Order of Business.

On a point of order, while I have great respect for the Minister, this is a contemptuous snub to this House.

That is not a point of order.

Neither the Taoiseach nor the Tánaiste is here.

That is not a point of order so I ask Deputy Kenny to allow the Minister to continue without interruption.

I understand they are attending social partnership meetings but this is the primary legislative body in this country and we have no representation from either the Taoiseach or the Tánaiste.

That is not a point of order and I ask the Deputy to accept the ruling of the Chair.

The Tánaiste is out doing the Taoiseach's dirty work in respect of the tribunal. We have good cop, bad cop, with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government saying the tribunals should be closed down while the Taoiseach says they should go ahead. This is contemptuous treatment of Dáil Éireann.

The Deputy has made his point and he has been ruled out of order by the Chair. It is important no one shows contempt for the rules of the House.

Neither the Taoiseach nor the Tánaiste is here to answer questions today.

Deputy Kenny has made his point and I ask him to resume his seat.

It is a snub to the primary legislative body.

It is an absolute disgrace. The three amigos are sitting in place of the two boys who should be here.

I ask Deputy Durkan to allow the Minister to speak without interruption.

It is proposed to take No. 12a, Finance Bill 2007, allocation of time motion for select committee; No. 12b, Finance Bill 2007 — Financial Resolutions, No. 24, statements on the national development plan; and No. 4, the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2007 — Order for Second Stage and 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 6 p.m, Nos. 12a and 12b shall be decided without debate and, in the case of No. 12b, Financial Resolutions, Nos. 1 to 36 shall be moved together and decided by one question which shall be put from the Chair. The proceedings on No. 24 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to conclusion after 65 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the statements shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and to the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share their time, which shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes. The Second Stage of No. 4 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 6 p.m. tonight.

There are four proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed to?

I propose that we sit until 6.30 p.m. and that there be a full statement from the Government in respect of its intentions relating to the Mahon tribunal. We are in a situation where the Taoiseach says it should go ahead, the Tánaiste says it should close down and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government says we cannot go on like this. The tribunal was set up by the Oireachtas and given a specific remit. Everyone understands it should do its work expeditiously but the truth should be known. We are now in a state of classic Fianna Fáil confusion, where the Tánaiste is out like a lapdog doing the dirty work of the Taoiseach. He should be in here giving a full explanation of Government intentions for the tribunal and I propose we sit until 6.30 p.m. to allow him to do so.

Hear, hear. Where are they now? Let them speak for themselves.

I support the motion for an amendment to the Standing Orders to allow the Government to clarify its position given that we have one version from the Tánaiste and another from the Taoiseach. Will the Minister clarify this position? I had always believed the Oireachtas or the Dáil could not stop a module that had already commenced.

I would prefer if Deputy Rabbitte would wait until the Order of Business and I will allow him to raise this matter then. It is out of order on this proposal and we want to go through the proposals first. Perhaps when we come to the Order of Business he can raise it.

I am just explaining why we are looking for——

We are discussing the late sitting.

Deputy Kenny has proposed its extension to permit the Government——

Deputy Kenny's proposal is not in order because the Opposition cannot propose new business. That is the prerogative of the Taoiseach——

Deputies

He is not here.

He is in hiding.

——and the Government.

(Interruptions).

I ask Deputy Durkan to behave himself when the Chair is speaking. I ask Deputy Rabbitte to wait until the appropriate time on the Order of Business.

I saw you getting that advice, Sir. I remember many times when this side of the House proposed a change to Standing Orders and when it was, on occasion, accepted on the other side.

Not to propose new business. That is a matter for Government.

We have no Taoiseach.

We have no Government.

I call Deputy Gormley on the late sitting. The other matter can be raised on the Order of Business.

We should certainly extend the late sitting to give people the opportunity to make their views clear. There is a lack of clarity on the other side of the House on the tribunals.

The Chair has already ruled on that matter.

We have the Tánaiste——

For the benefit of the House, an amendment which introduces a new matter is not in order as it is the Taoiseach's prerogative to list the business to be taken.

May I make a point of order?

I will hear the Deputy on the Order of Business.

It is a point of order. Will the Ceann Comhairle allow a private notice question on the issue and make the time available to discuss this serious issue. Obviously the Tánaiste——

It does not arise at this stage. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed?

I ask for clarification, Sir. I proposed an extension to the sitting on Tuesday, which was effectively for new business.

