Order Of Business.

The Order of Business today is No. 13b, Finance Bill 2004 — Financial Resolutions; No. 13c, motion re sittings and business of the Dáil; No. 1, Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence ) (Amendment) Bill 2003 [Seanad] — Second Stage; and No. 2, An Bord Bia (Amendment) Bill 2003 [Seanad] — Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 4.45 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 7 p.m. and that Nos. 13b and 13c shall be decided without debate and, in the case of No. 13b, Financial Resolutions Nos. 1 to 23, inclusive, shall be moved together and decided by one question which shall be put from the Chair.

There are two proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 13b and 13c without debate agreed?

As regards No. 13c, in view of the number of times that both the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach referred in the House to the publication of appropriate findings from the Nally report, which dealt with the Omagh bombing, will the Taoiseach be here tomorrow for that debate? I know he is in Omagh today. As the matter will be discussed in the House tomorrow, is it the Taoiseach’s intention to make a statement here about whether he intends to meet the families or to give them a copy of an appropriate edited version of the Nally report?

Unfortunately, I am advised the Taoiseach will not be in Dublin tomorrow. He will, therefore, not be here.

As regards the motion on Friday sittings, this type of sanitised sitting with no Order of Business, no parliamentary questions, no Adjournment debate and no possibility of a vote or challenge is not a sitting of the House because the Government cannot be called to account. That is the function of the House. These types of sittings are a farce and they should be recognised as such by the House.

I support Deputy Stagg. We call for real Dáil reform every week. Will such reform be introduced before 11 June? Will the Government live up to its promises on Dáil reform or will we——

We are discussing——

We are talking about Friday sittings and this is essential when talking about Dáil reform. We have asked for real Friday sittings and not these bogus ones.

As regards No. 13b, a different element in the proposition, the Financial Resolutions before us cover a wide range of areas. While I have noted that traditionally these go through without debate, nevertheless they cover a raft of measures under the taxation code. That they are taken without debate is inappropriate, particularly in the number of instances I have gone through them in detail. I object to the fact that they are being taken without debate, although I understand the technical requirement that they must be passed before the Finance Bill is addressed in committee. Nevertheless, I hope it is noted that this is an inappropriate way to deal with matters that have a significant impact on the taxation code and on some of the controversial reliefs that operate under same.

I will put the question.

I want to——

Deputy Stagg has already spoken on behalf of the Labour Party. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 13b and 13c without debate agreed to?

On a point of order, two motions are being taken together.

When a question is being put, we do not hear a point of order.

Question, "That the proposal for dealing with Nos. 13b and 13c be agreed to”, put and declared carried.

May I raise my point of order now? There have been objections before to the taking of two separate and disconnected items together in one motion. Completely different cases need to be made in respect of Nos. 13b and 13c. There is no connection. By putting them together, the Ceann Comhairle did not allow separate arguments to be made on these matters.

The Chair did not put them together. There was one proposal before the House and one Member from each party was entitled to speak.

On a procedural point, will the Ceann Comhairle, as Chair, request the Government Whip that, where entirely separate issues are before the House, each should be heard separately?

It is not a matter for the Chair.

To roll together such matters is an abuse and limits the rights of Members to have meaningful debate on issues.

The Deputy has made his point. I call Deputy Kenny.

For whom is this a matter?

In the past items have always been grouped.

The Ceann Comhairle should not mind the prompt sheet and should answer the question.

A proposal grouping one or more items of business in one proposal is in order as the proposal arrangements to be followed are more or less the same for all items to be taken without debate. The items themselves are voted on separately when put to the House after the Order of Business.

I know that is the case. However, what is the answer to Deputy Howlin's point of order?

The Chair had one proposal to put to the House at that point.

They were separate issues.

I appreciate that, and the Ceann Comhairle did so in accordance with Standing Orders. It is disposed of. Deputy Howlin has raised a procedural point about taking two separate and different matters in the one motion.

That has always been the case.

It was not always the case.

As I have pointed out, the grouping of one or more items in one proposal has been a long tradition for as long as I can remember in this House.

It has been as long as the Minister of State, Deputy Hanafin, has been Government Chief Whip.

They will be put to the House separately to be voted on.

Can we ask the Tánaiste if it is not a reasonable point that the House should have the opportunity to hear two entirely separate, independent and different matters separately? Is that not a reasonable way to proceed with these matters in the future?

The proposal we put was to take these items without debate. Essentially they are both technical. One is to refer the financial resolutions to a committee where they will be fully discussed and the other is the business for tomorrow. To avoid reading out a very long motion that outlines the agenda for tomorrow, it is being done in this way. We are dealing with a technicality and we are asking that this be done without debate.

