Other Questions (Resumed)

Employment Levels

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

1Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach the number of workers in employment; the way same compares to figures under the previous Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28872/11]

The Quarterly National Household Survey, QNHS, is the official source of estimates of employment in the State. The most recent figures available are for the fourth quarter of 2011. The data requested by the Deputy in respect of employment is presented in a table. The number of persons in employment peaked at 2,149,800 in the third quarter of 2007. The first annual decline in employment was recorded in the second quarter of 2008. The pace of decline was greatest during 2009, with a fall of 184,700, or 8.8%, recorded in the year to the third quarter of 2009. Since then, the rate of reduction in employment has slowed. As of the fourth quarter of 2011, the level of employment has fallen to 1,807,800, a decrease of 342,000, or 15.9%, from peak levels.

The number employed in the fourth quarter of 2011 was 0.8% lower than the level recorded a year earlier. This is the lowest annual reduction recorded since the second quarter of 2008. As a further indicator of the relative stabilisation of the labour market, we can note that a quarterly increase of 10,000 was recorded in the seasonally adjusted employment series, the first such increase since the end of 2007.

Table 1 Persons aged 15 years and over in employment (ILO)classified by sex and quarter

‘000

Employment

Annual change in employment

Males

Females

All persons

Males

Females

All persons

Quarter 2 2007

1206.6

907.3

2113.9

32.8

46.2

79.0

Quarter 3 2007

1225.9

923.9

2149.8

31.1

46.8

77.9

Quarter 4 2007

1213.7

925.0

2138.8

18.4

43.5

61.9

Quarter 1 2008

1198.9

925.2

2124.1

2.3

33.4

35.6

Quarter 2 2008

1190.2

922.7

2112.8

-16.4

15.4

-1.1

Quarter 3 2008

1182.4

924.7

2107.1

-43.5

0.8

-42.7

Quarter 4 2008

1143.4

911.2

2054.6

-70.3

-13.8

-84.2

Quarter 1 2009

1076.7

888.9

1965.6

-122.2

-36.3

-158.5

Quarter 2 2009

1052.0

886.5

1938.5

-138.2

-36.2

-174.3

Quarter 3 2009

1040.0

882.4

1922.4

-142.4

-42.3

-184.7

Quarter 4 2009

1016.2

871.6

1887.7

-127.2

-39.6

-166.9

Quarter 1 2010

996.3

861.4

1857.6

-80.4

-27.5

-108.0

Quarter 2 2010

996.1

863.0

1859.1

-55.9

-23.5

-79.4

Quarter 3 2010

994.5

857.0

1851.5

-45.5

-25.4

-70.9

Quarter 4 2010

973.0

850.2

1823.2

-43.2

-21.4

-64.5

Quarter 1 2011

962.1

842.1

1804.2

-34.2

-19.3

-53.4

Quarter 2 2011

970.0

851.3

1821.3

-26.1

-11.7

-37.8

Source: Quarterly National Household Survey, Central Statistics Office.

Is it not a fact that we are facing an unemployment catastrophe and that, since the Government entered into office, there has not been the slightest improvement in this disastrous situation, given that more than 14% of people are unemployed? Is it not the truth that the only reason we are not facing a far worse unemployment situation is because tens of thousands of people have been forced to leave this country by the Government's failure to live up to its campaign slogan, that is, "Get the country working"? Its inability is due to its disastrous decision to adhere to the policies of bailing out banks at the expense of our country's economic future and citizens. Is this not the reality? The Government has not made a single dent in the unemployment situation. Hundreds of more jobs will go today and shops and businesses are closing the length and breadth of the country.

This is a statistical question only.

There is no prospect of the Government making a dent in the unemployment situation while it continues on its current policy path.

I remind the House that this is a statistical question only. Any policy issue can be dealt with separately.

I am not surprised to hear Deputy Boyd Barrett's rhetoric. One would expect nothing less. I assure the Deputy that the Government's priority is to create jobs. The first step is to stabilise the economy to sustain the jobs that we already have. We have halted the shedding of jobs experienced in 2008 to 2010. There have been a number of positive moves and the Government has developed a number of initiatives in the past 12 months to create new employment and reskill people for different employment. My constituency is an example of an area that was dependent on the construction industry, which has collapsed. We must reskill people to work in other areas.

