Order of Business.

It is proposed to take Nos. 9, 10 and 2.

It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) business shall be interrupted at 10.30 p.m. tonight; (2) the proceedings on Committee Stage of No. 9, up to and including section 97, if not previously concluded shall be brought to a conclusion at 1.30 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only amendments set down by the Minister for the Environment; (e) the proceedings on the Report and Final Stages of No. 10, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall in relation to amendments include only amendments set down by the Minister for Social Welfare; (4) The Second Stage of No. 2 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon and on the remaining Stages, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 10.30 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall in relation to amendments, include only amendments set down by the Minister for Finance.

Private Members' Business, which shall be No. 21, shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m.

Is the proposal that business be interrupted at 10.30 p.m. tonight agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 9 agreed?

In view of the Taoiseach's agreement to a proposal yesterday by Deputy Howlin may I suggest that the same procedures to which he agreed yesterday should apply today. That could be achieved by adding the words "or acceptable to" and inserting them before the words "the Minister for the Environment". This would allow the Minister to accept Opposition amendments and I suggest the order be amended to make provision for this.

I will accept that suggestion.

Is that agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with the Report and Final Stages of the Social Welfare Bill agreed?

In respect of No. 10 I propose that we substitute 10.30 p.m. for 7 p.m. as the conclusion time for this debate. There are 21 amendments to this Bill and, under present arrangements, it is proposed to deal with the legislation in three hours. Most people in the country consider this the most important Bill the Dáil passes in any year. I suggest we allow those extra two hours for the debate on this very important matter. I do not believe that would disrupt the Government programme unduly and I hope all parties in the House will agree to this amendment to the order.

We oppose the guillotining of the debate on Report Stage of the Social Welfare Bill. On Committee Stage most of the sections were not reached. There is no agreement between the Whips on the taking of the Bill and because it impacts on nearly half the population adequate time should be afforded on Report Stage for proper debate.

I oppose the guillotining of the debate on the Social Welfare Bill. It is a disastrous Bill which will reduce the income of thousands of families who depend on social welfare for a half decent existence. The amount of time being allocated for the 21 amendments tabled for Report Stage works out at less than nine minutes per amendment. That is totally inadequate and it is not the proper way to deal with such serious legislation.

In regard to the proposal for dealing with the Social Welfare Bill and the amendments I am putting the following question: "That the time proposed to be deleted stand."

On a point of order, the Taoiseach did not get an opportunity to indicate whether he accepts the proposal that we sit until 10.30 p.m. Would he like to respond to that question?

For the clarification of the House, we are sitting until 10.30 p.m. All parties would accept and admit that the ACC Bank Bill, which is a technical Bill, is required urgently. If the parties decide to let it through in half an hour, we can add time to the Social Welfare Bill but that is as much as I can offer the House. The Bill is required and it cannot be left over until next week or the week after.

I cannot permit a debate on the matter now. I will permit a brief comment.

If the Government agree to allocate the extra hours to the debate on the Social Welfare Bill my party would be agreeable to taking the ACC Bank Bill tomorrow?

That is a different proposition from the one I put to the House. I am prepared to facilitate the Opposition if they are prepared to agree to a short technical Bill that is urgently required. Time is against us. We need it tonight, not tomorrow.

If the Taoiseach is interested in consensus he might have to get used to accepting other people's ideas from time to time.

This should not give rise to debate or argument now.

As the Member who will be dealing with the ACC Bank Bill on behalf of the Labour Party I am prepared to make an offer to the Taoiseach, in response to what he said. If he wishes we can sit until midnight to take that technical Bill as he described it. It would require no more than an hour or an hour and a half. If the Whips consider debating, as suggested by Deputy Bruton, the Social Welfare Bill until 10.30 p.m. and devote one hour or so after to deal with the ACC Bank Bill, the Labour Party will facilitate the Government.

I fail to understand why we cannot deal with the Report Stage of the Social Welfare Bill until it is completed. The proposal that the time be extended to 10.30 p.m. amounts to about five minutes extra per amendment which is totally inadequate. We are not prepared to support any extension.

