It is proposed to take No. c5, Supplementary Estimates [Votes 19, 20 and 21] and No. 2 the Irish Sports Council Bill, 1998, Second Stage (resumed). It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. c5 [Votes 19, 20 and 21] shall be moved together and shall be decided without debate by one question and that any division demanded on No. c5 shall be taken forthwith; and any division demanded on No. 2 shall be postponed until immediately after the Order of Business on Tuesday 10 November.
Order of Business.
There are two proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. c5 agreed?
The Fine Gael Whip agreed yesterday to take that item without debate. However, since then we have looked at the matter in greater detail. I understand the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform told the select committee in June that a Supplementary Estimate would not be necessary. I can give the precise reference to the Taoiseach if necessary, it was in response to a question from Deputy McManus. The Minister said a Supplementary Estimate for the Garda pay award would not be necessary whereas now we have been told it is necessary. The Minister does not seem to have a complete grip on the financial implications of the decision. I would be grateful if before we take this item without debate the Taoiseach tells us why the Minister said a Supplementary Estimate would not be necessary.
I assume at that time the Department felt it had adequate resources under that Vote subhead. Obviously during the year the demands on the Garda overtime bill increased, particularly during August and September. A number of units which were taken off Border patrol were redeployed on 15 August.
The Supplementary Estimate for the pay award is £23 million which is not small change which might be lost in the calculation of overtime. It is a substantial sum. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform gave the impression in June that it could be taken from a contingency fund in the Department of Finance. We need to know what is happening to this fund if it is not available for this purpose as the Minister anticipated. This information is essential to the Opposition in assessing the budget. What is the explanation for this? I appreciate the Taoiseach was given little or no notice of this question.
None, this is the first we have heard of it.
It is not my wish to put him in a position where he has to answer questions which he cannot answer. It may be better if the Supplementary Estimate is taken next week so our questions can be fully answered before it is dealt with. I will not press for a debate if we can get satisfactory answers as to why the Minister has changed his position on this substantial sum and on where it will come from. It is not small change.
The only decision to be made is to pass the Estimate which then goes to the committee. If the Deputy allows this all the information on it will be given then.
No, this matter has been debated in committee. The Minister was not able to give answers there——
We cannot debate the matter now.
I am not trying to debate it, I am trying to get information. The Minister was not able to answer the question as to where the £53 million is now. It did not require a Supplementary Estimate in June yet now it does. He did not answer that question in committee and this is the last chance the House will have to debate the matter or get an answer. It would be inappropriate to take this item without debate as proposed unless the answer is forthcoming, which it clearly is not. I do not blame the Taoiseach for not having this information, although it would be desirable if he had. Perhaps it would be better if the Supplementary Estimates are taken next week so the Taoiseach, or whoever, can provide this information to the public and the House.
We cannot debate this matter. I must put the proposal to the House.
I support Deputy Bruton. We do not necessarily need a debate on this matter but we need an explanation to facilitate the movement of the Estimate through the House. Three or four days delay will make no difference and the item can be taken without debate next week. There is a conflict between what was said last June and the current position. Will the Taoiseach consider the deferral of the Garda pay Estimate so that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform or somebody on behalf of the Government can give an indication why there is a conflict between what was said last June and what is being said now. The matter can then be decided by the Whips and it can be taken without debate.
It can be done either way. I assume no one is opposed in principle to providing the money. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform can give the information — we can either pass the Estimate today and the Minister can give it now, or we can defer it until Tuesday and the Minister can give it to the spokespersons.
The information should be given in the House when the matter is being taken without debate, by agreement. I suggest it should be done next Tuesday. It should be given in the House because it is public information — it is not private to spokespersons, however eminent they may be.
Is the Taoiseach withdrawing the proposal?
If we give the information in the House, the matter will not be taken without debate — we will have a statement from the Minister. The idea is that these Votes should be passed without debate after being discussed in select committees.
I will ask the Taoiseach the question, as usual he will give a concise answer lasting no more than two sentences, and we will all be happy, presuming there is an answer.
The Taoiseach does not know.
Of course there is an answer, we are not spending £53 million for no reason.
Then the answer should be given.
The Deputy and I both know the answer.
I do not know.
The expenditure was required to pay overtime to staff.
I know that, but that is not the answer to my question. I asked why we did not need a Supplementary Estimate in June but we need one now.
Is the Taoiseach withdrawing the item?
We can do so but I do not accept we require a debate on it. The answer is that this expenditure is needed to pay the Garda Síochána this year.
The Taoiseach is answering a question but that is not the question I asked. If it was answered we would not need a discussion.