I presume that Deputy Boyd Barrett is like the rest of the Independents, who switch off the news whenever there are positive stories. Recent months have seen a number of positive developments in the jobs market with the creation of several thousand jobs. Eli Lilly in Kinsale, County Cork will invest €300 million and create more than 500 jobs, 200 of them directly and 300 in the construction of its plant. PayPal announced 1,000 jobs recently. In Dublin, Mastercard will create 130 jobs in its global technology office. Abbott in Sligo will create 175 jobs. In Galway and Kildare, Hewlett Packard will create 280 jobs. These six examples involve the creation of 2,150 jobs, but I presume that the Deputy switched off the news when he heard their announcements. He would rather be negative, negative, negative. I have no problem with that, as it is his role as a politician, but the incentives put in place by the Government in recent months will see a positive outcome.

I was in Germany during St. Patrick's week and visited agencies there, including Bord Bia, the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Tourism Ireland. They had positive news. I also attended the MEDICA Trade Fair, where 15 Irish companies in the medical field and primarily based in Galway had some positive news.

We have halted the shedding of jobs and are entering into a more positive period. As the Deputy knows, the end result of the upturn in the economy will be the creation of jobs. If we are to attract foreign direct investment we must have a positive economy, which is our aim.

Of course I welcome new jobs.

It is disingenuous to say otherwise. I welcome every job that is announced but the figures speak for themselves. There is no movement in the proportion of the population who are unemployed. Is it not a fact that our unemployment would be bordering on catastrophic were it not for the tens of thousands of people who leave the country every year? We would be facing a higher number in absolute and percentage terms were it not for forced emigration. The limited number of good news stories about foreign companies setting up here is outweighed by the collapse of the domestic economy. We heard further news today of companies going out of business and hundreds of people losing their jobs.

Has the Deputy a question?

That relates to fact that the Government's strategy is solely based on luring foreign investment.

It is Question Time.

The slashing of public expenditure and the failure of the State to stimulate the economy means that we cannot move-----

I remind the Deputy we are on Question Time.

-----the unemployment figures in any serious way. That is the problem. Unless we have State investment, we cannot impact on the unemployment crisis. That is what the Government needs to do.

I do not accept that the domestic economy is collapsing. I recognise that a considerable number of people are emigrating. I do not want to see people emigrating. I want to see job opportunities being created for our well-educated workforce so that people can remain in Ireland when they leave college. Nobody wants to see a brother, sister, niece or nephew - as I have - leave Ireland for Australia, the UK or America. We would be in a worse state if people did not have the opportunity to seek job opportunities abroad but I believe these people will come back if we give them the opportunity to do so. That is what this Government is doing.

The Minister of State set out figures for the fourth quarter of 2011 in reply to the question on the number of workers in employment. Is that the latest period for which figures are available?

I understand the figure for the first quarter of 2012 was 1.8 million.

The second quarter of 2011.

Are they are the last figures?

We have nothing since then. Does the figure relate to the budget's projection of an increase in unemployment over 2012? That projection gives the lie to the claims about macro-employment action plans.

I am alarmed by the Minister of State's claim that the domestic economy is not collapsing. The retail, construction and domestic services sector are in a depressed state. People who are trying their best to survive have become pessimistic about the future. They believe the 2% increase in VAT had a detrimental impact on consumer sentiment and job creation in the domestic economy. People in the retail sector feel sore that the Government reneged on the clear commitment it gave before the election on upward only rent reviews. They also want commercial rates to be reduced to give them breathing space. They cannot point to concrete actions on the part of the Government to alleviate the pressure on them.

Can we have a question?

Has the Government distinguished between employment in the domestic economy as opposed to foreign direct investment companies? We gain on some foreign direct investment but we also lose when companies pull out or take longer than expected to mature. I welcome the Eli Lilly investment inasmuch as construction on the project will begin shortly but the permanent posts are three years away. The closure of Game yesterday followed the collapse of a number of other companies.

I understand that the number of redundancies shot up in December. Was that related to the budget decision to reduce the employer rebate? The Minister for Finance was warned about the potential impact. Apparently the redundancy rate increased significantly in December as companies sought to meet the end of year deadline for the rebate.

