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Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 24 Oct 2002

Vol. 556 No. 2

Order of Business.

The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 15b, motion re amendments to Standing Orders; No. 1, Data Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2002 [Seanad] – Second Stage (resumed); No. 28, Sea Pollution (Hazardous and Noxious Substances) Bill, 2000 [Seanad] – Second Stage (resumed); and No. 29, Railway Safety Bill, 2001 – Second Stage (resumed).

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the following arrangements shall apply in relation to the proceedings on No. 15b: the proceedings, including any amendments put thereto, shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 20 minutes by one question which shall be put from the Chair; the speeches, not exceeding five minutes in each case, shall be confined to the Government Chief Whip and the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the technical group and the Labour Party; and the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday 5 November 2002.

There are two proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 15b, motion re amendments to Standing Orders agreed to?

No, it is not agreed. This proposal has been made by the Fianna Fáil Party along with the Progressive Democrats to allow the Taoiseach to absent himself from this House from 12 o'clock on Wednesdays. This means the Taoiseach will only be in attendance from 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday until 12 noon on a Wednesday. This amounts to a denial of democracy and an abdication of his responsibility. It makes a mockery of this House. It does down the trust and confidence that the people placed in the elected representatives here. It gives the "Harvey Smith" to this Chamber. It is the most scurrilous piece of political skulduggery I have seen in years. In my time on these benches former Taoisigh Cosgrave, Lynch—

The motion we are discussing—

Let him speak.

—Haughey, FitzGerald, Reynolds, Bruton—

The Chair is on its feet. We are discussing the arrangements for taking the debate.

You should not be protecting the Government.

I want to tell you why I am opposing the motion.

There will be an opportunity during the debate for the Deputy to go into the detail.

The Taoiseach is not here this morning because he is due to attend an EU meeting this evening that does not start until 7 p.m. He has the assistance of the Government jet to get him there. There is no reason why he should not be here to answer questions. In addition, of the 17 Thursdays the Dáil has sat this year, the Taoiseach has been absent on ten of them or 60% of the time. When he is here, he refuses to answer any questions or give any information and now he treats this House and the people it represents, including the young people in the Gallery, with sheer contempt. I have never seen the likes of this previously. The Taoiseach refuses to come in here on a Thursday for questions that need to be answered. I have the support of all the technical group this morning although I am not so sure whether the Members from the Labour Party will change their minds. This amounts to an abdication of his responsibility. It gives the "Harvey Smith" sign to this House and the likes of it has not happened since the Kalif of Baghdad treated his subjects with such contempt.

I call Deputy Sargent.

(Interruptions.)

I call Deputy Sargent, who is the leader of the Technical Group.

I do not want to deny my colleague his speaking time.

Only the leader of the technical group is entitled to speak on the proposal.

Not on the Order of Business. I am speaking for the Green Party.

The Standing Orders are very clear.

Who is the leader?

Where is the Opposition? Why is the Labour Party voting with the Government?

The Labour Party is with the Government on this one. We have a new Government.

(Interruptions.)

The Order is quite specific. The Chair will call the leader of the group offering.

On a point of order, the rules are being changed in this House at such speed—

They do not know who the leader is.

You are trying to subvert this House.

The Standing Order is quite specific and the long-standing precedent in this House is that the leader of parties, Deputies Sargent and Ó Caoláin are entitled to speak only. Deputy Higgins is not entitled to be called at this stage. The leaders of parties—

Parties, that is the point. I thank the Chair. My colleague from north County Dublin can understand it now.

(Interruptions.)

Deputy Sargent without interruption.

I move amendment No. 1: "That item 15b conclude no later than 3.30 p.m.”

This is more significant than a proposal regarding the time the Taoiseach spends speaking here or the pecking order of Opposition parties. This is about whether the House is accountable. Up to now we have spent millions of euro on tribunals that arose from clear failures of accountability in the Parliament. The lack of answers to straight questions can result in the kind of tribunals we have seen. For the Government to propose reducing the Taoiseach's accountability to the House is a recipe for further tribunals, whether they are the result of corruption, malpractice, neglect or sheer irresponsibility. The House must reform so that it is more accountable, not less. For that reason this debate is very important and I propose No. 15b be amended so that the debate concludes no later than 3.30 p.m. to allow time to look into the ramifications of what the Government is proposing with the collusion of the Labour Party. It is important to explore what is being proposed, not just for what it means to Standing Orders as it is far more significant than that. We have five amendments which my colleagues wish to move.

We will take one amendment and when the House deals with it—

One amendment at a time.

The Deputy can address himself to the other amendments now.

Can we not move the lot of them together?

The longstanding—

What is longstanding?

It is longstanding that with a number of amendments they are all debated and they are not all moved until the first amendment is disposed of.

We can move the second one.

The Deputy can speak to the others now but the amendments cannot be moved individually. We are speaking about a proposal on the Order of Business. There will be one speaker from each party.

On a point of order—

There is no point of order, Deputy. The Chair has ruled on the matter.

There are amendments in my name and in the names of Deputies Boyle and Gogarty. Are we allowed to speak to our own amendments?

Not at this stage.

Will we be allowed to speak on them later?

You will be allowed speak on them later on – the Chair has made that clear – but not on this proposal. Deputy Sargent is speaking on behalf of the party and is the only Member who is entitled to speak at this stage. We then put this proposal and if the House disposes of the matter that will be the end of it and there will be no more speakers. Deputy Sargent is entitled to speak to all amendments now. Nobody else is entitled to speak.

When we vote on this amendment can we then vote on the other amendments?

What I am putting to the House is that if the words proposed to be deleted stand, then that is the end of the matter.

I want to propose the five amendments.

The Deputy can speak to the five amendments now.

On a point of order, I know the Labour Party is in an unholy haste to conclude the rotten deal it has made with the Government. There are few Members here who—

Has the Deputy a point of order?

I do. Not many Members know better than I the capacity of the Labour Party to sell out.

The Deputy should resume his seat.

Am I correct that we have not moved onto the substantive issue?

