Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 9, motion re leave to introduce Supplementary Estimates [Votes 9, 10, 19, 20, 22, 23, 26, 27, 32 and 35]; No. 10, motion re referral of Supplementary Estimates [Votes 9, 10, 19, 20, 22, 23, 26, 27, 32 and 35] to select committee; No. 11, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Fisheries (Miscellaneous Commercial Licences) (Alteration Duties) Order 2004; No. 12, motion re: referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of Draft Decision of the Council providing for certain areas covered by title IV of Part three of the Treaty establishing the European Community to be governed by the procedure referred to in Article 251 of that Treaty; No. 13, motion re Proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income and Capital) (Republic of Iceland) Order 2004, back from committee; No. 14, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income and Capital Gains) (Government of the Hellenic Republic) Order 2004, back from committee; No. 15, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income and Capital Gains) (Government of Canada) Order 2004, back from committee; and No. 26, Irish Nationality and Citizenship Bill 2004 — Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 10.30 p.m.; No. 9, and subject to the agreement of No. 9, No. 10, referral to select committee, and Nos. 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 shall be decided without debate and any divisions demanded on Nos. 9 and 10 shall be taken forthwith; and the proceedings on the resumed Report and Final Stages of No. 26 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10.30 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 Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Private Members' business shall be No. 39, Planning and Development (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill 2004 — Second Stage, which shall also take place tomorrow at 12 noon and the proceedings on the Second Stage thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes on that day.

There are four proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15, without debate, motions re Supplementary Estimates, referral to joint committee and proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the double taxation relief order 2004, agreed?

In respect of Nos. 9 and 10, the Fine Gael Party has put forward the view for some time that the process leading to the presentation of the budget is not as it should be. Deputies from all sides and parties should have the opportunity to discuss Estimates in a real way, with the opportunity to recommend changes in and transfers within Votes so that the public gets the greatest transparency and accountability in terms of moneys being voted through on its behalf. On that basis, I oppose Nos. 9 and 10.

In respect of Vote No. 26, for example, which deals with the Department of Education and Science, the note given to the Whip, for which we are grateful, says that the Department has managed its budget prudently this year. However, I understand that upwards of €50 million has not been spent on capital works on school buildings.

Vote 26 is not included in the question.

It is. I understand it is in No. 9. I will not get the chance to raise the issue again. The note says the Department's budget was managed prudently and that €50 million was not spent. However, if we look at the parliamentary questions asked today on education, the majority relate to school buildings.

Vote 35 is for €20 million in respect of the sports capital programme under subhead C1. What is this? Why have the committee and its members not had an opportunity to discuss the allocation of this €20 million, which the Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen, may read out tomorrow? Communities around the country would be very interested in the matter. From that perspective, I do not accept the lead up to this budget has been as it should be if we are to be a responsible Oireachtas and if we are to have a Government that spends the people's money in as transparent and accountable a way as possible. For that reason, I oppose Nos. 9 and 10.

A number of questions should be raised on the matter of the Supplementary Estimates. I concur with Deputy Kenny, in particular with reference to Vote 26. There is specific mention with regard to the Supplementary Estimate relating to the moneys being paid under the redress scheme.

We cannot discuss the content of the Estimates.

This is a fair point. In the Estimates, there was a significant increase from €120 million to €170 million. We are now saying that the Supplementary Estimate is because there was a higher rate of take up of redress than anticipated. What sense are Opposition Members, such as me, who are spokespersons on finance——

We are merely discussing referring the Estimates to committee. We are not discussing the contents of the Estimates on the floor of the House.

I am making a complaint. I concur with Deputy Kenny that it is extremely difficult to make any sense of how this Government is spending money. There is also a reference to the taxi hardship panel. That was something——

That does not arise at this stage. I must rule the Deputy out of order.

It says in the briefing note——

The proposal before the House deals with referring the Estimates to committee. We are not discussing the content of each individual Estimate.

I am making a point about Vote 32 and the reference to the taxi hardship panel.

The Deputy is not entitled to make a point at this stage.

Will this House get an opportunity to debate the significant change in the case of one of these Estimates? That is a reasonable query. How are we supposed to make sense of the finances of the country? It is all smoke and mirrors. Different people stand over different papers.

The Deputy has made her point.

It seems habitual that we have a logjam coming up to the budget. Is it necessary? We seem to have something like the Naas dual carriageway of Votes that are back to back and must be taken together in a brief period of time. The prospect of debating them, where necessary, in this House is then seen as completely impractical. It appears to be designed to be that way rather than that it is a requirement and that it is almost an habitual reflex action in the Department of Finance. Is that how it is and is it open to change?

We have a similar rush with motion No. 11. It is proposed we take a number of matters here all together. There is a need for the fisheries issue to be debated in this House. There is quite an appalling demise in fish stocks and a significant safety issue exists for fishermen. I need to know whether the Government realises that this is an issue that needs wider debate than just in committee.

I have no doubt that the Supplementary Estimates are required. My concern is the methodology of dealing with them, particularly as an active member of the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service and as a Member who participates in debate covering a raft of these areas. Six different Departments are affected. The question raised by the Deputies is reasonable and fair. The situation is difficult for Members.

I warrant that, if we go back over the past 12 months, there have been other Supplementary Estimates for one or more of those Departments since the Book of Estimates and the budgetary measures were introduced last December. This is a difficult area.