Question, "That the time proposed to be deleted stand", put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 72; Níl, 61.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Barrett, Michael.
  • Brady, Gerard.
  • Brady, Vincent.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Calleary, Seán.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullimore, Séamus.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lyons, Denis.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDaid, Jim.
  • McEllistrim, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Morley, P.J.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).
  • O'Connell, John.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
  • Flynn, Pádraig.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Hilliard, Colm.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kelly, Laurence.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond J.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • O'Toole, Martin Joe.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Reynolds, Albert.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Stafford, John.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilson, John P.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Ahearn, Therese.
  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Barry, Peter.
  • Belton, Louis J.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, John.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Connor, John.
  • Cotter, Bill.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowley, Frank.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Doyle, Joe.
  • Dukes, Alan.
  • Durkan, Bernard.
  • Enright, Thomas W.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Foxe, Tom.
  • Garland, Roger.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Harte, Paddy.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McCartan, Pat.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East).
  • O'Brien, Fergus.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Gerry.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Reynolds, Gerry.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Yates, Ivan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dempsey and Clohessy: Níl, Deputies Flanagan and Creed.
Question declared carried.

In respect of the main question, are the proposals for dealing with the Social Welfare Bill agreed?

I will put the question again then.

Before you do that, a Cheann Comhairle ——

I must proceed now, Deputy.

May I just——

I must proceed with the Order of Business.

Question, "That the proposals for dealing with the Social Welfare Bill be agreed," put and declared carried.

The next matter to be put to the House is in respect of the proposals for dealing with item No. 2, the ACC Bank Bill, 1992. Is that proposal agreed?

We do not agree to this either. This legislation involves a major change in the operation of a State bank. It requires complex examination, and Committee Stage examination of the individual clauses of the 14 section Bill. It is not reasonable to put that through in the space of a very short time, two hours, late at night in this House. The operations of ACC, whose borrowings are guaranteed by the State, are sufficiently important to warrant more time than that. The Government should not persist on this proposal.

The debate on the ACC Bill will be even shorter than indicated by the Leader of the Fine Gael Party, because the vote on Private Members' business tonight will eat into part of the time allocated. In principle, it is a bad thing for matters of this kind to be simply tabled for debate in a way which ensures that most people in this House who may have an interest in making a contribution will not have an opportunity to make it. We cannot deal in such an off-hand manner with financial institutions in particular, in this way, given the record of financial institutions in this country.

This is a technical Bill. As is well known, ACC are up to their legal limit. This has to be done. It is the same sort of technical Bill as the Land Bond Bill last year which was produced and put through in the same time as that allocated here.

It is not a technical Bill.

(Interruptions.)

I do not have to be lectured.

This is not a technical Bill. The Taoiseach is misleading the House.

I know well what is in the Bill.

(Interruptions.)

The Bill proposes major changes. The explanatory memorandum alone has three pages.

We cannot debate the matter now. I am putting the question.

Just one second——

(Interruptions.)

On a point of order, is it not possible for people to comment before the Chair puts the question?

A brief comment, Deputy Flanagan. There will be no debate.

Is it not possible to even comment? Is it not clear that rushed law is bad law?

Please, Deputy O'Keeffe.

Will the Government not accept that? Will the Chair not give the House an opportunity to express the simple view that rushed law is bad law? Experience has shown us that.

There can be no discussion on the matter now. The Deputy knows that.

Deputy Flanagan.

I thank the Chair for allowing me to make a brief comment. I put it to the Taoiseach that day after day he and his specially appointed media advisers are talking about consensus; he wants consensus on everything, and we are in here every morning ——

This is very like speech-making.

—— having a division on the Order of Business. That is not consensus.

Consensus, provided we agree with the Taoiseach.

I am putting the question that proposals for dealing with item No. 2, the ACC Bank Bill, 1992, be agreed.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 73; Níl, 59.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Barrett, Michael.
  • Brady, Gerard.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Calleary, Seán.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullimore, Séamus.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Flynn, Pádraig.
  • Foxe, Tom.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Hilliard, Colm.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kelly, Laurence.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lyons, Denis.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDaid, Jim.
  • McEllistrim, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Morley, P.J.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).
  • O'Connell, John.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond J.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • O'Toole, Martin Joe.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Reynolds, Albert.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Stafford, John.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilson, John P.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Ahearn, Therese.
  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Barry, Peter.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Connor, John.
  • Cotter, Bill.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowley, Frank.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Doyle, Joe.
  • Dukes, Alan.
  • Durkan, Bernard.
  • Enright, Thomas W.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Garland, Roger.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Harte, Paddy.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Belton, Louis J.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, John.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McCartan, Pat.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East)
  • O'Brien, Fergus.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Gerry.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Reynolds, Gerry.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Yates, Ivan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dempsey and Clohessy; Níl, Deputies Flanagan and Creed.
Question declared carried.