No, it was time——

It was new business because the Taoiseach refused to answer questions about the Moriarty tribunal, which was new business as far as I am concerned.

No. The Deputy proposed an amendment on business that was proposed before the House.

I proposed an extension of time for new business, namely answering questions about the Moriarty tribunal.

It was not for new business. It was for business that was before the House.

It was a new element of that business.

There was a proposal before the House on how that business would be dealt with. The Deputy was entitled to propose an amendment to change the proposal that was before the House.

And to bring in an element of new business.

There is no proposal today on this issue.

The new business was to get the truth out of some people here.

The Deputy is out of order. It is quite clear.

I will have to vote against the proposal.

Question put: "That the proposal for the late sitting be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 62; Níl, 47.

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Brennan, Seamus.
  • Browne, John.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Tony.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Keeffe, Ned.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Malley, Tim.
  • Parlon, Tom.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wright, G.V.

Níl

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connolly, Paudge.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McHugh, Paddy.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Gerard.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Twomey, Liam.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Neville and Stagg.
Question declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 12a and 12b without debate agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 24 agreed?

I call Deputy Gormley.

A total of 65 minutes has been allocated to debate a very important issue, namely, the national development plan. The problem is that in the past we have not had a plan. This is the reason we now have tribunals and bad and corrupt planning. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, is now trying to shut down the tribunals as a consequence. I will not dwell on that matter now though I hope we will have an opportunity to debate it.

We need more time to debate the national development plan which does not face up to climate change, the biggest challenge facing humanity. It has not been climate change proofed.

The Deputy may make his points during the debate.

There is not enough time for a debate.

The Deputy will have an opportunity to speak on it.

With respect, 65 minutes to discuss the biggest challenge facing humanity is laughable. I oppose the proposal.

I call Deputy Burton.

The time devoted today for statements on the national development plan and the time devoted yesterday to the Moriarty report means two fundamental issues of importance to this country and our democracy were not properly debated. As Deputy Gormley stated, the €184 billion to be spent under the national development plan will be fundamental to every region in Ireland. We are all aware from the Moriarty report of what went wrong when one man put his hand in the till.

We are dealing with the proposal re statements on the national development plan. The Deputy should make a brief comment on why she opposes the time limit in that regard.

We are now asked to debate the spending of that €184 billion in 65 minutes. The Labour Party will get an allocation of 15 minutes to be shared between myself and Deputy Quinn. That is not adequate. It is not an insult particularly to this House, it is an insult to the voters who for the first time in Irish history will pay the bulk of that €184 billion.

The Deputy cannot debate the content of the plan at this stage.

This is not a plan which will be sent by post to Brussels. It is a plan for which our taxpayers will pay for the next seven years.

The Deputy will have an opportunity to speak on the plan.

The Labour Party also opposes the proposal.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 24 be agreed to".
The Dáil divided: Tá, 60; Níl, 45.

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Brennan, Seamus.
  • Browne, John.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Tony.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Keeffe, Ned.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Malley, Tim.
  • Parlon, Tom.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wright, G. V.

Níl

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Breen, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connolly, Paudge.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McHugh, Paddy.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Gerard.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Neville and Stagg.
Question declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 4 agreed?

We object to it for the same reason we objected to other items dealing with legislation during the week.

Question, "That the proposal for dealing with No. 4 be agreed to", put and declared carried.

At the beginning of the Order of Business, I attempted to raise the fact that I regard the absence of the Taoiseach and Tánaiste as a contemptuous snub to this House, which is the primary legislative body in the country.

Hear, hear.

After a decade, we had a short series of statements on the Moriarty tribunal. The Progressive Democrats were not present in the House and there was no comment from the leader or the deputy leader of that party.

Hear, hear.

While the House was endeavouring to comment on a culture of corruption and the necessity to break it, the very same Tánaiste who said we do not want single party government in this country was outside the gates of this House undermining another tribunal.

First of all, I believe we should have an opportunity to hear a full statement from the Government about its intentions with regard to the Mahon tribunal. I know that neither the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Brennan, nor the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, can stop this. It was set up by the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform increased fees for lawyers on a number of occasions. The Taoiseach says he wants to go ahead with it; the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government wants it closed down; and the Tanaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Micheál bocht, has his own views on this.

