Today's Order of Business shall be No. 6, Finance Bill 2004 — Second Stage (resumed); No. 2, Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) Bill 2003 [Seanad] — Second Stage. It is proposed that, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, the resumed Second Stage of No. 6 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 3.30 p.m.
Order of Business.
Is the proposal for dealing with No. 6 agreed?
It is not agreed.
It is proposed to bring the Finance Bill to a conclusion by guillotine at 3.30 p.m. today. The guillotine has been used on every Bill with which this House has dealt since Christmas. What is the point of applying the guillotine when many Members wish to make a contribution on the Finance Bill, the major fiscal measure the year. Not one Bill has been taken in this term where the Government has not used the guillotine. That is shameful disrespect for Parliament and the rights of Deputies on all sides. I am sure many of the Minister's colleagues wish to praise matters they misread in the Bill.
We are waiting for them to arrive.
People in the Fianna Fáil press office will lose their jobs because there is no one to read out their boring scripts.
We will have the last laugh.
The Labour Party is opposed to the proposal to unnecessarily use the guillotine on legislation as important as the Finance Bill when many Members wish to make a contribution on it.
Fine Gael supports Deputy Rabbitte on this matter. Yesterday, we heard the announcement by Brussels of the relaxation of the restriction upon borrowing. This means the Minister for Transport's visit to Claremorris tomorrow will herald the announcement of the reopening of the Sligo-Limerick line, the metro, hospitals, schools and bridges.
The Deputy is moving well away from the proposal before us.
It is good news for Mayo. Is the Deputy welcoming it?
All these matters should be discussed under the Finance Bill, yet Ministers are sitting across the House at a time when a 17 year old brain damaged child must go to hospital because the State cannot find a residential place for him.
The Government is restricting discussion of the Bill and I support Deputy Rabbitte on this matter. We oppose this because it is a wrong form of governance. The Government Chief Whip should know by now that the Opposition parties are opposed to the guillotine conceptper se. This is the most fundamental Bill we will take this year and I am opposed to the proposal.
Week in, week out the Green Party and other Opposition parties have called for real Dáil reform. The only response from the Government to date has been the use of the guillotine and this is yet another example of it. It takes many months to debate Finance Bills in other Parliaments but we are rushing it through and that shows us in a poor light. We oppose the proposal for that reason.
During Private Members' Business last night, I stated that over the past short number of weeks, a guillotine has been applied to the majority of, if not all, legislation, not only on Committee, Report and Final Stages but also repeatedly on Second Stage. I took some hope from the Government Chief Whip's indication that she wished to see change and her acknowledgement that this is most irregular. The guillotine mechanism is being applied at the start of a session as a matter of course and that is completely wrong. The Finance Bill is an opportunity for all to participate in the outworking of the budget measures announced last December and it is an outrageous proposition to impose a guillotine on Second Stage. It is a curtailment of the right of Deputies to participate fully in debate on the proposals contained therein——
It is a pity Opposition Members would not debate the Bill as opposed to debating the Social Welfare Bill and other legislation, as the Deputy's colleague, Deputy Morgan, did last night.
——without interruption and badgering by Members who would be better off preparing their own contributions.
Deputy Gormley referred to other European countries. All our European partners would love to have the economic statistics we have.
We do not have hospitals and public transport because of the mess the Government has made.
Guillotining is not the best way to do business——
The Government does it all the time.
——but let us examine the facts. There is a time limit on the Bill. The House sat until 11.30 last night
Why did the Government take a six week holiday at Christmas?
We were here.
If Deputy Stagg was as interested in doing business in the way he says he is, he would not hold up progress by shouting ever morning on the Order of Business.
We are here to shout.
There is a time limit on the Bill. The guillotine was also used on other Bills and this was dictated by decisions in the High Court and other time constraints.
There will be more.
That is because the Government made a mess of the legislation. It should correct the mistake it made.
