Order of Business.

The following is the Order of Business for today but I understand it will be changed later by what the Whips agree: No. 39, Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1999 – Order for Report and Report and Final Stages; No. 41, Equal Status Bill, 1999 – Order for Report and Report and Final Stages (to adjourn at 6 p.m.); No. 5, Wildlife (Amendment) Bill, 1999 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; No. 42, statements on European Summit (Helsinki) to be taken following the announcement of matters on the Adjournment under Standing Order 21 and the Order shall resume thereafter; No. 40, financial motions by the Minister for Finance [1999] (resumed), to be taken upon the conclusion of Private Members' business, and the Order shall not resume thereafter.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that; (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 10.30 p.m.; (2) the Report and Final Stages of No. 39 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 11.45 a.m. by one Question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources; and (3) the proceedings on No. 42, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion after 70 minutes and the statements shall be confined to the following Members, who shall be called upon in the following sequence, and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the statements of the Taoiseach and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party, shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case; and (ii) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes. Private Members' business shall be No. 92, motion re Social Partnership (resumed), to conclude at 8.30 p.m. tonight.

There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for a late sitting agreed?

The main reason for this late sitting is to continue a debate on a budget that the Government has torn up.

Abandoned.

I do not know what the point is in sitting until 10.30 p.m. to discuss a budget that is now down the drain. As the Taoiseach said a minute ago, debates in here change nothing. Clearly, debates in here have changed the budget.

I did not say that.

The Deputy does not understand industrial relations problems.

If the Government would only listen to the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources.

How did that leak out?

What a spin doctor.

For somebody who fought so hard to get in here it shows a peculiar view of the role of the Dáil. Will the Taoiseach agree that the budget should be removed from the Order Paper until we know what actually is the budget?

The Deputy wanted the debate last week.

The Deputy was mad for it the other day.

If the Government could at least settle on what is its budget, then we will debate it. Let us not debate a moving target.

It reminds me of the three card trick.

We started the debate on budget No. 1. This motion is concerned with budgets Nos. 1 and 2. This morning the executive committee of congress will debate communications from the Government, which signal the contents of a possible framework for budget No. 3. In those circumstances, the most reasonable thing we can ask is that at least the Minister for Finance would come into the House at some stage tonight and indicate when we might have budgets Nos. 4 and 5. Will the Taoiseach arrange, given that this will be the last time the budget is debated, for the Minister of Finance to make a statement to the House about his serial budget, which we are now discussing? Will he give an undertaking that the Minister for Finance will come in and explain either his acrobatics or his financial policy?

Budget No. 4 will be in December 2000 and budget No. 5 will be in December 2001.

Question put: "That the proposal for the late sitting be agreed to."

Ahern, Bertie.Ahern, Dermot.Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Matt.Brennan, Séamus.Briscoe, Ben.Browne, John (Wexford).Byrne, Hugh.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Collins, Michael.Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.Coughlan, Mary.Cowen, Brian.Cullen, Martin.Davern, Noel.de Valera, Síle.Dempsey, Noel.Dennehy, John.Doherty, Seán.Ellis, John.Fahey, Frank.Fleming, Seán.Flood, Chris.Foley, Denis.Fox, Mildred.Gildea, Thomas.Hanafin, Mary.Harney, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.

Kelleher, Billy.Kenneally, Brendan.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Séamus.Kitt, Michael.Kitt, Tom.Lawlor, Liam.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McDaid, James.McGennis, Marian.McGuinness, John.Martin, Micheál.Moffatt, Thomas.Molloy, Robert.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.Ó Cuív, Éamon.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donoghue, John.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Kennedy, Michael.O'Malley, Desmond.O'Rourke, Mary.Power, Seán.Roche, Dick.Ryan, Eoin.Smith, Brendan.Treacy, Noel.Wade, Eddie.Wallace, Dan.Wallace, Mary.Woods, Michael.Wright, G. V.

Níl

Allen, Bernard.Barnes, Monica.Barrett, Seán.Bell, Michael.Bradford, Paul.Broughan, Thomas.Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).Bruton, John.Bruton, Richard.Burke, Liam.Burke, Ulick.Carey, Donal.

Clune, Deirdre.Connaughton, Paul.Cosgrave, Michael.Crawford, Seymour.Creed, Michael.Currie, Austin.D'Arcy, Michael.Deenihan, Jimmy.Dukes, Alan.Durkan, Bernard.Enright, Thomas. Farrelly, John.