I will revert to the Deputy on whether the figures were set out in the budget. The Government has taken several positive initiatives since coming to power, including Pathways to Work, JobsBridge and the action plan for jobs. Everyone recognises that the retail sector is struggling but the issue of rates did not fall from the sky in the last 12 months. The issue existed when the Deputy was on this side of the House but his Government failed to address it. Where will local authorities find the necessary funding if we get rid of rates?

The local government efficiency review identified €500 million.

What action did Fianna Fáil take to deal with rates when it was in Government?

Fine Gael controlled the local authorities.

Fianna Fáil controlled the local authorities when the country was flush with money.

Fine Gael is in power now.

If we get rid of rates, how do the Deputies opposite propose to replace the funding?

Can we return to the statistical question?

He is straying off course.

The Government's priority for its first months was to sustain existing jobs as well as put in place initiatives to create further employment. A number of these initiatives are already having an impact but the most important task is stabilising the economy and enticing overseas investment into Ireland.

Can the Minister of State confirm that the most recent quarterly figures showed an increase in unemployment and emigration? While I acknowledge the positive announcements made by various companies which are willing, despite everything, to invest in Ireland, I ask whether job creation is outweighed by the scale of job losses. Negative stories of job losses include Game, Vita Cortex, Aviva, Bank of America, MBNA, AIB, Ulster Bank, TalkTalk and, possibly, Eircom. Does the Minister of State agree that if one adds the 70,000 to 80,000 Irish citizens who supposedly took the lifestyle choice of emigration to the live register figures, the scale of the problem becomes much bigger? The level of unemployment has increased substantially since the Government took office.

Can the Minister of State acknowledge or confirm that Ireland is once again officially in recession?

That is nothing to do with the question before us.

These are statistics based on unemployment, employment and growth.

This is a statistical question about the numbers in employment and how they compare with the previous Government. It is not about policy.

This is not to do with policy. I am asking the Minister of State to confirm that we are in recession, which is a statistical figure based on GDP having retracted for two consecutive quarters. These are in the same document and are tied to unemployment as is the fact that inflation in that period has also increased and is now standing at more than 2%

The Deputy who asked the question asked the Taoiseach "the number of workers in employment; the way same compares to figures under the previous Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter". This is purely statistical and for the past 20 minutes we have been straying off the question. Perhaps the Minister of State might reply to Deputy Ó Snodaigh, but it is purely statistical.

Any unemployment figure is way too high. If it was under the previous Government, or five years or ten years ago, it would still be too high. I would like to see full employment in Ireland - unfortunately we do not have that. Hopefully in the future we can decrease the number of people who are unemployed. I do not accept there are more people unemployed now compared with 12 months ago. I do not believe it has shifted that much. I do not think it has gone into tens of thousands. There might be a shift on the plus or minus side.

I can assure the Minister of State that it is on the plus side.

I can assure the Deputy it is not the rate he mentioned. The Government has introduced a number of plans, including the action plan for jobs and the JobBridge scheme. These are all positive initiatives to reduce the rate of unemployment. Since Saturday the Taoiseach has been in China, where 1.3 billion people live, in order to encourage foreign direct investment. This is all part of encouraging people to do business in Ireland and to get them here. I believe we took our eye off the ball in recent years and we need to get back into that marketplace again to encourage people to come to Ireland. Ministers who visited different countries for St. Patrick's Day have brought some very positive news from those countries.

There is no doubt that we have a problem but, as a Government, we are doing our best to solve the problem and get people back to work. Everyone in this House knows somebody who has lost a job. They can often have no confidence in themselves. However, when they get back into employment their confidence goes straight up again and it gives them a new sense of life and hope.

The figures the Minister of State gave in his response seem to be nine months out of date. Do we have no figures for the third and last quarters of last year, and the first quarter of this year? Figures for the first quarter of 2011 are wildly out of date and surely we can do better than that.

The CSO have figures but not for employed people right up to the end of last year. When Deputy Mattie McGrath was part of the previous Government-----

This does not relate to the previous Government. The Minister of State should answer the question.

----- the very same set of figures would have been shown.

How are we supposed to operate with those figures?

