Order of Business.

The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re the Order of Business, to be taken without debate; No. 2, motion regarding the referral of article 3 of the Fourth Protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, to be taken without debate; No. 3, Competition Bill, 2001 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 20 minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed 15 minutes and on which Senators may share time; and No. 21, motion 20, to be taken from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The Order of Business is agreed. I would like to have had some discussion on No. 2, but it has been the practice to refer these matters without debate to the relevant Oireachtas committee. Two of the largest companies quoted on the Irish Stock Exchange, Allied Irish Bank and Elan, have suffered very serious setbacks in recent days. This is a very serious issue for corporate Ireland and also for the many investors in these companies. A significant amount of Irish pension funds is invested in these companies or their subsidiaries. What has happened does nothing to instil confidence in this major area of Irish business and it should be discussed in this House.

I ask the Leader to make time available next week to debate this with the appropriate Minister or Ministers because the responsibility may range over a number of Departments. Regardless of which Minister deals with it, it is important for this House to discuss the issue and give assurances in relation to small investments and pension funds to people who are extremely worried about what has happened. The problems seem to relate to accounting practices, which need to be seriously reviewed.

Ratification of the Rome statute to establish the international criminal court is very relevant in the context of the trial of people who are charged with very serious offences arising from what happened in Afghanistan. That was signed in 1998 and a referendum, held last June, was needed before Parliament could ratify it. Some 50 member states that signed the convention in Rome in 1998 have ratified it, but ratification by 60 states is needed to bring it into effect. An international criminal court would be a much more appropriate place to hear the cases of the people brought to Guantánamo Bay than a court set up by the United States. Such a court would have the competence to deal with the crimes allegedly perpetrated by these people. The dissolution of the Dáil must take place within three months and the Government should ensure this very important legislation, which was made simple by the result of the referendum, is passed before the recess.

It would be inappropriate for us to meet and not refer to the fact that a Member of the Oireachtas is behind bars. I do not wish to discuss that individual case, but I want to refer to something I have mentioned many times before. It is important that we look after our own business, and we have obviously failed to do this. As soon as possible in this session we should discuss how the Oireachtas imposes standards in terms of the conduct of its Members. We are doing certain things internally in our own way at present. In general that is important, but we may have missed the boat and it may now be more appropriate for some external body to run the rule over the activities of Members of the Oireachtas. We have reached the stage where it is anathema to us to countenance the behaviour of Members who undermine the process of democracy. I will not say any more at this stage other than that we should go on record and discuss this matter.

I want to make it clear that I do not consider that to be in any way party political. People are as concerned about this matter on the other side of the House as they are on this side of it. It is not a party matter; it is something about which we all must have a concern. I appeal to the Leader of the House to examine this area in terms of how we manage our business, examine the conduct of our Members and deal with it.

I also ask for a debate on an issue closely related to the one raised by Senator Connor, the recent developments in Enron in the USA and Elan in this country. A large number of the pensions of ordinary people have been hit hard while those at the top of those companies have saved themselves, bought out of the company and used their knowledge and information to protect their assets and wealth. Large publicly quoted companies tend to a significant extent to invest their pension funds in their companies and pensioners are the ones who will lose out as a result of such developments.

As a member of a group that deals with auditing standards in Ireland, I declare an interest in this area. We need to ensure that the investments of ordinary workers in ordinary companies, which we all know, are protected. It is not good enough to see the top echelon of people escaping because of their superior knowledge, realising their assets and leaving the people at the bottom of the line to pick up the pieces. I call for a debate on those two issues.

Traditionally, the Labour Party has been opposed to the imposition of a limitation of 30 minutes on the Order of Business. I wish to oppose that again in this session on the grounds that the Order of Business gives Members an opportunity to raise issues of national importance.

I point out to the Senator that this procedure is in place as a result of a decision by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges of which the Senator is a member. I also suggest his right to contribute on the Order of Business has not been curtailed at any time.

I appreciate that. The Chair has never curtailed or diminished—

That is regrettable.

—my right to contribute on the Order of Business. I speak on behalf of other Members who might say they have rights that might be curtailed by the imposition of a limitation of 30 minutes on the Order of Business, which provides an opportunity for Members to raise issues of importance that they would like debated or legislated upon. I will leave it at that.