I notice that the Ceann Comhairle referred back to as far as he could remember. I can remember a little further back and recall such items being voted on separately on the Order of Business.

The Deputy is correct. They will be put to the House separately and, if necessary, voted on.

However this is being done without debate.

Does the Tánaiste consider it appropriate that Government contracts of a multi-million euro nature are awarded when politically appointed advisers are allowed sit on the determining body? Is the Tánaiste happy with that?

That does not arise on the Order of Business.

Public money is involved.

The Deputy will have to find another way of raising the matter which was dealt with in the House yesterday.

A Bill was promised.

I have another matter which is in order about which the Tánaiste spoke on the radio yesterday. I note from this morning's newspapers that the Elan corporation is to launch a new multifunctional drug for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Will the Tánaiste ensure that IDA Ireland discusses with the Elan corporation the fulfilment of a commitment to provide 300 jobs in Macroom, County Cork?

The Deputy should submit a question to the Tánaiste in her capacity as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Those are two important questions.

I accept that they are two important questions, which is why they should be dealt with in the correct way.

Let us hear the answers now.

The Tánaiste should answer the question.

Does the Tánaiste recall the commitment given by the former Minister of State, Bobby Molloy, when the enabling legislation to introduce electronic voting was put through the Seanad that it would not be implemented without the support of the parties in Opposition, whichever ones they were at the time? Is that still the position of the Tánaiste's party?

That does not arise on the Order of Business. We had a long debate on this matter on Tuesday and Wednesday. It was also raised and allowed on the Order of Business for the past two days and the matter was dealt with.

Some Government Members should also be concerned about this.

They are.

The Tánaiste campaigned on the basis of not having a single party Government. I am beginning to think we have such a Government.

Does the Deputy have a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

I have. Does the Tánaiste support the enactment of the promised legislation on this matter prior to the local and European elections?

That does not arise on the Order of Business.

It is a valid question that needs to be answered now.

The question of who supports legislation can be debated when the legislation comes before the House. It is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

This is about the debate that was promised at the time.

Is it the intention of the Government, of which Deputy Harney is Tánaiste, to enact this legislation before the European and local elections?

That question has already been dealt with this week and answered.

Outside the House.

The answer to the question is "Yes".

The Tánaiste has come a long way.

I call Deputy Gormley.

The Tánaiste has gone with the mother party.

I wish to raise a separate matter of legislation. I remind the Tánaiste of a Bill she introduced entitled the National Lottery (Amendment) Bill 1988. I have a number of quotes stressing her opposition to——

Quotes are not necessary. Does the Deputy have a question on legislation?

I wanted to give the tenor of it.

The Deputy knows he is out of order.

I will not quote what she said. However, the House can take my word for it that the Tánaiste was in high indignation about slush funds and the lottery funds.

Does the Deputy have a question on legislation?

Will the Government introduce amending legislation to change the arrangement to have independent trustees disperse the dormant accounts fund?

This matter was dealt with yesterday as well.

I remember the Bill. It did not pass because the Labour Party voted with the minority Government of the day and, unfortunately, the Bill was rejected.

It was a bad Bill.

The Deputy cannot have it every way. The dormant accounts legislation will be published this year.

I call Deputy Gormley.

A Cheann Comhairle——

I have called Deputy Gormley. I will come back to Deputy Rabbitte.

This week saw the emergence of the alternative Government and the decline of the current one. The issue that brought it to a head was electronic voting. Does the Tánaiste agree that there is no way——

Some would be excluded.

The Deputy could be part of it also.

Has the Deputy a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

Does the Tánaiste agree there is no way to get this legislation passed before 11 June?

I call Deputy Hogan.

My question is on promised legislation. When will this legislation come before the House?

That question was dealt with yesterday.

What is the answer?

Are Ministers often delayed because they know something?

That is why he is in Malaysia.

I am glad the Tánaiste is present and not on another golden Thursday run around the country with job announcements. What is the status of the transposition of the 5th EU motor insurance directive? When will it be debated in the House? Does the Tánaiste have any plans to amend the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act to ensure greater transparency of the costs and premia of insurance companies and brokers arising from a Competition Authority report yesterday?

I am flattered to think the boardrooms of America would meet to help my election campaign and approve projects.

They got the Tánaiste three seats.

I am pleased to hear Deputy Hogan talk about competition because according to the newspaper last Sunday, he wanted me to close down the independent inquiry by the Competition Authority into bank charges.

