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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 13 Dec 1979

Vol. 93 No. 6

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take Nos. 4, 3, 1 and 2 in that order and to take No. 8 if business permits and if the Minister is available.

On the Order of Business, I would like to say that I find it very difficult indeed to imagine taking this Order of Business and I would like to say why. This Assembly is a responsible elected Assembly; we are all presumed to be responsible Members of the Seanad and to have been able to prepare ourselves to discuss these very important Bills which are before us. I find it impossible to do sufficient preparation for the discussions before us today because we are unable to have in our hands the Official Report of the Debates that have taken place in the Dáil or, indeed, in the Seanad on these very matters which are coming before us.

I do not know how many Senators have the Report of the last sitting in their hands. I managed to get one half an hour ago. I have not got in my hands the Official Report on the Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Bill which is No. 4 on the Order Paper. We owe it to Ministers who come before this House to know what they have said in the other House and what the debates have been in the other House. Therefore, I find it extremely difficult to imagine how parliamentarians are expected to behave in a manner in which the public have a right to expect them to behave if they have not got this printed matter in their hands in due time. I would like to say very distinctly here that I feel there is something very wrong with the workings of this House and I would like to see them put right quickly; otherwise we are failing in our duty.

Secondly, I want to say that Item No. 8 is an extremely urgent item and I hope the time will be found today for the continuation of this motion on the Employment Equality Agency which is an extremely important matter.

I want to draw the attention of the Cathaoirleach to Item No. 21 on the Order Paper, the motion in relation to the disease eradication programme. I submitted a notice for the Adjournment a fortnight ago, I understand that because of the vastness of the subject it was not, therefore, possible to take it.

We now place this motion before the House in the interests of every farmer in Ireland. It is a very important, urgent subject. I am asking that this motion get priority, and if at all possible be dealt with next week. It is of fundamental importance to all our farmers. There was a great deal of sympathy on the day when that notice for the Adjournment was rejected. I am asking the Leader of the House to ensure that this vitally important motion is taken next week at the very latest.

In relation to what Senator Hussey said, I should point out that neither I nor the Seanad have any control over the Official Report of the Dáil.

Have we any control over the Offical Report of the Seanad?

The Official Report of the Seanad referred to is now available.

On behalf of our party I want to refer briefly to the Appropriation Bill which I raised last week. As I pointed out last week, the major debate in the Seanad each year is on the Appropiration Bill which gives Senators scope to talk about the Government in the most general terms and the problems that are facing the economy, in contrast to the very limited nature of many of the Bills which are coming to this House from Dáil Éireann. Last year, unfortunately, the passing of the Appropriation Bill was a formality in the sense that legislatively it had to go through before the end of the year and there was no time or scope for a debate on it because of the time constraints then. The debate took place in the form of a motion in January or February. In our view it is a very unsatisfactory arrangement. Seanad Éireann is entitled to have a full-scale debate on the Appropriation Bill. I am uncertain about the Stages of that Bill in the Dáil, but in the hope that it is going to go through, as it must, before Christmas, we would seek from the Leader of the House a commitment to have a debate on the Appropriation Bill next week.

I support Senator Connaughton in relation to Item No. 21 on the Order Paper. I join with him in asking to have that motion discussed as early as possible because the 30 days test, as it operates now, causes a great deal of dissatisfaction and discontent among the farming community resulting in the fact that very often there are only three or four days for sale. I would stress the urgency of having it discussed as early as possible.

Senator Hussey has accurately described the position of every Member on this side of the House at least. It is quite impossible to prepare oneself properly for a debate if we are not told what the Business is until we get to the House. I know the Business of the House depends to a great extent on the availability of Ministers but I would suggest that the Leader of the House might give us some notice, perhaps even a couple of days in advance, of the actual Business.

I would like to support what has been said. I have been making that point since the present session began and it seems that the position is no better now than it was two years ago. The difficulties to which Senator Hussey referred are compounded in the case of country Members.