In relation to No. 2, I have reservations about matters of this nature coming before us, being passed to a committee and that being the end of it. Many of these issues are important. They emanate from Europe or from one or other treaty. This issue concerning minimum standards in respect of third country nationals is very much in the news and we should have a debate on it now. If the Leader of the House will not grant us a debate on it today, there should be an opportunity to debate it when this matter comes back to the Seanad on 12 February, as it gives rise to serious problems in relation to racism in terms of the issue itself, and in relation to the White Paper on governance that is being currently discussed, which is extremely important in terms of the distance we are from decision making in Europe.

I ask the Leader of the House to invite the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to come to this House to discuss the recent flooding in this city, in East Wall, the North Strand and Ringsend, and throughout the country. There does not seem to be an emergency plan under which all the relevant agencies co-operate in dealing with such matters or where one supremo deals with them. There seems to be a major problem in having a humanitarian or emergency fund without councillors and other people going a-begging to the Taoiseach and he, at his discretion, deciding to acknowledge the case for relief and granting it or not. That is very unsatisfactory.

I wish to raise the number of businesses experiencing serious accounting problems or fraud, whether AIB, Enron or Elan. Very few of us would shed tears about losses experienced by many of the banks because AIB and the Bank of Ireland have closed almost 100 branches here in the past two or three years. They have taken services away from the people and, as we saw from the proceedings of the Committee of Public Accounts, they have not been dealing with their customers in a proper fashion in many cases as well. We should have a debate on fraud and the accounting systems that operate in businesses.

I thought Senator Costello would have some sympathy for trade union members who are members of pension funds and who might be affected by the diminution in the value of the shares within those funds.

Maybe we will compensate them like the Eircom shareholders.

It was not our suggestion to compensate them.

A very good one.

It was the suggestion of another party. Perhaps it might consider it in the context of Elan and AIB.

We did not rob them beforehand.

It would be appropriate for the House to consider the regulatory and statutory framework within which accountancy and auditing practices operate. It is evident from the Enron case in America that it is not appropriate that a large accountancy company should be responsible for auditing books on the one hand and gaining substantial fees from consultancies on the other. There appears to be an inherent fundamental conflict of interest. I am not suggesting it is the case in Elan but perhaps there is a parallel problem.

It is regrettable, in view of their dominance in the Irish Stock Exchange, that both companies should suffer losses in their value on the exchange. However, there should be a sense of proportion about this. The figures I saw at lunchtime indicate that AIB is down in value by about 7% but its value is still much higher than its low point in 2001. Nevertheless, I accept it is a serious incident.

Senator O'Toole referred to a code of conduct. That is being considered by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and the Leader has also asked us to pass on our observations with regard to the Standing Orders of the House. That work will progress over the coming months. One of the difficulties is the sort of sanctions that can be imposed. Members, like every other citizen, are protected by the Constitution so the sanctions that are available are limited.

Will the Leader invite the Minister for Health and Children to the House to explain why he is resisting the advice of the Women's Health Council in relation to the proposals in the forthcoming abortion referendum? The Leader should also ask the Taoiseach to come to the House to explain, now that the alleged consensus on this issue is shown to be the sham it always was, why he is proceeding with this when the National Women's Council, the Adelaide Hospital and every women's group in the country opposes it. There is no consensus and it is foolish of the Taoiseach to proceed.

Will the Leader ask the Minister with responsibility for dealing with illegal child pornography on the Internet to come to the House? I understand an advisory board to deal with this issue was established but the world at large knows little about the board. The board has launched a code of ethics and practice dealing with illegal child pornography and this is a golden opportunity for the House to highlight it. There is an onus on everybody – parents, the Government and the Garda – to combat this problem. Perhaps the Leader will find time in the near future to arrange for the Minister to come to the Seanad to hear statements on this issue so the public will know that the board exists. It should be publicised more. Parents are concerned about the complaints that have been made in recent times about illegal pornography on the Internet.

I join my colleagues in calling for a debate, as soon as possible, on the situation in Allied Irish Bank. There seems to be extraordinarily bad judgment at the top levels of this bank. Some years ago the taxpayer had to rescue it after a disastrous investment in ICI. Now the branch in Baltimore appears to have lost four times the bank's annual gross profit. I listened to Mr. Buckley on the wireless this morning and I thought he did a good job. He is obviously learning, but he is a slow learner. He is now talking about the customers.