May I clarify the position, since I was the person who raised this both on the Estimate debate in the select committee and on the Supplementary Estimate? I wanted to know whether the Minister intended to introduce a Supplementary Estimate when a deal was struck with the gardaí, and I was informed there was a contingency fund in the Department of Finance which would provide for the outcome. Subsequently a Supplementary Estimate was rushed through——
We cannot go into detail on the matter.
If the Taoiseach stands over what he said, I would be fearful he might mislead the House.
Is the proposal withdrawn?
It is, but I will refer to the Whips the question of how to pass on the information. Every time we agree a Supplementary Estimate I can foresee a tactic whereby someone will state he or she does not have that information. I therefore withdraw the proposal but not on the basis that it will be taken in the House. If Deputy Bruton wants a debate on this Supplementary Estimate I will agree to change the procedure and debate all Supplementary Estimates in the House, but I will not agree to withdraw the proposal on the basis that we debate it next week.
When this Estimate is moved without debate next week, I propose that a concise statement be made by the Minister, with no right of reply or question from any other Member. That would meet the requirements of the House; £53 million is a substantial sum and the Minister should give an explanation for it when he moves the Supplementary Estimate.
This problem would not have arisen if the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform had known the answer to the question he was asked at the select committee. The Government wants the Estimate passed without debate today, and the Taoiseach is not able to answer the question either. If the previous Minister for Justice had not been able to answer a question like that, we would have heard a hue and cry from the assembled masses opposite.
I would have been hung, drawn and quartered.
Their hyperbolic statements on the matter would have known no bounds.
The Deputy should resume his seat.
I am exposing a case where a former Minister for Finance does not know the answer to a simple question, where the money is coming from to pay the gardaí?
The Deputy is being disorderly.
I am, because the Taoiseach does not know the answer to a simple question.
Navan man in full flight.
The first proposal is withdrawn. Is the proposal for dealing with the postponement of the division agreed? Agreed.
Arising from the pertinent motion proposed by Deputy Sargent, will the Taoiseach consider within the next week whether an amendment is required to the terms of reference of the appropriate tribunal to remedy any deficiencies which exist? I do not expect that this matter is ready for decision now, but I ask the Taoiseach to turn his attention to the possible delays to the tribunal.
Yesterday the chairman of the tribunal stated that next week he would address the issues raised with him, so I do not intend to do anything before then.
On Wednesday, 21 October, the House agreed unanimously a motion which would, inter alia, require legislation to amend the Committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Compellability, Privileges, and Immunities of Witnesses) Act and other related matters to enable the Comptroller and Auditor General to inquire into the allegations of wrongdoing in AIB and the DIRT tax controversy. When will that legislation be presented to the House by the Government?
In today's newspapers the Taoiseach is reported to have addressed the NESF on a new method of payment for public servants which would involve performance related pay. Will this require legislation? If so, has work commenced on drafting it and when will we see it?
On the first question, I answered Deputy De Rossa on this matter yesterday. There has been contact between the Attorney General and the legal team of the Committee of Public Accounts as to the best way to bring this issue forward, and they have agreed on what issues they should address. I do not have a date on which they will have legislation ready.
Will it be before the end of this session?
I have no date but I understand they agreed on what should be done and it will be dealt with urgently by the Attorney General. As soon as I get a date I will give it to the House. On the second issue, there is no legislation at this stage. Following what I told the social partners in July, I told the first meeting of the NESC yesterday that this issue must be addressed.
Will the Taoiseach indicate what progress is being made on the Bill to implement the Posting of Workers Directive, which was negotiated by the last Government to protect nationals of European member states working in other member states? On another European matter, what progress is being made to protect duty free sales? There is a major demonstration in Brussels today to protect duty free jobs. Will the Taoiseach join me in congratulating the EU Commission on retaining the generous duty free allowances?
I agree with the Deputy.
That is not a question. We must proceed with the Order of Business.
It is a question.
The posting of workers Bill is listed for September of next year. A draft memo for Government is being prepared for circulation and the heads of the Bill are currently in preparation in the Department.
On the second question, legislation is not proposed but the matter is being pursued by the Ministers for Finance and Public Enterprise.
Is the Taoiseach aware that a number of development organisations have called urgent press conferences this morning in view of the fact——
That is not a matter for the Order of Business.
It is a matter for the Order of Business, if the Chair will let me finish the sentence.
The Deputy should ask a question.
In view of the fact that the development aid budget promised in the White Paper has not been met, will the Taoiseach bring forward urgently an Estimate for overseas development to allow the House debate this matter?
Does the Taoiseach wish to comment? I call Deputy Sargent.