The last matter I have to put to the House in respect of the Order of Business is ——

On a point of order, in respect of the last item of business, I wish to give the Taoiseach an opportunity to correct an instance in which he may have inadvertently but most certainly in fact misled the House.

Not at all.

He stated that this ACC Bill was needed urgently because the financial limits were being reached. If he looks at the explanatory memorandum to that Bill he will see that the share capital limit is £35 million and at present the subscribed share capital is only £25 million, so there is no urgency about the matter.

Members will have an opportunity of airing their views on this matter when we come to discuss the Bill.

This is a point of order in the case of the Taoiseach misleading the House.

Deputy, it is a speech.

Furthermore, in regard to the borrowing limit the explanatory memorandum clearly states that at the moment the corporation are well below their limit.

This is not in order.

Sir, it is an extremely serious matter.

Deputy Bruton will have an opportunity of airing his views on this matter when we come to the Bill.

It is an extremely serious matter if the Taoiseach has misled the House in order to get the House to agree to the guillotine being applied to business. It is the case that the Taoiseach misled the House and I wish to ask him if that was inadvertent or deliberate.

No such thing. For the information of the House, There are limits on what ACC can now lend to the commercial and agricultural sectors. Deputy Bruton knows that as well as I do. The Bill will be outlined tonight. We are increasing the number of directors and we want to loosen ACC from the limits to which they are tied.

The Taoiseach attempted to suggest that this legislation was urgent.

I will hear no more of this. I am going on now to the Order of Business proper.

He made his statement on the basis that the financial limits were being reached, but that is not the case.

Deputy Bruton must desist.

The Taoiseach has misled the House.

Deputy Bruton must now resume his seat.

I believe——

Deputy Bruton is now in gross disorder.

The Ceann Comhairle is in disorder.

How dare you say that, Deputy.

I believe, Sir——

Deputy Bruton should please desist. I have said that he will be afforded an opportunity to giving vent to his views on this matter.

It will be to late at that stage. The debate is being guillotined.

The matter has been decided already.

It cannot give rise to a debate now.

On a point of order, may I put it to you, Sir, with the utmost respect, that the Taoiseach has misled the House in order to get the House to agree to a guillotine on the Bill?

The Deputy has made quite a substantial speech.

It is not acceptable——

If the Leader of the Opposition persists in disregarding the Chair I will have no option but to adjourn the House.

I would like to say——

Deputy Bruton will now resume is seat. He has made his point.

Is the Leader of the Opposition not allowed make a point of order?

The Ceann Comhairle should listen to the Leader of the Opposition.

I believe, Sir——

Deputy Bruton, do you or do you not obey the Chair in these circumstances?

May I ask you ——

I have afforded the Deputy an opportunity of giving vent to his view on the Order of Business in respect of this matter, and the Taoiseach has replied.

May I seek your guidance?

There will be an opportunity to debate the matter much more fully later on the Order of Business. It does not arise now.

The matter has been decided.

With respect, I have no wish, holding the office I hold, to come into conflict with you, holding the office you hold. I can assure you that this is a serious matter.

Is the Deputy going to repeat himself?

May I seek your guidance?

What is the pertinent point?

Let the Deputy speak.

He has already spoken for some time.

That is what this House is about.

May I ask your guidance, Sir, please? What redress is open to a Member of the House when the Taoiseach has obtained a majority to guillotine a Bill on the basis of false information?

The Deputy may not allege that a Member of this House is guilty of deception or of giving false information?

The Ceann Comhairle should ask the Deputy to withdraw that allegation.

The information is clearly to be seen in the explanatory memorandum.

Deputy Bruton knows the procedure.

The financial limits were not reached but the Taoiseach said that they were.

This is disgraceful conduct. Deputy Bruton knows full well that he may not make an allegation against a Member of this House that he deliberately misled this House or that he is guilty of deceit. The Deputy should withdraw these insinuations.

On a point of order, I did not say "deliberately"; I said that the information is false.