Níl–continued

Ferris, Michael.Finucane, Michael.Fitzgerald, Frances.Flanagan, Charles.Hayes, Brian.Higgins, Jim.Hogan, Philip.Howlin, Brendan.Kenny, Enda.McCormack, Pádraic.McDowell, Derek.McGahon, Brendan.McGinley, Dinny.McGrath, Paul.McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Olivia.Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.

Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.Noonan, Michael.O'Keeffe, Jim.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Owen, Nora.Penrose, William.Perry, John.Quinn, Ruairí.Rabbitte, Pat.Reynolds, Gerard.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Seán.Sheehan, Patrick.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Yates, Ivan.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies S. Brennan and Power; Níl, Deputies Barrett and Stagg.
Question declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 39 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 42 agreed?

I have no problem with it except that (ii) states that a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes. My experience is that the statements made by Ministers of State at the end of these debates are not a reply, they are prescripted from the Department of Foreign Affairs and bear no relationship whatever to the questions that may have been raised either by the Labour Party or other speakers, or by myself, in the debate. Will the Taoiseach ensure that the Minister of State or Minister who is replying to the debate on the summit will actually reply to what is said in the debate and will not come in with a prepared script, which shows a lack of interest and respect for the effort made by other speakers to contribute constructively to a debate on the summit?

This is a practice that has predated the formation of this Government. Given the rapidity of communications and the ability of Ministers of State and Ministers to follow the debate, it is not an unreasonable request. Perhaps the Standing Orders should be changed because we all know – previous Administrations did the same – it is not a response to the points made by other speakers. If we are not going to change the practice, at least the wording in the proposal should be changed.

I had a question tabled for the Taoiseach yesterday and today on the Helsinki summit which has been disallowed on the basis of the anticipated statements on the Order of Business today – No. 42 – on the same subject. The proposition on the Order of Business does not accommodate an opportunity for me to address the House on what is a very important issue. I have the additional problem of having my question disallowed. As this is unacceptable, will the Taoiseach make time available for those of us who have been denied our right to express our position on this very important subject?

The Standing Order does not allow for the Deputy to make a statement. I would be pleased to discuss with the Deputy in my office the reason his question was disallowed.

On a point of order, there is a precedent for this. When Democratic Left was in existence it was allowed make statements on summits and the Green Party has made statements previously. You can allow Deputy Ó Caoláin and the Green Party to make statements on this very important summit because we hold a different point of view, particularly in relation to defence matters.

The order does not provide for it. The Taoiseach on the question raised by Deputy Bruton and Deputy Quinn.

On both these questions the normal practice applies. Normally, if there is some question they can take, Ministers of State will reply to the best of their ability. If the two Deputies give their speeches to me shortly I will try to see what can be done in the reply. That might help. I cannot do anything else.

Does that mean Ministers cannot think on their feet.

The Taoiseach has not replied to us.

We are not having a debate on the matter.

Under the legislation for regional development I ask the Taoiseach what action the Government proposes to take—

Before Deputy Kenny continues, is the proposal for dealing with No. 42 agreed?

The Taoiseach has made a request.

Is it agreed? Agreed.

Is it the Government's intention to do something about the development of Knock Airport and flight services there in view of Ryanair's decision to pull out early in January?

That does not arise on the Order of Business. It would be more appropriate for an Adjournment debate or a question.

It will arise after January.

May I have an assurance that the one million trees to be planted are Irish? Is the Taoiseach aware it takes 20,000 acres of space to plant one million trees each with a 30 feet diameter? Is that amount of space available?

That does not arise now.

It is something bigger than a—

I am sure the Taoiseach and other Members will join with me in congratulating the Sub-committee of the Committee of Public Accounts in having completed its work with great alacrity, the report of which will be published this afternoon. On behalf of my party, I congratulate the sub-committee. On the Order of Business may I ask the Taoiseach to do two things? Will he undertake to ensure a debate takes place at the earliest possible opportunity when the House resumes in the next century? Referring to this century, will he send a copy of the report to the courts as an indication of how they might like to undertake their business?

I join with Deputy Quinn in congratulating the committee. I have done so outside the House this morning. I congratulate all the members of the committee for the work they have done. They spent a substantial part of the summer, not to mention recent months, working on it. Everybody in the House will want to congratulate all the members of the committee for their dedication and the officials who worked with them. I agree we should have an early debate on it in January. I agree the publication of the report should have as wide a circulation as possible.

