Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 5 Feb 1953

Vol. 136 No. 2

Business of Dáil.

It is proposed to take business in the following order, Nos. 8, 5, 9.

With your permission, A Cheann Comhairle, I wish to give notice that I propose to raise Question No. 54 on to-day's Order Paper on the Adjournment. May I ask also if the Tánaiste is in a position to give an indication as to whether time will be made available to discuss the Taoiseach's Estimate in the near future.

I should perhaps inform the Dáil that the House proposes to meet on Tuesday next when the Taoiseach's Estimate will be ordered.

Will the House meet to-morrow?

May I take it that on the Taoiseach's Estimate we will be able to move a motion in the name ofthe Labour Party relating to the increase in unemployment?

That can be arranged. If it is desired to get a decision on that on Tuesday it will be necessary to make some arrangement to that effect. It is not to be assumed if the debate does not conclude on Tuesday we will continue it on Wednesday.

May I make this perfectly clear. When we were asked in the summer to allow the Estimates through on the arrangement that there would be a token Supplementary Estimate, we were given an unqualified assurance that these Supplementary Estimates would be taken as the first business last session. Clearly because of the Taoiseach's absence we could not take this Estimate and we consider that we are entitled, in accordance with that undertaking, to have that Estimate taken next week and disposed of.

It will be taken on Tuesday but I cannot give any undertaking that it will be continued on Wednesday.

The undertaking was given last summer. I am asking the Taoiseach to honour it.

The undertaking will be honoured but not necessarily on Wednesday next.

If we cannot finish it on Tuesday and the Tánaiste will not give an undertaking that it will be taken on Wednesday, what has he in mind? When does he think it should be taken?

That question is difficult to answer. It will depend on the progress of business.

It is not intended to put it back in the queue?

The ordering of business has to take into account a number of considerations. It is not possible to attempt to plan too far in advance the business that can be lined up for the Dáil.

Is it not a fact that the Opposition has given the Government more than helpful co-operation? We passed the Taoiseach's Estimate without discussion, in order to facilitate the adjournment of the House in the summer. We were promised we would get a token Vote for the Taoiseach's Department, so that we might discuss Government policy when the Dáil reassembled. Because of the regrettable absence of the Taoiseach, that was not possible. Now, because unemployment is welling up at an alarming rate, we want to discuss it on the Taoiseach's Estimate.

A full day has been set aside for it next week. No other business has been ordered.

Has there ever been any limitation on the Taoiseach's Estimate before?

As an arrangement to secure a debate on a specific matter which it was desired to discuss, the allocation of a full day is a reasonable apportionment of time. The business in Government time for the Dáil in the first fortnight was arranged, and an alteration of that arrangement would cause considerable departmental upset. In order to meet the wishes of the House, the debate is being arranged for Tuesday. It must be assumed that if the debate on the motion is not concluded on Tuesday, it can be considered the next week.

I am not discussing the motion. I am dealing with the Taoiseach's Estimate, regarding which there was an unqualified assurance that it would be taken as the first business last session and disposed of. That was an unqualified assurance. Are we to take it that the Government is not going to honour that assurance because we did not press, in the absence of the Taoiseach, to have the matter discussed?

There were other reasons, too, as the Deputy knows.

That was the sole reason in regard to the Taoiseach's Estimate and the Tánaiste knows that very well indeed.

What about making up for lost time?

It is being ordered for next Tuesday.

If it is not finished on Tuesday, it must be taken on Wednesday—or the Government cannot expect us to accept in future any undertakings made.

We can have threats, one way or the other.

I am not making any threat. I am only saying that if undertakings are not honoured now I know what value to place on them in future.

There is important public business ordered for the Dáil and if it is not passed the people will suffer. It is the Opposition which will have to explain that to the public. We are making every reasonable effort to meet the Opposition, but if the Opposition are not going to be reasonable we will just have to put the business there and let them take the responsibility also.

There is a thing known as a word of honour and if the Tánaiste wishes to go back on it he can.

I cannot see what complaint the Opposition can have. The business of the Dáil was ordered ahead of time, including the business for this week. In order not to interrupt that business, an extra day has been given. It is the very first day, it is not put at the end of the week but before the week would normally begin on Wednesday. The whole of Tuesday has been set aside. If the business is not completed on that day, the intention is to take up the other business that was ordered, or at least arranged, but that does not mean that there will not be ample opportunity given to the Opposition to make their case in any direction they wish. There is no cause for alarm.

The Taoiseach is incorrect. There was no business ordered for next week. The businesswas ordered for this week and because of that we accepted the Government's request not to press for this to-day but to leave it until next week.

The Deputy is making a point of the word "ordered". I am talking from the point of view of the Government. Arrangements are made generally beforehand, so as to facilitate various Ministers and Departments, for the work as far ahead as one can reasonably know. As pointed out by the Tánaiste, you have to take account of the arrangements made, as otherwise you upset a great deal of work that has been done. I suggest to the Opposition that they will have Tuesday, and if the debate is not finished on Tuesday they can have another day again—but not Wednesday or Thursday of that week.

Would the Tánaiste say if the motion in the name of Clann na Talmhan in the Private Deputies' Business List will be taken on the Taoiseach's Estimate next week?

I do not know to what motion the Deputy refers.

The one about the cost of living.

