Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Friday, 3 Apr 1992

Vol. 132 No. 3

Order of Business.

Before I give the Order of Business for today I would like to mention that next Wednesday, the House will be visited by the King and Queen of Sweden at 2.43 p.m. We will give more information on that. We will make some arrangements, through the House, as to how business may be handled that day.

On the Order of Business, it is proposed to take items Nos. 1 and 2. The proceedings on the Social Welfare Bill and on the motion of concurrence with the earlier signature of the Bill by the President, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 4 p.m. by one question in each case which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only amendments set down by the Government or the Leader of the House.

On a matter of principle, I am reluctant to agree to the guillotine motion today. I do not think it will be necessary. I would be much happier to allow matters to take their normal course in this House. I suspect that by 4 p.m. business will have come to a conclusion in its normal way. Certainly, from this side of the House there will be no attempt to filibuster or delay business. I am not speaking for my colleagues at the back but I think, in the normal course of events, that the proceedings on the Bill will have reached their normal conclusion by then. I would prefer if the Leader of the House did not insist on bringing in this guillotine motion here today.

I am happy to see some promised items of legislation appear on the Order Paper. I would like to ask the Leader of the House when we will be taking the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunication Messages (Regulations) Bill and Censorship of Films (Amendment) Bill. I presume they will both be taken after the Easter recess.

Given that there now appears to be the possibility of a genuine consensus among all political parties on the wording of the Protocol to the Maastricht Treaty, would the Leader of the House agree to a debate in this House next week on the matter. It strikes me as extraordinary that it is being discussed behind closed doors at parliamentary party meetings, on every radio talk show and in every newspaper in the country but that the Houses of Parliament are not themselves debating it at this stage. There are few matters more urgent or more pressing. The time has now been reached where a debate would be helpful to the Government and to the resolution of the problem overall.

I do not disagree much with Senator Manning but I would like to remind the House that there is more than one voice on this side.

I would never forget that.

It is very easy sometimes to forget.

There are six in this section alone.

Anyone who was here last night would wonder what voice there was on this side since Fine Gael did not even get around to opposing the Social Welfare Bill.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

A question to the Leader of the House.

On that basis alone, we can assume that Fine Gael will not cause much trouble on Committee Stage. I do not think there will be any need for a guillotine motion. I have no desire or intention to keep the House here any later than 4 p.m. We can discuss issues that we not discussed adequately in the other House in that time rather than simply repeat what was said there.

May I ask the Leader of the House if he has any proposal to allow, even in the restricted time available, some statement from Members of this House on the extraordinary antics of the management of the banks who are about to plunge us into a national bank strike which is unnecessary and which——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

That matter is not relevant to the Order of Business. I ask the Senator to put a question to the Leader of the House.

I want to ask the Leader of the House if he will give us some limited time to discuss the extraordinary antics of the management of the banks who are about to plunge the country into a major crisis which nobody needs or wants and has been created by the management of the banks.

Item No. 5, the Milk (Regulation of Supply) (No. 2.) Bill, 1991 has been on the Order Paper for quite some time now. There is disquiet among the employees of the milk boards about certain aspects of this Bill. Will the Leader of the House indicate when it is intended to take and conclude that legislation?

In relation to the Maastricht Protocol, I support the calls for the need to debate that matter. I am pleased to see that a consensus is emerging. I hope that consensus will be solid and we will be able to resolve the difficulty which confronts us in relation to the addendum to the Protocol. It must be pointed out that there is very much more to this matter and to the Protocol. These matters are of very significant national importance and need to be discussed.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

A question to the Leader of the House, please.

They need to be discussed by the House. In view of the importance which this matter is assuming will the Leader allow time for a debate? Does he know when the White Paper will be published?

I would like to ask the Leader of the House when time will be provided for a debate on developments in the European Community? There are seven half-yearly reports which have not been discussed or examined. The European Act, enacted in 1972, guaranteed a six monthly debate on the evolution of the Community. Over the last couple of years while changes and developments have taken place in Europe, the House has not had an opportunity to consider any of the extraordinary difficulties and changes to the entire concept, from agricultural policy to Maastricht. I ask the Leader to provide time for a debate at an early date. Will he also provide time for the Minister for Labour to give us an assurance that everything legislation allows him to do is being done vis-a-vis the imminent bank strike which we are told is to start next Monday?

In view of the upcoming European integration and the consequent impact on consumers in this country, will the Leader of the House provide time for a full and detailed debate on the current state of consumer protection legislation? That would be a very useful and worthwhile debate.

Would the Leader contact the Minister for the Environment with a view to having him come into the House after Easter to address the House on the ever-increasing crisis in local authority housing? House building in my area has dropped to 10 per cent of what it was ten years ago, and the housing lists are getting longer.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

A question to the Leader, please.

Would the Leader ask the Minister for the Environment, who is only too well aware of the crisis, to come to this House and address the Members on the steps he intends to take, as a matter of urgency, about the escalating housing crisis?

Senator Brendan Ryan observed that there is more than one group on this side of the House, I accept that. I wish the other groups — apart from Fine Gael — would accept their responsibility for maintaining a House during debates. This is a very crucial matter. After I had maintained a House here on two occasions for more than two and a half hours, other people came in and commandeered my slot.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

That is not a matter for the House. I ask the Senator to put a question to the Leader.

I accept the right of other groups to assert their independence, but they have obligations also——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I have to ask the Senator to put a question to the Leader of the House.

I have been told by the Whip that next Thursday it is proposed to have a debate on the Culliton report on unemployment. Is the debate on the report being confined to Thursday next, or could we have some indication from the Leader as to time allocation?

