Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 9 Jul 1991

Vol. 129 No. 15

Order of Business.

It is intended to take all Stages of Item No. 2 on the Order Paper, the Temple Bar Area Renewal and Development Bill, 1991, from now until not later than 6 p.m. There will be a sos from 6 until 6.30 p.m. and at 6.30 p.m. we will take all stages of the Courts (No. 2) Bill, 1991 until 10 p.m.

I know there has been a tightening up of the rules governing good wishes on the Order of Business but I think it would be appropriate to congratulate Senator Conroy on his election as Cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire Corporation last evening and also to congratulate former Senator Dino Cregan on his election as Lord Mayor of Cork.

I would like to raise a matter which was raised by one of my colleagues a few weeks ago. Almost every day now we see investment brokerages and houses collapsing with large numbers of small investors left totally unprotected. There have been four or five such cases over the past number of weeks and more are rumoured. It is clear that the law in this area is totally inadequate. The Fraud Squad is not up to doing the job required of it because of lack of resources and I would like to ask the Leader of the House if, before the end of this session, he would devote a short time to discussion on what has become a matter of great concern especially in view of the large number of vulnerable, unprotected people who have lost their life savings over the past couple of weeks.

May I, too, extend my congratulations to our colleague, Senator Conroy, and all the other people who were elected Mayors of the various cities particularly some of my own colleagues in the Labour Party.

I would like to ask the Leader of the House if he would indicate when the Seanad will rise and what legislation it is proposed to take before the end of this session. I appeal to him to reconsider his attitude in relation to the request for a debate on the economy.

Will the Leader of the House provide time to discuss the new 1991 colleges Bill in view of the widespread concern that legislation is causing in areas where there are regional colleges? My county is particularly concerned because it would mean that the courses for colleges would be selected in Dublin and that would be totally unacceptable. It would remove the democracy that exists in the administration, selection of management and the selection of courses. The Bill would be totally unacceptable if it were introduced in the form in which it is being circulated. I ask the Leader of the House, before we have a confrontation, before we have serious conflict between rural areas that have colleges and the administration in the Department of Education, that time be provided in this House so that we can have a reasonable and rational debate on that new legislation.

I ask the Leader of the House, in view of the collapse in farm incomes and the crisis in the area of agriculture, the lack of confidence in the future on the part of farmers and the imminent loss of jobs in the food industry, to ensure that a debate takes place on agriculture and on the crisis in farm incomes before the end of this session.

I was about to ask the Leader of the House the same question. As there is a debate on the reform of the CAP in the other House, would he not consider having a debate on the CAP reform in this House? This is very important and there is a crying need for it. On Thursday, 20 June, there was a debate here on developments in the European Community and it was adjourned. Is it the intention to resume that debate before the end of this session? I would appeal for a debate on the suggested reform of the CAP.

I would like to congratulate Senator Conroy on his election as Cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire Corporation. I am sure, knowing his sterling performance here, that he will do an excellent job in that post. I would also like to congratulate my colleagues, Deputy Kemmy on his election as Mayor of Limerick and Seán Kenny on his election to the Lord Mayoralty of Dublin. If anybody is interested in getting a copy of the civic charter which has been devised for the good civic government of Dublin over the next five years, I have plenty of copies and I will make them available to the Seanad. In view of the absolutely alarming unemployment figures — we have the highest unemployment figures in the history of the State — we should have an urgent debate on unemployment and the economy. Will the Leader of the House facilitate us in doing that at a very early stage?

Mr. Farrell

Would it be possible to have a debate on the situation as it affects those suffering from a disability? I had a letter this morning from a little girl in Waterford who, like myself, lost her hand recently. Unfortunately, as I know too well, when it comes to looking for motor car insurance she is classed as disabled, but when she goes looking for mobility allowance, she is not classed as disabled. If she is looking for a job she is not classed as disabled. There seems to be a grey area there. I would like to have a debate on that to have that grey area cleared up. It is grossly unfair. Either you are disabled or you are not. When it came to looking for a job she was not disabled. Yet, she had to buy a special car, and all the fittings that go with it, but she did not qualify for any assistance towards the purchase of the car. This is a grey area. People who are industrious and want to make light of their handicap are not getting the assistance they should get.

