Finance Bill, 1995: Committee Stage.

We have agreed a time schedule and between now and 6 p.m. we hope to deal with Chapter 1 of the Bill, sections 1 to 19. Any division challenged in this period will be taken at 6 p.m. although there may be voice votes. The schedule has been agreed among the Whips with one change: on Thursday morning we will take sections 105 to 151 instead of sections 105 to 147, and in the afternoon we will begin at section 152 rather than at section 148. We have agreed to hear concerns expressed by some organisations on section 153 from 9.30 a.m. to 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday morning in the following order: the Law Society, the Institute of Taxation and the accounting bodies. They will have half an hour at most to make their case and Members can then make points or ask questions. The Minister will also be free to make any point he wishes. I heartily welcome the Minister before the select committee for his first Finance Bill. The select committee looks forward to working with him.

Thank you for the greeting which I reciprocate on my behalf and that of my officials. Apropos the announcement which you madevis-�-vis the meeting with lobby groups, which I welcome — I think that it is a positive development in Irish legislative practice, rather than having Members try to argue an issue at second hand — have you decided whether that session will be in public or private?

It will be in public; Standing Orders require that we sit in public unless there are particular reasons for sitting in private.

I could move Deputy McCreevy's amendments if the select committee would allow it; I do not disagree with some of them. I strongly object to the existing rule in this House, which I have to accept as long as it is there, to the effect that no Opposition TD can ever propose in the House or in any committee any change in the tax code which could, in any way, increase the tax burden on anybody. I read in yesterday's newspapers that Opposition TDs are great at suggesting cutbacks in public spending but do not suggest where it should happen. I accept that criticism and successive Governments just have to live with that, that is their problem. However, when it comes to discussing taxation, it seems ridiculous to strait-jacket Members of the Opposition and to require that they always propose tax relief measures but never any tax rebalancing or tax imposition measures. It seems to characterise them as solely irresponsible people when it comes to discussions of this kind. This committee should make a representation to the Dáil, and the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, for a change in that Standing Order to allow Opposition Members to propose tax imposition amendments.

That would be a far reaching proposal and merits discussion.