Yes. There will be an opportunity on the substantive issue for Members to speak when the debate comes before the House. We are now discussing a proposal on the arrangements for taking the debate. The Standing Order is absolutely specific that one Member from each party is entitled to speak. That does not include Deputy Higgins but Deputy Ó Caoláin is entitled to speak. Then we will deal with the matter and according to how the House decides we will continue.

It says one representative from each group or party in Opposition.

For the purposes of this Standing Order, Deputies Sargent and Ó Caoláin represent their parties and I have a right as a representative of the technical group to make a short statement.

The Deputy would want to have a look at the Standing Order.

I have read it. It is in front of me.

The Chair has ruled.

I wish to propose the five amendments to No. 15b.

It is not necessary to propose the five of them. The Deputy has proposed the first but he can speak to the other four at this point.

I want to read them out. The second proposes that any Member who wishes can contribute to this debate. The third proposes that in amending No. 15b speaking time slots of 20 minutes per speaker be allocated in the debate. The fourth proposes that in amending No. 15b Members may share time and the fifth proposes that in amending No. 15b amendments may be taken and voted upon separately. I hope we can elaborate on those later.

That will depend on what decision the House makes in relation to the first amendment.

What is proposed by the Tánaiste this morning is an absolute disgrace. It makes a mockery of Dáil procedure and as the Chair knows, for some time there has been intense discussion of Dáil reform. Those discussions and proposals have been torn to shreds by what I can only describe as a huckster's deal between Fianna Fáil, the Progressive Democrats and the Labour Party. That is what we are looking at. The result will be that the Taoiseach will only be responsible to the House for one hour and six minutes on Tuesdays and the same on Wednesdays.

Deputies

Wrong.

No, it is absolutely right. Deputies opposite should not worry. They have not made a good job of working out budgetary arrangements and their figures on this occasion are no better.

Order. The Deputy should address his remarks to the Chair.

The Taoiseach is being excused from being accountable to the House from lunchtime on Wednesday and all through Thursday. It is a further indictment of him that he cannot be here this morning. That is an absolute disgrace given the importance and enormity of this proposal if enacted.

While I can only address the House as the leader of the Sinn Féin party, I have no doubt that after an appeal to the Labour Party to come back from the brink of their sordid arrangements with the Government, they will reconsider their position and look at the potential reconfiguration of Opposition time and opportunities along with the technical group. I appeal to the Labour Party at this eleventh hour not to go down the road of giving an endorsement to the Taoiseach to absent himself from accountability to the House, damning themselves before the electorate and those who seek and deserve a real Opposition.

I have a great sense of history listening to the last speaker making appeals to the Labour Party. God knows how many times we made appeals to his party to stop killing people and to enter this Chamber.

That is disgraceful.

They took a long time coming here but they are welcome nevertheless.

The Deputy should withdraw the remark. It is disgraceful.

I will repeat it if the Deputy likes. They took a long time coming here. They are late arrivals but are welcome no matter how late. I will not be lectured by Deputy Ó Caoláin or his party on democratic procedure—

The Deputy will not listen.

The Deputy should address the underhand deal.

I think it is extraordinary that a tax evader could form part of the Michael Lowry group and that the Greens and Sinn Féin—

(Interruptions.)

Deputy Quinn without interruption. Deputy Higgins should address his remarks through the Chair.

(Interruptions.)

Will you confirm Standing Orders, Ceann Comhairle?

You are out of order, Deputy Higgins. Please allow Deputy Quinn to continue.

(Interruptions.)

The gloves are off.

We want individual recognition of the groups over here.

(Interruptions.)

That is not a point of order. Deputy Higgins, please allow Deputy Quinn to continue.

I had the honour to lead this party for the last five years and I had the honour to campaign in the last general election, as did Deputy Sargent on behalf of the Green Party and Deputy Ó Caoláin on behalf of the southern branch of Sinn Féin in the Dáil elections. We each collectively were given mandates as were Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Progressive Democrats. By virtue of a device that involved the linking together of the most disparate groups who, if they had told the electorate prior to polling day that was what they were going to do after polling day, the result might have been different—

Come off it, Deputy Quinn.

(Interruptions.)

Allow Deputy Quinn without interruption.

What did the Deputy tell them before the election?

We told them the truth.

The Deputy told them nothing.

(Interruptions.)

Deputy Quinn without interruption. Please, Deputy Higgins.

(Interruptions.)

Can nobody speak? I appeal to my constituency colleague—

That is not a point of order, Deputy Gormley. I ask you to resume your seat or I will be asking you to leave the House. We cannot continue with the interruptions. Somebody will leave the House if the interruptions continue. I am not taking a point of order at this stage.

(Interruptions.)

I would prefer if all those parties which campaigned and got significant mandates were represented in a coherent, rational and sane way—

Why did the Deputy pull out of the deal?

(Interruptions.)

Allow Deputy Quinn to speak, please.

That is not available.

A rotten deal was made.

(Interruptions.)

If you interrupt again, Deputy Higgins, I will ask you to leave the House. Each speaker is entitled to make their contribution without interruption.

My responsibilities are to my electorate and to my Members in this House. I want to ensure they are properly represented here in all debates. That will not to be at the expense of anybody else—

We need a Taoiseach here. Where is the Taoiseach?

Deputy Ryan, you have no entitlement to speak on this proposal. Deputy Quinn to continue.

As the leader of the Fine Gael party has pointed out, he is not here anyway on most Thursdays under existing Standing Orders—

(Interruptions.)

—and it may come as a surprise to the members of the Green Party that we still have a Government of collective responsibility so that all of these people here are collectively responsible for any decision—

The Deputy should not make excuses for them.

Please allow Deputy Quinn to continue.

—and in addition, to take the point made by Deputy Sargent that if answers had been given to parliamentary questions the beef tribunal would not have been necessary, I remind Deputy Sargent that it was questions to the Minister for Agriculture and Food that were not properly answered. As a result of this new proposal we will have an extra 45 minutes for Question Time every week—

It was questions to the Taoiseach which made the Deputy leave office.

(Interruptions.)

I will make no apologies to anybody. My responsibility as leader of the Labour Party—

Deputy Ryan, in fairness to Deputy Higgins, the same rule will apply to you if you continue to interrupt. You will leave the House.

