I thank the Government Whip for making arrangements for time to discuss the interim task force report on the situation facing the mid-west. Following that, will time be made available for a discussion on the lost at sea report? That is already agreed in principle. We have not had an opportunity to have a debate on Northern Ireland in the House for some time. Will the Tánaiste convey to the Whip that we should have a discussion on Northern Ireland? I hope the talks taking place currently come to a successful conclusion.
I raise with the Tánaiste an issue I raised with her last Thursday. Under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 the Government is entitled to lay before the House recommendations to set up a commission of investigation. However, the Government has decided to have a secret inquiry into the banks where no evidence will be given in public. The comments of a former Supreme Court judge today suggest it is very difficult for people to have any kind of trust or faith in secret hearings. Under the Act, persons are fully entitled to give their evidence to such commissions of investigation in public if they so wish. As the Tánaiste is aware, there is no constitutional impediment nor no legal obstacle in the matter of questions of policy being discussed before the commission of investigation in public. I hope the Taoiseach and his predecessor will make a direction that their hearings be in public as they are matters of policy which, I contend, were partly responsible for the economic crash.
The Taoiseach said last week that the Oireachtas would be involved at every step in the process of arriving at the terms of reference for the commission of investigation. However, when one examines the Act, it is the Government that sets the terms of reference and the Governor of the Central Bank and the other person to be appointed will place the reports before the Oireachtas and the Oireachtas will be "briefed". As far as I can see, in the secondary legislation that is required, the Oireachtas has no function in determining the terms of reference. There should, at the least, be discussion with the Opposition parties about the terms of reference, because the principal Act refers only to Government and to Government laying its terms of reference in report before the Oireachtas. However, the secondary legislation that will be required to give evidence to what the Taoiseach said last week, namely, that the Oireachtas would be involved at every step, will mean that amendments must be made to allow for that to happen. Will the Government discuss its views in respect of the appropriate terms of reference for the investigation with the Opposition parties? Will it make amendments to allow for that to happen to give effect to the words of the Taoiseach in the House last week, so that this is not seen to be, what I believe it is, a secret inquiry held behind closed doors?