Order of Business.

It is proposed to take Nos. 5, 12 and 13. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders that: (1) the proceedings on the Committee and remaining Stages of No. 12, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 7.00 p.m. 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 the Environment; (2) The proceedings on the resumed Second Stage of No. 13 shall be brought to a conclusion at 9.15 p.m. and the following arrangements shall apply in relation to the debate, notwithstanding the resolution of the Dáil on 3 November 1992; (i) the speech of each other Member called on shall not exceed ten minutes and (ii) the Minister for Foreign Affairs shall be called upon not later than 9.05 p.m. to make a speech in reply not exceeding ten minutes; (3) on the conclusion of the Second Stage of No. 13, Item 5 shall be decided without debate and the Committee and remaining Stages of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, 1992 shall be taken forthwith, and shall be brought to a conclusion not later than 10.30 p.m. 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 Foreign Affairs; (4) the sitting shall not be suspended at 1.30 p.m. today; (5) business shall be interrupted at 10.30 p.m. tonight; (6) questions for oral answer shall not be asked tomorrow and, accordingly, Government business shall not be interrupted at 2.30 p.m. on that day and (7) private Members' Business shall be No. 19 and the proceedings thereon shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m.

A Cheann Comhairle, I am sure everybody will have noticed that my voice is a little throaty and I share that complaint with the President-elect of the United States.

(Interruptions.)

George Bush is not feeling very well either this morning.

Are the proposals for dealing with No. 12 agreed?

We all probably have reservations about some aspects of No. 12, the Electoral (No. 2) Bill, which is an important reforming measure. However, there are 180 amendments to it including certain critical amendments which everybody would like to see dealt with. Would the Taoiseach be agreeable to the spokespersons dealing with the Bill agreeing a schedule with the Whips to ensure that certain amendments are reached during the course of the debate? Some amendments need to be debated and it would be helpful to the House if agreement could be reached.

I can assure both the Deputy and the House that we will be accommodating in that matter.

In regard to item No. 12, may I ask the Taoiseach when he expects all Stages of that Bill to be completed and when will it come into operation?

As soon as possible.

Does the Taoiseach have any deadline?

They have lots of deadlines.

We will rush it through.

I wish to protest in the strongest possible terms that the debate on this Bill is being guillotined. This is a disgrace. The Bill makes an attack on the Green Party and other small parties.

(Interruptions.)

The Deputies opposite will laugh on the other side of their faces after the election. The Bill provides for an increase in the deposit to £500. This represents an attack on democracy and the rights of small parties and the Independents to fight a proper election campaign.

Is the proposal in respect of item No. 12 agreed? Agreed. Are the proposals for dealing with item No. 13 agreed? Agreed. Are the proposals for dealing with item No. 5 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal that business shall be interrupted at 10.30 tonight satisfactory? Agreed. Is it agreed that the sitting shall not be suspended at 1.30 today? Agreed. Is it agreed that questions for oral answer shall not be asked tomorrow and, accordingly, that Government business shall not be interrupted at 2.30 p.m. on that day agreed? Agreed. Is it agreed that Private Members' Business shall be No. 19 and that the proceedings thereonn shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m.? Agreed.

I am very glad that the Government are at last prepared to bring the uncertainty to an end and to put the Dáil's confidence in them to the test tomorrow.

The Deputy looks very happy.

In the meantime——

Let us not anticipate that debate now. We must wait for it.

(Interruptions.)

A Deputy

The Deputy looks happy.

The redundant mediator.

The knight of the woeful countenance.

You are a picture of joy this morning John.

And I will be a picture of even greater joy in a month's time. I think you will make a very good Opposition spokesman, Deputy Flynn. You were always good in that department.

I am glad that the Deputy recognises real talent.

I admire you in that capacity only. Having said that, there is important business to be done on behalf of the nation at present, namely, the completion of the Northern Ireland talks which must finish this week. I am saddened to learn, according to today's newspapers, that Ministers did not attend these talks yesterday on behalf of the Government.

That is not true.

I see the Ministers who should be attending in the House this morning. Notwithstanding the other business to be conducted my party will offer pairs to Ministers to ensure they attend these talks given the importance of these talks to the nation as a whole and the short time that remains to complete them. I hope this offer will be accepted in the spirit in which it is being made, in the national interest.

It is only right and proper that I put it on the record that our Ministers attended the talks on Monday and are due to attend them again on Friday. It is regrettable that an election is looming at a time when the talks have reached a critical stage but this is not of our choosing.

Who are your Ministers?

I sincerely hope that the opportunities which have been created during the past few months will not be lost because this would not be in any of our interests.

May I seek clarification on a matter? I am sure the history books will give the Taoiseach a certain amount of credit for causing the election. It is my understanding that the order in respect of the referendum was signed by the Minister for the Environment on Monday evening of this week even though the Taoiseach promised us yesterday that it would be signed some time this week. May I ask the Taoiseach, therefore, if a general election is called tomorrow will both be held on the same day or will we have the general election with the referenda being postponed?

First, let me say to Deputy Barry in response to his question yesterday whether it would be signed yesterday, as it was the last day, that following the Order of Business I telephoned all the people concerned just in case someone thought that I was trying to mislead the Dáil, something I have been accused of before, but I was not.

The people around the Taoiseach knew that it had happened but did not tell him.

I have given the Deputy the information; I did not try to withhold it.

The people sitting next to the Taoiseach knew that it had happened but did not tell him.

With all due respect, the question the Deputy asked was whether it would be signed yesterday it being the last day but that was not the position.

Double speak.

(Interruptions.)

The party opposite might decide that they will not bring down this Government but the House can take it from me that if there is to be an election it will be held on the same day as the referenda but not necessarily on 3 December.

On 26 November?

In relation to the Northern Ireland talks, a serious situation is developing in that it has been indicated that if the Anglo-Irish Conference meeting scheduled for 16 November proceeds the participants on the Unionist side may withdraw from the talks this day week. In view of the fact that we will be in the middle of a general election campaign on 16 November would the Taoiseach give an undertaking to defer that meeting so as to give the talks some possibility of success?

The Deputy should be aware that 16 November is the date set and agreed by both the British and Irish Governments for the next Anglo-Irish Conference. If some parties decide to withdraw from the talks prior to or after that date that would be a matter for them, but I want to assure the House that there is no deadline. I have made it clear previously that if more time is required after 16 November I will be forthcoming and provide more time but I wanted to have the principle and practice clearly established that the Intergovernmental Conference would not be set aside or undermined. I do not know whether any of the parties concerned are going to withdraw from the talks before 16 November but that is their prerogative. As I said, that date will not mark the end of the talks nor is it a deadline but rather it is the date set and agreed to by both Governments for the next Anglo-Irish Conference. I refer Deputy De Rossa to Question No. 7 on today's Order Paper to the Minister for Foreign Affairs on this subject.

Let us now proceed to Item No. 12.

A Cheann Comhairle, may I ask——

I want to move on to the business of the House proper.

I accept that 16 November is the date agreed by both Governments but there has not been any meeting of the Anglo-Irish Conference since the talks started. In my view it will be many years before the talks can be restarted if parties pull out.

That is nonsense.

This must not lead to debate now.

I appeal to the Taoiseach to bear this possibility in mind.

I have facilitated the Deputy but he is now embarking upon a speech.

On the Order of Business, let me say in response to the Taoiseach's gracious reference to the American election that this House should record its congratulations to the President-elect of the United States——

Wait for it.

——and urge the Irish people to follow the example set by the American people and effect a change.

I would prefer a change back to single party Government after 15 years.

A single party Government in 1988 triggered off the Beef Tribunal.