We have given all the time we can. I accept we should try to conduct business in a way that we could avoid the guillotine, but that requires co-operation from all parties——
The Minister should look behind him when he refers to co-operation.
Deputy Stagg knows that the leader of his party spoke on behalf of his party on this issue.
——and it probably would involve completing the Order of Business much earlier than normal.
- Ahern, Dermot.
- Ahern, Michael.
- Ahern, Noel.
- Andrews, Barry.
- Ardagh, Seán.
- Aylward, Liam.
- Blaney, Niall.
- Brady, Johnny.
- Brady, Martin.
- Brennan, Séamus.
- Browne, John.
- Callanan, Joe.
- Callely, Ivor.
- Carey, Pat.
- Carty, John.
- Cassidy, Donie.
- Coughlan, Mary.
- Cregan, John.
- Curran, John.
- Davern, Noel.
- de Valera, Síle.
- Dempsey, Tony.
- Dennehy, John.
- Devins, Jimmy.
- Ellis, John.
- Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
- Fleming, Seán.
- Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
- Glennon, Jim.
- Hanafin, Mary.
- Haughey, Seán.
- Healy-Rae, Jackie.
- Hoctor, Máire.
- Jacob, Joe.
- Keaveney, Cecilia.
- Kelleher, Billy.
- Kelly, Peter.
- Killeen, Tony.
- Kirk, Séamus.
- Kitt, Tom.
- Lenihan, Conor.
- McCreevy, Charlie.
- McDaid, James.
- McDowell, Michael.
- McEllistrim, Thomas.
- McGuinness, John.
- Martin, Micheál.
- Moloney, John.
- Moynihan, Donal.
- Moynihan, Michael.
- Mulcahy, Michael.
- Nolan, M. J.
- Ó Cuív, Éamon.
- Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
- O'Connor, Charlie.
- O'Dea, Willie.
- O'Donnell, Liz.
- O'Donoghue, John.
- O'Donovan, Denis.
- O'Flynn, Noel.
- O'Keeffe, Batt.
- O'Malley, Fiona.
- O'Malley, Tim.
- Power, Peter.
- Power, Seán.
- Ryan, Eoin.
- Sexton, Mae.
- Smith, Brendan.
- Smith, Michael.
- Treacy, Noel.
- Wallace, Dan.
- Walsh, Joe.
- Wilkinson, Ollie.
- Woods, Michael.
- Wright, G.V.
- Boyle, Dan.
- Breen, James.
- Breen, Pat.
- Broughan, Thomas P.
- Bruton, Richard.
- Burton, Joan.
- Connaughton, Paul.
- Connolly, Paudge.
- Costello, Joe.
- Coveney, Simon.
- Cowley, Jerry.
- Crawford, Seymour.
- Crowe, Seán.
- Cuffe, Ciarán.
- Deasy, John.
- Deenihan, Jimmy.
- Durkan, Bernard J.
- Enright, Olwyn.
- Ferris, Martin.
- Gogarty, Paul.
- Gormley, John.
- Higgins, Joe.
- Higgins, Michael D.
- Hogan, Phil.
- Howlin, Brendan.
- Kehoe, Paul.
- Kenny, Enda.
- Lynch, Kathleen.
- McCormack, Padraic.
- McGinley, Dinny.
- McGrath, Finian.
- McGrath, Paul.
- McHugh, Paddy.
- McManus, Liz.
- Mitchell, Gay.
- Mitchell, Olivia.
- Morgan, Arthur.
- Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
- Murphy, Gerard.
- Naughten, Denis.
- Neville, Dan.
- Noonan, Michael.
- Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
- Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
- O'Dowd, Fergus.
- O'Keeffe, Jim.
- O'Sullivan, Jan.
- Pattison, Seamus.
- Penrose, Willie.
- Perry, John.
- Quinn, Ruairí.
- Rabbitte, Pat.
- Ring, Michael.
- Ryan, Eamon.
- Ryan, Seán.
- Shortall, Róisín.
