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Seanad Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 14 Jul 1987

Vol. 116 No. 17

Order of Business.

It is intended that we take items Nos. 1, 2 and 3 today and that we take all Stages of items Nos. 1 and 2.

On the Order of Business, I would like to know the intentions of the Government over the coming weeks as far as the programme of work is concerned. We are particularly concerned on this side about the possibility of the Abattoirs Bill. It is very complex legislation, with some 66 sections in all. There are many interests who need to be consulted and we would not like to see this Bill go past Second Stage. Likewise, if possible on the Adoption Bill we would like to see as full a debate as possible on Second Stage. I believe it is not proposed to take the Companies Bill until September. As has been pointed out, we will be back before the Dáil in September so there is no urgency about it.

I want to make a somewhat similar point on the Business ordered for today. I would be reluctant to see the House take the whole of the Restrictive Practices (Amendment) Bill. This is quite an important and detailed Bill. It is quite a significant rationalisation, both of competition law and consumer protection legislation. I would be happy if we took Second Stage today but I would ask that there would be a period before Committee Stage is taken. This seems to make sense for the reason that Senator Manning gave. This House is coming back in September. The Dáil is not sitting anyway and it would afford us an opportunity, which I would welcome, to consider and put down, if necessary, amendments to the Bill and have a proper Committee Stage debate on it.

Since Senator Manning has moved to the Business which it is proposed we would take during the week, may I mention another matter? I mentioned this privately to the Cathaoirleach but I think it is probably appropriate to mention it on the Order of Business if we are considering the programme for the week.

I understand that of the two family law Bills which have been published by the Government, the first is a very brief Bill simply abolishing proceedings for restitution of conjugal rights. I am quite happy that that would go forward but I do not think there is anything very urgent or significant about it. The second Bill, the Family Law (Protection of Spouses and Children) (Amendment) Bill, 1987 is an important Bill, which I welcome very much. It is an important amendment to a very sensitive area, the whole area of barring orders, protection orders, potential abuse of either spouses or children, including child sexual abuse. My plea to the Leader of the House is to ask if, instead of ordering that Bill for this week, which I understand may be our last sitting week before the summer recess, it would be possible to postpone Second Stage until September. I say that because it would be important, even on Second Stage, that Members of the House would get some feedback, particularly from lawyers and social workers, or possibly from members of the Law Reform Commission who are dealing with child sexual abuse. I have furnished a copy of the Bill to a former distinguished Member of this House, Catherine McGuinness, who is chairperson of the Family Lawyers' Association and I know that association want to prepare a memorandum to be available to Members of the House. We are not going to lose any time because if we take this Bill on Second Stage in September on foot of having some considered feedback on it, I think we would have a better debate. It is a matter for the House if people want to go ahead with Second Stage but the Bill has only been published. A great many people with a very significant interest do not know that this Bill has been introduced in the Seanad. We would get a better debate on Second Stage and a better Committee Stage if we could put it off until September.

Following the line of questioning of the Leader of the House about his intentions, may I ask him what are his intentions for the sitting hours for today? Is it intended to sit late? I understand that the House is likely to be sitting Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in addition to today.

With regard to the Abattoirs Bill, this is very important legislation on which there has been much discussion and debate at interdepartmental level and from interests involved. I notice that it is No. 9 on the Order Paper. The Leader of the House has not set a date for Second Stage. It is down as being ordered for Second Stage and it has not been ordered this morning. Perhaps he would advise us because we would like to start off the process on that Bill, certainly before the summer recess.

I agree with Senator Manning that it is very complex legislation which will want the fullest debate. I welcome the fact that it is being initiated here, where it will get the kind of debate it deserves. There is a lot of interest involved in this — I will not say that there are vested interests — consumer, producer and the people at the coalface so to speak. It is important legislation and will need a good bit of time. We would want to know when it is intended to begin Second Stage. Perhaps the Leader would answer that question and also give the hours of sitting and say if I am right in assuming that the House will be sitting for the rest of this week.

