Order of Business.

The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 18, motionre Referral to Joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of a proposal under the Fourth Protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam (a proposal for a Council Regulation (EC) on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matters of parental responsibility); and No. 48, Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill, 2001 Order for Report, Report and Final Stages.

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 10.00 p.m.; (2) No. 18 shall be decided without debate; and (3) notwithstanding anything in Standing Order 106 or the Order of the Dáil of 1 February 2000, the Fine Gael group shall, with regard to the Private Members' time allocated to the group this week, nominate a member of the Labour Party to proceed with No. 113, motionre medical cards, which shall be taken at 7.00 p.m. and brought to a conclusion at 10.00 p.m. tonight.

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

I know you have ruled out discussion on the MOX plant case, but would it be possible to find time given that we will be sitting late. I object to the way it has been sidelined, particularly as a great deal of State money is rightly being spent on this effort to address the issue. It seems this House will not have an opportunity to debate it.

Is the Deputy opposing the Order of Business?

Question "That the late sitting be agreed to" put and declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 18, motionre Referral to Joint Committee of a proposal under the Fourth Protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' business agreed? Agreed.

We now come to Leaders' Questions.

In recent weeks there has been ample evidence of the Government searching around for some good news. However, turning the defeat on the Sellafield issue into some kind of victory was a bridge beyond which it had not previously gone. I put it to the Taoiseach that after four and a half years of Government the campaign to shut Sellafield has been an abject failure because it is actually expanding.

Is the Taoiseach aware that a month after British Nuclear Fuels invited the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland to visit Sellafield to inspect its safety facilities, no such visit has been arranged? Did the Taoiseach raise this with the British Prime Minister when they discussed Sellafield last week?

Notwithstanding the disappointment of the Labour Party with the tribunal in Hamburg, the Taoiseach can take some comfort, however small, in the fact that for the first time the Irish Government has been accorded the right under international law to information and to a shared responsibility with the British authorities for ensuring the Irish Sea must not be polluted by the Sellafield operation. Will he outline the steps the Government now intends to take to build on the rather narrow but nevertheless positive platform that has come out of the deliberations of this tribunal? What action will he take to ensure we get the full information regarding the safety of the operation of the plant, the environmental impact of the MOX regeneration plant and the overall operation of Sellafield?

The Government appreciates the efforts of the Attorney General and his legal team who have worked so hard on this in recent months. The tribunal may not have done everything we wanted. It is disappointing not to have received a full injunction from the tribunal, but we are still at an early stage of the process. Yesterday, the tribunal accepted Ireland has rights under the UN Law of the Sea Convention and these rights must be protected. That was a very important victory. It rejected both arguments of the high level United Kingdom legal team, which was backed by enormous resources. These were that no provision or measures should be ordered and that Ireland should pay the UK's costs.

Yesterday's judgment is complicated and our legal advisers are considering their next steps. Under the judgment, we have two weeks to come to an arrangement with the United Kingdom, which would satisfy our rights under the convention and will satisfy the conditions laid down by the tribunal yesterday. If agreement cannot be reached within that time, we will return to the tribunal to take further steps, which we will work out with our legal team.

I call on the United Kingdom to delay commissioning until the parties have reached agreement on measures to prevent pollution from the MOX plant in accordance with the tribunal's order. I expect the United Kingdom to do that.

In reply to Deputy Quinn, we continue to prosecute our case, both under the Law of the Sea and the OSPAR Convention. We are also prepared to take steps under EU law as appropriate. We will continue with the various measures and instruments available to us.

The Taoiseach did not answer the question I asked about the proposed visit by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland to Sellafield and why there is such a delay in putting that in place.

I presume the Taoiseach is aware that the UN International Atomic Energy Authority completed an important study on nuclear terrorism last Friday, a copy of which, I believe, has been sent to the Government. Will the Government undertake to publish this without delay?

On the first matter, I do not know if the meeting has been arranged, but I will ask the Minister to check with the agency.