(Interruptions.)

My apologies to Deputy Ryan, I was referring to Deputy Boyle.

The Deputy should stay on his own.

From the commencement of this Dáil, the Labour Party Whip has indicated our support for broadening the recognition of political parties. We are not in Government but we are elected as a political party, the oldest in the State. It is my responsibility to ensure our voice is heard and articulated clearly proportionate to—

If the Deputy believes that, he should withdraw from the deal.

—the mandate that my party collectively and honestly received from the electorate.

Deputy Ó Caoláin on a point of order.

To correct the mis-information—

That is not a point of order. You will have to find another way of doing it.

It is a point of order. Deputy Quinn has misinformed the House.

(Interruptions.)

I must put the question on Deputy Sargent's amendment. The Chair has always ruled that there cannot be a point of order when the Chair is on its feet putting a question.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."

Ahern, Dermot.Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, Barry.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Blaney, Niall.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Broughan, Thomas P.Browne, John.Burton, Joan.Callanan, Joe.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Carty, John.Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.Coughlan, Mary.Cregan, John.Cullen, Martin.Curran, John.Davern, Noel.de Valera, Síle.Dempsey, Noel.Dempsey, Tony.Dennehy, John.Devins, Jimmy.Ellis, John.Finneran, Michael.Fitzpatrick, Dermot.Fleming, Seán.Fox, Mildred.Gallagher, Pat The Cope.Gilmore, Eamon.Glennon, Jim.Grealish, Noel.Hanafin, Mary.Harney, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Higgins, Michael D.Hoctor, Máire.Howlin, Brendan.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.

Kelleher, Billy.Kelly, Peter.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Seamus.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.Lynch, Kathleen.McCreevy, Charlie.McGuinness, John.McManus, Liz.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Michael.Mulcahy, Michael.Nolan, M. J.Ó Cuív, Éamon.Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.O'Connor, Charlie.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Donovan, Denis.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Malley, Fiona.O'Malley, Tim.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Parlon, Tom.Pattison, Seamus.Penrose, Willie.Power, Seán.Quinn, Ruairi.Roche, Dick.Ryan, Eoin.Ryan, Seán.Sexton, Mae.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Stagg, Emmet.Treacy, Noel.Upton, Mary.Wilkinson, Ollie.Woods, Michael.

Níl

Allen, Bernard.Boyle, Dan.Breen, James.Breen, Pat.Bruton, Richard.Connolly, Paudge.Coveney, Simon.Cowley, Jerry.Crawford, Seymour.Crowe, Seán.Deasy, John.Deenihan, Jimmy.Durkan, Bernard J.English, Damien.Enright, Olwyn.Ferris, Martin.Gogarty, Paul.Gormley, John.Gregory, Tony.Harkin, Marian.Hayes, Tom.

Healy, Seamus.Higgins, Joe.Hogan, Phil.Kehoe, Paul.Kenny, Enda.McGinley, Dinny.McGrath, Paul.McHugh, Paddy.Mitchell, Gay.Mitchell, Olivia.Morgan, Arthur.Neville, Dan.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.O'Dowd, Fergus.Perry, John.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Eamon.Sargent, Trevor.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and S. Power; Níl, Deputies Boyle and Durkan.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with 15b be agreed to.”

Ahern, Dermot.Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, Barry.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Blaney, Niall.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Broughan, Thomas P.Browne, John.Burton, Joan.Callanan, Joe.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Carty, John.Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.Coughlan, Mary.Cregan, John.Cullen, Martin.Curran, John.Davern, Noel.de Valera, Síle.Dempsey, Noel.Dempsey, Tony.Dennehy, John.Devins, Jimmy.Ellis, John.Finneran, Michael.Fitzpatrick, Dermot.Fleming, Seán.Fox, Mildred.Gallagher, Pat The Cope.Gilmore, Eamon.Glennon, Jim.Grealish, Noel.Hanafin, Mary.Harney, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Higgins, Michael D.Hoctor, Máire.Howlin, Brendan.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.

Kelleher, Billy.Kelly, Peter.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Seamus.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.Lynch, Kathleen.McCreevy, Charlie.McGuinness, John.McManus, Liz.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Michael.Mulcahy, Michael.Nolan, M. J.Ó Cuív, Éamon.Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.O'Connor, Charlie.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Donovan, Denis.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Malley, Fiona.O'Malley, Tim.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Parlon, Tom.Pattison, Seamus.Penrose, Willie.Power, Seán.Quinn, Ruairi.Roche, Dick.Ryan, Eoin.Ryan, Seán.Sexton, Mae.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Stagg, Emmet.Treacy, Noel.Upton, Mary.Wilkinson, Ollie.Woods, Michael.

Níl

Allen, Bernard.Boyle, Dan.Breen, James.Breen, Pat.Bruton, Richard.Connolly, Paudge.Coveney, Simon.Cowley, Jerry.Crawford, Seymour.Crowe, Seán.Deasy, John.Deenihan, Jimmy.Durkan, Bernard J.English, Damien.Enright, Olwyn.Ferris, Martin.Gogarty, Paul.Gormley, John.Gregory, Tony.Harkin, Marian.Hayes, Tom.

Healy, Seamus.Higgins, Joe.Hogan, Phil.Kehoe, Paul.Kenny, Enda.McGinley, Dinny.McGrath, Paul.McHugh, Paddy.Mitchell, Gay.Mitchell, Olivia.Morgan, Arthur.Neville, Dan.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.O'Dowd, Fergus.Perry, John.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Eamon.Sargent, Trevor.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and S. Power; Níl, Deputies Boyle and Durkan.
Question declared carried.

On a point of order. Would you agree, a Cheann Comhairle, that the amendments that were put by various Members of the Green Party and that I read out to you should have been discussed and that accountability is further damaged—

The Chair has ruled on that already. On a proposal before the House, Standing Order 26 is quite specific.

It is an example of lack of accountability and lack of opportunity here.

The Standing Order is quite specific. If the Deputy wants to change it he knows how that can be done. Is the second proposal dealing with the adjournment of the Dáil today agreed to?