That is near enough——

If the Chair recollects, in my original point of order I said that the Taoiseach may well have said this inadvertently.

If this continues I shall adjourn the House forthwith. Deputy Bruton should please resume his seat and allow the business of this House to proceed.

On a point of order——

Deputy Harte, when the Chair is dealing with disorder he will not hear points of order.

I wish to put a point to the Taoiseach. I believe that the Chair should listen to the Leader of the Opposition when he is making a point of order.

The Deputy is reflecting on the Chair now.

The Chair should listen to the point of order without interrupting the Deputy.

Please, Deputy.

This is the first time I have noticed this practice in my years of service in this House.

Deputy Harte, please.

That is true.

On a point of order, may I ask the Taoiseach, in view of the deterioration in the bank dispute, whether it is proposed that action will be taken by the Government, through the Minister for Labour, to intervene in order to avoid the position whereby we will have no banking services at all?

Sorry, the Deputy will find another opportunity of dealing with that matter.

As a person who has been in this House for 15 years I want to raise a very serious point arising from exchanges between the Ceann Comhairle and the Leader of the Opposition some time ago.

Deputy O'Keeffe, please.

Would the Ceann Comhairle let me speak?

If Deputy O'Keeffe feels that the Chair was wrong in his ruling——

The Chair is consistently wrong. He never interruputs the other side.

—— he has ways and means of dealing with the matter.

It is the Taoiseach who is wrong.

If the Ceann Comhairle lets me make the point he can then decide whether I am wrong. What I would like to point out — I am thinking of the whole question of parliamentary privilege — is that the Leader of the Opposition made a serious point in relation to misleading information given to the House by the Taoiseach. I believe that the Taoiseach should have been given the opportunity to reply.

The Taoiseach was given the opportunity to reply.

First, the Leader of the Opposition should have been given the opportunity to simplify the points and to explain the matter fully, and, second, from the point of view of Parliamentary democracy and decorum the Taoiseach should have been given the opportunity of answering the point legitimately made by the Leader of the Opposition.

I would be delighted to do so.

The issue referred to has been decided by this House.

No, Sir, it has not been decided.

There are reports in this morning's paper that the Minister for Education is considering proceeding directly with a White Paper in relation to education and reform. I would like to ask the Taoiseach, in view of the many promises and, indeed, dates that have been given for the publication of a Green Paper ——

Does this question refer to legislation?

Yes, indeed. An Education Bill will result from the Green Paper. May I ask the Taoiseach when a Green Paper will be published and what period of time he envisages will elapse between the publication of the Green Paper and of the White Paper?

A Green Paper and legislation are two different matters.

I have already said in the House that the new Minister is studying every aspect of the Green Paper and that new suggestions have been made as to what might be inserted in it. I want to confirm what the Deputy has said here this morning, that suggestions have been made to the Minister to consider the question of publishing a White Paper to the exclusion of a Green Paper.

However, the Government have not taken a decision on the matter.

May I finish this point because it is a matter of——

It should not lead to argument now, Deputy.

It is not argumentative at all, Sir. What is at stake is whether there will be time for an adequate public debate on the framework of the Green Paper. Would the Taoiseach indicate to the House when the Government will decide on this matter?

There will always be plenty of time for discussion on any major matters such as that.

While it is not my intention to detain the House in the matter that was referred to earlier by the Leader of the Opposition, in view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply and the fact that the Taoiseach misled the House, I would invite you, a Cheann Comhairle, as Speaker of the House, to call a meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges so that the matter can be dealt with.

If the Deputy wishes to convene such a meeting he may do so.

If the Ceann Comhairle is not going to accept my invitation may I give him notice of my intention to seek a meeting this afternoon?

In relation to the Green Paper, which is the first stage leading to an Education Bill, may I put it to the Taoiseach that there have been six deferrals of this matter so far? There is now total indecision as to whether a Green Paper, White Paper or Cream Paper will be published? Could we have a definite date for the publication of some kind of discussion document? I would further put it to the Taoiseach that it now seems as if our worst fears and predictions will be realised and that the six UMP plants are about to be swooped on by Mr. Goodman.

Deputy Higgins, please.

May I have a categoric assurance——

This is quite out of order now.

——that this will not be allowed happen?