On the second issue, I am not aware of that report, but I will ask if it has been delivered to the Government.

Will he publish it?

I will find out what it is and where it is.

It is a United Nations report.

Deputy Noonan, there is no provision for supplementary questions.

If it is a UN report, I presume it is already published.

There is widespread concern about the possibility of an attack on Sellafield.

We cannot have further supplementary questions. Leaders' questions have been very orderly since being introduced.

I am just telling the Taoiseach what the publication is so he can—

There is no provision for points of information.

Everybody in this house and in the country has watched with mounting horror, the carnage and violence that has visited the Holy Land in recent weeks. There have been suicide bombers in Jerusalem killing innocent young people out enjoying themselves and then retaliation by helicopter gunships shooting, apparently indiscriminately, in different parts of Palestine. Against that background and the realisation that we on this island know violence is not an appropriate means to the pursuit of political solutions – quite the contrary, it creates obstacles that take years to dismantle – will the Taoiseach outline what action Ireland has taken at the UN Security Council to date to try to bring a resolution to this conflict? What action does he propose to take with the European Union leaders next week in Laeken? Can he give his assurance that Ireland will bring its full authority to bear on its European partners and on the UN Security Council to ensure the Palestinian Authority, which is the only hope for peace on the Palestinian side is not systematically undermined or destroyed by the outrageous activities of the Prime Minister, Mr. Sharon?

I understand there is a European Union position on the conflict between Israel and Palestine. What input has the Government had to that policy? Is there a proposal in the Department of Foreign Affairs to alter our position in view of the outrageous events which have occurred in the past 48 hours?

I am deeply concerned, as I am sure is everyone in the House and in the country, at the latest developments in the Middle East. The Minister for Foreign Affairs sent a letter to Shimon Peres expressing the Government's horror at the appalling attacks against Israeli civilians at the weekend. He utterly condemned those attacks. He also extended sympathy to all those who suffered in the atrocities.

The Government associates itself fully with what was communicated in the statement issued by the President of the European Union condemning the attacks and calling on the Palestinian authority to do everything in its power to bring the perpetrators to justice. That was quickly followed yesterday when we learned with equal horror and grave concern about the Israeli retaliatory raids on the Palestinian targets. We have stressed the urgent need for the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to quickly renew security co-operation. We support the EU call on the Israelis and Palestinians to end the cycle of violence and to restart the peace process regardless of how difficult it is. As Deputy Quinn said, we know that progress will not be made if the process stops every time there is an atrocity. It is the wrong thing to do.

Our delegation in New York has already been in consultation in recent days with a number of leading Arab delegations to ascertain their views about raising this issue at the United Nations Security Council. I checked this morning and the procedure is that the issues relating to Palestine are raised in the Security Council by one of the member states from the non-aligned movement at the behest of the Arab group of countries. Discussions about precisely what will happen are still ongoing. The position is that the Arab countries have not yet met to discuss how they will deal with this as a group. They have not yet been asked to do so by the Palestinian observer. They are waiting for the Palestinian observer to ask them. The Department of Foreign Affairs and our ambassador are ready to play any possible constructive role.

The terms of the EU resolution have been set out and I am sure the parties have already seen them. We will keep closely in touch. These are terrible atrocities and horrific acts by both sides. They will not help anyone as it is innocent civilians who will suffer and are already suffering. I know evil people have been involved in the terrible organisation of the atrocities in recent days.

To which atrocities is the Taoiseach referring?

It is leaders' questions.

I am talking about the atrocity of going into confined places and blowing apart members of the public. I equally believe the retaliatory actions are not designed to help the peace process in any way.

I call Deputy Quinn.

I asked the Taoiseach six weeks ago to break off relations with Israel.

This is leaders' questions and Deputy Quinn is the only Member entitled to ask a supplementary question.