Parliamentary Reform

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

2Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if the review of changes to procedures in Dáil Éireann promised in July 2011 has taken place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6196/12]

The programme for Government sets out an ambitious agenda of Dáil reform, which will continue to be implemented over the lifetime of the Government. In July 2011, after just four months in office, the Government introduced a package of reforms which included: Topical Issue debates; special sittings on the first Friday of a month; time limits for the Order of Business; streamlining the system of Taoiseach's Questions; a procedure to allow Deputies to raise issues regarding replies to parliamentary questions with the Ceann Comhairle; Standing Order 32 requests no longer being read out unless they are granted by the Ceann Comhairle; an additional Leaders' Questions session taken by the Tánaiste on Thursdays; and the Taoiseach being obliged to brief the Oireachtas prior to attending European Council meetings. This was just the first phase of Dáil reform and it is the Government's intention to follow it with additional reforms in the future.

My office is monitoring the day-to-day working of Dáil Éireann, Seanad Éireann and the Oireachtas committees, including the impact of the reforms we have already introduced. This ongoing review, along with our programme for Government commitments, will be the basis for further reform in this area.

I take issue with two elements of the Minister of State's reply. To describe the programme of reform as ambitious is a complete exaggeration. It is anything but ambitious and I am sure the Minister of State will agree. It is very superficial and shallow parliamentary reform that bears no relationship to the commitments given to the people of comprehensive parliamentary and political reform prior to the general election. The Minister of State promised that there would be a review - not monitoring, ongoing review or any such clever language - to be followed by an evaluation of the changes that have taken place so far. He promised that there would be consultations with other parties in the House giving us a chance to make commentary on them. The matter of topical issues was one floated by the previous Government. I put it to the Minister of State that the Friday sittings are a sham.

The Government has not accepted too many Bills from the Opposition. Attendance has been very poor from the Government side. Indeed the quorum has to be provided by the Opposition, which is unprecedented. It was always the case that the Government side needed to provide a quorum. The only reason the Government introduced that was to allow its Members to be down in their constituencies on that Friday. Whenever the Friday sittings take place Government Deputies are down the country while the Opposition Deputies proposing the legislation are up here. That is too cynical by half and in many ways it contributes to the notion that the Friday sitting, unfortunately from the Government perspective, has-----

Can we have a question please?

-----been about manipulation of the message emanating from here that somehow we are sitting for longer days and that we are sitting longer than previous Dáileanna. That is all it is about. In fairness, the Opposition has stood up to the plate and the various Opposition parties have introduced legislation. Our party is very anxious to revisit this matter to ensure that if there is a Friday sitting once a month, it should be the same as any other sitting on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

When will the second phase of reform commence? When will the Minister of State bring proposals to other political parties on that? The replies to topical issues are supposed to be given by the Minister or Minister of State from the Department responsible for the issue raised. The Government is already failing in that commitment. Recently the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, responded to a topical issue on fraud prevention even though she has no connection with that topic. In the same week the Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs, Deputy Creighton, responded to a topical issue on NAMA. Does the Minister of State accept that is not in accordance with what he outlined?

The Taoiseach now spends less time dealing with Taoiseach's Questions than his predecessors - he now answers such questions once a week as opposed to twice a week. In many areas under his portfolio we are prevented from asking questions because they relate to the particular Cabinet committee on economic affairs and the invocation of Cabinet confidentiality precludes us from asking questions on economic stewardship by the Taoiseach regarding the Cabinet.

I will first answer the Deputy's last question about the Taoiseach spending less time in the Chamber. There is more substance out of this Taoiseach in the time he is here than from any of his Fianna Fáil predecessors who had that role.

A Deputy

That is some achievement.

What reforms did the Government introduce when Deputy Martin was at the Cabinet table?

We introduced Leaders' Questions.

We started taking Leaders' Questions on a Thursday. Deputy Martin sat at the Cabinet table for almost 15 years and Dáil reform never worried him.

The Deputy never referred to the number of sitting days.

Can the Minister of State account for his own actions?

We have increased the number of sitting days by 44%, which is positive. In addition, we have shortened the summer holidays. I was elected to the House first in 2002 and I got July, August and September off.

Deputy Kehoe deserved it.

He will be off next summer like the rest of us.

