Order of Business.

Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 26a – Motion re Electricity Supply (Amendment) Bill, 2001; No. 49 – Teaching Council Bill, 2000 – Report and Final Stages (resumed); No. 6 – Electricity Supply (Amendment) Bill, 2001 – Order for Second Stage and Second and Remaining Stages; and No. 1 – Agriculture Appeals Bill, 2001[Seanad] – Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) No. 26a shall be decided without debate; (2) the proceeding on the resumed Report and Final Stages of No. 49 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 30 minutes or 11.30 a.m., whichever is the sooner, 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 Education and Science; (3) Second and Remaining Stages of No. 6 shall be taken today; and (i) the proceedings on Second Stage, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 1 p.m. and the following arrangements shall apply: the opening speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed five minutes; Members may share time; a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes and (ii) the proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 2 p.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 Public Enterprise; (4) questions shall be taken today at 3.30 p.m. until 4.45 p.m. and in the event of a Private Notice Question being allowed it shall be taken at 4.15 p.m. and the order shall not resume thereafter.

There are four proposals to be put to the House. The first is the proposal for dealing with No. 26a, concerning an instruction to the committee dealing with the Electricity Supply (Amendment) Bill, 2001. Is that agreed to?

On the Order of Business—

We are dealing with a proposal.

I am aware of that. I can read the proposal. However, there is a tradition that we can ask for clarity on the Order of Business before we agree to a motion because the Government's intention will determine whether we can agree to the schedule as published. Will the Minister indicate whether a guillotine will be applied next week to the Twenty-second Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2001? If, as I now understand, there is to be no guillotine will the supporting legislation I requested yesterday be published before Second Stage is concluded?

The question would be more relevant when we come to the Order of Business proper. We are now dealing with a proposal.

If we need to make a point and divide the House we can only do so on one of these proposals.

Standing Orders govern all these matters.

It is inappropriate that Second Stage of the Twenty-second Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2001, should be taken without the Government first publishing in draft the additional legislation the proposal envisages would be enacted should the referendum be successful. Will the Minister indicate if it is intended to publish the legislation in draft before commencement of next Tuesday's debate? If not, I suggest that Second Stage of the Bill should not commence until the draft legislation accompanying it is published.

I understand the Taoiseach dealt with this yesterday in the House. There is no proposal before the House today. The matter is under consideration.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 26a agreed to?

On that basis—

The Deputy cannot speak twice. He cannot drive a coach and four through Standing Orders. I have already pointed out to him that he cannot speak twice on this issue.

On a point of order—

The Deputy is disorderly and he cannot have a point of order while he is in a state of disorder.

Question, "That No. 26a be taken without debate”, put and agreed to.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 49, the Teaching Council Bill, agreed to?

The Minister is probably aware of a Supreme Court decision yesterday which finds that the Government is seriously in error in not providing Irish language versions of legislation to the public. The judgment states that if a Bill is signed by the President in one official language it must be immediately made available in the other. Has the Minister taken this into account in proposing the Order of Business? Does he consider that the implications of this judgment will require versions of Bills in both official languages to be put before the House? Has the Government considered whether this judgment will inhibit the House from doing business over the coming weeks until the appropriate translation provisions are put in place?

The question before the House is the arrangements for taking the Teaching Council Bill.

I am asking if it is in order to proceed with the Bill in only one official language in view of the Supreme Court judgment.

That is a matter for Question Time. We are dealing with a proposal.

We cannot proceed with the Order of Business if we know it is unconstitutional.

This matter arose yesterday. The Attorney General is considering the Supreme Court judgment as he would necessarily have to.

Is the proposal agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 6, the Electricity Supply (Amendment) Bill, agreed to?

Could the proposal be amended to give members of the Green Party time to speak? The Bill only deals with the demand for electricity, it does not deal with altering or ameliorating the demand. There is a need for the Green Party to contribute to the debate.

The normal procedure will apply unless there is a change in the Standing Orders. I am sure it would be possible to share time.

I accept the proposal on that basis.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 6 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal in relation to questions agreed to? Agreed. I turn to leaders' questions.

