Business of Select Committee.

I apologise to the Chairman, members and the Minister for my sporadic attendance at these meetings. In light of everything else with which I have been obliged to deal in recent days, it has proven impossible to be present. That is very unsatisfactory. I will share a small wish with everyone this morning, namely, that after 2007, or perhaps sooner, I will have much more help available to me and I will then be able to concentrate on a single portfolio responsibility. Nothing would give me greater pleasure.

We will do everything to frustrate the Deputy in that regard.

I know that, I have been frustrated before. I wish to seek clarification on a particular matter. With regard to the timetable that was adopted, I tried to ensure my attendance where I had an interest in particular amendments. This morning's session was to have addressed sections 54 to 81. I tabled amendment No. 109 in respect of one of the relevant sections. Leaving aside the fact that the Chairman ruled it out of order, a matter I will address in a moment, I note that the committee proceeded to section 87 last night. It is impossible, therefore, to try to work to an agreed schedule. I wish the committee well in making such progress. However, it makes it extremely difficult when one cannot participate on a continuous basis in terms of planning to be present for the particular sections in respect of which one would like to engage in debate.

I tabled an amendment to section 74 which was dealt with last night, which, apart from the Chairman's ruling, means that the matter could not then be addressed. That is unfair. Once a schedule is agreed, and with respect to the progress made by the committee, in deference to members who cannot be present on a continuous basis, it should be honoured. I had to try to gauge my planned intervention on the matter in question for this morning. That point can be addressed in the future.

I wish to address it now. The order of the Dáil is specific in its wording. It states that the various sections are to be completed not later than a certain time. What happened yesterday is a regular occurrence. We completed the business we were scheduled to complete by 5.30 p.m. at that time and we then completed the business to be concluded not later than 8 p.m. at 6.35 p.m. We then proceeded with subsequent sections and the Deputy's amendment was declared out of order, meaning that he would not have been allowed to move it in any event. If a committee concludes its work on a section early, it is not obliged to leave the room and return at a later date to complete its deliberations; it is possible to proceed further. The order of the Dáil states that we should conclude on particular sections not later than certain times. It regularly happens that we get ahead of ourselves.

We agreed at the commencement of the programme that we would adopt the draft timetable and circulate it. I was a party to that decision.

We did and we are following it faithfully.

No, the committee has not followed it faithfully.

We have followed it faithfully. We said that we would conclude not later than——

No, the draft timetable that was circulated is what we agreed as a committee. I understand very well the order of the Dáil.

That is superior.

I was not going to return to this matter with the Chairman but when he offered a defence, I had no option but to challenge him. This is what we agreed. We agreed, quite specifically, that sections 54 to 81 would be taken this morning between 9.30 a.m. and 1 p.m. That is what we agreed. I was here and was a party to it. That was my understanding.

No, the Deputy is mistaken. That schedule was circulated to Members last week for discussion purposes. It was not formally presented at the committee at any stage; it was circulated to seek——

At the commencement of business on Tuesday——

——my understanding is that the Chairman put the schedule for agreement by members.

No, I am absolutely sure I did not do so. I do not even have the schedule in my folder.

My understanding was that we could go beyond——

It is possible to proceed beyond the sections outlined. However, we understand the Deputy's point.

My purpose is not to delay the committee in——

The Technical Group was well represented yesterday as Deputies Twomey and Boyle were here.

I am so comforted by that.

The convenor of the group, not the individual part, was present. Deputy Ferris was also here for quite some time.

Deputy Ferris was here for a period on my behalf, that is correct. I emphasise that he was here on my behalf.

With regard to the Chairman's ruling on amendment No. 109, which seeks an extension of the Minister's introduction last year on the levy on the banks for a further three years, I received a letter from him yesterday stating that he regretted to inform me: "amendment No. 109, tabled for the Committee Stage of the above Bill, must be ruled out of order as it involves a potential charge on the people." I certainly do not wish to impose additional charges on the people. However, I do not view my proposition as a potential charge on the people. It is unquestionably an additional charge on the financial institutions. This was not ruled out of order last year. I raised this matter on the Committee and Report Stage debates on last year's legislation. I tabled an amendment at that point and the Minister will recall out little fencing exercise in respect of the decimal point. If he remembers the debate, I wanted to move the decimal point and I was not ruled out of order. However, amendment No. 109 has now been ruled out of order on, with respect, the most spurious grounds, namely, that it will impose a potential charge on the people. I understand the banks' tendency to wallop the people in every way imaginable. They may well seek to pass on such charges but it is our job, and that of others, to try to ensure that they do not do so. Some of our scrutiny work is geared towards that.

I strongly reject the Chairman's ruling. I do not believe it holds up to any serious scrutiny and I would like to hear his comments on it.

It is the most basic ruling, in respect of amendments before the House, that an Opposition Deputy cannot move a motion that involves a charge on the people. It is not just individuals; the charge could relate to bodies corporate. For example, taxation can apply to individuals or bodies corporate. A charge on the people generally means raising taxation. The amendment in question involves raising taxation, which is not permitted under Standing Orders. I have no jurisdiction on——

It involves extending the term of a levy that was introduced by the Minister last year for a further three years. The Chairman did not rule out of order my proposition last year——

I am not dealing with last year's legislation.

——in respect of the moving of the decimal point. I was very clear that the decimal needed to jump, not to the left but to the right. This year I am only seeking a non-specific extension and the Chairman is ruling me out of order. There is no consistency nor validity in that ruling. This is something that is validly before the committee and should have been allowed. I strongly put down the marker that this is my firm belief. I expect that it would also be the belief of many who would observe the business of this committee.

As Chairman, I have ruled finally that the amendment is out of order under the Standing Orders of the House. Deputies are free to seek to have those orders amended in the normal manner, but not through this committee.

Do I have the wherewithal to revisit this matter on Report Stage?

The Deputy is free to submit the amendment to the Bill's Office for Report Stage. It is a matter for the Ceann Comhairle, as Chairman of the Dáil, to accept the amendment. I cannot make a commitment on behalf of the Ceann Comhairle. If the Deputy submits it, it is a matter for the Ceann Comhairle's office to decide whether to allow it. I cannot make a commitment on the Ceann Comhairle's behalf.

Things are not so good with the Ceann Comhairle at present. I wonder what are my chances.

I shall not become involved in matters which arise between the Deputies representing Monaghan.