It is proposed to order for today Nos. 1, 2 and 7 as they appear on the Order Paper. Item No. 1 is the resumption of Second Stage of the Extradition Bill. Senators will remember that we had originally intended to complete this before the Christmas break but it was left over until today. It is hoped it will be completed at an early stage this afternoon in order to allow the remainder of the business to be done. Item No. 2 is Report Stage of the Status of Children Bill and the third item is a Private Members' motion which will be taken from 6.30 p.m. until 8 p.m. unless the previous business has been disposed of earlier than that. In the event of Second Stage of the Extradition Bill not being completed before 6.30 p.m. it is proposed to sit beyond 8 p.m. in order to complete it.
Order of Business.
I agree in essence with the Order of Business but taking into account the weather conditions today I wonder whether it is proper to sit beyond 8 o'clock? Unless sleeping accommodation can be afforded to people in the House, I cannot see that any Member will be able to get outside this House after 8 o'clock. It is extremely difficult to travel at present and we could be in a very difficult situation by 8 p.m. this evening. I am not suggesting that the Bill may not be finished before 8 p.m. but I do not feel it would be proper for us to sit after that because we would have to keep the staff here. A large number of staff have to travel long distances. They were here this morning when many other public buildings were not fully staffed. Bearing in mind that they were here this morning and will have a long day, we should consider that and not sit beyond 8 p.m. this evening.
With regard to the Extradition Bill, I know it is unusual to make a special plea but I would like to endorse what Senator Lanigan said for completely different reasons. It has nothing to do with the weather. I have been asked by Senator Robb, who cannot be here today if the Extradition Bill could be taken tomorrow or later on. He would like to make a contribution on that Bill. He has shown an interest in the matter but he is unable to be present today. I know this is unusual but I wonder if the Leader of the House could consider the request.
With regard to the Order of Business, I want to thank the Chair for allowing me to raise that very important issue on the Adjournment. I do not want to rock the boat but when I look around and see the large number of Members who have braved the elements to attend this session today I believe the other House should be in session. We should ask the Taoiseach to recall the Government to discuss the very serious unemployment situation in Ireland which was revealed last week.
You are getting away from the Order of Business.
The people of Ireland are shocked by the silence of the Taoiseach and Ministers on this issue. They are debating an issue, trying to cobble a few figures together, and seem to be totally oblivious to the problem. Is there anything we can do about it?
It is also very important because Senator Higgins from Mayo was to open Knock Airport so we can push them out even quicker.
I want to return to the Order of Business. I support what Senator Lanigan said, not so much for our sake as for the sake of the staff of the House. It is very difficult for them if they are required to stay on after 8 p.m. this evening. After all, we take our chances when we come in and it would be possible for us to simply leave, but while the House is sitting the staff of the House must stay here and it will be very difficult for them to get home later tonight.
My understanding was before the House rose for the Christmas recess that possibly the new Adoption Bill would be brought into this House first rather than into the other House. I would be anxious to hear from the Leader of the House whether we will — in what one presumes is the short time available to us — make some attempt to have this legislation passed, at least by this House.
Very briefly, I wish to add my voice to that of Senator Ross on behalf of Senator John Robb. Perhaps he is not taking the same view as me on this Bill but it is important since he is a Northern Senator to accommodate him if possible. Because he understands the thinking of the Northern Protestants, it would be important to have his view on this matter. He is not here today because he simply cannot travel from north Antrim because of the bad weather.
In what looks like nearing the end of the life of this Seanad, is it going to happen again that we are not going to pass the Housing (Homeless Persons) Bill, 1983? We are on Committee Stage and it is Item No. 27 on the Order Paper. I know there are people smiling at present but we have extremely bad weather, arctic conditions, and many people do not have proper housing accommodation. It is not a laughing matter for those people who are in that unfortunate position. I am anxious to know if any consideration has been given, since we are so close to completing that Bill, to having it finalised before the end of the session.
I agree with a number of Senators about the weather conditions and I raise a query about whether we should sit late tonight. I feel concern for the staff of the House. I have hotel accommodation and I could skate to it and get there safely because it is that close. It is more or less downhill and I could get there by toboggan if necessary but that is not the case for many members of the staff of the House. I am not trying to play games but it is an exceptional night and we should think about them.
I am grateful to Senator Smith for raising the issue of homelessness. I want to ask the Leader of the House if the Government cannot get around to passing the legislation which has been before the Dáil for a long time, could they do something about the £500,000 that was in the Estimate of the Department of the Evnironment to deal with the problem of homelessness and which is stuck there because of their failure to address the legislation? Perhaps they could release that funding to the voluntary organisations. We will have a terribly difficult job this week. Even if the measure is not passed, £500,000 would make an enormous difference in the present climate. The money has been allocated and it could be taken out and used by the voluntary organisations given the crisis that exists at present. I ask the Leader of the House to convey my sentiments on that to the Government.
For the record, I should like to inquire from the Leader of the House as to the position of item No. 8 — the Social Welfare (Appeals Tribunals) Bill, 1986. Given the exchange of correspondence that has been keeping The Irish Times readership going for the last few weeks, we should have this matter clarified. The last letter from the Minister for Social Welfare to The Irish Times suggested this Bill would be taken on Thursday, 12 January. Since Thursday does not fall on that date, the matter should be clarified. I am very glad, for whatever reason, we are now going to hear the views of the Minister on this very important issue.
Senators are perfectly aware that this House for a number of months had on its Order Paper a large amount of urgent legislation. I expressed to the representatives of the other group before Christmas that I wanted the Second Stage of the Extradition Bill passed before Christmas and, if necessary, other matters should be deferred and the House should sit on Tuesday, 23 December, in order to do this. The view of the other groups was that we should not meet in that week, on the understanding that Second Stage would be taken and finished today, 14 January.
I am afraid having eaten our cake by not meeting during Christmas week we have to face the situation we are in today. I would have every hope that Second Stage of the Extradition Bill would be completed today. If we find at 6.30 p.m. that we have not completed it, there would be a case that Private Members' Business might be deferred until next week in order to give us an extra hour and a half to 8 o'clock which certainly should be sufficient. But my responsibility, as Leader of the House, to the Government in regard to this legislation which has been with us now for some time is that Second Stage should be passed today.
Could I ask the Leader of the House a question about item No. 8?
Senator Ryan spoke to me before the Christmas recess in regard to this Bill and of time being made available in order that the Minister could speak on the Bill. As a result of that I spoke to the Minister at that time and the Minister was agreeable to come in and to make the speech which indeed she already had prepared and was ready to give on the occasion the Bill was last discussed. Because of the pressure of legislation which we will experience during todays discussion I decided that the appropriate thing to do was to devote what otherwise would have been the break in the discussion on public business tomorrow from 1 to 2 p. m. would be devoted to that Bill. It is on that basis that the Minister while mistaking the date was correct in saying that in fact it would be discussed on a Thursday. It is intended that instead of having a break — it is not intended to have any break this evening — that the Social Welfare Bill will be discussed so that the Minister and other Senators who wish to contribute can contribute and then we can see as the weeks go on whether we can find any additional time.
Just before the Order of Business concludes I did ask a question.
In regard to the Adoption Bill the position is that it is not possible to have that Bill introduced to this House until it is discharged from Dáil Éireann and it is open to everybody to estimate the probability of that happening.