Will the Taoiseach join me in rejecting out of hand the assertion made by Prime Minister Sharon that Yasser Arafat was in some way personally responsible for supporting terrorism, that the Palestinian authority was in some way responsible for or giving support to terrorism and that, therefore, Israel or the present national coalition Government in Israel cannot hide behind the declarations condemning terrorism that emanated from the United Nations after the attacks on 11 September? Does he also recognise that the European Union is the major contributor to the meagre financial resources of the Palestinian authority? Will he make provision in Ireland's aid programme for additional funds to repair the damage done by the Israeli defence forces to residential and other community property in the areas occupied by the Israeli forces and in the Palestinian authority areas over which it has a limited degree of control? Will he give an undertaking that in advance of Laaken he will ensure this matter is firmly on the agenda for comprehensive discussion by the European Union leaders on 13 and 14 December and that pressure is brought to bear on the Palestinians and particularly on the Israelis, having regard not just to the internal issues of justice for the peoples on both sides concerned but to the international implications and stability of the Middle East upon which Europe is critically dependent?

As regards the discussions next week, while I have not had any indication about it, I am sure that will be the case. We will strongly support that. I will meet Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt in the next number of days. The EU's position will remain as it is. Its statement today strongly supports maintaining the diplomatic efforts to relaunch the political process.

I met Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, a number of times. I do not believe he is doing anything other than trying to find ways to move forward. He has a difficult situation with which to deal. He does not control Hamas and the other terror groups. Last year when President Clinton had almost reached a successful round of discussions following the Camp David and other initiatives during 1999 and 2000, he analysed he was not in a position to deal with that. That still remains the position. He and his colleagues are not doing anything other than trying to find a way forward.

I am sure I speak for everyone in the House when I say that, while accepting that extremism and terrorism can destroy the current diplomatic efforts, we must try to ensure the international community continues its efforts to move on the peace process in spite of the difficulties. George Mitchell, whom we all know has made efforts, said in his statement last night that President Arafat is still the best opportunity for reaching the desired situation. Having visited the area, seen the 1949 camps, listened to numerous discussions in recent years and read many statements and reports of meetings, there will not be any hope of making progress in the foreseeable generation if President Arafat is not there.

Is the Taoiseach aware that it is not possible for the public to gain access by telephone to the child benefit section of the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs in Letterkenny?

That does not arise on the Order of Business.

It arises for thousands of people who are looking for the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs.

There are advertisements in the newspapers every Sunday.

There are photographs in the newspapers.

I call Deputy Gay Mitchell to ask something appropriate to the Order of Business.

The Minister for Health and Children undertook to bring forward statutory regulations in the House in relation to setting up the crisis pregnancy agency. In view of the concerns expressed in a letter to the Taoiseach by TREOIR, these regulations should be brought forward. Some of the non-statutory agencies feel there has not been sufficient consultation on the detail.

It might be on the website.

The Minister has heard what the Deputy said. I have asked for that to be organised.

As regards the Campus Stadium Ireland Bill, we were supposed to have the consultants' report six weeks ago. When will the Members of the House get possession of it?

The Bill is being drafted. It is expected in the House early in 2002.

Why is the consultant's report being suppressed?

It is a travesty.

I ask Deputy Rabbitte to resume his seat.

We have our answer all right.

The answer is silence.

Will the disability Bill be published before Christmas?

A number of Departments are involved and the completion of the Bill is their number one priority.

What arrangements are being made for the publication of the Minister for Finance's budget speech and supporting documents tomorrow? Will they be the traditional arrangements or are copies being published in advance?

I understand the usual arrangements are being made. I have not heard of any change.

We were informed that there would be a departure from tradition. Documents will be published—

This matter does not arise on the Order of Business and the Deputy will have to find another way of raising it, perhaps on leaders' questions.

Normally, there are dire warnings about releasing copies of the script when circulated in the House. Will the traditional arrangements apply or will the Minister's statement be published outside the House at 4.15 p.m. tomorrow?

The traditional arrangements are being made. The budget will be disclosed at 4.15 p.m. tomorrow and the traditional arrangement is that it will then be circulated.

It will only be circulated in the House. People will only then learn what is in it.

I understand the traditional arrangements are being made. If there is any change, I will ask the Minister for Finance to inform the House.