I would like to ask the Leader of the House his intentions concerning item No. 1, the Altamont (Amendment of Deed of Trust) Bill, 1990. I would like to remind him that he promised before last Christmas that the matter would be dealt with between Christmas and Easter, and subsequently that it would be dealt with during this session. It must be dealt with next week if it is to be dealt with before the summer recess and if we are to retain credibility on this issue, it has to be dealt with next week. I would welcome confirmation that that will be the case.

I join with my colleagues in congratulating Senator Conroy on being elected Cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire Corporation. I know he will do a very good and balanced job there.

Finally, I ask the Leader of the House to make a statement concerning a foreign affairs committee which some months ago we were told would be formed, apparently comprising Members of both Houses. Subsequently we heard stories, which seemed to have some authority, that the Taoiseach does not now intend to agree to the establishment of such a committee. I would like the Leader of the House to let us know what information he has in relation to that issue.

I would like to put it to the Leader of the House that we have abhorred unemployment long enough but we seem to be embracing it now rather than abhorring it. I plead with the Leader of the House that if there is to be a debate on the job situation it should be called job creation.

I would like to be associated with the votes of congratulations to those who have been elected chairman or mayor, particularly to any Member of this House who has been elected. I congratulate Senator Conroy who has been elected Cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire Corporation. I am not sure if other Members were successful but if they were I would like to congratulate them. It gave me great satisfaction to see Alderman Jim Kemmy being elected Mayor of Limerick. He has always held fast to his beliefs. He is staunch in his views and has never wavered. People disagree with me. and I disagree with them but I always admire people of conviction. As regards the offer from Senator Costello of a copy of the civic charter, I certainly would like a copy of it before they tear it up.

I would like to thank the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Manning, for his very kind, gracious and much appreciated good wishes, and also Senators Upton, Costello, Staunton, Hanafin and others. I would like also to express my good wishes and congratulations to Deputy Kemmy and Senator Cregan and express the hope that it will be possible on some future occasion to reciprocate some of these good wishes to colleagues on both sides of the House.

I would like to join with other speakers in congratulating Senator Conroy and, indeed, the other Mayors and Lord Mayors who have been elected. Now that they have been elected and congratulated will the Minister for the Environment and the Government think about giving them some powers and powers to local councils also? In reply to Senator Hanafin, what has been wrong with this city for the last six years is that people like himself in Fianna Fáil have been running it, tearing up documents and paying no attention to those who have some ideas about the city.

May I congratulate Senator Hederman on succeeding in keeping Deputy Tony Gregory out of the rainbow alliance. It was an extraordinary achievement.

The Senator is incorrect. He signed it, his signature is on it. The Senator is not up to date.

I understand he was not party to the agreement.

He has endorsed the charter.

We have them all.

I raised a matter relating to banks in general last week and this week I wish to raise a question in relation to the Central Bank, the cutting of interest rates and the fact that neither the Minister, this House nor anybody has any say in the reduction of interest rates given the low inflation rates at present and the detrimental effect high interest rates have on employment creation. I also asked a question in connection with bank charges in general. We have had something like a 70 per cent increase in such charges. Finally, I asked the Leader of the House about the interview charge introduced which, in my view, would bring into that bank about £200,000 per week in interview charges alone. I raised this matter previously on the Adjournment and was informed on that occasion that there was no ministerial responsibility. This is an extremely important matter. People are being overcharged, employment is being affected and small businesses are being ruined. It seems unbelievable that this House cannot debate these particular issues. I ask the Leader of the House, given those facts, to allow time for a special debate on these issues.

First, I would like to extend congratulations to Senator Conroy and also to Deputy Kemmy. Regardless of political persuasions everyone in Limerick was exceptionally pleased with the selection of Deputy Kemmy as Mayor. I would like to add my voice to the voices of those who have looked for a debate on agriculture. I hope that next week we will have statements on agriculture. Many people have mentioned a debate on unemployment. If agriculture is in such bad shape, we will find that unemployment figure will not just be 300,000 — which is a legitimate figure — but much greater.

Secondly, I hope that before this session ends the Leader will come back with concrete proposals for the extension of Seanad voting rights to the graduates of all third level institutions, particularly Dublin City University and the University of Limerick. It is extraordinary that I have to stand up here month after month looking for this. I want to know whether it is feasible and if the Leader does not have a reply to day I hope he will have a reply before the summer recess.