Could the Tánaiste tell us what business it is proposed to order for Wednesday? If the discussion of the Taoiseach's Estimate cannot continue on Wednesday, we ought to know what the business is.

There is a lot of business, but I cannot tell the Deputy exactly.

I thought it was arranged. I understood the Taoiseach to say it was arranged.

The business has been arranged as far as possible.

Could we not be told what it is now?

A Deputy

The Grass Meal Bill.

Would the Tánaiste say if that motion will be taken? Canit properly come under discussion then?

What the Deputy may raise on the Taoiseach's Estimate is a matter for the Chair.

What will be discussed on Wednesday?

That will depend on the progress made in the meantime, and on Government arrangements.

So the Government has arranged nothing, in fact.

I suppose we can take it that, unless there is some urgent and important business, the continuation—if there is a continuation —of the debate on the Taoiseach's Estimate could be taken on Wednesday.

No. The Deputy knows as well as I do that a general debate of the kind, taken at the beginning of the season, could last for weeks and could upset all the arrangements for Government business. We cannot allow that to happen, in the public interest. The Government business must be disposed of in this limited session of two months. We must, therefore, try to manage the time of the House so as to get the most work done. That is the Government's only concern.

I fully accept that, but the Tánaiste will agree that it is utterly unreasonable that the Taoiseach's Estimate, which is the most important one coming before the Dáil, should be limited to one day's sitting.

I think it would be right to repeat that the Opposition has facilitated the Government in this matter. The new Estimates will probably be published in the month of March, and there will be a pretty futile discussion on this one, inasmuch as that 11 months of the year have gone. As Deputy Morrissey has said, we could not have an adequate discussion in one day.

The Deputy knows that is most unrealistic. The discussion on the Taoiseach's Estimate is on Government policy at the time and not on the specific financial proposal.

There is nothing more important than Government policy.

Does that mean that we will not have a discussion at all on the Taoiseach's Estimate?

The Tánaiste has told us now that if things are arranged as the Government have in mind, we will be limited to a one-day discussion on the Taoiseach's Estimate.

I did not say that. In view of the state of business, the House cannot get a debate starting on Tuesday and continuing indefinitely until it has finished. Tuesday will be available, but the debate will be interrupted for other business on Wednesday. The debate cannot be carried through in one uninterrupted session.

Will the Tánaiste do a deal—to finish it on Wednesday?

I would accept that.

My commercial instincts are always aroused by the word "deal."

It is a good offer.

I do not know. The Whips can get together to make some arrangement which will avoid the danger the Government has in mind, of having the Government business of the session completely disorganised. The two months' session must end by the end of March. In that time we must deal with the Vote on Account, which in itself generally leads to a protracted debate. There is also a number of Bills and Supplementary Estimates which should be passed in this session, if progress is to be made at all. After Easter we will be right into the financial businessof the year. The aim is to try to avoid that programme being upset by one protracted debate on this subject.

If we limit it to two days?

I can assure the Tánaiste we have no desire to disorder the business. No one desires that. The House has to work and operate. At the same time, the Tánaiste will appreciate that the House—and particularly the Opposition—must always be alert to establishing, or seeming to establish, a bad precedent. I do not think there would be any desire to prolong the debate on the Taoiseach's Estimate merely for the sake of prolonging it. If that becomes apparent, the Government has the remedy in its own hands. The Tánaiste knows that also. I see that the Taoiseach is rather amused at that remark. I repeat that the Government has the remedy in its own hands—and it has never scrupled to use it when it suited. That is in reply to the Taoiseach. This is a matter of reasonable approach by both sides and it is utterly unreasonable to put forward that you are not confining or limiting it to one day's debate. We may have the debate opened on Tuesday and then may not touch it again until Tuesday fortnight or three weeks. That, of course, would be unreal also.

The Tánaiste can also ascertain from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach the estimate I gave of the time likely to be required.

We will settle for two days.

Estimates of the time required for debates have often been coloured more by optimism than by realism.

Is the Tánaiste prepared to give us a discussion on the Taoiseach's Estimate, which includes the major aspects of Government policy and the motion on unemployment, covering Tuesday and Wednesday next?

There are other considerations to be taken into account regarding the sittings next week, concerning which, I understand, some discussions may be proceeding between the Whips and which may result in an increase or a reduction of the time available. A lot will depend on the outcome of these discussions. If we could get an offer to finish the discussion on the Taoiseach's Estimate next week within ten hours of Dáil time, arrangements could be made to provide these hours at a time which would be most convenient to everybody.

Two days is what I told the Parliamentary Secretary.

You might gain on the ten hours. Look at the length of time questions took to-day.

To-day was a record.

We will settle on ten hours.

I want to get one point clear, because this offer does not stay open forever. Can we be sure now that the Government will consider the question and let us know this evening whether they will give two days for the Taoiseach's Estimate next week? If the Tánaiste will say now that they will not do so, that is all right.

Would the Deputy deal with it in terms of hours and not days?

Ten or 11 hours—ten as a minimum.

May I remind the Chair of my request for permission to raise on the Adjournment the subject matter of Questions No. 12 to No. 19 on yesterday's Order Paper—the sale of property in Tramore? I should say that I have no desire to stand in the way of Deputy MacEoin who is anxious to raise the question of Ballinalee Post Office.