Will the Taoiseach take on board that there is a failure on the part of Departments to project and provide properly for their needs on an annual basis? We talk about introducing multi-annual budgeting, yet we appear not to be able even to budget and provide properly on a 12-month basis, which must be of concern. I register that concern but have no doubt that the moneys sought under the headings outlined are required.

The process we have adopted and streamlined over the years and operate currently has improved significantly in the past decade. The Book of Estimates is produced on the third Thursday of November and the revised Book of Estimates comes out in the spring. It is debated in detail in committees which Ministers attend and where all issues are raised. It was never debated on a subhead basis in this House since the foundation of the State, but this is now done in committees where committee members can raise questions and other Members can attend.

If, for different reasons, changes are required in the subheads because expenditure is being moved within a Vote or there is a requirement for additional expenditure to be voted, which is now rare, this is also discussed in committee. We have moved to multi-annual funding in the past year, so we are not losing expenditure due to delays for different reasons. Supplementary expenditure issues are explained in committee. It is a full and transparent process.

I accept in good faith what Deputy Kenny said, namely, that he thinks the process could be improved. This side of the House is only too glad to discuss all these issues in terms of Dáil reform. The Opposition knows our view. If we are to have a debate on these issues, it will be on the totality and not just on one issue. We await constructive debate on this and will be glad to have it.

I share the Deputy's view that we could improve some of the procedural structures of this House. Let us do that or we will not otherwise make any changes. The Government Whip is ready and waiting to have meaningful dialogue on these issues. The Estimates process is a good process and all we ask is that the debate on these matters can take place in committee where everything will be explained.

Is the question agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 26, Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Bill 2004, agreed?

I am opposed to the guillotining of Bills as a matter of principle and I have to stand by that now.

I object to the application of the guillotine at 10.30 p.m. in regard to the Report and Final Stages of this Bill. It is impossible to gauge how much of the work will be completed at that point. As we voiced last week on the Health Bill, it is unacceptable that guillotines are applied to important legislation and I regard this Bill as being of extreme importance. Therefore, I object to the application of the guillotine in this instance.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 26 be agreed."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 71; Níl, 51.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Brennan, Seamus.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Tony.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghail, Seán.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Donnell, Liz.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Malley, Tim.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wright, G. V.

Níl

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Breen, James.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Harkin, Marian.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Padraic.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Murphy, Gerard.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Upton, Mary.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Kehoe and Stagg.
Question declared carried.

Arising from the legislation on the Good Friday Agreement, will the Taoiseach comment on the choreography in respect of the conclusion of the Northern Ireland talks? Obviously, I do not want the Taoiseach to outline any of the details of which he is aware but perhaps he will indicate to the House the timescale and run-off of the events which will I hope surround a successful conclusion to these talks.

I thank Deputy Kenny for raising the issue in this form. My assessment, following the meetings I had today with Sinn Féin and that Prime Minister Blair had with the DUP, is that there are still a number of issues, although I hope not too many, on both sides. They are not necessarily the same issues — some of them overlap — but we have further work to do on them. I hope we can make progress on them over the next 48 to 72 hours. The parties must then consult and in some cases reconsult with their constituencies on the progress we have made and see if they agree or disagree.

At this stage, I would not like to be overly positive or overly negative. Some people say I tend to sometimes speak negatively on some of these issues, which I accept, but my assessment is that there are still some potentially difficult items, to some of which I do not readily see a quick solution. Therefore, I am not prepared to call it until I see those solutions. There are at least two items which concern me and to which I do not see a short-term solution unless people significantly move their position.

Just one other——

Sorry, we cannot have a debate on the matter. The Chair has been more than generous.

It is an important matter.

Leaders' Questions was instituted to facilitate the leaders of parties in asking such questions.

Will the Taoiseach confirm that Friday is agreed by the Government and the British Government as the last day for this and that if it does not happen by Friday, it will be suspended?

The two Governments would like to finish it tomorrow. We have been pleaded with not to give a definite deadline, by the Democratic Unionist Party more than the others. All parties need more time. I would like to think we would finish it on Friday or Saturday but I am not sure. I received a read out from the meeting in Downing Street today and I do not read Friday into it. I do not see us being able to complete it on Friday, as of now.

I wish the Taoiseach well in his endeavours and I hope he is successful. When will the judicial ethics Bill come before the House?

The Department is considering the provisions that might be included in the Bill, taking into account the work of the review group. The Bill should be available in 2005.

On behalf of the Green Party, I join my colleagues in hoping that the talks conclude successfully. God speed to all involved. The House will not have a debate on the Fisheries (Miscellaneous Commercial Licences) (Alteration Duties) Order 2004. The Maritime Safety (No. 2) Bill deals with an issue of increasing importance given that safety at sea is becoming more difficult due to the need for trawlers to spend longer at sea, making less money, not being able to carry out necessary maintenance and, ultimately, taking risks. Can that legislation be fast tracked, as there is no indication of a date for publication?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to indicate a definite date at this stage.

The Pharmacy Bill will consolidate and update pharmacy legislation. Is a more specific date available for that legislation? We are now within two weeks of a new Dáil term. Can the Taoiseach give a more specific date than 2005? Will the heads of that Bill be circulated to Members?

Work is under way on drafting the heads of the Bill, which is due next year. Members of the committee can request a debate on the heads of the Bill.