The Tánaiste should deal with the question of legislation.

The Tánaiste should deal with the question she was asked.

If the fifth motor directive is agreed during the Irish Presidency it will be implemented as quickly as possible.

What is the Tánaiste doing about it?

I ask the Tánaiste about the promised electoral (amendment) Bill to deal with electronic voting. Has the Government considered the heads of the Bill? If not, when does she expect it to do so? Can she give an approximate date for the publication of the Bill?

The Tánaiste has already dealt with the second part of the question.

Deputies

No, she has not.

The Government has not yet considered the heads of the Bill, but it is being drafted as we speak. It will be published as quickly as possible. I do not have a precise date.

To pursue this question——

Sorry, Deputy, we cannot have a debate on this now.

I am not debating it. I am asking about the timing of the publication of the Bill. It was publicly announced and stated in the House that this Bill is to provide for electronic voting.

What is the Deputy's question appropriate to the Order of Business?

The Ceann Comhairle should let the Deputy ask it.

My question is about timing. This election will take place on 11 June.

We will not have a debate on the issue again this morning. It was debated on the Order of Business yesterday and on Tuesday and we have had long debates on the issue over the last two days. The Deputy asked two questions and they were answered.

My question is about the imprecise nature of the Tánaiste's reply to my question about the Bill.

Sorry, Deputy, that does not arise on the Order of Business.

It does arise.

This is a very serious matter.

Yes, and the Deputy's question has been answered.

It has not.

The Deputy is out of order.

When will it be published?

There is plenty of time before the election.

The Tánaiste answered the Deputy's question.

No, she did not. She gave an imprecise——

I do not have a precise date, but it will be published as quickly as possible.

What does that mean?

The election is on 11 June.

It will be published shortly.

They did not think they would have to publish it.

It is reluctantly being published.

It is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Peter Pan is in the propaganda office.

Was it somebody on the State payroll who came up with that?

Environmental health officers have indicated that with the advent of the ban on smoking on 29 March, which I welcome, there are insufficient numbers of them to police the outworking of the legislation. Can the Tánaiste tell the House the position of the safety, health and welfare at work Bill? When will it come before the House? Will it provide for additional EHO staff?

The latest report of the Competition Authority demonstrates clearly that Irish citizens are being ripped off right, left and centre in terms of insurance costs. As this is directly under her remit, does the Tánaiste propose to introduce legislation on the back of this revealing report, which was mentioned in this morning's newspapers? What proposals does the Tánaiste suggest to protect the consumer in the intervening period?

The last question is out of order.

The safety, health and welfare at work Bill will be going to Cabinet in the next few weeks and will be published shortly thereafter. On the question of bonuses and commissions paid to brokers, this is a matter for the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, which now regulates the insurance industry.

A new baby was born just an hour ago in Monaghan General Hospital. Is there any chance that the nurses and midwives Bill will be discussed in the House to give us the opportunity for a wider debate on that issue?

The Tánaiste may be aware that the Ceann Comhairle organised an interesting discussion on broadband this morning. It is interesting to relate, however, that the electronic system there broke down——

Sorry, Deputy, the second question is out of order.

(Interruptions).

That was in this House.

Allow Deputy Crawford to have an answer to his first question.

I will begin by congratulating the happy parents on the birth of their newborn and I also congratulate the midwife, Deputy Crawford, on the safe delivery of said child. I am sure the House is unanimous in its congratulations. The legislation will be dealt with later this year.

Does the father even know?

Child benefit will be paid in three days.

I want to clarify a matter of legislation from 20 June 2001, when the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, said in the House:

To get away from the problem of having the Government blamed of having a slush fund, it has been decided to establish a board of trustees. The board will distribute the money, subject to guidelines and without direction from the Government. ... I think this is the best approach ... to give the power to distribute it to a disbursals board and not the Minister.

The Tánaiste usually agrees with the Minister. Why has she changed her mind to bring in——

Sorry, Deputy, that does not arise. It will be more appropriate when the Bill comes before the House.

——legislation to allow the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív, to get his hands on this slush fund? That is what the Tánaiste was put into Government to avoid. Now she has joined them again.

The Deputy is getting it wrong.

I thought I would have to wear a Cork red jersey to be seen. I have had my hand up from the start.

The Deputy is not as quick at getting his hand up as his colleagues.

The Deputy had two hands up — he was surrendering.

Deputy Crawford beat the Deputy to it.

I would like some help from the Tánaiste.

He must have thought it was a maroon jersey.