I believe we should have a full statement from the Government. The people are very confused about all these tribunals, but they know one thing. They would like to have the truth, which apparently reaches into the very highest echelons in this country in this day and age. We like to see tribunals do their work expeditiously. A number of judges were appointed. If they are unable to do their work in parallel, that is a problem for the Government. Everybody knows these things cannot run indefinitely, but the truth is central to what we must do to restore some sense of probity and integrity to Irish politics. Will the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, who is a decent man, comment on what are the Government's intentions in respect of the Mahon tribunal?

Does Deputy Rabbitte wish to speak on the same subject?

The House should be closed down. Either the Taoiseach or the Tánaiste should be here.

I remind Deputy Ring that the Chair is speaking. I ask him to show respect to the House and the Office of the Ceann Comhairle. Does Deputy Rabbitte wish to speak on this issue?

(Interruptions).

I ask Members to allow Deputy Rabbitte to speak if he wishes to do so. If not, I will call on Deputy Gormley to speak.

I wish to raise this issue but am content to wait my turn and hear the Minister.

In respect of an issue such as this, in accordance with precedent in the House, we will hear the leader of each of the parties present and then hear a response from the Minister. This has always been the way in respect of these issues. If Members are complaining about wasted time in the House and each Member, in turn, gets up and raises this issue, it takes up time for another——

We are talking to no one.

If Deputy Rabbitte wishes to make a comment on this issue, we will hear him.

We are talking to no one. None of them is here.

Deputy Rabbitte, without interruption.

Where is he today? Is he in Cork or Kerry?

Deputy Rabbitte, without interruption. I will ask Deputy Ring to leave the House if he does not allow Deputy Rabbitte to speak.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Rabbitte, without interruption.

There is minimal opportunity in the House to hold Government to account. The rolling of an omnibus leaders' question to the Minister for Social and Family Affairs by the Ceann Comhairle does not do justice to the Opposition in terms of our capacity to hear what the Minister has to say and pursue him by way of supplementary question. It is a precedent largely created during the current Ceann Comhairle's time.

It has always been the ruling of the House.

Whatever about closing down the tribunals, we may as well contemplate closing down the Dáil if it keeps going the way it is being run by the Ceann Comhairle.

Hear, hear.

I mean no disrespect to the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, but I believe he is eighth in Cabinet ranking. If I were Taoiseach he would be higher than that.

Is this the rotating Taoiseach?

Why has he been sent in here to deal with the Order of Business this morning? When we had a vote in the Chamber, we saw a number of other Ministers appear from behind the arras. What is this snub to the House, although I mean no disrespect to the Minister for Social and Family Affairs?

Will the Minister indicate if my understanding of the matter before the House is correct? I believe that if a tribunal has commenced a module of investigation, the Oireachtas cannot close it down without exposing the taxpayer to serious potential claims for damages.

Why has the new fees regime not been applied? The Tánaiste is quite properly concerned about runaway costs, but the Tánaiste as Attorney General negotiated the increase in fees for his colleagues in the Law Library at the various tribunals. He negotiated and sanctioned them, as well as getting the sanction of the Minister for Finance for the higher fees.

He put them up by 50%.

The Minister for Finance, having sanctioned the higher fees, stated the process to be a gravy train that should be stopped. No action was ever taken. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform brought in legislation in 2004 to curtail the fees but turned a blind eye with regard to implementing the new fees, which have never been put in place. If the Tánaiste is so concerned about fees, why has action never been taken by the Government to control them?

If it is true, as alleged on radio this morning, that there are 12,000 orders for discovery at €13,000 a go, with €400 million being the alleged cost, who sanctioned it? Who is in control of the purse strings and who sanctioned the transfer of €400 million of taxpayers' money to the banks for orders of discovery? It seems the Government speaks with forked tongue on this issue.

I would have preferred to hear the Minister for Social and Family Affairs on the issue and put supplementary questions to him having regard to Deputy Kenny's request for extended time to allow the Government to clarify the issue, make a statement and allow questions and answers. As Deputy Kenny stated, tribunals clearly cannot go on forever and they are inordinately expensive. There are clear fundamental issues of public interest involved as well. Where modules have been opened, my understanding is that a halt cannot be called by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Government as a whole or even by this House.

The Tánaiste is a loose cannon at the best of times. As the pressure mounts, and it is mounting, he appears to be losing the plot completely.

He may self-destruct.

He will self-destruct before the election.

