Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Committee on Employment.

Jim Higgins

Ceist:

2 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach if, in respect of the Joint Committee on Employment, he is prepared to change Government policy to permit Ministers to serve as members of the committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I see no reason to alter the established Government policy that Ministers would not serve as members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Employment. The Government have shown, by their acceptance of the key recommendations in the joint committee's first report, that Ministers are prepared to implement valid and agreed findings of the committee. I would point out that Ministers participated in the discussion in this House and in the Seanad on the recommendations of the joint committee and gave their views on them. This, in my view, is the correct role of Ministers in relation to the work of the joint committee.

Can the Taoiseach not accept that at the eleventh hour of this administration and with a predicted unemployment figure of 350,000 by next summer, his attitude reduces the status of this committee to an empty, hollow Chamber? Can he not accept that the boycott of his Ministers should be lifted and that they should now participate as key decision makers rather than looking in from the outside?

Yes, I am aware of the boycott of this committee by the party opposite. I am aware it has continued for whatever reason but that is their decision and we all accept it. I have not seen or heard of any input to the committee — although this is a House committee — from the party opposite in relation to any ways and means of creating a single job. This committee was set up in response to continuous questioning in this House of my predecessor. I set up that committee very shortly after I took over. They have been working very effectively. They have brought forward recommendations. Those recommendations were responded to immediately. In fact, some of the responses have been in excess of the recommendations of this committee. I gave my commitment that those recommendations and reports would be addressed in this House immediately; that has happened and they have been addressed in the Seanad by the Minister. That is the appropriate way in which to continue. At this late stage — at the eleventh hour, as Deputy Higgins puts it — perhaps he would consider joining the committee and make a useful contribution to solving the biggest unsolved problem of the Irish economy and the biggest unsolved problem of all the European economies too.

Would the Taoiseach agree that this committee was established by his party as a snow job to cover up the failure of his Government to produce a single implementable proposal to tackle the jobs crisis——

Be careful——

——and would the Taoiseach agree that he has presided over the greatest jobs crisis in the history of this State?

If the Deputy is not positive he will——

Could I say, welcome into my house, to this committee? The door is always open.

I am calling Question No. 3.

The door was open all over the weekend.

Is that an address to Fine Gael or to the Progressive Democrats?

Wherever the cap fits.