information requested by the women infected and their families should be made available in the most expeditious fashion possible. That is the purpose of our work in this matter. I advise the Deputy that it would be best to await the briefing she will receive shortly and not anticipate any problems where they may not exist or put hypothetical questions of the kind she is putting, which hypotheses may not be justified by the facts.

On a separate matter——

Before moving to a separate matter I wish to make a very brief statement. The decision on questions relating to hepatitis C was of my own volition, my decision only. No one else was involved. I take no advice from anyone else. It was my decision and mine alone, and any suggestion that I was influenced by anyone in the Taoiseach's office, ministerial office or elsewhere is untrue, has no basis in fact and, in so far as my integrity and honour are concerned, is totally reprehensible to me.

The Deputy should apologise to the Ceann Comhairle.

When will legislation be introduced to implement the EU working time directive which, as the Taoiseach is aware, is due to come into force in five weeks time? Will he ensure we will have adequate time to debate the matter?

The text is at a very advanced stage of drafting. We expect to have the final draft available for approval very soon. I cannot give the Deputy a date but I will communicate with him as soon as I have precise information. I am aware of the controversy about the matter.

The Taoiseach should consult the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte.

Is the Taoiseach aware that it is easier to open a gaelscoil under the British Government than under his Government and the current Labour Minister for Education? With the advent of Teilifís na Gaeilge——

The Deputy is going off on a tangent which is more appropriate to Question Time.

——we have one Minister, the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, promoting the Gaelic language and another suppressing it in not granting recognition to gaelscoileanna.

Is it the Government's intention to correct the inaccurate, untrue and misleading reports in last weekend's newspapers relating to the pensions of former Ministers? The finance accounts report for 1995 is misleading at appendix I.

I would welcome the Deputy raising that matter at a more appropriate time.

I wish to raise it now with the Taoiseach.

The Deputy may not do so now, although it is a very good question.

On a point of order, this document was included on the Order Paper on Wednesday, 2 October. Therefore, it is in order to raise the matter now.

The Deputy is straining the point.

I would be very happy to put right any suggestion that the Deputy had been overvalued, either financially or in any other way. There is a serious point to what he said. The presentation of the figures conflates two elements, namely, ongoing pension entitlements and lump sum payments. From the way in which the position of the Deputy and others was presented it would have appeared to a casual reader who did not make further inquiries that the lump sum——

Severance payments.

The severance payment is a lump sum. It would have appeared that the severance payments would recur indefinitely but that is not the case. I will ensure an accurate presentation of the matter in future finance accounts but it will not arise for some time.

Does the Taoiseach agree that it is a remarkable coincidence that in a 34 page report in which one can read interesting comments accompanied by brief notes about such matters as agriculture, food and forestry, stamps, etc., there is in the middle pages a heading "annuities, pensions, etc."? This matter was to be covered under the heading "etc.".

Openness, transparency and accountability.

I am sure the Minister for Finance was glad to note he will not receive a pension either.

The Deputy has made his point more than adequately.

It is an extraordinary coincidence. The report should be corrected.

The matter will be corrected in future. There was no intention to present any misleading impression of the Deputy's remuneration.

What is worse is that we are not entitled to receive a pension.

In view of the announcement by a number of large insurance companies today that insurance premiums will be substantially increased, when can we expect to see the legislation promised last Friday by the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, who will not get a ministerial pension, under which, supposedly, insurance premiums will be reduced?

The eventuality of the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, seeking or qualifying for a pension is so far into the future that he is not giving the matter any thought. While we will arrange to correct the finance accounts in regard to this matter, there will not be additions to the list in the next 12 months or, probably, the following 12 months. We expect we will be able to arrange all these matters in an adequate way with the support of the people. So far as the question of legislation is concerned, as the Deputy is aware, the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, has produced an excellent report on the issue of insurance costs which is now in publication. I am sure it would be very useful and interesting to debate that report in the reasonably near future. We will arrange for that.

In your absence, a Cheann Comhairle, the Taoiseach informed us that he has appointed a questions disallowance co-ordinator.

I did not.

What are the terms of reference of the questions disallowance co-ordinator and with whom is he co-ordinating?

Let us be serious, Deputy.

Is it between Ministers or between the Taoiseach's Department and the officials of the Chair?

The Deputy is attempting to repeat the offensive remarks made by Deputy Ahern in regard to the independence of the Chair under the guise of a joke. There is no question but that decisions in regard to the disallowance of questions are made by the Ceann Comhairle, as he has stated, in his own independent function.

Does such an official exist?

Suggestions by Deputy Woods, Deputy Ahern or any other Deputy to the contrary are unworthy ans should not be made in the House.

Is there such a person as a questions disallowance co-ordinator?

We should ask the Chief Whip.

Is there such a person?

The Deputy should put down a question about the matter.

The Co-ordinator will arrange to have it disallowed.

I am trying to protect the Chair.

I do not need any protection from the Deputy or any other Deputy in this House. I am independent in this Chair.

This person works in the undergrowth. We are trying to find out who he is.

Last month I tabled a question to the Taoiseach on the Attorney General's role under credit union legislation. I was informed by your office that the Taoiseach had transferred that question to his younger brother, the Minister for Enterprise and Employment. I have since been informed by your office that because I received a written reply I cannot receive an answer either from the Taoiseach or his brother.

I will have a word with him.

What role do we have in putting down questions? What is the purpose in having questions if we cannot get answers?

I have nothing to add to what I sent to the Deputy but I will look into the matter.

I ask the Taoiseach to instruct the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications to put a stop to the unprecedented attack on the pay and conditions of Bus Éireann and Iarnrod Éireann workers.

Questions must be relevant to the Order of Business.

Deputy Séamus Breannan is responsible.

The Democratic Left Minister is presiding over an unprecedented attack on the pay and conditions of the workers I represent in Cork.

The Minister represents the workers' party.

The Minister does not care about CIÉ workers.

The Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Doyle, will defend Deputy Rabbitte any time.

The Minister does not travel on buses anymore.

I know you will give me the opportunity to raise this matter, a Cheann Comhairle, because it affects your constituency.

That will not influence the Chair.

I know I must also be in order. A serious situation has arisen today with the Russian ban on the export of beef from Tipperary, Cork and Monaghan, despite the fact that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry told us at the ploughing championships that there was no problem in this regard. Given the serious repercussions this could have for our biggest industry, will the Taoiseach accede to a request for a debate on agriculture in Government time? This matter can no longer be ignored.

Although it is not strictly in order, I have allowed you to ask the question because of its relevance and importance.

I appreciate that.

There have been five or six debates on this subject in the House, which is a proper recognition by the House and by the Government, in whose time most of these debates took place, of the seriousness of the issue.

We are all private Members.

It did not happen in Government time.

Any request the Deputy wishes to make for a debate should be conveyed to the Government Whip——

——and we will consider the matter.

This matter was always debated in Fianna Fáil time.