- Stagg, Emmet.
- Stanton, David.
- Upton, Mary.
- Wall, Jack.
In view of the announcement in today's newspapers that the Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan, is to proceed with the metro at a cost of €2.5 billion, will the Minister for Defence indicate why there is no date expected for publication of the greater Dublin area land use and transport authority Bill? Will it be published in 2006, 2007 or at some later date? If there is to be a legal base upon which the Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan, will be able to do his job, the House must be informed of it. Is the Bill to be scrapped or will it be produced and, if so, has a date for publication been arranged?
The policy is being reviewed and an alternative strategy is being considered to achieve the same type of objective.
Does that mean that the greater Dublin area land use and transport authority Bill has been scrapped? It is still on the list as No. 107.
In technical terms, yes. However, a similar type of legislation, which will probably incorporate part of the Bill to which the Deputy refers, will be introduced.
No date has been set for publication.
Will it be on time?
On time, every time.
I have an easier question for the Minister. On 3 October the Taoiseach told me there was no need for an order to introduce electronic voting for the forthcoming local elections. He wrote to me on 4 February to apologise and put the record straight, saying he was wrong and orders are required. He set this out in a document which was attached to the letter. On 5 February, the Tánaiste said, "It is correct to say that an order under section 48 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001 will be required to provide for electronic voting." She went on to say that, like all orders, the order can be debated in the House and a motion annulling it could be put before the House. She promised, "If Deputies want a debate on it [which we indicated we did] I will discuss the matter with the Whip and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government."
Yesterday, on the Order of Business, the Taoiseach told my colleague, Deputy Gilmore:
There are no orders in respect of this matter. What I stated on the Order of Business was that the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001 provided that electronic voting would be used in all Irish elections. I was right. The Deputy is wrong and he should withdraw what he said.
I am glad to see the Minister for Defence is here this morning because we need clarity on this. Are orders necessary or are they not? Was the Taoiseach right when he wrote to me stating that they were, or is he right when he now says they are not? Does he know the difference between the truth and inaccuracy or is he unable to make the distinction any longer?
He will have to ask Gerry.
I will be happy to give the Deputy all the clarity he wants. What the Taoiseach said on both occasions is perfectly——
He is talking out of both sides of his mouth.
It is like Nenagh hospital.
What the Taoiseach said on both occasions is perfectly correct and defensible. Yesterday, he said there are no orders. There are no orders as yet, but there will be.
Will the Minister deal with the matter of the Tánaiste's commitment that we would have a debate on the orders?
That is a matter for the Whips. The Government has no objection to it. There was all-party agreement on electronic voting, it worked perfectly well in the general election and in the referendum. We have no problem with it.
My original question was when the orders will be laid before the House.
Will it be before or after the local elections?
I do not have an exact time for that. I will check it with the Minister and inform the Deputy. The Deputy should not need clarification on that.
We certainly will.
Will it be before 11 June?
The Deputy knows well it will.
That may well be so, but we are having a nationwide election——
Deputy Rabbitte, the Minister has answered your question. We cannot have a debate on the matter.
The answer is not on the record of the House.
I am asking you, a Cheann Comhairle, whether the orders will be laid before the House before 11 June.
The Minister said he would communicate with the Deputy.
I hope the Minister communicates as quickly as possible on that matter.
I understand the road openings Bill has now been subsumed into other legislation. Under what legislation does it now come and when will it come before the House? The measure is extremely important, given the appalling state of our roads and the disruption this is causing to traffic in the city.
Does the Minister wish to phone a friend?
The roads (control of roadworks) Bill is not being pursued at present. The effectiveness of the Communications Regulation Act 2002 in dealing with the problems due to be addressed by this Bill is being reviewed.
So, we will have more chaos on our streets.