He will implode.

It will not be a pretty sight.

The Deputy should return to the issue before us.

He has bolted.

I ask the president of the Progressive Democrats what they have to fear? We know it is not a cost factor as the Tánaiste pushed up the costs and gave the lawyers what they wanted when he was Attorney General. What do the Progressive Democrats fear? Is it the Quarryvale module?

Absolutely not.

What are they hiding?

Is that what the Progressive Democrats fear?

We had no money in that.

If the party has nothing to fear, it should let the tribunals continue. We should root out the corruption and get to the truth.

Hear, hear.

I wish to contribute.

Sinn Féin as a party can contribute, but there is no provision for members of the Technical Group.

I wish to explain that the Taoiseach——

The media are against us.

If the Ceann Comhairle could just allow me two sentences. After all, most people on the front benches are involved in the row today. What is good for the Government is good for the Opposition.

Is the Deputy happy?

It is many years since it became clear that not just the Mahon tribunal but other tribunals were making far more new millionaires than there were old millionaires being investigated. What we had yesterday from the Tánaiste in particular and also from the Taoiseach is an exercise in the most monumental hypocrisy.

We pointed out many years ago in the Dáil the incredible level of fees which lawyers were able to command at will. Who are the lawyers but the friends of the Tánaiste himself? In other words, it is the very system he has been part of for decades that has seen him make a very good career for himself and his friends. At the same time, it has put the law in this country out of the reach of ordinary working people.

Hear, hear.

That is a system they were silent about for decades and while ordinary working class people were pushed out and could not afford justice, the lawyers were rolling in it from those who could afford to pay them, such as the big corporations, etc. When they saw an opportunity where the taxpayer would foot the bill, it was nirvana.

For years, the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach have refused to lift a finger in opposition to that system. We now have, in the most cynical, political and opportunistic way, the Tánaiste raising this issue for his own reasons. It was as if his party was not in Government for the past ten years. It is similar to the crime issue, where the Tánaiste is adopting the Taoiseach's methodology of pretending to be in Opposition when his party is in reality in Government.

We should get real on the issue. These investigations have shown up the corrupt underbelly that existed with planning in this country and the interface between politics and business in this country, which was rotten to the core and which needed to be brought out and exorcised. Such circumstances can never again occur.

It is not a question of shutting the tribunals down but bringing them to a conclusion where the full truth will out, no matter whom that affects or embarrasses. It can be done and, if necessary, we should bring in levels of remuneration for those involved that will allow the process to continue at a reasonable cost.

Hear, hear — a reasonable solution.

The Deputy should be brief.

That is the solution, not opportunistic calls pretending to be the friend of the taxpayer. We should end an abuse that the Government has condoned for decades.

Hear, hear.

The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Finance have been engaged this morning in partnership discussions and cannot be here.

That could start at 11.30 a.m.

(Interruptions).

It is rubbish.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs had an important engagement this morning.

He is there now.

His most important engagement should have been in here.

I will have to ask Deputy Allen to leave the House if he does not let the Minister reply.

(Interruptions).

Some of us do not have the time.

The Deputies are stuck with me for the moment.

I should make it clear that the Government never has and will never interfere with any tribunal.

They are running away.

Which Government?

No legislation is proposed by the Government to in any way interfere with the work of this or any other tribunal.

Hear, hear. The Opposition would accuse us if we did.

The Taoiseach stated this morning——

What did the Tánaiste say?

——that he agreed with the Tánaiste's comments yesterday that the issue of legal fees for the tribunals needs to be addressed.

Who does he think should address it?

The Tánaiste increased the fees.

Allow the Minister to speak without interruption.

Nobody in this House would privately or publicly disagree with that. Both the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach made the point——

What point?

They should have a conference call.

——that the public needs to understand the vast sums of taxpayers' money going to fund the tribunal.

I may have to ask Deputy Allen to leave the House if he does not allow the Minister to continue.

The public needs to understand that point. Neither the Taoiseach nor the Tánaiste make any apology for bringing that to the attention of the public——

They are being paid off.

Deputy Stagg, please.

——or highlighting that particular fact.

The Government only did it in 2003.

The Taoiseach made it clear this morning and the Tánaiste said it yesterday. Both of them said the tribunals have a very important job to do and that the tribunals would do their job to completion. They are both strongly of that view.

What did they mean?