I would like to mention a specific item that has been ordered. It is Item No. 8, the motion on the report of the Employment Equality Agency. I am not quite clear whether this is definitely ordered or ordered conditional on two factors, one, the presence of the Minister, and the other, if there is time for it. If it is so uncertain I would prefer that it were not ordered today but definitely ordered for next week, particularly if we are sitting for a number of days. If it is most unlikely that it will be taken today then I would prefer it to be definitely ordered for next week if the Minister can be present rather than leave it in this indefinite position where Senators are unable to plan ahead and know whether it is going to come up or not.

In regard to Item No. 8, the Minister is involved in negotiations at the moment and he may not be available. If there is time this evening it might be worthwhile continuing the debate even if the Minister cannot be here for all of it. I certainly could not undertake to fit it in next week. If possible that will be done but the Appropriation Bill will have to get priority and there are a number of other Government Bills so I could not give any guarantee that it would be taken next week.

I would like to make a brief point on that. I am sure the Leader of the House will appreciate that the purpose of having the motion—particularly because it talks about the under-funding of the agency—is to draw the attention of the Minister to it. He was present when I moved the motion which was seconded by Senator Kennedy and he and other Senators made the point that we are most anxious to know what his attitude is and what contribution he would make in the debate. It has only two hours and fifteen minutes to run. I would much prefer that it were definitely ordered for one of the sitting days next week rather than let it be in this limbo. In particular, I would not be anxious to have it proceed in the absence of the Minister.

We will have to play that by ear this evening to see if it will be possible to have the Minister here. If it is not taken this evening I could not give a guarantee that it would be taken next week. I will certainly do my best. In relation to Item No. 21 the Senator will appreciate that it is the very last motion; it was put on the Order Paper only a few days ago. There is no possibility of it being taken until early in the new year but I will certainly do my best to get it taken as soon as possible.

While I am thankful to the Leader of the House, it is fair to say this is a very urgent matter. The Government should be more than anxious to get a chance to debate this matter in either of the two Houses and this would seem to be the appropriate place at a time when every farmer is practically on his knees because of this legislation.

I could not agree to have Item No. 8 ordered in the manner that the Leader of the House has described. I find it very hard to understand why, if the House is sitting three days next week, it would not be possible to find two hours for the completion of the debate. The other House will not be sitting next week and therefore the Minister should be free to come and participate in the debate in the House. If the other House was sitting and the Minister was engaged there one could understand that he might have difficulties but the other House will not be sitting and there are three days, apparently, when this House will be sitting. Therefore, I find it very difficult to understand why there would not be time. I am not happy that it be ordered for today in this completely uncertain manner and I prefer, therefore, to propose an amendment to the Order of Business to delete Item No. 8 and seek to have it ordered next week.

I cannot allow anything further on the Order of Business.

I am proposing an amendment to the Order of Business.

I sought an answer regarding the Appropriation Bill. I do not want to make any difficulties for the Leader of the House but he did not reply to my question.

If the Leader of the House wishes to reply he may do so but that will conclude the debate on the Order of Business.

In relation to Item No. 8, I am quite agreeable that we do not take it today. I will endeavour to have it taken next week but we will have a lot of business. All I can say is that I will do my best.

In relation to the Appropriation Bill, it is intended to take it next week. As regards the general observations about the unsatisfactory way in which the Order of Business is dealt with in this House, I do not disagree with that; it has been that way as long as I can remember because in most cases we are dependent on getting Bills from the Dáil and we are dependent on Ministers being available. In regard to having the Official Report of the Dáil available, I do not think that is a serious observation because at least some of the Bills we debate here are initiated here and the Seanad has always been anxious to initiate as many Bills as possible, in which case we would not have a Report from the Dáil, so we should not be in any way dependent for our views on a Bill on the views expressed in the Dáil. Whereas I have always endeavoured to make improvements in the way we deal with the Order of Business, it is a problem that has always beset this House. All I can say is that we can make a new year resolution to make it, perhaps, a little bit better than it has been for the last 40 years.

Is Senator Robinson willing to withdraw the amendment?

I am willing to withdraw the amendment as I understand the Leader of the House has, in fact, acceded to it.

Order of Business agreed to.