Now we finish on the last week in July and we come back in during the second week in September.

Deputy Kehoe should take the next four years off.

That is not true.

That is true.

(Interruptions).

Please reply through the Chair.

It is open to everyone to put in a Private Members' Bill for the Friday sittings. I am unsure whether the Deputy is aware of this. It is taken by lottery at that stage. Deputy Collins maintains no one from the Government side has had a Private Members' Bill.

I did not say that.

The Deputy said it.

It is taken as a lottery.

(Interruptions).

Through the Chair, please.

It is taken as a lottery.

(Interruptions).

This is not a shouting match.

There is no one from the Government side.

I assure the Deputy that I am here every Friday morning and I have never seen Deputy Martin turn up.

Deputy Kehoe is wrong there.

On a point of order, I introduced legislation to the House.

Would you please speak through the Chair?

Perhaps Deputy Martin was here on one occasion.

This is a disgrace.

On a point or order, will Deputy Kehoe correct the record? He has just misled the House.

(Interruptions).

On a point or order, Deputy Kehoe has just misled the House. Please correct the record. He has misled the House.

Deputy Martin might have been here on one occasion.

No. The Deputy should be gracious and correct the record. He made an error.

Deputy Martin might have been here on one occasion.

No. I have been here on both occasions.

Minister, could I ask you to reply to the question through the Chair please?

I have been here on more than one occasion.

He made a fair few errors himself when he was in government and he never corrected the record.

Please ignore the side remarks and reply to the question.

I assure Deputies that the Government has been most proactive when it comes to Dáil reform. I have referred to Topical Issues and sittings on a Friday. The Order of Business has been time limited. The Taoiseach is getting through more questions than any of his predecessors.

Deputies can go to the Ceann Comhairle if they are unhappy with any reply from a line Minister. We got rid of the Standing Order 32 arrangements because they were a waste of time. There is additional time for Leaders' Questions on a Thursday morning. Statements on European Council meetings are now held prior to the Taoiseach going to the meetings. I intend to introduce more reforms in the coming months.

They will be outlined. As Deputy Collins is aware, his party Whip is involved in and attends the Dáil reform meetings we hold. I have informed him that we will bring in more reforms between now and the summer. There will be more reforms and I trust Deputies will look forward to these. We have introduced more reforms than any previous Government and I assure Deputies there is more to come.

While I welcome many of the changes brought about, will the Chief Whip ensure that they are reviewed and that the Whips' meetings will be used to re-examine them? I acknowledge that the Chief Whip is open to reconsideration. How does the Chief Whip intend to encourage new Deputies? It is more than one year since the last election and since many of the first-time Deputies attended the Chamber for the first time. Many of them were unaware of the procedures and how the Parliament worked. Some of them might have interesting proposals one year on. How can we encourage new Deputies on all sides of the House to submit their proposals rather than simply being party political? I work with my party and we have our view but there are many first-time Deputies and they might have ideas which those of us who have been here for several sessions had not thought of. Is the Chief Whip contemplating Dáil reform proposals or any other proposals to be put to the Dáil reform committee and then passed by the end of the summer session?

Deputy Ó Snodaigh will recall that before we introduced any reforms, we held a debate and statements in the House on Dáil reform. Perhaps the holding of statements on Dáil reform is something we can discuss at the Whips meeting since people have settled in for one year. They are familiar with the procedures of the House and how they work. They may have other ideas as well. It is okay to raise these matters at a party political meeting but it is far better to come here and to give people the opportunity to speak and outline some of the changes or reforms they wish to bring forward. This is something we can consider at a Whips' meeting in future.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh acknowledged the work and the reforms carried out here in the past 12 months. There is no doubt that this is not a perfect Chamber. However, I put it to Deputies to show me a perfect chamber in any country. Deputies might wish to bring forward changes. This is about trying to make it as perfect as possible. We cannot make it 100% perfect, or a place where everyone is happy. However, we hope to reach a point where the majority of people are happy. I assure Deputies that I am open to any proposals to change the way we work and to change the procedures in the House. If anyone has proposals I can take them on board and we can discuss them and then bring them forward. I acknowledge the work and ideas brought forward by the Ceann Comhairle on Dáil reform.