They both said time and again that a great deal of money has gone into the tribunals——

The Government was supposed to do something about it.

All parties have agreed that is necessary. As the House is aware, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is engaged in correspondence with the tribunals and as soon as that has been completed the Government will look again at the matter.

What has the Government done about it?

No decision has been taken by the Government in regard to counsel's fees. The matter is still under consideration between the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, and the Mahon tribunal.

A decision was made in 2003.

The House will be aware that when the tribunal was contacted in 2004, it indicated it would have its work completed by March 2007. On that basis the then current rates continued to apply to counsel for the tribunal, up to and including that date. The current rates apply up to March 2007.

In 2001, when three additional judges were appointed to the tribunal — at that stage it was called the Flood tribunal — it was expected at that time it would sit in individual divisions. The tribunal found itself unable to organise divisional sittings and, therefore, that did not happen.

Is there no end to the incompetence? It is unbelievable.

In regard to legal costs, the new schedule of fees has been applied to a number of tribunals, namely, the Barr, MacEntee and Smithwick tribunals. A lower level of fees now attaches to these tribunals. As agreed with the tribunal, at the end of March 2007 we will see how the discussions conclude with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Government will then consider the matter. I wish to say in the strongest possible terms both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste are together of the view that there is no question of interference, no legislation was postponed and there is not a single Member in this House——

That was not the Tánaiste's view.

He said he was misquoted.

Deputy Kenny said a few moments ago, "Everybody knows these things cannot run indefinitely". That is exactly what he said. We agree with him.

That is what Deputy Kenny said, but what did the Tánaiste say?

We are drawing attention to the fact that perhaps up to hundreds of millions of euro of taxpayers' money has been spent.

The Government only realises it now.

We make no apology for drawing attention to that. The issue of fees is being dealt with.

It is incompetence.

Can I ask the Minister what is the purpose of drawing attention to it?

Because of the election.

That does not arise at this stage. Deputy Rabbitte will have to find another way of raising the matter.

Transparency.

We are not having a debate on this issue. I call Deputy McManus. If she does not wish to speak, we will move on to No. 12.

It is to remind the Government it has to do something about it.

I want to know if you are happy.

The Minister looks happy.

Does Deputy McManus wish to contribute?

Because if you are not happy, we are in trouble.

It is incompetence, nothing else.

We will move on to No. 12.

I am sorry, a Cheann Comhairle.

If the Deputy has a question, she should ask it.

I certainly have but I have a right to be listened to also.

The Deputy has that right, as has every other Member of the House. The Chair has been advocating that for the past five years.

Jesus, you are fierce cranky, there is no doubt. Many people are unhappy about the lack of protection for children from sex abusers. Today, it emerged there are fears about an abuser who may be in the jurisdiction and the fact there is not a proper register here to protect children. Under the North-South Ministerial Council, recommendations were made for legislation to be produced for a register of persons considered unsafe to work with children. I have no doubt everybody would feel a lot happier if that register were in place. Will the Minister acknowledge we need this legislation? It is not acceptable to read, "Publication expected — not possible to indicate at this stage". Surely this is a priority. We have heard lots of talk from the Government about protection of children from sex abuse. There is talk of a constitutional referendum.

The Deputy has made her point. She should allow the Minister to reply on the legislation.

This is practical legislation and we have no indication of when it might come to the House. Can it be fast-tracked?

The Minister to reply on the legislation.

The Deputy refers to the register of persons considered unsafe to work with children Bill. It is not possible to indicate at this stage when it will come forward because it requires detailed consideration with significant advice from the Attorney General.

On a point of order. Is there some kind of precedent or standard governing the time between when a Bill is published and is debated in the House? Are there any guidelines on this issue? I refer in particular to the social welfare and law reform Bill which is due to be debated next Tuesday. It will introduce much important detail and we have not seen it yet. Surely it is only fair we would have a reasonable number of days to consider such legislation.

Two weeks.

This is happening time and again. Perhaps the Ceann Comhairle can give us some advice on this issue.

An issue arises in regard to the same Bill. Changes in the law are envisaged whereby people who receive certain payments from the post office will have to do it within 12 days instead of the current period of 12 weeks.

From tomorrow.

It will come into effect tomorrow. This is causing much anguish to people.

It would be better to raise the matter in another way in the House.

Under what legislation will this measure be implemented? Will it be done by ministerial order?

