When it was decided to meet for a second day this week it was in order to deal with certain non-urgent motions that were before us. It now transpires that there are three matters of urgency before the Seanad which it is hoped can be cleared today. It is proposed to take items Nos. 1 to 5 and possibly item No. 6, though it is most unlikely to be reached, and I understand the members of the Marriage Breakdown Committee wish that item No. 13 to be taken today. If so, I will not object to its inclusion in the Order of Business.
In regard to item No. 1, this is an urgent matter. It is the question of the protection of back wages of employees when a firm becomes insolvent. I want to say — and I am sure I speak on behalf of all Members here — that if it is urgent today it has been urgent for some time. I believe both parties in Dáil Éireann have treated this House with scant respect in the manner in which they have given themselves as much leisure as they like in regard to this matter and then despatched it for cursory examination by this House. The Bill was circulated on 21 May last. My information is that the initial delay was largely attributable to the Minister and his Department and that these were the initial delays. That was compounded, when the Minister was ready to go ahead, by the fact that there was a change in spokesman in the chief Opposition Party. There was further delay because the new spokesman wished to have time to settle into his brief. When ultimately it was becoming clear that this was legislation that should be enacted without delay the Dáil still took its time. The Dáil took two separate weeks in order to discuss the Committee Stage of this Bill before passing it over to us.
I resent this House being treated in this manner, but I do not think we should allow this to blind us to the fact that this is an urgent measure. If, in fact, by delaying this Bill we could make the Members of Dáil Éireann suffer then there might be some point in delaying it. But by delaying this Bill all we can do is make certain unfortunate people faced with redundancy through the insolvency of their firms suffer and I do not think we should do so.
My suggestion is that we should take the Second Stage of this Bill immediately but that we should then proceed to deal with Nos. 3 and 4 which we commenced yesterday and perhaps then take item No. 13 and that we should return to item No. 1 at 3 o'clock to take Committee Stage. This will give a couple of hours for consideration of the Second Stage debate and the preparation of amendments. It is hoped to complete all Stages by the normal Adjournment time of 5 o'clock and then take the Early Signature Motion.