On a point of order. I am the only representatative from the Technical Group—

The Deputy is third in line.

Sorry, Deputy Higgins, only the leaders of parties of two or more are entitled to speak on a proposal before the House at this stage. That has been a long standing rule of the House.

(Interruptions.)

The Standing Orders are quite specific. The leaders of parties of more than two are entitled to speak on a proposal. The Chair has allowed Deputy Higgins, in the absense of the leaders of the other parties, to make a comment in recent times. The Leaders of the Green Party and the Sinn Féin Party, both parties of more than two, are in the House at present and are entitled to make a comment if they so wish. The Standing Orders are quite specific. I call Deputy Kenny.

On a point of order—

Sorry, the Chair has ruled.

I beg you, it does not say "leader".

There is too much disorder and disruption this morning. The House will have to accept the rulings of the Chair. If the Deputy has a problem with the Standing Orders he is welcome to come to my office where we can discuss them.

On a point of order—

Sorry, the Deputy has been making frivolous points of order all morning.

The Standing Order does not say "leader" but "a representative".

Yes, a representative of each party and parties of two or more. Under that Standing Order the Greens and Sinn Féin are recognised as parties of two or more.

I spend most of my time—

The Chair must maintain order. If the Deputy does not resume his seat the Chair will have to deal with the matter in a different way.

On a point of order—

I will not hear a point of order. I call Deputy Kenny.

The central issue here is the Taoiseach's tactics in removing himself from the Chamber at 12 noon on Wednesday. Let us not lose sight of that. When the Taoiseach accepted his seal of office from Uachtaráin na hÉireann he did so on the basis of accountability, answerability and openness of a democratic system to the people of the country. He accepted that seal and to come into this House, which is the people's House, to be answerable to the people. This is the first time in the history of the State that a Taoiseach, on behalf of a Government, with the collusion of a smaller party in Government, is slapping democracy in the face. He will not come into the House. He refuses to be here. He has absented himself from the House on ten of the last 17 sittings days. How does that square with the philosophy of the Fianna Fáil Party, or the Progressive Democrats, to be public watchdog—

Do not forget to mention the Labour Party.

—who sit silent – collective responsibility – so that the Taoiseach can go and shake hands with the other half of the electorate that he missed in the past five years.

(Interruptions.)

Will the Deputy address his remarks through the Chair?

That is the central issue. The Taoiseach with the collusion of Government wants to railroad through and absent himself from the House and not be answerable to the people.

The matter we are discussing has to do with the Adjournment of the Dáil.

I know the Chair will rule me out of order very quickly. Before I sit down and while I have the opportunity I thank Deputy Quinn for his leadership during the past couple of years. He did a good job in his various Ministries. This is his last official day here as leader of his party. He did a service to the public and the nation and he is to be commended for that, irrespective of other differences we may have.

I call Deputy Healy on a point of order.

We have listened all morning to what leaders of parties can and cannot do under Standing Orders and we know the Taoiseach is not here—

That is not a point of order.

It is. I would like to know where is the new leader of the Labour Party this morning? Is he trying to distance himself from this dirty—-

(Interruptions.)

Will the Deputy please resume his seat?

On behalf of the Green Party and with the support of the Technical Group we will oppose item 2 on the Order of Business that the Dáil—

In Government—

I ask Deputy Healy to allow his colleague in the Technical Group to make his point without interruption, please.

On behalf of the Green Party and with the support of the Technical Group we oppose item 2 on the Order of Business that the House adjourn until 2.30 on 5 November. This is the least productive parliament in Europe. It should be a matter of shame to us—

A Deputy

The Deputy is here only a few weeks.

—that this House seems likely to meet less often than the Congress of the People's Republic of China. As Members we should be embarrassed that we are prepared to vote on motions that make us less relevant in the eyes of the people of this country. On those grounds we strongly oppose this item and the actions that bring the House into further disrepute.

Following on from what Deputy Kenny said about Deputy Quinn, my party and I extend our good wishes to him on his term as Leader of the Labour Party and acknowledge the good things he did in Cabinet and in the House. We regret the manner of his leaving today but there are many things on which we can agree and, hopefully, will agree in the future. However, the action taken by his party today is wrong.

I also oppose proposal No. 2 in relation to the Adjournment of the House until Tuesday, 5 November. I would like to echo the points made in relation to the new configuration of Government and Opposition as represented on the electronic voting board, 89 to 42. At least there are 42 Deputies in the House prepared and willing to offer the challenge. I wish also to extend good wishes to Deputy Quinn as he stands down from the leadership of the Labour Party. I do so without any begrudgery or bickering with him. I believe he is wrong in the position he has taken on this issue. It is regrettable that his last act as Leader of the Labour Party was to accommodate the absence of the Taoiseach and thereby undermine Government accountability in the House today. There was another way the Technical Group and the Labour Party could have talked this through sensibly and in the spirit of constructive opposition and to focus our attention on Government, where it should be. Obviously Deputy Quinn is continuing in politics. If he is to take up his profession from whence he came into politics I hope he will not be picking up on the wrong angle in that profession as he has assuredly done in his role here today.

On a point of order, may I thank my colleagues—

I was going to take the opportunity later when we were less ruly but on my own behalf and on behalf of the Government I pay tribute to Deputy Quinn. He has served in various Ministries with great distinction. He is an extremely articulate spokesperson, both for his constituents and the Labour Party and he has led the party with great integrity and honour in recent years. I know he will remain very active in politics; therefore, he is not bowing out. I genuinely wish him and his wife, Liz, well in his retirement from the leadership of the party. We look forward to working with his successor, whoever that may be.

I thank the Members of the House for their generous comments. The Labour Party is opposed to the proposal for the Adjournment of the House next week. We share the views expressed by some that this House should and could be more productive but I invite all Members to maximise the advantages they currently have in holding this Government to account. One of the ways to do that, and I say this to Deputy Boyle, is to put down questions.

That is pathetic.

Is the proposal for dealing with—

On a point of order, a Cheann Comhairle, yesterday evening there was an unseemly and disgraceful row about the sharing of time.