I asked the Taoiseach if an Estimate will be brought forward so that we can debate the matter——
That question is not in order on the Order of Business.
Organisations outside this House are calling press conferences this morning because they are very concerned.
I have ruled that the matter is not in order.
Estimates are being prepared and brought before the House. Surely this question is in order.
The Deputy should resume his seat and not hold up the business of the House. We have spent 20 minutes on the Order of Business and other Members wish to ask relevant questions.
We have seen what is happening in Nicaragua, yet we are cutting development aid. The Government will not even say when an Estimate will be brought forward.
The Deputy should resume his seat.
Is it proposed to have a debate on the serious issue in developing countries, particularly having regard to the disaster in Latin America? Also, given the prevalence of fuel poverty and the pending deregulation of the electricity industry, will the Taoiseach indicate if the Irish Energy Centre Bill will be brought forward early in 1999 having regard to the threatened closure of the energy centre due to lack of funding? Will it be brought forward urgently to ensure the energy centre realises its potential?
I understand the Whips discussed the possibility of a debate on Central America yesterday and it will be held next week, although I am not sure on what day. The heads of the Irish Energy Centre Bill are in preparation in the Department with a view to submission to Government early in the new year. The Bill will not be ready until the autumn.
Recently these Houses passed the International War Crimes Tribunals Bill to underpin Ireland's support for and co-operation with tribunals dealing with human rights violations in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. In view of the fact that the United Nations has finally agreed to set up a permanent international war crimes tribunal, when can we expect the legislation to underpin our support for and co-operation with this tribunal?
The legislation is passed.
That is the ad hoc tribunal which deals with Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. In June, the United Nations agreed to establish a permanent international war crimes tribunal to cover all future human rights violations. As in the case of the ad hoc tribunal, legislation will be required to underpin our support for and co-operation with this tribunal. When can we expect that legislation?
Legislation is not yet listed in the Department but if there is a commitment that it must be produced, I will check that with the Department.
I want to express solidarity with the workers currently campaigning in Brussels for the retention of duty free facilities. Does the Taoiseach regret not having vetoed the proposal in 1991 when he had an opportunity to do so?
He wakes up in the middle of the night over it.
The Deputy should put down a parliamentary question on that matter. It is not in order on the Order of Business.
Will the Taoiseach indicate if the Minister for Health and Children intends to introduce a Supplementary Estimate to prevent the ward closures——
It is not in order to ask about Supplementary Estimates on the Order of Business.
It is in order in Galway.
I call Deputy Rabbitte.
Does the Minister intend to introduce a Supplementary Estimate?
Deputies must ask questions relevant to the Order of Business. We are running out of time.
Where is the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, who was elected on the hospitals issue? He is not here.
What issue was the Deputy elected on?
They were all the same in Opposition. We do not hear a word from them now.
The Minister will allow wards to close and patients to die.
Will the Deputy resume his seat? He was given an opportunity last night to raise that matter.
The Minister did not answer the question. He refused to answer it. I am asking the question again.
Deputy McCormack has a point.
The matter is not in order at this stage.
It is in order but the Minister would not answer me last night.
May I return to the point raised by Deputy Quinn? I read the answer the Taoiseach gave me yesterday morning and listened to what he said to Deputy Quinn this morning. It appears the promised legislation to allow the inquiry into Allied Irish Banks to go ahead is suffering from serious slippage. The issue here is the capacity of the House to conduct this investigation, as distinct from a tribunal, and if the matter cannot be attended to in this session it puts seriously at risk our ability to do so. In the early days of this controversy the Taoiseach gave a commitment to the House that the legislation would be introduced as a first priority of Government. When Deputy Michael Noonan asked him whether a Cabinet meeting should be convened to make this a priority legislative matter, the Taoiseach indicated that would not be necessary because it would be the priority. It now appears we will not even have——
We cannot have a statement on the matter now.
Will legislation on this issue be brought forward this term?
No, they do not expect the report until February.
I answered this question yesterday and today and Deputy Rabbitte does not have the right to draw an inference from what I said on both occasions. I said I understood that the legal team for the Committee of Public Accounts and the Attorney General met, as I suggested here two weeks ago. They agreed on the matters that require legislation and I understand the Attorney General gave a commitment to bring forward legislation. As I said to Deputy Quinn today and yesterday, I do not know the date the legislation will be produced. As soon as the Attorney General gives me that information, I will let the Deputy know.
It is a matter for Government.
We are proceeding with the business of the day. We have spent 30 minutes on the Order of Business. That is not the Chair's fault. The Chair did his best to apply the rules but Members ignored them.