There was a time when it appeared in theIrish Press.

TheIrish Press is long gone.

Deputy Quinn was Minister for Finance when the budget was leaked a few times.

Has the Minister worked out if Ray Burke—

Deputy Shatter is not entitled to speak at this stage. I presume he has his name down and, if so, I presume that is his contribution.

My question on promised legislation is similar to Deputy Rabbitte's which referred to legislation on Campus Ireland. Why is the Taoiseach not publishing the so-called expert report?

That matter does not arise at this stage.

Will the publication of the nuclear test ban treaty Bill have any bearing on thinking with regard to the MOX plant at Sellafield? Will the Taoiseach refer to the OSPAR Convention or the EURATOM Treaty to prevent the commissioning of the plant, or will we again resort to megaphone diplomacy to call on the British Government not to go ahead?

I have already answered that question. I said we will continue to approach this matter through the OSPAR Convention, the EURATOM Treaty and the European Union. We have to deal with the first part, regarding the law of the sea, in two weeks.

Mr. Coveney

Will the Taoiseach make time available to discuss the dramatic proposals made by Commissioner Franz Fischler regarding EU cutbacks on fish quotas and their effect on Irish fishermen and the fishing industry? Will he ensure we will have that discussion in the House?

That matter does not arise on the Order of Business.

Mr. Coveney

Of course, it does. It relates to the ordering of business.

It is not appropriate to the Order of Business. If it were, we would be here until midnight because every Member of the House could ask about every single issue that concerned them. I suggest the Deputy table a question.

At Question Time the Taoiseach admitted the Government will not fulfil its commitments under the PPF with regard to local authority housing. That will mean more tenants renting for longer periods. Has the Government yet approved the heads of the long-awaited housing, private rented sector, Bill?

The heads of the Bill are expected before Christmas.

(Mayo): I wish to question the Taoiseach on three Bills, Dumping at Sea (Amendment) Bill, 2000, Sea Pollution (Hazardous and Noxious Substances) (Civil Liability and Compensation) Bill, 2000 and Radiological Protection (Amendment) Bill, 1998. Does he realise that if the MOX plant opens on 20 December next, it is a fait accompli?

That matter is not appropriate.

Mr. Higgins (Mayo): The Taoiseach can talk tough all he wants and threaten legal action, but it will all be to no avail. Does he have any intention of contacting the Prime Minister—

That matter does not arise on the Order of Business. The Deputy is being disorderly. He should ask about legislation.

The Coast Guard Bill is due in 2002. The Sea Pollution (Hazardous and Noxious Substances) (Civil Liability and Compensation) Bill, 2000, is already before the House.

(Mayo): Surely this is an acid test of the Taoiseach's unique relationship with—

The Deputy should resume his seat or I will proceed to the next business and his colleagues will not get a chance to contribute.

(Mayo): Is the Taoiseach prepared to contact the Prime Minister?

If the Deputy does not resume his seat immediately, he is leaving the House.

(Mayo): Is the Taoiseach prepared to contact the Prime Minister?

I ask the Deputy to leave the House. Deputy Higgins will leave the House. He had his opportunity. If he does not leave the House, I will call the Ceann Comhairle.

(Mayo): This is a very valid question.

That may well be, but the Deputy is totally out of order. I have asked him to leave the House. He was warned of what would happen to him.

(Mayo): Why does the Taoiseach not answer the question?

Is the Deputy leaving the House?

Mr. Higgins (Mayo): It is typical cowardice.

Deputy Higgins (Mayo) withdrew from the Chamber.

With reference to the arts Bill on the list of proposed legislation, is the Taoiseach aware that the Arts Council is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary today? Notwithstanding the fact that the heads of the Bill have been circulated to various Departments, why has the Arts Council, which will be directly affected by it, not been consulted? Will the Taoiseach indicate when the legislation will be published? In the spirit of partnership, about which he waxed most eloquently earlier, does he intend to consult the Arts Council?