I will take that point of order later in the morning. I will not deal with it at this time. It does not arise now, Deputy. I will take it following the vote.

It does arise in respect of the sharing of time, which is crucial to us.

But it does not arise on this proposal.

Please, a Cheann Comhairle, it will take two seconds.

Please Deputy, I will allow you make the point of order following the vote but I am dealing with No. 2.

Is Deputy Rabbitte coming in for this vote?

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 2 agreed?

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with the adjournment of the Dáil be agreed to."

Ahern, Dermot.Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, Barry.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Blaney, Niall.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Browne, John.Callanan, Joe.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Carty, John.Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.Coughlan, Mary.Cregan, John.Cullen, Martin.Curran, John.Davern, Noel.de Valera, Síle.Dempsey, Noel.Dempsey, Tony.Dennehy, John.Devins, Jimmy.Ellis, John.Finneran, Michael.Fitzpatrick, Dermot.Fleming, Seán.Fox, Mildred.Gallagher, Pat The Cope.Glennon, Jim.Grealish, Noel.Hanafin, Mary.Harney, Mary.Haughey, Seán.

Hoctor, Máire.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kelly, Peter.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Seamus.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McGuinness, John.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Michael.Mulcahy, Michael.Nolan, M. J.Ó Cuív, Éamon.Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.O'Connor, Charlie.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Donovan, Denis.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Malley, Fiona.O'Malley, Tim.Parlon, Tom.Roche, Dick.Ryan, Eoin.Sexton, Mae.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wilkinson, Ollie.Woods, Michael.

Níl

Allen, Bernard.Boyle, Dan.Breen, James.Breen, Pat.Broughan, Thomas P.Bruton, Richard.Burton, Joan.Connolly, Paudge.Coveney, Simon.Cowley, Jerry.Crawford, Seymour.Crowe, Seán.Deasy, John.Deenihan, Jimmy.Durkan, Bernard J.Enright, Olwyn.Ferris, Martin.

Gilmore, Eamon.Gogarty, Paul.Gormley, John.Gregory, Tony.Harkin, Marian.Hayes, Tom.Healy, Seamus.Higgins, Joe.Higgins, Michael D.Hogan, Phil.Howlin, Brendan.Kehoe, Paul.Kenny, Enda.Lynch, Kathleen.McGinley, Dinny.McGrath, Paul. McHugh, Paddy.

Níl–continued

McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Gay.Mitchell, Olivia.Morgan, Arthur.Murphy, Gerard.Neville, Dan.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.O'Dowd, Fergus.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Pattison, Seamus.

Penrose, Willie.Perry, John.Quinn, Ruairi.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Eamon.Ryan, Seán.Sargent, Trevor.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.Upton, Mary.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and B. O'Keeffe; Níl, Deputies Durkan and Stagg.
Question declared carried.

We will deal with Deputy Gormley's point of order now.

It is a matter of great importance to the Technical Group: the issue of sharing time. We seek your guidance on this matter, a Cheann Comhairle. I was always of the view that this was a matter for the House and that it required a vote. Am I right?

On the same point of order, yesterday the Taoiseach did say, when he was asked about that matter, that it was a matter for the House. Unfortunately, for the perceived prestige of getting their snouts into the speaking trough before Members of the Technical Group, the Labour Party stooped so low—

That is not part of the point of order.

It is, a Cheann Comhairle. It arose because the Labour Party objected to the democratic right of people to speak—

That is not a point of order.

That is not a point of order. If the Deputy will resume his seat the Chair will try to be of assistance. Deputy Gogarty, I am dealing with a point of order.

On the question of sharing time, strictly speaking the Dáil Standing Order 119, paragraph 3, which deals with the Second Stage of Bills, does not allow for the sharing of the main spokesperson's time. Similarly, the order of the Dáil relating to statements, which can vary on a given day, does not allow for sharing by the main spokespersons. However, a convention has arisen whereby if a main spokesperson wishes to share his or her time, the Chair asks for the indulgence of the House to allow the time to be shared. If an objection is made then the Standing Order or order of the Dáil of the day must be applied and time cannot be shared. The only case in which Members may share time without the indulgence of the House is when the Dáil has expressly provided that Members may share time. If the convention of sharing time is the subject of continued dispute the Chair will have no option but to apply the Standing Orders strictly. We now move on to Leaders' Questions.

On a point of order.

I hope it is a point of order, Deputy, because we will not allow this House to be brought into disrepute by frivolous points of order.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

I want to ensure that the House is kept in repute. If the House is seen not to agree on the sharing of time—

I have ruled on the matter, Deputy.

I just want to clarify—

I am not taking a point of order now. I call Deputy Kenny.

(Interruptions.)

Deputy, if you wish to have the matter clarified I advise you to come to my office. I have ruled on the matter.

Does that mean—

I have explained to the Deputy that we are not having a debate now. I ask the Deputy to resume his seat.

A Cheann Comhairle, am I entitled to ask a question?

The Deputy is not entitled to be on his feet at all when there is another Deputy speaking.

I seek further clarification.

A point of order has been made. A yes or no answer would suffice.

Deputy, the Chair has ruled on the matter. If the Deputy is not clear he is welcome to come to my office.

(Interruptions.)

I ask Deputy Gogarty to resume his seat.

You did not answer the question because you did not allow me to ask it.

I explained to the Deputy what to do. Members will have to obey the Chair or the Chair will have to take more precipitous action. Deputy Cowley on a point of order.

I am sorry for disobeying the Chair but I wanted to ask a question. I am a new Deputy and you can afford me that. In this Dáil, when sharing of time is not allowed, can it be done legally without a quorum being present in the Chamber? I am suggesting that—

That does not arise. I have made it quite clear that if there is an objection in the House to sharing of time, time will not be shared.

Does a quorum have to be present?

A quorum can be called at any time.

But does a quorum have to be present when a person objects? One person can object to a person's sharing time. Does a quorum have to be present in that case? Is it legal?

It is illegal then.

We will not discuss the implementation of Standing Orders here. If the Deputy has a problem he may come to my office and I will have somebody explain it to him.