We cannot pre-empt the debate which has been sought on this matter. The matter is too wide to debate in detail on the Order of Business.

I agree. However I add one point—

The Order of Business is not the appropriate time for this.

This point is important for the purposes of correction. One or two of my colleagues have given the impression that there was a direct parallel between Elan and Enron, but that is not the case. I did not say Senator Dardis did so but two of my colleagues did, as the record will show. I want the record to be straight. There is no suggestion that anyone at the top of Elan has been demonstrated to have made a profit from the disadvantage of the customers. In fairness to those people whose reputations have been traduced, it ought to be put on the record that this is the case.

I support Senator Connor on the issue of the international court. Even the State of Israel has acceded to it, so why have we not done so? It is obviously the way to go.

I support Senator Keogh in calling for the Taoiseach's presence in the House. I enjoyed the comment last Thursday on the one o'clock news of the political correspondent of RTÉ who said that the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, had decided to have "an abortion on the referendum issue". It appears that this is exactly what is in line for him.

Will the Leader make provision to take No. 19 regarding West Papua? This is a directly analogous situation to that which obtained in East Timor where Ireland played a disproportionately significant role in the formulation of European foreign policy, largely due to the work of Tom Hyland and, through the Oireachtas, the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. We can do the same with West Papua but it requires a debate. Will the Leader indicate that he will take such a debate and, if so, give an approximate timescale for it?

Reference has been made to the recent severe flooding in parts of this city during which many houses were damaged by flood waters. I welcome the Taoiseach's announcement of a relief fund to compensate victims. There was severe flooding in other parts of the country, including my county, where houses and lands were damaged. Will the Leader confirm whether these people will also have access to this fund?

That may be an appropriate matter for an Adjournment debate.

In the context of the recent announcement of a new low-cost pier at Dublin airport, I ask that the Minister for Public Enterprise come to the House to explain what is being done for Shannon Airport. At present we cannot have flights in or out—

That matter will be raised on the Adjournment tonight.

It is not quite the same matter. I raise the issue in the context of where the Minister stands in relation to Shannon.

I ask that the Minister for Health and Children come to the House to explain the findings of a survey published today concerning the lack of cancer treatment for women and men west of the Shannon. The issues are linked because we are forgotten about. Women from the area must travel to Cork for radiotherapy and women in the west possibly must travel to Dublin. Despite the repeated airing of radio advertisements featuring Marian Finucane, the mid-west does not feature in breast check provision.

I support Senator Keogh's comment regarding women's mental health and I will raise that with the Minister. In a statement today, Professor Cecily Kelleher said that she and her council have raised a major issue regarding women's health and suicide in the context of the forthcoming referendum. It is important that the Minister answer those questions in the next few days.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I again ask the Leader to arrange to have the Minister for Education and Science come to the House to enable us discuss the poor provision for the teaching and learning of science in our first and second level schools and the inevitable adverse impact this will have on the job prospects of young people in the next generation and on the technology industry. I ask that this session not be allowed to pass without such an important debate.

I support the call for a debate on the recent developments in corporate Ireland, but it would not be wise to make it too specific and to relate it only to the role of auditors, about which no one in this House is qualified to talk. We should have a general debate on what has happened. Almost everybody in the country, as Senator Dardis has said, is affected by the fall in Elan and AIB share prices. This is not an elitist debate as everybody's pension fund is invested in those companies to an extraordinary extent, if they are invested at all. There is a certain amount of soothsaying going on, with people being told not to worry and that only a tiny percentage is involved. I cannot think of anything worse that could have happened to people's pension funds than a collapse in the price of Elan and a disaster for AIB. If we are not alarmed now then we and corporate Ireland are asleep. It is time for a serious and responsible debate.

Another area that the House looked at a little while ago in a motion put down by Senator O'Toole and me is the role of non-executive directors. I do not wish to attribute any blame here, but there are many people who have a responsibility in the case of both catastrophes. They draw very large salaries for doing what appears to be very little, given that they noticed nothing happening. They should be questioned and I am not out of order when I say that we can ask people from the various relevant bodies to come to this House to answer questions on these issues.