The arts Bill will update the relationship between the State and the arts sector, in particular the Arts Council. The heads of the Bill were approved over the summer and the Bill is being drafted.

On 31 December the mandate of the Dublin Transportation Office ends. It was originally envisaged that it would be included in the promised legislation for the greater Dublin area land use and transportation body which has not appeared. Is it the Taoiseach's intention to bring forward legislation to renew the mandate of the DTO, or can this be done by regulation? It is important that there is some continuity given the traffic problems in Dublin.

Political gridlock is the main problem.

The greater Dublin area land use and transportation authority Bill is due early in the new year.

Deputy Noonan asked me a question earlier regarding which I have just received a note from my office. I do not want to mislead the Deputy. I said the arrangements for the budget are as they have always been. There appears to be some change in that. His information is better than mine. I will check and let Members know the details.

The Minister is going to read the speech on the canal.

On a point of order, based on what the Taoiseach said, is there a possibility—

That is not a point of order. I call Deputy Howlin.

—that the detail of the budget will be known to the media before Members know it?

Deputy Shatter should resume his seat. That is not a point of order.

It is a serious breach of procedure.

The Deputy will have to find another way to raise the matter. I call Deputy Howlin.

If the Fianna Fáil press office gives advance notice of the detail of the budget—

I have called Deputy Howlin.

—this House is entitled to know it.

I ask Deputy Shatter to resume his seat.

We leave that to Deputy Hogan or to Proinsias.

Deputy Howlin, without interruption.

I want to ask a question about legislation, but before I do, has the Taoiseach the arrangements? If so and if he inadvertently misled the House previously, perhaps he will want to correct the record. Now that he has the note of the arrangements from his office, does he want to tell us what they are?

I only have a brief note which states that there are some changes to facilitate—

—Members of the House and particularly those in broadcasting.

The ones broadcasting are on the Government benches.

I call Deputy Howlin.

The Taoiseach has the information and he is not giving it out.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

The information available to the Opposition is that the Government has arranged to circulate outside the House copies of the Budget Statement at the commencement of the statement at 4.15 p.m. tomorrow.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The question is more appropriate to tomorrow's Order of Business.

No, it is not.

Deputies

No.

It is. We are not dealing with that business before the House today. It is more appropriate to tomorrow's Order of Business.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle—

Deputies should allow the Taoiseach—

Your predecessor admonished Deputies for leaking information.

Yes, but the Order of Business deals with the business of the House.

The procedures are being changed without consultation with the Opposition. The Taoiseach should put the information on the record. He should read it out.

I call the Taoiseach.

If in doubt, keep reading the above.

If people would listen, I said earlier that I understood the arrangements were exactly the same. My office has said there appears to be some change in that position.

Is this about a funeral announcement?

Please listen.

The Taoiseach, without interruption.

Please listen. It says, in recognition of the time constraints facing the media, the Minister for Finance has decided to allow the release of his budget speech as soon as he begins speaking in Dáil Éireann, which is expected at 4.15 p.m. That appears to be the same arrangement

Deputies

It is not.

He releases his speech—

That is irrelevant.

The Taoiseach, without interruption.

He releases his speech. It is not clear on this note whether he is releasing that outside or in the House.

That is absolutely extraordinary.

I said I would check with the Minister's office and let the finance spokespersons know precisely what the position is.

The Taoiseach will—

On a point of order—

We cannot allow further debate. The Taoiseach has stated he will communicate with the Deputies.

Could we have consultation with the Whips?

The Whips can consult any time they like. It does not arise at this stage.

Our finance spokesman will speak tomorrow—

We are moving on at this stage to Deputy Shatter.

—without seeing the Budget Statement—

Please, Deputy Noonan.

—and it will have been circulated to the media.

It does not arise at this stage. I am calling Deputy Shatter.

He will welcome it anyway.

This is an outrage. Without consultation—

I have called Deputy Shatter.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle—

The Deputy appears to have missed his turn. I have called Deputy Shatter. I will come back to him.

