I move: "That Report Stage be taken now."
Dublin Transport Authority Bill 2008 [Seanad]: Order for Report Stage.
On a point of order, the Minister was not in a position on Committee Stage to advise Deputies as to the import of certain amendments. We have not yet been briefed on the amendments in question which have been included in the Bill. I ask for the Ceann Comhairle's direction in the matter.
That is not a point of order and I am not in a position——
With respect, it makes for very bad legislation when Deputies are refused a briefing and the Minister is unable to explain the reason Committee Stage amendments were tabled. In addition, we will not reach the amendments today due to time constraints. I am deeply concerned by this approach; it is disgraceful.
If the amendments in question are reached, Deputies will obviously discuss them.
The problem is we will not reach them.
That is the order of the day. As there is little the Chair can do about it, I have no alternative but to move on.
On a point of order, I support my colleague, Deputy O'Dowd, on this matter. I note also that the Ceann Comhairle ruled out of order amendments Nos. 20, 34, 39, 43 and 94, which I also tried to table on Committee Stage, on the basis that they involve a potential charge on the Revenue. I fail to understand the application of this rule. The Minister made changes and we do not yet have exact costings for the operations of the Dublin transport authority. It is unfortunate that these amendments have been ruled out of order as their purpose was to ensure the Dublin transport authority does not become a Health Service Executive on wheels and Deputies do not need to endlessly raise questions about the authority in the House, thereby annoying the Ceann Comhairle and wasting his time.
The Ceann Comhairle should at least allow Deputies to ventilate our demand for true democracy and accountability for the new Dublin transport authority. I did not want to vote against the Bill but I am being left with no alternative.
While the Minister is allowed, under Standing Orders, to introduce amendments which are a potential charge on the Exchequer, private Members are not allowed to do so. I am unable to act in this matter as these are the rules of the House, which are made by its Members. There is no alternative but to adhere to them. It will be possible for Deputies Broughan and O'Dowd to ventilate their views on certain matters when discussing the section without reference to any amendments.
We do not know the reason some of the amendments have retrospective application because it has not been explained. Legislation should be debated fully. Despite not being given an explanation for the retrospective nature of the legislation and being unable to debate it, Members are being asked to swallow it hook, line and sinker. The Minister promised he would provide a briefing document. I wish to register a strong protest.
On a point of order, I have in my possession a copy of an e-mail sent by my Department to Deputies Thomas Broughan, Frank Fahey, Michael Kennedy and Fergus O'Dowd at 3.23 p.m. on 25 June 2008. The subject heading is "DTA Bill Committee Stage amendments". It states that on Committee Stage of the Dublin Transport Authority Bill last week, further briefing was promised on three of the amendments discussed. A document listing the three amendments and containing a note for information on each was attached. The e-mail also stated that it was hoped the notes would clear up any issues Deputies had regarding the amendments. A contact name and telephone number of the official who prepared the note and could be contacted if any further clarification was required were listed at the end of each note.
A Cheann Comhairle, may I respond?
The order of the day has been agreed to. I cannot permit the discussion to continue as it is not in order.
I must acknowledge two points.
That is not a point of order nor was the Minister's point. A point of order relates to procedure and nothing else. While the matters raised are of tremendous interest to everybody concerned, I must implement Standing Orders and the order of the day. We must move on.
While I accept that, it has always been normal procedure for officials of the Department to contact Deputies by telephone to discuss issues. For this reason, I am not satisfied with the communication sent by e-mail.
The Deputy will have to deal with the matter in another way.
I wish to raise——
Is the Deputy making a point of order?
I will inform him if it is a point of order.
It is awful to be asked a question and then told one will be given the answer. I want to raise a point from a democratic perspective. Deputies O'Dowd and Broughan, who have been intimately involved in this issue, have not had time to digest the import of certain amendments. The Ceann Comhairle has indicated we will discuss them if we get to them, the implication being we will not get to them.
That is not a point of order.
It is a point of democratic order. We will not reach the amendments which will be made without discussion by the use of a guillotine. That is not democracy.
The decision has been made and I must move on.
I accept the Minister's point that staff in his Department tried to keep us informed.
That is not correct. We did not receive a telephone call.
The Deputy should learn how to use e-mail.
This Bill should have been introduced five or ten years ago.
That is not a point of order.
The substantive point is that the time between Second Stage and Committee Stage was not sufficient and Deputies had only minutes to consider amendments which we first saw last Wednesday morning on the commencement of Committee Stage. Despite this, we facilitated the Minister because we want the Bill enacted. That is the problem.
The Deputy has made his point. As this is Report Stage we will not discuss the sections, as I indicated we would. I am not aware a guillotine will apply to the Bill.
Nor am I.