Has any Government Department assessed the inflationary impact of the euro? There is no mention of the cent wherever you go, it is always of the €1 and €2. Coins are thrown around as if they are of no value and there is obviously an inflation rate far greater than was anticipated. Is anybody prepared to assess what exactly is going on? It is quite obvious that there have been price increases of 20% to 25% in some areas. Nobody is saying anything about it and the problem is much more serious than we realise. AIB and other organisations can suffer, but it is much more serious if the ordinary person finds that their money is worth nothing. Somebody should come to the House to explain.

I also want to raise the issue raised by Senator Connor and I agree entirely with Senator Ross. My initial reaction on hearing the news this morning was to worry about pension funds. I would like a debate on that issue to be broadened to include banking in general.

What annoyed me most this morning were comments by Mr. Buckley. I do not say that he was trying to justify what has happened, but he was claiming that circumstances were not as bad as they appeared to be due to the fact that the group has still made profits of €400 million in the year ending in December 2001, despite having lost a potential €600 million in this fraud. Those sums added together would mean a €1 billion profit by the bank last year.

I refer to issues raised here before and in an article penned by Senator Ross in last week's Sunday Independent

You are overstepping the mark. We cannot have a debate on the Order of Business on articles written by Senator Ross. That is not in order.

It is good advertising.

I do not mind.

Does Senator Bonner have a question for the Leader of the House?

Does he read Senator Ross's column?

I want to raise an issue, which has been raised already, in relation to Elan and Enron and accounting practices, policies and auditing standards. As somebody who has taken part in auditing for the past 30 years, I want to tell Senator O'Toole that there is enough regulation in place for small firms of auditors. In fact, they are probably over-regulated.

These are all points that can be made during the debate which has been sought.

I will finish on this point about larger firms and companies. There does not appear to be the same regulation as for smaller auditors, as Senator Ross stated, mainly due to the fact that it is so complex and the issues involved are impossible to quantify at auditing dates. Therefore, I want the Leader to organise a debate on that in the future with the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

During Committee Stage of the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill, 2001, I said that a very effective brand of the morning after pill, Levonelle, had been licensed by the Irish Medicines Board. Senator Keogh said it was not and she was right. I want to apologise for inadvertently misleading the House on that matter. I support her call for the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, to come to the House and explain why he did not consult the Women's Health Council, which is a statutory body set up to look after the health of women regarding this issue. I hope it can be done urgently in view of the fact that the referendum is so near.

I also ask the Leader for a debate on the health strategy which the Minister for Health and Children brought forward before the Christmas recess and also the primary health care strategy. There are many aspirational strategies in book form but very little in the way of debate on them and it is important that both these issues come before the House.

I call for a debate on the problems that are arising now from the operation of the Equal Status Act, 2000, for publicans, guesthouse owners and hoteliers who have lost the right to run their establishments as they feel they should be run and who have lost control of their premises. It is reported in today's newspaper that 40 publicans in Castlebar possibly will be prosecuted for closing for a traveller's funeral recently. I am sure they had good reason for closing but that is not the point. The point is that publicans throughout the country are in a precarious position vis-à-vis the law and something will have to be done to regularise the situation.

Regarding the issues of Enron, Elan and AIB, it is unwise and unfair to link Enron and Elan in the same sentence.

These are points that can be made in the debate which has been sought.

Enron has ceased to exist as a corporate entity and shareholders in AIB and Elan will bounce back again; they will not be like the Eircom shareholders.

Again the Senator is pre-empting the debate which has been sought.

They will not be forced to sell.

If I was a member of a local authority or any public body, I would have to leave the meeting if I had a conflict of interest. Does the same apply in the Seanad? Senator Ross will write in the Sunday Independent about matters being discussed here today. It is a specific question.

I am not listening.

Should somebody who, as the business editor of the Sunday Independent, has a direct interest in matters be in the House discussing them?

It is censorship.

Senator Lanigan is not in order.

If I am a member of a county council, I must declare an interest. Does the same rule apply here as it does in every other public body?

Senator Lanigan, you are not in order.

Would Senator Lanigan attack me, please? I would like some of the publicity. Would he focus that on me?