I would like to support my colleague from Cork, Senator O'Keeffe, on the question of the banks, the banking system, their profits, our low inflation rate, our high interest rates, our serious unemployment situation and our agricultural crisis. They are all locked together in a situation that is causing grave problems for all shopkeepers, workers and everyone. The Minister for Finance and the Central Bank have a vital role to play in this matter. The banks seem to be running this country and making big profits and the rest of the country is suffering. I fully support Senator O'Keeffe because there is need for this Government to make a strong stand on the banks and their vicious control and grip on the economy.

In supporting the calls for a debate on agriculture, I would like to point out that independent economists have put the figure of nearly 40,000 on the jobs to be lost as a direct consequence of the proposed reform of the CAP as it now stands. I also support Senator Manning's call for better protection of the small investor. I raised this matter here some weeks ago and got very little satisfaction. I believe the situation has now reached serious proportions and it is entirely irresponsible to stand idly by while old people lose their entire life savings as a result of not having adequate legislation and protection for them.

Finally, in relation to the banks, interest rates and the economy as a whole deserve a good debate. The economy is in serious trouble whether we like it or not and that is reflected in our unemployment figures which are rising and will continue to rise for some time. I like Senator Harte's positive approach to unemployment, to talk of job creation rather than unemployment.

I was most distressed to read in the paper of your accident, a Chathaoirligh, and I am delighted to see you back, hale and hearty. I am prompted to say this by the fact that I note Senator Honan is missing and I hope there is nothing wrong with her today.

I, too, would like to congratulate all the councillors who have been elected Mayor of the various cities and in particular Senator Conroy — one of our own — on his election last evening.

Senator Manning raised a question, as did Senator Raftery — and he also mentioned it some weeks ago — in relation to problems in the insurance industry. While I accept fully what Senator Manning and Senator Raftery have said, that it is disgraceful that this behaviour should be allowed, the fact is that two years ago we had an Insurance Bill which was regarded at the time as being the most important legislation dealing with the insurance industry for some 50 years. It specifically referred to the regulation of intermediaries whereby they now must have consumer bonds and professional indemnity bonds and all other important matters which are relevant to the kind of situation that has been referred to this morning. I would simply say that obviously anyone who invests with insurance brokers or investment brokers should be sure of the people with whom they are investing. Obviously the Insurance Bill is there as some form of protection if something goes wrong. While I accept fully it is a very important matter I cannot say at this point that I will agree to a debate on it.

Senator Upton asked when it is proposed that the House will rise. My intention is that we would conclude our business next week, possibly Wednesday. He also asked for a debate on the economy and other matters. At this point, while I am not confirming that will happen, I will examine the matter and talk to the Whips. The same applies to a debate on unemployment or job creation and also a debate on agriculture. They will not take place this week.

Senator Costello asked for a debate on unemployment and Senator Farrell raised a question which might be more suitable as a matter for the Adjournment. I agree with the point made by Senator Staunton and I will talk to the Whips regarding item No. 1. I am anxious to move it on if at all possible. We will see what we can do. I have no further comment to make on the question of the formation of a foreign affairs committee.

Senator McGowan raised the question of the regional colleges Bill. The information I have in regard to this matter is that the regime on the boards of management in RTCs will finish soon. It is proposed. I understand, that a new temporary, interim board will be set up by each of the RTCs until such time as the legislation has been put in place and that, I understand, will be early next year. Then when the legislation is passed new permanent boards will be put in place.

As I said to Senator Neville and Senator Kiely, I have no proposals for a debate on agriculture. Senator Harte also asked about a debate on job creation. At this point I have no proposals in that regard.

Senator O'Keeffe and Senator Ryan asked about bank charges, bank interest and banks generally. Again, I have to say a debate on that topic will not take place in this session. I said this is a matter which is appropriate to an Adjournment debate and Senator O'Keeffe replied he had tried to raise the matter in that form. Obviously it is suitable for discussion on the Finance Bill or on the Appropriation Bill.

Senator Jackman asked about a debate on agriculture. I have no proposals in that regard. Senator Raftery commented on this matter. Senator Lydon's comment was an expression of goodwill to the Cathaoirleach with which we all agree.

Order of Business agreed to.