Yesterday, the European Commission changed the rules applying to projects under public private partnerships. Does the Government intend to introduce new financial procedures to allow for scrutiny by the Oireachtas of decisions under these new provisions? Such procedures do not accord with the present provisions. PPPs receive very little scrutiny by the Oireachtas. If there are to be huge expenditures of this nature the Oireachtas deserves a system of scrutiny.
Since the decision was made only yesterday, time will be needed for consideration of it. I do not see a problem in ensuring that the House will be given an opportunity to discuss it.
The Minister's colleague, the Minister for Finance, is less forthcoming in relation to scrutiny of these matters than the Minister himself.
As a result of the incompetence of the Minister for Health and Children and his Department and the intransigence of the Medical Defence Union, a serious, regrettable and indefensible situation has arisen. Patients are to be denied care——
Deputy, have you a question appropriate to the Order of Business?
I have. Why do you think that I have not?
It is because the Deputy is beginning to make a Second Stage speech. If you have a question about legislation or one appropriate to the Order of Business you may put that question. We cannot spend an hour every morning listening to people making major speeches about this, that and the other.
You take up most of the time with interruptions.
I beg to differ with you, a Cheann Comhairle. I am not making a speech; I am asking questions. I want to know and am entitled to ask the Minister if the Government intends to have a Supplementary Estimate to get itself out of this mess. There will have to be a deal and, whatever that deal is, funding will be required.
Have the heads of the adoption Bill been approved by Government and when will we see publication of it? I do not want to hear the answer, 2004. Is it possible to be more specific?
The consultative process is still being engaged in and I am unable to give a time at present.
When holding my clinic the other night, I glanced at a television screen and noticed——
That does not arise on the Order of Business.
It does, although I am not asking about the Broadcasting Act. I was amazed to see a senior Minister extolling the virtues of contesting the presidential election.
Have you a question appropriate to the Order of Business?
I was in a quandary as to whether he was thinking aloud, articulating a Government decision or had merely not received a Christmas card.
In light of the decision by the Taoiseach and the Government to transfer lands at Grangegorman to the Dublin Institute of Technology and the numerous promises regarding the Grangegorman agency Bill, will the Bill be published in this session?
The legislation is expected in this session.
It had been flagged that the Government would bring forward legislation to rush through major infrastructural projects without proper public scrutiny. Will the Minister say if such a Bill is coming forward, and when? Can he also tell us why the Government of a nation of emigrants should send gardaí in to snatch immigrant children from the bosom of their communities and deport them heartlessly out of this country?
That matter does not arise on the Order of Business. The Deputy will have to find another way of raising it.
The heads of the Bill are expected early this year.
On Monday, the Minister for Finance announced changes to pension arrangements for public servants, and changes to teachers' pension arrangements, in particular. He promised that these would be implemented by 1 April. Where is the pensions (miscellaneous provisions) Bill? We were told we would get this at the same time as the Finance Bill. There is no legislation yet. Are the heads ready?
The heads of the Bill have been approved by the Government and it remains the intention to have the Bill in place by 1 April.
If we do not get it soon, it will be guillotined. It is a very important technical issue.
The Bill will not be approved for another week or ten days, but the heads are approved.
The heads are approved. How will we get the entire Bill by 1 April?
We cannot have a debate on it.
The Deputy understands the procedure. We are doing the best we can to meet that deadline.
The Tánaiste told me on 5 February that the Garda Síochána Bill was before the Cabinet that week, and that she presumed it would be published shortly. Was it approved by Cabinet and when will it be published?
The heads of the Bill have been approved.
Heads my granny.
We will move on.
This is a deadly serious matter. We have been looking for the Garda Síochána Bill now for three years. Was the Bill before Cabinet, and if so, why does the Minister not remember it?
Sorry, Deputy, that does not arise on the Order of Business.
It will be published in the next couple of weeks.
The Minister has answered the question and we are moving on.
On a point of order, it has become the practice in recent times for Ministers to escape from the House in the first ten or 15 minutes. That is a grave discourtesy to the House.
That is not a point of order. The Deputy must find another way of raising the matter.