I offered the Taoiseach a chance to correct his misleading of the House, which he took.

Yes, and I have called Deputy Shatter. I will call you on legislation later.

You are confusing your two roles. This is the Dáil, not the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party.

That is unworthy.

Deputy Rabbitte, you will immediately withdraw that remark unequivocally.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I want to—

Deputy Noonan, resume your seat while I am dealing with Deputy Rabbitte. Deputy Rabbitte, you will immediately withdraw that remark unequivocally.

What is wrong with it?

He will withdraw the remark.

It is outrageous.

He is casting aspersion on the Chair. Deputy Rabbitte, do you intend to withdraw it?

I withdraw it—

—but Deputy Howlin was on his feet and Deputy Shatter was not.

I call Deputy Shatter.

On a point of order—

Deputy Howlin was on his feet.

Deputy Howlin was not on his feet. He asked the Taoiseach a question.

You gave him permission to ask a question.

On a point of order, I yielded to the Taoiseach asking him if, having got further information, he wanted to correct his earlier misleading of the House. I yielded.

The Chair is wasting time.

Does Deputy Howlin want to ask a question on legislation?

He is in order.

The Taoiseach indicated earlier in the session that, subsequent to the Justice and Home Affairs Council which considered the aftermath of the security implications of 11 September, five Bills would be published and introduced to the House. So far, one Bill has been published. What other Bills will be introduced and when?

The Justice and Home Affairs Council will meet this week. A large number of measures have been passed by Cabinet which are on the agenda for that depending on progress in the Justice and Home Affairs Council. It is not because of us but because of the pace of debate in the Council generally that I have not moved on these items quickly. A large number of items are on the agenda for 7 December, as was originally envisaged. As soon as that meeting is over, we will know what other matters we will have to deal with.

I call Deputy Shatter.

For the sake of clarity—

You have asked your question on legislation.

That was not a reply.

We cannot have supplementary questions.

I do not have an answer. We were told that five Bills needed to be enacted before the report of 28 December. Where are we on this justice legislation? Can we at least have the names of the Bills and the sequencing of those to be introduced in the justice area because some of them have significant implications for the rights of citizens?

I have done this before. Until the matters are cleared at the Justice and Home Affairs Council, we perhaps will not proceed with them. The legislation is the Extradition (European Union Conventions) Bill, which is before the Dáil, the suppression of the financing of terrorism Bill, to allow for the ratification of the UN convention on the suppression of the financing of terrorism, the suppression of terrorist bombings Bill to allow for the ratification of the UN convention on the suppression of terrorist bombings, the convention against the taking of hostages Bill to allow for the ratification of the UN convention against the taking of hostages, and the prevention and punishment of attacks on internationally protected persons Bill to allow for the ratification of the UN convention on the prevention and punishment of attacks on internationally protected persons. These issues and others from the agenda of the Tampere summit in 1999 are before the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 7 December. After that we will see what progress we will make.

Are they all promised legislation?

It depends on what happens.

There has been a tradition in the House since the foundation of the State about the circulation of the Budget Statement of the Minister for Finance on budget day. It appears as if this is being changed unilaterally. Will the Taoiseach state to the House to whom outside the House the Budget Statement will be circulated?

That has already been dealt with.

It has not been dealt with.

The Taoiseach has explained he will communicate with the leaders.

It has not been dealt with. My party has been informed that, even though the Budget Statement will be issued outside the House to the media, it will not be issued to the economic advisers to my party. We will have a situation where a finance spokesman must reply to a Budget Statement, sight unseen, at a stage when the statement will be circulating throughout the country.

You have made your point.

This is outrageous.

I call Deputy Quinn.

The Government is trying to spin good news again.

I will allow a brief comment from Deputy Quinn and we will hear from the Taoiseach.

Will we have to get this from the Department of Health and Children website?

Please, Deputy Noonan.