We had a lengthy debate in this House on 4 March 1998 about passports for sale. The Minister at that time told us that he was setting up a review group and that his response would be determined by Government soon after. Last year I asked if that review group had published its decisions and I was told that it would be determined by Government shortly. Last week I telephoned the Department to establish what had come about from that and was told that it will be published shortly. Will the Leader invite the Minister here to tell us what is happening and what decision has been reached? In the March 1998 debate the Minister told us he had set up a review group in September 1997 but it seems no decision has been reached. I urge the Leader to invite the Minister here forthwith.

There is a long agenda today. Will the Leader ask the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Kitt, to come to this House to discuss the introduction of the euro and how it has affected the cost of living? The public believes the introduction of the euro has provided a great opportunity for the retail sector to increase prices. This has affected many people. This is worthy of a debate and should be put before the House.

I welcome the Taoiseach's announcement of support for areas that have suffered flooding. That is also worthy of debate. A lot of damage has been done in the midlands and on the western seaboard. I would like a debate to explore how the support can be applied in a fair way.

Why have we not had the review of the censorship laws that was promised at the beginning of this Seanad session? The Minister promised me emphatically that this review would take place. We do not even have the merest "top-shelf" policy in garages or supermarkets. The Minister said he would not accept a position where any child is exposed to pornographic images. All one has to do to see such images is enter one's local Spar store. It is a disgusting way to introduce people to adult images. I want an answer to this because I was promised that something would be done.

I support Senator Caffrey's remarks on the equality laws. As a society we will soon arrive at a point where one will not be able to smoke in a public house but will be permitted to have a three year old child there at 3 a.m. We have gone mad.

I support Senator Caffrey's call for a debate on the problems that have arisen from the implementation of the Equal Status Act, 2000. I have asked the Leader on numerous occasions for a debate on the funding that has been made available for the BMW region. We are nearly two years into that programme and I cannot see where the extra funding that was promised has been spent. I ask the Leader for a debate on this as a matter of urgency so that we can establish if the BMW region is getting the funding that was promised. I call on the Leader to make that a priority.

Senators Connor, O'Toole, Costello, Dardis, Norris, Ross, Bonner and Caffrey expressed their shock and horror at the massive fall in value of Elan and AIB shares. Various views have been expressed also about Enron. Nobody in Ireland realises the serious effect the collapse of Enron has had throughout the US. I was there for the past few weeks and the business community has been shocked.

As a native of County Westmeath, I want to highlight the major contribution Elan is making in my county and the entire BMW region. It is the largest employer in the region and it is most unfair that the company's position has been judged in the same light as the collapse of Enron. Some commentators have been unfair in their assessment, as Senator Ross said. He is one of the foremost experts in stocks and shares and I have always held him in high regard. Many of us have taken his strong advice in contributions he has made in the House through the years. He has an expertise in this field and I support the views he expressed and the confidence he placed in Elan.

With regard to AIB, many people have heeded its advice and taken out pensions with the bank. However, the bank's share price has experienced a major but temporary fall. AIB has played a major role in Ireland through the years and I hope the problems highlighted by the bank today can be brought to a conclusion at an early date and that everyone's fears will be laid to rest. All of us who have pensions with the bank look forward to the future. It has been and will continue to be a successful stock. I hope to schedule a debate on the AIB situation next week with the agreement of the Whips and the group leaders. Perhaps AIB's position will be clearer then.

I take the point made by Senator Lanigan and will seek further direction at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges in regard to the views expressed by the former Leader of the House.

Senators Connor, Norris and Bonner referred to the International Criminal Court and the referendum that was held last year. I will pass on their views to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform following the conclusion of the Order of Business.

Senator O'Toole called for a debate on standards in the Oireachtas. I have no difficulty making time available for such a debate. The Oireachtas passed four or five Bills, which introduced the strictest regulations for Members, and all Members must account for their activities in the business world. I will arrange a debate on this issue during this session.

Senator Norris called for a debate on human rights abuses in West Papua and I propose to schedule an hour long debate, similar to those I arranged on many occasions in regard to East Timor.

Senator Jackman sought clarification on the Government's decision to locate the terminal for low cost carriers at Dublin Airport. All of us welcome this and I wish to put on record Ryanair's tremendous achievement in making air travel more affordable.