I have a question for the Tánaiste. The FÁS action plan published in March of this year indicated that the numbers on community employment schemes would fall from 33,000 to 28,000 by the end of 2002. In April the Tánaiste, in response to questions, said that there were 30,809 participants in community employment schemes and that she saw that being reduced to 24,000 at the end of this year. A confidential internal FÁS report referred to in the Irish Independent on 5 October indicated that up to 10,000 further cuts would take place on community employment schemes. The report went on to state that in light of current budgetary discussions it might be necessary to have even greater reductions in community employment schemes and that such a move would cause a major crisis at individual and community level by the end of this year and next year. Will the Tánaiste clarify the position on community employment schemes? What is the Government plan to sustain rural and urban communities where community employment schemes play such an important role in the lives of many thousands of people?

Does the Tánaiste appreciate how essential and vital community employment schemes are in so many areas, particularly in the voluntary sector? Much of the work being carried out under community employment schemes will not be done in the general open market because in many cases it involves areas such as education, health, environmental and animal welfare and so on. Is the Tánaiste deliberately organising the community employment scheme cuts so that they affect the education, health and voluntary sector more than others? That is the clear perception given the degree to which the cuts affect these sectors. Will she set matters right in that regard by endorsing the work being carried out by the community employment schemes and by putting in place not just social economy schemes, which will not always stand up in the open market, but some level of guarantee that the work being carried out under community employment schemes will continue and that these areas will not be adversely affected as a result of the cuts?

As the Minister for Labour in the mid-1980s responsible for introducing the social employment scheme, does the Tánaiste continue to share the view expressed by her former leader, Mr. O'Malley, that the scheme and its successor, the community employment scheme, were akin to the cutting of nettles in a graveyard and consequently of little or no value and if that ideological observation as to the value of the community employment scheme still prevails within her party? While the Minister of State has responsibility on a devolved basis for the administration of the scheme, it is she who will be responsible for negotiating with her erstwhile colleague beside her, regarding a reduction in the Estimates. Therefore, I repeat the questions put by Deputies Sargent and Kenny. Does the Tánaiste now hold that there are sections of the community who cannot avail of the social economy model, who are dependent on the provision of community employment for the delivery of services, something as basic as meals on wheels, and that the consequences of the proposed reductions will, in effect, close down the delivery of these services which cannot be delivered by the marketplace, are not amenable to market measures and require exclusively the intervention of the Department which has responsibility for the scheme? Will she deny or repudiate that there will be reductions to the degree referred to recently in an extensive reply on the Adjournment debate by her colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey?

The community employment scheme, which was a successor to the social employment scheme, was introduced as a labour market measure when the unemployment rate was in the region of 16% and long-term unemployment was half that. The scheme effectively eliminated long-term unemployment. The community employment schemes are no longer a labour market measure, the focus is now on community service. I share the view expressed by Deputies that it is an essential part of the social infrastructure in many communities, therefore, a strong social focus will continue to be the hallmark of the community employment scheme. The numbers on the scheme at a given time will depend on the finances available. However, the figures referred to by Deputy Kenny do not include the 4,000 people who have been transferred from community employment to mainstream education. If these two figures are taken together, over the course of this year in excess of 28,000 will be involved in both community employment and working in the education sector.

The Estimates for next year have not yet been agreed. The paper to which the Deputy referred was presented to the board of FÁS when it was considering the different scenarios that would operate, depending on the level of funding, and that have been made available. Since the Government has not yet agreed next year's Estimates, I am not in a position to say what the number will be for next year. However, as soon as the Estimates are finalised we will be in a position to announce the funding which will be provided. There will be large numbers of people throughout the country involved in community employment and I am satisfied that the priority areas such as the drugs task force, meals on wheels and the kind of services referred to by the Deputies will continue to be supported by community employment.

I thank the Tánaiste for her reply. She knows better than I the stage the Estimates are at. The Minister sitting beside her could tell her in two minutes whether the same numbers, or fewer, will be employed next year. She said large numbers would be employed under the social services side of the scheme but she did not indicate whether she considers there will be an overall drop of up to 10,000, together with this year's reduction, referred to in the internal FÁS report. The difference between a person receiving unemployment assistance and working on a community employment scheme is approximately €24 per week. Has an evaluation been carried out of the social benefit of the range of works carried out under the community employment schemes? Surely it makes neither economic nor social sense to have 10,000 people removed from these schemes by the end of next year. Will the Tánaiste clarify the position in this regard?

In addition to the numbers involved in community employment, a couple of thousand people are involved in the jobs initiative, social economy and the back-to-work allowance. Various measures are in place and I can confirm that there will be a substantial number of people involved in community employment next year. I do not believe the figures about which the Deputy is speculating will be the reality. However, until the Estimates are finalised I am not in a position to say what the figures will be. I believe there will be more than enough resources to ensure that the priority areas as far as social issues are concerned will still be a priority for FÁS in supporting and allocating members to community employment. The rate people receive depends on the category they are in. While that is the case in regard to the average, it is not the case in relation to some categories of people who form a large proportion of those involved in community employment.

On the issue of Dáil reform, having travelled to a couple of countries outside of Ireland, I recall my honeymoon in Cuba where the parliament house is actually empty and its significance is its attraction for tourists. In regard to this parliament House, this is the 20th day of the Dáil sitting since the general election. Three Bills have been dealt with and, as Deputy Boyle said, it has sat fewer days than the Northern Ireland Assembly which has now been stood down. It has also sat fewer days than any other European Union parliament of which I am aware. In that regard will the Tánaiste give those of us who are concerned about what has happened here today in terms of a further reduction of accountability from the head of Government some assurance on the prospect of improving accountability in this House by way of further reforms of the Dáil to improve rather than disimprove the situation. This includes areas such as the abolition of the dual mandate, something the Tánaiste has been frequently interested in tackling.

What about being able to summon the Taoiseach here to answer questions about urgent matters, as happens in other Parliaments, rather than having set piece debates which we tend to have? What about the provision of translation facilities for a bilingual Parliament through the monitors, not just in the Chamber? What about recognition for smaller parties? The Northern Ireland Assembly recognises two Members. I ask these questions because they relate to very urgent and topical matters in the light of a retrograde decision that the Government and a majority in the House have taken.