The Water Services Bill, the Motor Vehicle (Duties and Licences) Bill and the Residential Tenancies Bill are before the House. Emergency legislation was promised to deal with the Carrickmines judgment. How can we prioritise a Bill to deal with electronic voting?

Sorry, Deputy, that does not arise.

It is a very important question.

What is the priority among all the Bills before the House or due to be introduced? How can the Government get legislation and regulations through the House in adequate time?

Through co-operation.

Does the Minister want us to lie down?

He wants us to roll over. That is not happening.

It is a bit like what happened with the Hanly report.

The order in which the legislation is taken will be a matter for the Whips to decide. It will be possible to deal with all of it, with the goodwill of all sides.

According to the Government's published programme we will be taking 11 days off for St. Patrick's Day and 18 days off for Easter.

Does the Deputy have a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

I have. There are only 18 sitting days between now and Easter. Could we have a precise indication of when the Government intends to take the electronic voting Bill?

That has already been dealt with.

The reason I am asking is——

The Tánaiste has already answered the question.

She has not answered it yet. She has answered it generally, but I am asking her about the precise time.

She has answered the question.

She said it would be introduced shortly and that it would be introduced before the election.

Yes, that is an answer to the question.

The House is entitled to know when the Bill will be introduced. Is that not a simple question?

As the Deputy knows, there is a long-standing tradition in this House——

The Tánaiste knows also.

——that the Government in responding gives the knowledge it has.

When will the Minister return from exile in the Far East? What are his views on this?

They do not know.

The Manchurian candidate.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for calling me. I am thankful that the Minister for Social and Family Affairs is still in the House, although she is not in her seat. Does the Tánaiste intend to insist, as a woman, that the draconian measures the Minister introduced in the area of rent allowance——

Does the Deputy have a question appropriate to the Order of Business? What legislation is she speaking about?

It is a question of secondary legislation. There is a woman in Cork, as we speak, with two teenage children, who is homeless.

The Deputy is out of order. We will move on to the next business.

It is a matter of secondary legislation. This woman is homeless.

Deputy Lynch must resume her seat.

That woman is homeless because she cannot get rent allowance because of what that woman did.

The Deputy should submit a question to the Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

She portrays an image of being soft and kind but women and children are being made homeless.

The Deputy should resume her seat.

Teenage boys and girls are running around the streets because of what that woman has done.

Deputy Lynch should resume her seat. If the Deputy wishes to leave the House, the Chair will facilitate her.

There are enough homeless without me going.

In recent months the Progressive Democrats Members have been quick to dissociate themselves from broken promises made by the Fianna Fáil Party. There is a commitment in the programme for Government to make an application to the European Commission to extend disadvantaged status to the entire Border, midlands and western region. I am aware that this subject is close to Deputy O'Donnell's heart. The commitment was made by the Minister of State, Deputy Parlon.

Has the Deputy a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

Has this commitment, which was inserted in the programme for Government at the behest of the Progressive Democrats, been fulfilled? When will the veterinary medicines Bill be published?

Deputy O'Donnell is trying to locate the disadvantaged farmers in her constituency. The Bill will be published this session.

Does the Tánaiste have any regulations, legislation or review mechanisms in place for the operation of the labour market after 1 May this year should predictions her Department is making about the operation of that market turn out to be wildly different?

The House passed legislation on that issue last year.

Given the unanimous concern expressed yesterday at the Committee on Foreign Affairs, will the Tánaiste ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs to make arrangements today to make a statement in the House on how the Government decided to recognise the military regime in Burma and appoint a non-resident ambassador at the same time that a freeman of Dublin city, Aung San Suu Kyi, is under house arrest? How was this extraordinary, disgraceful and appalling decision on behalf of the people——

The Deputy cannot make a statement.

——which was made by stealth and without explanation in the House——

The Deputy should submit a question to the appropriate Minister.

Will the Minister come to the House and answer questions on it?

I call Deputy Eamon Ryan. Deputy Michael D. Higgins is out of order. The appropriate way to raise this matter is through a question to the Minister.

The appropriate way is for the Government to justify its decision.

We cannot debate every issue Members would like to debate on the Order of Business.

It made its decision in anticipation of the EU Common Position, thereby disgracing the EU as well as itself.

I have called Deputy Eamon Ryan. Deputy Higgins should resume his seat. He is being disorderly.

The Government is bringing shame on the country.

The Deputy should allow Deputy Eamon Ryan or we will move on to the next business.