The Leader is not answering my question.

Years ago if someone travelled home to Ireland for the All-Ireland Final and it was drawn, they would not have been able to afford to travel home for the replay whereas nowadays people return to Ireland every weekend.

With regard to Senator Jackman's question, who better to look after Shannon Airport than the Minister, Deputy O'Rourke?

Please do not say any more.

As Patrick Farrell said: "Where is the one who does not love the land where he was born?" We are all aware of the Minister, Deputy O'Rourke's roots in County Clare and I will pass on the Senator's views to her.

Senator Quill called for a debate on the teaching of science in second level schools, which I will also schedule during this session.

Senators Dino Cregan and Chambers called for a debate on the changeover to the euro. I congratulate everyone, from businesses, big and small, to banks and everyone associated with the changeover on what has been a wonderful success. I will have time allowed for this debate. For the information of the House, Second Stage of the Finance Bill will be discussed on the Wednesday and Thursday after St. Patrick's Day. If the House believes we should have a debate on the euro changeover in the meantime, time can be provided for it.

Senator Henry called for a debate on the health strategy. It is with great pleasure I confirm to the House that this will happen in this session. I look forward to the participation of those who called for the debate and of many other Members who I know want to make a contribution.

Senators Caffrey, Ridge and Burke called for a debate on the Equal Status Act. As Fine Gael has Private Members' time next week I will endeavour to have time allocated for a debate on the stocks and shares issue, perhaps the Fine Gael Whip, Senator Burke, would consider discussing the Equal Status Act during his party's Private Members' time. If he wants an additional hour, I will propose it on the Order of Business next Wednesday.

Senator Costello expressed his views on No. 1 on the Order Paper. I have heard him rant and rave about this many times before.

I am entitled to express my views.

For a party that has three Members in the House—

"Rant and rave" is rather vitriolic language from the Leader.

—we give it full party status, including Senator Costello's time in full on the Order of Business every day. It is necessary to have six Members, as the Independent group has, to qualify for full party status.

I was standing up for the members of the Leader's party.

The electorate in its wisdom decided the Labour Party should have three Members. Nevertheless, we have given it full party status in the House. It is unfair for Senator Costello to repeat the old rhetoric on the first day of every session. I have obliged regarding anything he has asked me to do—

There are 60 Members in the House. I am defending their rights.

—and I have done more than my fair share. I will bear in mind his comments when such matters are dealt with in future.

Senators Costello and Cregan called for the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to state the up to date position on flooding. I welcome the intervention of the Taoiseach and all the work which has taken place and I congratulate the local authorities, the Garda, Civil Defence, fire services and everyone who has worked in this area in the past two weeks. The degree of flooding which took place had not been seen since 1924. I join with everyone in congratulating the emergency services. I know the Government – the Taoiseach especially, as Senator Costello knows well from his constituency – will be to the fore in ensuring moneys will be allocated.

Senators Jackman, Henry and Keogh raised the issue of the referendum. I listened with great interest to what they had to say. I know my former constituency colleague, the former Taoiseach, Deputy John Bruton, also has a view. I welcome his support in this referendum for a "Yes for life" vote. If the Senators believe they need time, we will have a debate on the issue.

Senators Ridge and Ormonde raised the issue of child pornography and called for a debate on the censorship laws. I have already given a commitment to both Senators and I hope we can have the issue debated and discussed.

Senator Quinn called for a debate on passports for sale. I will endeavour to have the inquiries made by the Senator seen to and perhaps communicate with him next week.

Senator Burke inquired about the up to date position on the Border, midland and western region and the £6 million per day which has been allocated to the regions, an enormous amount of money which is mind-boggling to the average person. A half day debate can certainly be allowed, with the agreement of the Whips, on the achievements of the Government in this regard.

On a point of order, I listened with some alarm to the Leader explaining that he was going to refer to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges the comments of the former Leader regarding the conflict of interest of a member of our group. May I have a ruling on it?

I ruled Senator Lanigan's comments out of order. Senator Ross has the same entitlement as every other Member to be present in the House at all times when it is sitting and the same entitlement as all other Members to express his views on these matters.

Are we ruled out of order also?

Order of Business agreed to.