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Tuesday, 26 Feb 2002

Vol. 5 No. 2

Business of Select Committee.

This meeting has been convened for the purpose of the consideration by the committee of the Finance Bill, 2002. I welcome the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, his officials and officials of the Revenue Commissioners.

The select committee will consider Committee Stage of the Finance Bill, 2002, in accordance with the timetable agreed in the Dáil on Thursday, 21 February. If proceedings have not been concluded by the stated time, they shall be brought to a conclusion by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Finance or a Minister of State nominated as substitute on his behalf. When a division is claimed, other than on a question put as provided for in paragraph 1 of the order of the Dáil of 21 February, the taking of such a division and the putting of any question contingent thereon shall be postponed until immediately before the time next appointed for the putting of a question in accordance with paragraph 1, or in the event of such a question not being put, when proceedings in committee on the matters which would have been decided by the putting of such a question have been otherwise completed.

I ask for the co-operation of members in dealing with the chapters and sections of the Bill as indicated. With the agreement of members the select committee will take a sos from 2.15 p.m. to 3.15 p.m. and shall conclude at 6 p.m. We shall start tomorrow, 27 February, at 10.30 a.m. immediately following the meeting to consider the Revised Estimate for Vote 44 - Flood Relief. The committee will take a sos between 1.15 p.m. and 2.30 p.m. and conclude at 5.30 p.m. The committee will start on Thursday, 28 February, at 10.30 a.m, take a sos between 1.15 p.m. and 2.30 p.m. and conclude at 5.30 p.m. Is that agreed? Agreed. We shall now proceed with consideration of the Bill.

On a point of order, we are due an explanation from the Minister as to why he is 50 minutes late without a substitute or an apology. What sort of grievous crisis is there in the Government that he should be so disrespectful to this committee?

I am sorry for not being here.

The Minister sent his apologies.

I was not made aware of any apology. I am here since 10.30 a.m.

I announced it publicly.

The meeting was due to start at 12 noon so I am 17 minutes late.

The meeting was due to start at 11.30 a.m.

It was 12 noon in the note I received.

The briefing note stated 12 noon.

I do not wish to make too much of this, but Ministers have a cavalier attitude towards the Oireachtas. They think that we are a rubber stamp and that they can treat us any way they like. It is not good enough for the Minister to arrive at 12.20 p.m. without any explanation. The Minister of State and other Ministers can deputise for him if circumstances compel him to be absent. We must bear in mind that there is a guillotine on this process.

To clarify, a notice was sent to each member stating a meeting of the Select Committee on Finance and the Public Service would be held in room G2, Kildare House on Tuesday, 26 February 2002 at 11.30 a.m. There was a footnote stating there would be a 30 minute briefing session for members prior to commencement of consideration of the Bill. The meeting was to begin officially at noon.

I took that to mean that the briefing was to begin at 11 a.m. The intended meaning is not clear.

That was incorrect, but I am sure the Minister will make a statement before we continue.

Chairman, may I point out that your job is to defend the interests of this committee impartially? It is not to take a party political stance and support the Minister's disrespect of a committee of the House.

The Deputy did not allow the Minister to make any comment.

The Deputy is not speaking for me. I am not a bit upset.

I understood I was to be here at noon. There was a Cabinet meeting, as there normally is on a Tuesday, and I tried to complete my business by 12 noon. I am about 15 minutes late, but we have another three days to dispose of all the items. I did not intend to display a lack of respect for anybody.

A message was sent stating the Minister would not be here exactly at 12 noon, of which I notified the committee.

I did not hear any such message.

In public session, I am afraid the Deputy is——

It is not good enough and indicative of the way the House is treated by the Government. The job of the House is to hold Ministers to account. Ministers should have due respect for it.