I am proceeding now to the Order of Business proper. The matter being raised is completely out of order.

May I have a categoric assurance that Mr. Goodman will not be allowed to act as predator in relation to these plants?

Deputy Higgins sould resume his seat, please.

Will the Taoiseach give a categoric assurance that Mr. Goodman will not be allowed to take over these plants?

Deputy Higgins must find a more appropriate way of raising this matter.

May I have an assurance that Mr. Goodman is not going to swoop on 900 jobs in six plants——

Please, Deputy Higgins. It is not in order now.

I would like an assurance from the Taoiseach that Mr. Goodman will not be allowed to swoop in and take over these plants.

Deputy Higgins, please resume your seat.

This is an absolute disgrace.

Deputy Higgins, please resume your seat.

The Monopolies Act——

Will the Taoiseach take action before the Monopolies Act——

Deputy Higgins, please leave the House.

On the Order of Business, perhaps the Taoiseach would explain to the House and the nation why he did not agree to a simple request from the Opposition parties to extend the debate this evening to midnight. We have now lost one hour debating the matter. Why did the Government force the House into this debate?

The House has decided that matter.

This was supposed to be consensus.

I shall call Deputy Michael Noonan and I shall then proceed to deal with the Order of Business proper.

Consensus is all right so long as we agree with the views of the Taoiseach; that is not consensus.

I call Deputy Michael Noonan. I might add that the behaviour on the Order of Business has been truly deplorable this morning.

(Limerick East): I wish to ask the Taoiseach when the Government intend to introduce legislation to give effect to the decision of the Minister for Health to abolish the 'flu and common cold.

Today is April fools' day.

A Deputy

Another fashionable contribution from the Minister for Health.

I intend to call Item No. 9, the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990, Committee Stage.

(Interruptions.)

There are too many Deputies offering.

(Interruptions.)

If this continues——

Could I ask the Taoiseach——

We have already taken one hour to deal with the Order of Business this morning.

That is the point I was making, and you would not allow the Taoiseach to answer me.

This House is not a sausage factory in which the rate of production has to be maintained, no matter what the content.

Not only have I been seeking to raise this matter for one hour, I have been raising it since 1989. I was informed in the House that the Comptroller and Auditor General legislation would be published, hopefully, by the end of March. The end of March has arrived. This matter has been going on for a very long time and I have been very patiently raising it in the House. Could we please have the legislation?

Could we hear the Taoiseach's view on the matter?

The legislation is expected to go to the Government shortly. As always, I gave the Deputy my best expectations and hopes as to when the legislation would be ready. I do have to say that I have been amazed at the well rehearsed set piece that has gone on in the House this morning for an hour and that Opposition Deputies have at the same time been hypocritical in the extreme in looking for more time tonight.

I call on Deputy Creed.

There would be no delay in the House if the Taoiseach took the trouble to read his brief before he comes into the House in the morning——

Deputy Michael Creed, please.

——and did not attempt to give misleading information to the House.

Is Deputy Creed not going to respond?

You could have Tom Savage beside you this morning.

Deputy Ahern will confirm that what we are trying to say is correct.

(Interruptions.)

It must be April fools' day when the Deputy falls for that one.

A Deputy

The taxpayer is paying for this.

On the revised programme——

(Interruptions.)

Deputy Creed is seeking to intervene.

In the revised Programme for Government there was agreement to reconsider the question of voting rights for emigrants. As there was a promise to publish the Government's views on the matter before Christmas, I wish to ask the Taoiseach whether the Government have finalised their deliberations on this matter and whether they intend——

Is legislation promised in this area?

Yes. We were promised that anything contained in the Programme for Government would be treated as promised legislation.

I shall now proceed to the Order of Business proper and call Item No. 9.

My colleague from Cork raised a question——

Deputy, please.

It is quite obvious that you were all told to raise a question this morning.

There was a promise in the joint programme in regard to the issue raised by my colleague, and the Taoiseach has said that any promise in that programme qualifies as promised legislation. Why do we not get an answer?

If the Taoiseach is looking for conspirators then he should look behind him.

Even the Fine Gael spokesman was an April Fool — I cannot believe it.

(Interruptions.)

Could I ask the Taoiseach, in view of the fact that we have lost so much time——

I would not argue with that.

——through his action, that this hour be extended to the time provided for debate tonight?