It is not correct to state that there has been Dáil reform when the Taoiseach is less available to answer questions in the House, no matter what way the Government wishes to dress it up or spin it.

This is Question Time. Put a question.

The people know the facts. The fact is he is less available to answer questions in the Chamber as a result of what Deputy Kehoe describes as Dáil reform.

Will the Chief Whip's proposals include changes to Friday sittings? The Chief Whip is ticking the box and describing Friday as a sitting day but it is only a three hour sitting with a Second Stage debate on Opposition or Government backbench Bills. Will the proposals on Friday sittings include the full menu of a full Dáil sitting day? Will it include Leaders' Questions, votes, the Order of Business, Topical Issues, questions to a Minister and committee sittings? Will there be the full array of activities that occur during a full parliamentary day? The Chief Whip knows in his heart that Fridays are a complete sham. People do not buy into the notion of the Dáil sitting for three hours on a Friday when nothing can be voted on. They see it for what it is. The Chief Whip might as well be honest about it. Other Government Members have put up their hands and accepted that they got things wrong. There is nothing wrong with saying one got something wrong.

Can we have a question, please?

The Chief Whip has tried this formula for Friday sittings. Will the he not acknowledge that it is a sham and opt for a full sitting with a full complement of activities, including those of the Seanad?

Deputy Collins should note that I am here on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. I do not see Deputy Collins here during the week at all times.

What does that have to do with it?

The Friday sittings are an opportunity for backbench Deputies to bring Private Members' business to the Dáil. This was something I was asked for and something we implemented. It was asked for by the Deputy's party Whip.

We asked for a sitting day.

Deputy Collins referred to the Taoiseach not being available.

(Interruptions).

I allowed Deputy Collins to talk. Perhaps he would give me the opportunity to reply. Deputy Collins referred to the Taoiseach being less available. He is here on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as was the previous Taoiseach.

There is no Questions to the Taoiseach on a Thursday.

There is more accountability now than ever before because there is Leaders' Questions on a Thursday. I do not recall Leaders' Questions on a Thursday previously. At times, the Order of Business continued for two hours.

That was because of the behaviour of some of Deputy Kehoe's colleagues.

Through the Chair, please.

It was because the person sitting where I am now would not answer the questions being asked by the then Opposition. At least we attend now and there is some coherence. People know exactly what takes place on a Thursday morning. They can question the Tánaiste. If the Tánaiste is not here, the next most senior Minister will be here. This takes place every Thursday morning. It does not add up to suggest the Government is less accountable than the last; we are not. We use the Chamber for its proper purpose. We do not abuse it. This is what introducing reform is all about. It is about making the Chamber work for everyone.

What about Fridays?

I have experience of putting forward a Private Members' Bill and I thank the Bills Office for it.

I appreciate that but please stick to putting a question.

It is fine that they attend but it is not reform because while the Minister attends he rejects every proposal. Perhaps he gives us a lesson for not engaging with him. I know the Chief Whip was abroad on Government duty on St. Patrick's day and I commend him on that, but is he aware that when he was away the Deputy Government Whip did not bother to turn up? We had a Private Members' debate and there was nobody on the Government side -----

The Deputy should resume his seat. That has nothing to do with the question.

Of course it has. The question is about Dáil reform. We had come into this Chamber -----

The Deputy should resume his seat please.

The Ceann Comhairle does not know what I am talking about. He was not here that evening. Somebody else was in the Chair.

Excuse me, please resume your seat.

No, this has to do with Dáil reform. There was nobody at all on the Government side.

Did the Deputy hear me?

This was a Private Members' debate and there was nobody at all on the Government side of the House. I know the Chief Whip was away, but the Deputy Government Whip should have been around somewhere.

I called on the Deputy for a supplementary question in respect of the question tabled by Deputy Micheál Martin and the Deputy is asking about something that is totally irrelevant.

No, it is not. It is about Dáil reform. Surely to God it is incumbent on the Government to have a quorum in the House and to have a Minister available to answer on an important issue.

If the Deputy has a problem, he should bring it up with the Whips or he should complain to my office and I will deal with it.

I wrote to the Ceann Comhairle's office already and I got no reply.

I have complained to the Ceann Comhairle's office on a different issue.