I wish also, on behalf of Fine Gael, to pay tribute to the Sub-committee of the Committee of Public Accounts, Deputy Jim Mitchell and the other members for the work they have done at great personal sacrifice, a sacrifice of their time in their constituencies, working in the party and in the House, and of their time with their families. We should express appreciation to them for what they have done. Apropos of that, what is the position in regard to the promised prevention of corruption legislation which was to have been introduced here before Christmas? The most recent corruption legislation in Ireland dates from 1916. We have not passed a single item of anti-corruption legislation since then. When will this legislation be introduced?

That legislation was passed by the Government yesterday. I am not sure of the publication date, but it will be in the next few days.

In asking the Taoiseach about the Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill, I put it to him that we are entering the period of greatest stress on the accident and emergency services. They are already at breaking point in respect of those services in the Mater Hospital, which is in his own constituency. Before we resume in January, we will go through the most difficult period for those services. Something urgently needs to be done and the Taoiseach should take a personal interest in that flagship hospital in his constituency.

Work on the Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill is in progress in the Department. The heads of the Bill are expected in the spring but the Bill will be published later next year.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, arising from your decision this morning to allow the motion under Standing Order 31, may I seek clarification from the Taoiseach on what is now the procedure? Will there be a Whips' meeting to bring forward a recommendation to the House on how we might proceed or is it to be decided unilaterally by the Government?

The position, as I stated, is that there will be a Whips' meeting which I hope will reach agreement and if they do, that is fine by me. If they do not, the Standing Orders rule applies.

When will the White Paper on Defence be published?

I think it will be published this week. If not, it will be next week. It was to be published before Christmas and that is getting close.

On 16 December 1997, almost two years ago to the day, this House unanimously passed a resolution urging the earliest possible implementation of the Refugee Act, 1996. Two years later, can we have some indication from the Government when that unanimous resolution of the House will be implemented, bearing in mind that there are queues again outside the refugee one stop shop?

It will be in the new year. I do not have an exact day but I hope it will be early in the new year.

Will the Taoiseach introduce an emergency Estimate, for which he will have the support of this side of the House, to assist the board of Knock Airport, which has lost £800,000 in revenue because of the closure of duty free services?

I have already ruled that question out of order on the Order of Business.

Deputy Kenny raised it already.

The Deputy will have to find another way to raise it.

He missed the flight.

Did the Taoiseach see last night's programme on homelessness which asserted that some 4,000 people are homeless?

That does not arise on the Order of Business.

(Interruptions).

I hope that is not the attitude of the Government.

Please, Deputy Rabbitte. Deputy Jim Higgins.

At this time of the year the Taoiseach ought to say something in the House about the plight of people who are sleeping rough on the city.

The Taoiseach will have to find another way to raise the matter, but not on the Order of Business.

(Mayo): Late yesterday evening the Government announced new arrangements for asylum and immigration which serve only to confuse rather than to clarify matters. Will legislation be required to give effect to the Government's new policy on economic migrants and, if so, when can we expect to see this legislation?

It will, on the work permit aspects of yesterday's report.

Given that the Whips are to meet about the arrangements for the motion under Standing Order 31 which was adopted here this morning and that it is within the gift of the Taoiseach and the other major party Leaders in the House, would the Taoiseach and Deputies Bruton and Quinn recommend—

We have already dealt with this matter.

—to their Whips, regarding the statements on the Helsinki summit, to provide time—

We have already dealt with the matter.

We have not. Please give people an opportunity to speak.

—for the smaller parties to articulate their positions on an important subject?

There has been no response from the Taoiseach.

I am making this appeal on probably the last working day of the House in this century. Is it not within—

Deputy Ó Caoláin, you are out of order. We have already dealt with this matter.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, please allow the Taoiseach to respond. All we want is to come in here and express our views on the Helsinki Summit and you will not even allow us to do that.

You have had an opportunity to express your opinion.

It is a disgrace.

In view of yesterday's interdepartmental response to progress on the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities, can I have an assurance from the Taoiseach that the Government still intends to proceed with a disabilities Bill in spite of the fact that the Department of Finance has stated we cannot afford a rights based approach to disabilities?

It is being proceeded with.

When will the local government reform Bill be published?

Which one?

It will be in late January.