I thank Dr. John Reid for his work as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I also pay tribute to Deputy Quinn on his last day as leader of the Labour Party. I have always regarded him as a very able and erudite parliamentarian. It is sad, however, that the last decision being made about Dáil reform moves us backwards in terms of the Taoiseach's accountability.

We have already disposed of that matter.

On the subject of Dáil reform and arising from what Deputy Sargent said, I ask the Tánaiste to ensure the resources available to the Chairman of the Joint Committee on European Affairs will enable the committee to do its job properly. It is of critical importance, following the referendum campaign, that this issue remains high on the political agenda. I make no bones about supporting the provision of facilities and resources for this very important committee.

I ask the Tánaiste to look at the responses being given by the Minister for Education and Science. Deputies who table questions to the said Minister are referred to the departmental website. To refer those who may be technologically inferior to the Department's website is a disgraceful way of conducting business. For any Deputy to be referred to a departmental website for a one line reply is scandalous. When I had the privilege of serving for a short time in a State Department, I told the Secretary General to give whatever information he could to Deputies asking legitimate parliamentary questions so as not to have them resorting to Freedom of Information Act requests. Will the Tánaiste ensure this matter is discussed at Cabinet and that the Minister for Education and Science gives proper replies to legitimate parliamentary questions?

The last point was raised at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges yesterday. I spoke to the Minister this morning and drew his attention to what had been said at the meeting.

I have been waiting for months—

I am well aware of Deputy Ring's difficulties. We are dealing with leaders' questions.

Since the matter has been raised and in support of the broad thrust of previous comments, I draw the Tánaiste's attention to the fact that there is no restriction on the Taoiseach's office hiring advisers at salaries which nobody here, not even Ministers, can command. In any other democracy this would be seen as a gross abuse of majority power. In one case, the salary is €171,000 per year. A coterie of five or six individuals have been on the payroll continuously since 17 May. My parliamentary party which, as of right, is entitled to a press officer and to have certain other positions filled is finding that those positions are being blocked. We cannot appoint persons to positions already assigned to us because the relevant Department has put a blanket freeze on the filling of posts in all Departments. It is one of the silent cuts not seen above the breaking water. They are known as "adjustments". In any other democracy this would be construed as outrageous, that the Taoiseach's office can be filled by people on salaries multiples of the average industrial wage, while posts to which we are entitled cannot. The Minister for Finance has instructed that they not be filled. That is the position. It is an outrageous abuse of the existing system, let alone the reforms to which Deputy Sargent referred.

I admire Deputy Sargent's diligence in visiting the Cuban Parliament while on honeymoon. I did not share that interest while on honeymoon recently in a different part of the world. I am delighted that the Deputy went on honeymoon and hope he enjoyed it.

In relation to Dáil reform, the proposals relating to the Taoiseach's availability arose from the last package of Dáil reform measures.

Among other matters.

Some were cherry-picked. For instance, leaders' questions were introduced while the matter of the Taoiseach's availability was delayed until now. It is always important that an assembly like this reforms itself from time to time. There is a committee dealing with the matter of Dáil reform on which the Green Party is represented by its Whip. It will bring forward further proposals to reform the House and make it more relevant.

The Ceann Comhairle mentioned the point raised about questions to the Minister for Education and Science, a matter discussed by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges last night and which I hope can be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. Extra translators have been employed to facilitate those who wish to speak as Gaeilge.

On the question of resources for committee chairpersons such as Deputy Mitchell and others, appropriate resources will be forthcoming. There may be disagreements, however, about what is appropriate. I am sure Deputy Mitchell believes he is—

He needs half a dozen staff.

Just give us any.

I am sure the committee will ensure it has appropriate resources. I am not sure what point Deputy Quinn was making about party staff.

It relates to staff attached to the parliamentary party.

Parliamentary staff?

On a point of clarification, posts already in existence cannot be filled. Staff have moved on and there is a prohibition by the Department of Finance on the filling of posts already established, although interviews have been held.

I suggest that the Deputy take up the matter with the Minister for Finance in bilateral talks as I am not familiar with the details. If posts have already been sanctioned, I am sure they will be looked after.

I appreciate that the committee dealing with Dáil reform has work to do and is working. However, it is being prevented in many ways from doing the reforming work it needs to do by the lack of a Government decision on, for example, the dual mandate. We need to free up the time Members can give to the House. Because of their work on Mondays and Fridays, as well as many other days, at local authority level Members are prevented from taking a full part in the national parliament, in Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann. I ask that the obstacles which have been put in the way of Dáil reform be removed and that the issue of lack of equity be addressed—

A brief question, please.

I ask the Tánaiste to see to it that the question raised by Deputy Quinn about staffing is dealt with equitably. Neither my party nor any component of the Technical Group has any staff other than the parliamentary secretaries we are allowed. This indicates inequality. I ask the Tánaiste to remove the obstacles which have been placed in the way of equity and reform.

The Deputy is making a statement. We have now been one hour and 40 minutes on the Order of Business and have to move on to the next item.

That matter has been sorted out. The same applies to the problems raised by Deputy Quinn with whom the Department of Finance will be in communication. On the problems to which Deputy Sargent referred and on which he has been keeping a close eye, the allocation to other parties—

I thank the Minister for the tip.

I hope that will resolve the issue. While I am in favour of an end being brought to the dual mandate, it was not possible to get the matter through in the last Dáil. While the Government has not made a final decision on the issue, I understand it will be discussed shortly. There is nothing to stop Deputies from voluntarily resigning from the—

We have done that.

I ask the Tánaiste not to reply to interruptions.

That is the exception rather than the norm, but people may do that if they wish.

I appreciate that the House has taken a lot of time this morning and I will put my question to the Tánaiste briefly. Does the Government share my and my party's concern that the Stevens report into the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane has been delayed for a further six months and does she agree, in the interests of restoring confidence in the fragile democracy that is Northern Ireland, that the Stevens inquiry into those who were responsible for the murder should be proceeded with without further delay and that all available material should be put in the public domain? Is this concern, if it is shared by the Government, being formally communicated to the authorities in Britain and Northern Ireland?