On the same issue and with particular reference to the Abattoirs Bill, the Companies Bill and the Adoption Bill, because those three have been initiated in the House and because all three are quite complicated and very critical, it would be important to get an assurance from the Leader of the House that he would not intend going beyond Second Stage with those three Bills until the next session. If we are to put down meaningful amendments, we would need that time to study them. I have not received a copy of the Abattoirs Bill. Perhaps this is due to postal difficulties, but a period of three or four days to try to take in the amount of legislation proposed is not enough. I would ask for longer notice before Bills are introduced.

I would also like to get some indication from the Leader of the House as regards the number of hours we are to sit this week.

A number of points have been raised about the hours and days of sittings between now and the end of the session. Somebody said that this would be the last week before September but I cannot agree with that analysis. It does not look as if this will be the last sitting week. The intention is that today we will sit as late as is necessary to complete the three items before us and that tomorrow we will take the Family Law Bill and the Family Law (Protection of Spouses and Children) (Amendment) Bill. I understand the problems that Senator Robinson has in regard to item No. 5 but it is intended to take Second Stage of that Bill tomorrow. Because it is a highly technical Bill I think she will agree that Committee Stage is going to be of major importance. Adequate time will be given to Senators to reflect on Second Stage and put down whatever amendments they feel are necessary.

The Restrictive Practices (Amendment) Bill is a complex one but it is intended that we take all Stages today. I take the point that it might not be desirable that we go directly from Second Stage to Committee Stage. However when Second Stage is going through, the Whips can get together and decide whether there should be a short adjournment between Second Stage and Committee Stage to allow Senators who want to put down amendments to do so. I take the point about the undesirability of dealing with the Bill in this way but it is a Bill that needs to be got through because it has implications for the general public. Therefore, we should get it through as soon as is possible.

We cannot advance it because the Dáil is not sitting so exactly the same principles apply. I would ask the Leader of the House to reconsider the position in the course of the debate on Second Stage. It would be important to have time to consider the question on Committee Stage.

I take the point fully in regard to item No. 5 but I do not think anybody could suggest they were unaware the Restrictive Practices (Amendment) Bill was coming to the House today and that we would be taking all Stages. On 24 June I referred to that Bill and said that all Stages would be taken. That is one of the Bills that was specifically mentioned on the Order of Business on 24 June. It is intended to take item Nos. 4, 5 and 6 tomorrow and to commence the Independent Senators motion on education. It is intended that the Companies Bill be taken to the completion of Second Stage on Thursday. Because there have already been over 21 hours of debate on Second Stage on that Bill in the House, we will take it to the conclusion of Second Stage on Thursday. The Abattoirs Bill has a large number of sections and we will take that to the conclusion of Second Stage also. The Adoption Bill will not be taken any further than conclusion of Second Stage on Thursday.

With regard to the remainder of the session, I do not think it is going to be possible to give sufficient time to debate very important Bills, in particular, the Companies Bill, the Abattoirs Bill and the Adoption Bill and I do not think we should rush to try to have those concluded this week. If Members have adequate time to discuss Second Stages of item Nos. 8, 9 and 10 and there is a possibility that we may finish on Friday we may sit on that day. However, that will be a matter for the House to decide between now and Friday. If we do not get through all the business we will sit on Wednesday and Thursday next week.

We will not take all Stages of item Nos. 5, 9 and 10 until September. Is this correct?

We will take all Stages of item No. 5.

I thought the Leader said we would not take all Stages of item No. 5.

I am sorry if I misled the House. We will take all Stages of items Nos. 12, 4 and 5 but we will not take all Stages of items Nos. 8, 9 and 10.

I want to be quite clear on the procedure in moving from Second Stage to Third Stage without any lapse of time. Will the proposed amendments be taken and circulated immediately? Is that the procedure that will operate?

That is right.

We can give an indication on Second Stage of our proposal to put forward an amendment and if the amendment is acceptable it is given to the officers of the House. Is that the way it works?

The amendment is handed in in writing. However because we can go from one Stage to another Senators do not always get time to do this.

I am not fully happy with the arrangements but rather than waste the time of the House — because it is fairly restricted—perhaps the Whips might get together afterwards and see if any changes can be made.

Order of Business agreed to.