Following the kind letter sent last night by the troika of three Governments to the Taoiseach on the development of the European Union, can we expect the Minister of State, Deputy Callely, and other Ministers in the Government to adjust their important and busy work programmes to take account——

Has the Deputy a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

Is there a change in the Minister of State, Deputy Callely's, portfolio to take account of these recent developments in the European Union?

Has the Cabinet discussed the western rail project?

That is out of order.

It must not be since the Minister, Deputy Brennan, went through the west last Friday in a blaze of glory and promised everything except the train.

We are moving on to the next business.

A Cheann Comhairle——

Deputy Rabbitte has been called three times and other Deputies wish to be called and I cannot call them. I call Deputy Durkan.

A Cheann Comhairle——

I have called Deputy Durkan. The Chair tries to facilitate the leaders of Fine Gael and the Labour Party but it cannot take questions that are not appropriate to the Order of Business.

Are the other parties excluded? Does the Chair only facilitate Fine Gael and the Labour Party ?

I have called Deputy Durkan.

On a point of order——

If the Deputy resumes his seat, we will hear Deputy Durkan first.

On a point of order——

We will hear Deputy Durkan first and then take the point of order.

On a point of order, I deferred to Deputy Durkan a moment ago and the Ceann Comhairle presumed that I was rising with a question that was not appropriate.

I did not presume anything.

You did; you frequently presume.

I am not going to get into an argument with the Deputy. He should resume his seat. I have called Deputy Durkan and then I will call him.

I wish to make a point of order.

What is the point of order?

The Tánaiste said that the Labour Party voted against her Bill to prevent the disbursement of lottery funds as a slush fund. I have the record of the vote for 16 November 1988 and the Labour Party did not oppose the Bill.

The Tánaiste was wrong.

The Tánaiste said that day that it was the task of the Progressive Democrats to prevent the spectacle of the Minister for Agriculture marching into a town behind a band and disbursing cheques for £100,000 to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

The Deputy has made his point.

She said that these were wrong, they demeaned politics and that her party would use whatever opportunities it could to put an end to these scandals.

Deputy Rabbitte should allow Deputy Durkan to speak.

The Tánaiste should admit she is wrong and apologise.

The Tánaiste was wrong.

On a point of order——

I will take a point of order from Deputy Ó Caoláin.

Will the Tánaiste apologise?

She should apologise.

I well remember——

The Tánaiste was wrong. The record speaks for itself.

——debating the vote with the former Deputy Barry Desmond on the radio.

The Tánaiste was wrong. We have the vote record.

Allow the Tánaiste to reply.

She was wrong. We have the vote.

Deputy Stagg should allow the Tánaiste to respond.

Deputy Rabbitte knows a minority Government was in power and Fine Gael supported the Bill. Why was it defeated? Is the Deputy sure he has the right vote?

I will hear Deputy Ó Caoláin's point of order.

I am telling the Tánaiste she was wrong to say that the Labour Party voted against it.

I have called Deputy Ó Caoláin on a point of order.

The real point is that she was against the use of lottery money as a slush fund. Now she is giving a slush fund to the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív. That is the point.

I am not giving a slush fund to anyone.

The Tánaiste is doing exactly what she said she would not do.

Deputy Rabbitte should resume his seat.

I would prefer if the Tánaiste would not interrupt when the Chair is speaking.

I apologise.

The Chair stated earlier that he always seeks to accommodate the leaders of the Fine Gael and Labour Parties in the Chamber.

That is correct.

Will he clarify his position on other parties?

The Deputy was not listening. The Chair said he would try to accommodate the leader of Fine Gael and the Labour Party in allowing them to speak more than once on the Order of Business. That is based on proportionality. The Deputy's party has five Members while the Fine Gael Party has 31.

On a point of information——

We are not having a debate on it now.

On a point of order——

I will take a point of order.

For the Chair's information, in terms of proportionality the Technical Group is larger than the Labour Party. That is a fact.

The Chair is not getting into a discussion on this matter.

The Chair could call the leader of the Technical Group. He could easily accommodate us.

There are six Members in the Deputy's party. If he wants the Chair to work on the basis that it does not recognise his party as an individual one but as a Technical Group, he can communicate that to the Chair and it will be glad to facilitate him. I call Deputy Durkan.

I have asked on a number of occasions about updating the GSI legislation which was last updated in 1845. Notwithstanding the workload of the Government while it is running the world and so forth, it might make time to update the legislation. Will the Tánaiste indicate whether the most modern geotechnology will be incorporated in the updated legislation?

It is not possible to say at this stage when we can update the legislation but it will be done before the 200th anniversary.