Arising from that, I wish Paul Murphy, the Welsh Secretary every success in his appointment to replace Dr. John Reid as Northern Ireland Secretary. In view of the sensitivity of the business around the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly, has the Government made arrangements to meet all the pro-agreement parties as a matter of urgency in relation to the renewal of the forum on peace and reconciliation? It is a body which would allow pro-agreement interest groups and parties to continuously put forward a stream of initiatives for the restoration of the Assembly and strengthening of the fragile peace process.

I too pay tribute to Dr. John Reid. He had a steady and balanced approach to the sensitivities and difficulties to the crisis and I wish his successor every success in the difficult work required to re-establish the institutions.

Will the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, which I understand is to meet before Christmas, be given new terms of reference and, if so, has the Government given any thought to it? In the light of the new situation in which we find ourselves, will the Tánaiste give us information on the efforts to re-establish the forum?

I share Deputy Quinn's concern in relation to the delay in the Stevens report but I have not been briefed as to the reasons for its delay. I do not know if we are aware of the reasons. I am not aware of discussions that have taken place between the Minister for Foreign Affairs and his counterpart but I will raise the matter with the Minister.

In relation to the pro-agreement parties, the Ulster Unionist Party is not a member of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation and we must bear that in mind. I do not know if new terms of reference are proposed but I am aware that the forum was in suspense and was never stood down.

I know that.

It may well have a useful role to play given the vacuum that now exists in Northern Ireland. There have been extensive meetings with parties, although I am not sure if every party has been met by Government representatives. The leader of the SDLP will be in the House meeting people today. The Ulster Unionist Party and Sinn Féin have had meetings and I recently met the Alliance Party when I was in Northern Ireland. Deputies can be assured that the Government wants to keep contact with parties on an ongoing basis through this difficult phase. I join others in expressing our appreciation to the Secretary of State, Dr. John Reid, and wish his successor well.

Returning to my question regarding the murder of Pat Finucane, will the Tánaiste covey to the Government – as I understand she is not necessarily briefed on the minutiae of this matter – in light of the failure of Sir John Stevens to publish a report which was previously deferred, that confidence in the system of administration in Northern Ireland has been eroded? That erosion has been compounded by the suspension of Stormont and in the run up to the Assembly elections in May 2003, there is a need for a judicial inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. Will the Tánaiste covey that on behalf of the Government to the British Government?

I will certainly covey the Deputy's comments in that regard. In the past, the failure to have an independent police regime in Northern Ireland caused enormous difficulties. The reforms that have come as part of the Good Friday Agreement are playing an important role in increasing confidence within both communities, particularly among Nationalists. In relation to the comment on the need for a judicial inquiry, it is important to have the Stevens report to hand as soon as possible before a decision of that kind could be made.

I am concerned that the Order of Business has gone on for an hour and 45 minutes. A number of Deputies are offering contributions on ordinary business and I am prepared to take them provided we have a short question appropriate to the Order of Business and a short reply from the Tánaiste. I do not intend for this business to go on for longer than five or six minutes.

On the Order of Business, on promised legislation, will the Tánaiste tell us when the Veterinary Medicines Bill will come before the House and will she request the Minister for Agriculture and Food to facilitate discussions between the IFA and the meat factories to prevent the escalation of this serious dispute?

Early 2003.

(Interruptions.)

This is an important issue.

Thousands of jobs are at risk.

We now move on to item 15b. The Deputy must resume his seat. He knows he is out of order.

(Interruptions.)

When the chair is on its feet, Deputies must resume their seats. Deputy Timmins must resume his seat. He must find another way of raising this matter. The Deputy must resume his seat or I will ask him to leave the House.

Thousands of jobs are at risk. The Minister is paying no heed to what is happening.

Deputy Hayes must resume his seat while the Chair is on its feet. Deputy Hayes must resume his seat or he will have to leave the House. If he wants to do so, the Chair will facilitate him. We will now move to Item 15b.

I indicated I wished to speak.

(Interruptions.)

I intimated to the House that I would take questions on the Order of Business. There is a limit on the time. I am moving on to item 15b. We will not have disruption of business as we did from Deputy Timmins. I told the House what I intended to do.

On a point of order—

There can be no points of order at this stage.

I have waited to speak throughout the morning.

(Interruptions.)

The Deputy should talk to his colleague about it. I will not tolerate abuse in this House. I will allow the question on the undertaking that it is appropriate to the Order of Business and that it is brief, and there should be a brief reply from the Tánaiste.

In view of the decline of tourism numbers across the country, the resulting loss in revenue and the decline of American tourists coming to the country, when will the Government introduce the National Tourism Development Authority Bill which was promised this session?

We will see it this session.

In view of the fact that there are 80,000 houses under threat because of the two year limit on planning permissions does the Government intend to amend the Planning and Development Act, 2000, or to review section 5?

There is no legislation but the Minister for the Environment and Local Government is reviewing the matter.

Is the Government pressing ahead with the direct election of mayors throughout the country or will legislation be brought in to change the Act?

There is no legislation promised but I understand the Minister for the Environment and Local Government will introduce proposals shortly in regard to local government reform.

On foot of promised legislation from the Tánaiste's Department and newspaper reports in regard to reform of the insurance industry, will the Tánaiste inform us what legislative proposals she will bring before the House and when?

The Government will shortly publish its action plan in regard to the MIAB report. We will also establish the interim board of the PIAB. The forthcoming legislation as a result of both of those measures will be announced in due course but as quickly as possible.

The Irish Times this morning commented on the future management of Cork and Shannon Airports. This comes under the Air Navigation Bill. When will the Minister for Transport make a decision on this? It is causing terrible problems.

When will the Bill be before the House, Tánaiste.

Next year.

Next year, 2003.

In regard to the beef industry and the crisis—

A question on promised legislation, Deputy.

Will the Tánaiste intervene because she did intervene—

We will move on to item No. 15b.

The Tánaiste is anxious to answer the question.

The Tánaiste cannot be out of order any more than any other Member.

Barr