I am glad the Minister for Education and Science is present because he represents a north-side constituency close to Dublin Airport. There will be chaos again at the airport tomorrow. All Aer Lingus flights will be strike bound for 24 hours. The other main airports in Cork and Shannon will also be affected. This is the second weekend that travel plans made by tens of thousands of citizens will have to be cancelled. Aer Lingus will lose £3 million on a 24 day strike and the image of the company will be further blemished. In addition, the tourism industry, which is so adversely affected by the foot and mouth disease crisis, will be further damaged by this action.

Will the Minister indicate if the Cabinet or a Cabinet sub-committee has discussed the regular cancellation of Aer Lingus flights? Will he indicate if there is any possibility that it will intervene to ensure that this dispute is resolved as we go into the main tourism season?

The second day of the Aer Lingus dispute threatens 20,000 passengers and a very fragile tourism industry. It is part of a pattern of industrial disputes. An even more ominous dispute is looming in the ESB and Guinness workers are on notice to strike.

The Deputy must confine himself to the matter raised by Deputy Noonan. He cannot broaden it.

The matter is in relation to industrial disputes.

It is in relation to Aer Lingus industrial disputes.

In the context of industrial disputes, does the Government have a programme for defusing situations or must we jump from strike to strike, crippling our economy?

I appreciate the points made by the two Leaders on behalf of both parties. It is a very serious situation and it will cause serious disruption to passengers and to Aer Lingus. I assure the Deputies that every effort is being made to resolve the dispute. The Labour Court met with Aer Lingus and SIPTU on Thursday, 29 March, following an initial intervention by the PFF implementation body. The purpose of the meeting was to establish the main issues in dispute between the parties concerned. However, no progress was made in those discussions and SIPTU was not prepared to call off its planned strike.

Talks under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission took place on Monday, 2 April. Despite five hours of talks, no progress was made. Aer Lingus and SIPTU have agree to refer the matter back to the Labour Court. The Labour Court intervention would require the cancellation of the planned action on Friday and in this regard the national implementation body met with the senior representatives from SIPTU on the night of Tuesday, 3 April. Arising from that meeting, a informal meeting took place yesterday evening between SIPTU and the group chief executive of Aer Lingus. However no progress was made and as a result the planned industrial action for Friday seems likely to proceed.

I would appeal to both sides to go to the Labour Court, suspend the action and have the matters resolved through the aegis of the Labour Court.

I do not think the Minister appreciates the enormous disruption this is causing at a personal level. I am aware of a young person who, during the last strike, travelled from Australia to a family funeral and could not get out of London for a whole day. That is just one example of the disruption which is being caused. Is the Minister aware that there seems to be a series of rolling disputes in Aer Lingus? Would it not be better if the industrial relations machinery of the State could be used to get an overall solution rather than taking the disputes seriatem at this stage?

The current position is that there is urgent activity taking place. The Labour Court is making its industrial relations facilities available. Unless we work through the industrial relations procedures we will not get a solution. I appreciate the issues raised by the Deputy. The difficulties are very severe and it is causing great distress to a great number of people. The machinery is in place and I would appeal to those involved on both sides to use it and to set aside the dispute while the matter is resolved.

I ask the Minister to outline the Government response, if any, to the refusal of the major banks to cash cheques over the counter in branches. Would he accept that many elderly people, students and people on social welfare do not have bank accounts and, indeed, many workers do not have a current account, a deposit account or an account with a credit union? Would he accept that this is an unacceptable imposition on the community in the light of the banks' responsibilities? Will he ensure that the State, which has considerable muscle in relation to its own accounts, seeks to have this situation reversed?

Is it the view of the Minister that some of the banks are trying to force people to open bank accounts to increase business? In view of the recommendations of Mr. Phil Flynn's report on the post office being on the verge of bankruptcy, would the Minister give a commitment that the Government will ensure that post offices will be allowed to provide banking services, particularly to those people who do not do business in the main banks at present?