As a former Minister for Finance, the Taoiseach will realise the significance of what is being proposed and what apparently has been unilaterally decided by the Government. As a minimum courtesy I thought the Opposition parties would have been consulted. Will the Taoiseach confirm that what has now been put on the record of the House by Deputy Noonan is correct? If so, will he ensure that relevant parties will get the documentation to which the Taoiseach referred? Will he explain why the change is being made in the first instance? There is no reason the change should have been made.

It is clear from what I said at the outset that I did not know there was any change.

That is more extraordinary.

Has it changed again?

As I understood it, the arrangements were the same as for last year. I got a note from my office to say there might be some change to that, and I said I would check it.

Is the Minister for Finance making the decisions for the Taoiseach?

Allow the Taoiseach to continue without interruption.

Ask the audience.

I will check the position. I am not certain if the change is of any substance but I will ask the Minister's office to confirm the position. If there is any change I will convey it to the financial spokespersons.

The Taoiseach should read out the briefing note he has.

That is none of the Deputy's business.

In light of what we have now learned, I ask the Ceann Comhairle to make a ruling this evening as to whether there would be a breach of privilege of the House should the budget speech be given in advance to the media, as is proposed.

That does not arise today, that is tomorrow's business.

I am asking for a ruling from the Ceann Comhairle this evening, before the House adjourns.

That is tomorrow's business. I will convey your views to the Ceann Comhairle. Does Deputy Shatter have a question on the Order of Business because we are moving on to the next business?

I ask the Taoiseach to furnish to the Office of the Ceann Comhairle by 6 o'clock this evening, the details of how the Government proposes to deal with the budget speech.

That does not arise at this stage. The Deputy is being disorderly. I am calling Deputy Ring and then we will move on to the next business.

I want an answer from the Ceann Comhairle.

That does not arise at this stage. I will bring the Deputy's views to the attention of the Ceann Comhairle.

If you, Sir, are not prepared to deal with the matter, I am asking the Ceann Comhairle to do so. He should come to the House now to deal with the issue.

I am dealing with it now, Deputy Shatter. It does not arise at this stage but it can be raised tomorrow morning on the Order of Business. I ask Deputy Shatter to resume his seat.

I have no wish to have a row with you, Sir.

Deputy Shatter, you seem to have had such a wish all afternoon. I am asking you to resume your seat.

(Interruptions.)

On a point of order, at 4.15 p.m. tomorrow somebody outside this House could get a hold of that document and use it for financial purposes.

That matter does not arise, we have dealt with it. I am calling Deputy Ring. Please allow him to speak. He has been waiting patiently all afternoon.

On a point of order, given the disorder in the House and your refusal to deal with this issue, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I formally propose that you should send for the Ceann Comhairle.

The Chair has ruled on it.

I formally propose it.

I will convey your views to the Ceann Comhairle.

Bring in the Ceann Comhairle.

The Chair is here until the Ceann Comhairle arrives.

On a point of order—

I am not hearing the Deputy's point of order until I have heard Deputy Ring.

Bring in the Ceann Comhairle. This is not the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party.

Deputy Shatter, you will withdraw that remark unequivocally. Do you withdraw that remark?

I withdraw it.

The Chair is in possession. I am calling Deputy Ring.

It is outrageous. Twenty years of my experience in this House has turned to nought.

We read about it the day before the budget when the Deputy's party was in Government.

The Government is incapable of dealing with this matter.

Deputy Shatter, I will ask you to leave the House if you do not remain silent.

In relation to promised legislation – I had better be careful because Mayo is down to two at the moment, and I want to stay in the House—

One down, two to go.

I wish to ask the Taoiseach a question concerning promised legislation. He probably read in today's national newspapers and heard on the radio about the tragic death of a young woman in my constituency. Yesterday, a post-mortem was carried out. Does the Government propose to legislate for people who are dealing in alternative medicine to bring them in line with the law? What happened yesterday was a tragedy and I never want to see it happen again.

Is legislation promised?

I do not think there is any new legislation proposed, but alternative medicine is covered by existing laws.

On a point of order, surely it is a matter for this House if the age-long procedure in respect of the budget speech being made available—

That does not arise at this point, Deputy. The Taoiseach has dealt with that matter.