It is expected to publish the social welfare Bill tomorrow.

We have only three days to examine it.

On the same point, a Cheann Comhairle. That does not answer the question that has been legitimately raised by Deputy Stanton.

The Chair intends to answer that question when it gets a chance.

Is the Chair going to answer it?

The convention is two weeks but there is nothing formal about the timeframe.

So convention applies against us on the Opposition side but not in our favour.

We cannot have a debate on the matter now.

On that point of order, how are we expected to examine and debate legislation when we only have less than a weekend to do so?

That is not a point of order.

Can convention be enforced? You rightly very often enforce convention here. Can you not act in this case to help Members in such circumstances?

If the Members wish to devise a standing order on this issue, it is a matter for the House to implement it.

Does that convention apply?

We can discuss it on the social welfare Bill next week.

I wish to raise two issues.

The Bill itself is the issue. We do not have time to examine it in detail. We only have a weekend, in effect. It is not fair on Members and the people we represent to do this. Do you have any ruling on this issue?

I have told the Deputy what is the ruling. The convention is two weeks——

It is two weeks. Does that mean——

——but there is nothing formal in place. If the House wants to put something formally in place, the Chair has been advocating reform of Standing Orders for a long time.

Will the Minister postpone the hearing of the Bill in the House until we get a chance to examine it?

I call Deputy Boyle.

I cannot, because the increases come into effect in April and the Bill has to be passed by the end of March. The Deputy is aware of that.

Why did the Minister delay publishing the Bill until now?

We cannot have a debate on it. I call Deputy Boyle.

In support of Deputy Stanton, the two week convention referred to——

We are not having a debate on the issue. We are moving on. I call Deputy Lynch.

I have a second point in regard to the MacEntee tribunal. As a point of order I wished to inquire about briefings to allow us to perform our job as spokespersons in this House. The Minister is offering a briefing——

That is not a point of order.

It is how we do our——

The Deputy will have to raise that with the Minister in another way. The Minister, Deputy Brennan, is representing the Government this morning on the Order of Business. It is 11.30 a.m. and the House is complaining about no business being done but Members are holding up business.

The issue will be raised in CPP. My second question relates to the MacEntee tribunal where the sole member has asked for a ninth delay. The report is now meant to be published on 13 March next. On previous occasions when delays were given for this tribunal's report the Taoiseach made statements asking for an extension of time and indicated when the report would be made. Can the Minister for Social and Family Affairs give any assurance there will not be a tenth or eleventh postponement?

That does not arise on the Order of Business.

It relates to a motion of the House.

The Minister to reply on the Bill.

I do not have any role in that matter.

I call Deputy Lynch.

Previously the Taoiseach came to the House and moved motions for the extension of time. We have now been told, through the media, that there is a ninth postponement but there has not been any mention of that fact in this House.

Is a motion promised?

We will consider the matter and come back to the Deputy.

Under what legislation will the new measure governing the collection of social welfare payments within a ten day period be introduced?

I suggest Deputy Lynch submits a question to the Minister.

I am asking the Ceann Comhairle——

It has nothing to do with the Chair. I call Deputy Durkan.

How do we find out——

The way to find out is to contact the Minister or submit a question.

If the Social Welfare Bill is being taken tomorrow——

It is being published tomorrow.

It is not being taken tomorrow. We cannot discuss the content of the Bill. It is 11.30 a.m. and the Deputy's colleague, Deputy Burton, is waiting patiently. I would like to call her but if Deputy Lynch hogs the Chamber we will move on to the next item. I call Deputy Durkan.

The broadcasting Bill is listed for publication in the early summer. Is it necessary to bring that Bill forward in tandem with the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill to provide for all the requirements envisaged during e-consultation?

The Bill is set for early summer 2007. That is the current position.

That is the firm position.

I refer to the OECD report that proposes to abolish the home carers tax credit.

Does the Deputy have a question on legislation?

I refer also to the Social Welfare Bill. What is the situation regarding the proposal to have a lower rate of child benefit for parents who remain at home?

It does not arise on the Order of Business. We will proceed to item 12a, Finance Bill 2007, allocation of time motion for select committees.

Will there be an opportunity to debate this matter?

I call on the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Brennan, to move the motion. We will not discuss the report now.

I am entitled to know if there will be a debate on it. The Minister is nodding.

The Minister can nod all he likes but he must obey the Standing Orders like everyone else.