It is a very serious situation, especially for people who do not use the electronic funds transfer system. Obviously increasing numbers are doing that and it would appear to be an effort to streamline the position from the banks' point of view. It is important that the banks take into account the fact that they work within the country as part of the community and as part of our society. I would certainly hope that they would take that into account in the arrangements which they are proposing at present because it would appear, as the Deputies have said, that they will create a considerable amount of difficulty for that percentage of people who have not adopted that system to date.

Efforts have been made through the banks to ensure that, for instance, the payments through the Paymaster General will be recognised and accepted, but in effect this seems to have broken down. There was some agreement about it but it seems to have been set aside at this stage.

This is an important issue. It is a matter on which everybody concerned, be they involved in commercial activity or government, should make their views clearly known to the banks.

Would the Minister agree that it is entirely unacceptable that the major banks, who make profits of £1 billion in this economy and who should be more responsible after the findings of the DIRT inquiry, have a debt to this society? Will he, on behalf of the Government, assure the House that the economic might of the accounts in the control of the Government and Government agencies will be used as leverage to reverse this anti-social decision?

Arrangements have been made by the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs with the banks to ensure that its cheques are cashed. Of course there are many things happening in the marketplace where supermarkets are cashing many of the cheques. However, I accept it is a serious matter.

I asked about the post offices.

We tried to support them.

That concludes Leaders' questions. We must now proceed to the other relevant questions on the Order of Business.

(Mayo): A Cheann Comhairle, may I raise a serious issue with you? On Tuesday, 27 March, I raised by way of Priority Question the secret financial severance deal approved by the board of CIE, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Public Enterprise for the former chief executive of CIE.

Has this to do with promised legislation?

(Mayo): It has, yes. In her reply the Minister stated that the board of CIE, on which three or four worker directors—

We cannot discuss questions.

(Mayo): I will show the relevance in a second.

Please ask a question on legislation.

(Mayo): The board, on which three or four worker directors and various other people sit, agreed to confidentiality on the package. This morning, within the last hour—

Is this a question on promised legislation?

(Mayo):—the worker directors of CIE have issued a statement—

Would the Deputy come to his question on promised legislation?

(Mayo): Yes.

Please recognise the Chair.

(Mayo): I will indeed. The statement says that the Minister's reply was disgraceful and inaccurate and that they, the worker directors, did not agree to the confidentiality clause.

The Deputy cannot make allegations at this time.

(Mayo): May I ask you, a Cheann Comhairle, in your capacity as the guardian of the integrity of this House, if you will have the Minister correct the record of the House?

I have no control over Ministers' replies.

(Mayo): The Minister has seriously misled the House.

The Deputy is out of order and he is continuing to be out of order. I have asked him to put his question on promised legislation and if he has no question, he should resume his seat.

(Mayo): Can I ask you, in your capacity as guardian of this House, to get the Minister to correct the record of the House?

The Chair has not responsibility over replies or what any Minister says.

(Mayo): She has misled the House.

The Deputy is continuing to be out of order. He should now resume his seat. There are other ways of dealing with the matter but he should not do so on the Order of Business.

(Mayo): Can I—

You can ask a question on relevant legislation.

(Mayo): Will the Minister consult with his colleague on this matter?

I ask the Deputy to resume his seat.

(Mayo): On legislation, when will the rail safety Bill be introduced?


There are a number of Bills concerning the ESB on the list. Is the Minister aware that SIPTU and the ESB Officers' Association served strike notice on management today and will be on strike and will close power stations in two weeks' time, if the Minister does not intervene? I ask the Minister to bring forward whatever legislation is required and listed to empower the Minister to resolve that situation?

The Second Stage of the Electricity (Supply) (Amendment) Bill, 2001 will be before the House today when the Deputy will have an opportunity to raise those points.

Will its introduction stop the strike?

I wish to raise two issues. A few weeks ago the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform promised to make a statement to the House when he received a report on the private policing activities of Sinn Féin in Kerry. I understand the Minister has received that report. Will time be made available in the House early next week for the Minister to make a statement to the House and for that statement to be debated in the context of the unacceptable activities of Sinn Féin in exercising private policing arrangements which are interfering with the work of the Garda Síochána?

The Minister has no difficulty with this; it is a matter for the Whips.

Mr. Hayes

We could have it today then.

The Whips have no difficulty with it either.