What other reason could there be but a pre-emptive PR strike by the Government?

The Taoiseach has dealt with that matter and he has stated he will come back to the Members on it. We are now moving on.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, for years you have lectured Members not to even walk outside the Chamber with the budget speech.

We are moving on to the next business, item 18.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, this is a fundamentally important matter for the House. You are supposed to be the guarantor of the rights of Members, and now you are saying we cannot bring the script outside the Chamber.

It will be dealt with.

It is a question of procedure.

(Interruptions.)

Deputy Rabbitte is out of order. The matter will be dealt with by this House.

It will be dealt with before the budget.

Is Fianna Fáil trying to get information out of the House? Who will benefit?

It will be dealt with. I will convey your views to the Ceann Comhairle and the Chair will deal with the matter.

How many people at the Taoiseach's constituency lunch last week will benefit from this proposal?

We cannot even speak to the motion.

It will be dealt with by the Chair long before the budget. We are moving on to the next business.

On a point of order, to ensure orderly procedure in the House tomorrow, can I have an assurance from the Taoiseach that the Budget Statement will not be circulated to the Government's PR agents tonight?

That is not a point of order, Deputy.

I stated earlier that if there is any change in the procedure we will communicate it to the Opposition.

I want an assurance that it is not going to the PR people tonight.

The matter will be dealt with. We are now moving to item 18.

During the time I have been a Member of the Dáil the rules of this House have been such that once the Budget Statement has been circulated to the House, the Chair states it cannot be even removed from the Chamber. It would appear that, unilaterally, those rules have been changed. When you say, Sir, that the matter will be dealt with tomorrow, are you indicating that the rules will be changed tomorrow?

The Chair will consider the matter. There is a long-standing precedent that the Chair will announce to the House tomorrow.

If that is the case, can I ask you, Sir, on behalf of the Ceann Comhairle, to instruct the Government not to proceed with the changes it proposes to make, unilaterally, with the distribution of the information at 4.15 p.m.?

That does not arise today, Deputy.

That is the net point.

It does not arise today. The matter will be considered and the Chair will deal with it tomorrow, as is usual.

It is a PR stunt and you know it, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

I will accept your assurances that the Chair will deal with this matter tomorrow if you will say, on behalf of the Ceann Comhairle, that the present rules stand until such time as they are changed, and that the arrangements the Taoiseach read out are invalid. If you, Sir, so rule now we will accept that.

The Taoiseach did not read that out.

He did. I will remind you of what he said, lest you did not hear it. He said, to facilitate—

The Chair would expect the existing rules to stand, anyway.

Will the Taoiseach acknowledge that is the situation?

The Chair will examine the matter and will announce it tomorrow. We are moving on to item 18.

The Ceann Comhairle should come into the House.

Deputy, I will certainly send for the Ceann Comhairle to name somebody if Members do not resume their seats.

(Interruptions.)

The matter has been dealt with, Deputy Quinn.

It has not been.

It has been dealt with and the Chair has ruled on it. We are moving on to item 18.

On a point of order—

There will be no more points of order on this matter. The Chair has ruled on it and if Deputies do not resume their seats I will ask somebody to leave.

Insiders are getting budget information tonight.

The Chair has ruled and the Chair will announce the arrangements tomorrow, as is usual. We are moving on to item 18.

On a point of order—

Will Deputy Ryan, please, resume his seat?

On a point of order—

When the Chair is on his feet the Deputy should resume his seat.

This is an outrageous way to treat Parliament.

A Deputy

On a point of order—

Deputy Noonan, the matter is finished. We are proceeding to No. 18.

(Interruptions.)

It has been resolved for the moment. Will Deputies, please, resume their seats?

Why can we not be given budget information?

Will Deputy Gilmore, please, resume his seat?

(Interruptions.)

A Deputy

Send for the Ceann Comhairle.

When the Chair is on his feet, Deputy Gilmore should resume his seat. We are proceeding to No. 18.