The Deputy did not complain to my office on that issue.

No, on a different issue, and I have not withdrawn that complaint. It was to do with the Minister of State, Deputy McGinley.

Excuse me, I dealt with the Deputy's correspondence. The Deputy should please resume his seat.

It has not been sorted out. I got no apology. It is tokenism, at the best.

I ask the Deputy to please resume his seat.

The Chair invited this, because I have complained to his office.

Does Deputy Martin have a supplementary question?

I have a supplementary question based on the original reply. In his reply relating to the Friday sittings, the Chief Whip has indicated there is ongoing review and that the situation is being monitored. Will he agree that the quorum for a Friday sitting should be made up from both the Government and Opposition sides?

On Taoiseach's questions and the Order of Business, the reform that was introduced removed the Taoiseach's obligation to answer Taoiseach's questions on a Wednesday. Prior to this, in the previous Dáil, the Taoiseach would always answer questions on issues relating to his Department on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. However, that provision has been deftly slipped out, with the result that the Taoiseach only has to come in once a week. Will the Whip agree to reconsider that and to reinstate Taoiseach's questions on a Wednesday in order to ensure better accountability?

Time limits have been set on the Order of Business. These limits mean, although Members did not expect this, that when a vote takes place, it can summarily eliminate the Order of Business on that day, the Wednesday or Thursday. These changes were not intended initially in the reform and it would be correct if reforms in this regard could take place immediately. Will the Chief Whip comment on this?

On the Friday sittings, the quorum is not made up by any one party. When Members come in on Friday mornings, as I have done on occasion, there could be five people on the Opposition side and five on the Government side. The quorum is ten.

There could be nobody on the Government side, as happened before.

The Deputy should refrain from shouting across the floor and should allow the Chief Whip to reply.

There could be five Members from the Opposition and there could be five Members from the Government side and the Dáil business will start. It is not up to any particular party to ensure a quorum. It is up to whoever proposes the motion to ensure there are ten Members present. However, I assure the Deputy, that I have seen, on occasion, -----

That is not my point.

What is the Deputy's point?

Through the Chair please. I ask the Deputy to allow the Chief Whip to answer the questions. I will allow the Deputy to put a further supplementary question then.

It is up to the person bringing forward the motion to ensure there is a quorum of ten Members. On occasion, I have seen a Member of the Opposition bring forward a motion when there were five Members of the Opposition in the Chamber and over five Members on the Government side and the business has continued. Therefore, it is wrong to say that business does not continue just because the person responsible to ensure the quorum is present does not have a quorum on his or her side.

On the issue of Taoiseach's questions, in the previous Dáil, these questions were allocated 45 minutes on one day and 30 minutes on the following day. Currently, the Taoiseach answers questions for one hour, 15 minutes less per week than previously. However, he makes up that time by coming in for statements on the European Council. This never happened previously and is a positive step forward. As I said to Deputy Collins, we now have Leaders' Questions on a Thursday also.

The Chief Whip is saying that basically it is up to the person bringing forward legislation or a motion, or his or her party, to provide a quorum. My question is based on this. I suggest that is not correct and that it should be up to both sides of the House to provide a quorum. What could happen otherwise is that a party could come in some Friday morning and if there was nobody on the Government side and some smart Alec wanted to call a quorum, it would be up to the Opposition side to produce the ten people. The reason for allowing this is that the Government side wants to abscond and to allow Deputies be in their constituencies. We all know that.

Can we have the Deputy's question?

The rationale behind placing the obligation, via the Standing Order, on the Opposition to provide the quorum was so that Government Deputies would not have to attend during the Friday sitting. Is that not the case? I am asking the Chief Whip to change that.

That is not the case. I assure Deputy Martin that every morning of Friday sittings, there are well over 20 Deputies on the Government side. I assure him of that.

They were not here for a Wednesday evening.

Deputy McGrath was not here to vote on his own Bill.

Please ignore the side comments.

If the Deputy wants-----

That is out of order.

I ask the Chief Whip to answer the question and to ignore the comments.

He is out of order.

I ask the Deputy to resume his seat.

I had apologised for not being able to be here. I had a confirmation to attend.

It was his child's confirmation. He could not be here.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.