I have some sympathy with Senator Howard but this happens to all of us. I have often sat here for several hours and then found I was out of time.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I have already ruled that matter out of order and I ask the Senator to put a question to the Leader of the House.

I was just expressing my fellow-feeling. I support what Senator Manning said with regard to the implications of Maastricht and the Supreme Court judgments and urge the Leader to allow us to have a debate. Senator Ryan and I were urged to withdraw our motion in Private Members' Time because, we were told, a debate on the subject was imminent. The reason behind the amendment to our motion was that there would be a debate on the subject next week.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

A question to the Leader of the House, Senator.

I would like to ask the Leader of the House when we are going to have this important debate, particularly since Mr. Collins, having scuttled off without reference to either House, had this inappropriate Protocol inserted, undemocratically.

A Leas-Chathaoirligh——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I have to ask the Senator to confine himself to a question to the Leader of the House.

We now have a situation where our European partners appear to be a little——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I would remind the Senator that he cannot make a speech on that issue. He should put a question to the Leader, if he has a question.

When are we going to have a debate? I also support the call from this side of the House for a debate on the banks. The Leas-Chathaoirleach has ruled that we should not discuss this appalling situation that confronts us as a result of the banks' management being prepared to create a strike but we have the O'Keeffe initiative——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I have ruled that that is not relevant on the Order of Business.

It is, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, the O'Keeffe initiative has been relevant every day of the past session and I presume it is still relevant. Can we have some indication when we will have a debate on the North of Ireland? I have asked this question regularly for about a year. I have been told from time to time that we cannot have a debate because this subject is too sensitive. A former leading politician from this part of the country is now campaigning for the Conservative Party on the basis of internment.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

We cannot have a speech, Senator. I am asking the Senator to put a question to the Leader of the House.

I wonder how sensitive the subject is in those circumstances. Are we the only section of the Community that is not allowed to discuss the North of Ireland? Are we particularly explosive?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I have to ask the Senator to put a question to the Leader.

I support the sentiments expressed by Senator Brendan Ryan in connection with the impending bank strike which is due to take place next Monday and the serious effect it will have on our economy. I ask the Leader to convey the sentiments of this House to the Minister for Labour and ask him to intervene today if possible.

I, too, would like to ask the Leader of the House to convey my concern at the imminent bank strike. It will be devastating to the economy if it goes ahead on Monday.

I also support Senator Manning's call for the promised early debate on the Maastricht Protocol; we want it sooner rather than later.

It is not fair for a Senator to come in here and say that the former Minister scuttled off. I am sure he was acting on behalf of the Government and the Government are there to do a job for the people.

He certainly was not acting on my behalf.

You are only one.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I ask the Senator to put a question to the Leader of the House.

Would the Leader consider a debate on unemployment and on the proposed Oireachtas Joint Committee and jobs forum? I find it strange that Fine Gael are not interested in joining this forum.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

A question to the Leader of the House, please.

Are they more concerned with political point scoring?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

That is not relevant.

On many occasions in this House we have rightly condemned the atrocities of the IRA and other terrorist groups and expressed our hope that peace and democracy will come back to Northern Ireland. Whatever our views on the political party concerned, it is appropriate that we should express our horror and condemnation at a party worker being murdered during an election campaign.

Second, would the Leader give more time to the Culliton report? It could be a fairly prolonged and very important debate.

I have not used the guillotine in any legislation and it would not be my intention to do so, but it was agreed by the Whips. Having said that, in the interests of reform and given the goodwill expressed here I have spoken to the Minister and we can agree not to have a guillotine procedure. The Order of Business will therefore be Items Nos. 1 and 2. We will let 4 o'clock stand at the moment; if this means going past 4 p.m. the House, by agreement, can arrange that.

As regards new legislation, we have made every effort to ask Ministers to use this House for the initiation of legislation and the two Bills that have come before us are a step in the right direction. We are hopeful that over the coming months Ministers will use this House for legislation. After Easter we will be dealing with both of those Bills.

I have said here on several occasions that this House would debate the amendment to the Protocol. It was, at that time, agreed that we would wait for various discussions that are taking place at the highest level to end. I hope today we will see a total consensus on the issue of the wording. I have no doubt that, should that happen, we will be ready to take a debate whether it is next week or the week after.

This House has been aware for many months of the difficulties within the banking system. Senator O'Keeffe and many others have raised this over the past couple of months. I believe that, given the unfortunate labour relations problems involved, it would not be right for the House to have a debate at the moment. Several of the issues raised pertain to the possible strike. On behalf of this side of the House let me say it will be an absolute tragedy if the bank strike goes ahead in the next couple of weeks. On behalf of this House, I will convey to the Government and the Minister for Labour the concerns expressed here this morning that the Minister and the Government use all their efforts over the weekend to ensure that a strike, which would be devastating to the economy, is averted.

Senator Dardis mentioned the Milk (Regulation of Supply) (No. 2), Bill. We will be taking Committee Stage after Easter. We hope to have a White Paper on Maastricht sooner rather than later. We would all like to see a debate on consumer protection. There are many issues relating to European law now that have major effects on consumer protection. We will seek out the departmental views on that and find the wording for a suitable debate here quite soon. The Housing Bill has just been initiated in the other House. Like Senator Ryan we are all hopeful that the social policy on housing will have a positive effect. We will have our chance to discuss it soon. It is being ordered today in the other House and we should have it after Easter. Senator Howard mentioned some issues that are more a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. I will take note of the views expressed by others also.

Finally, on the Culliton report, if we need more than one day for that discussion it will be accommodated. Like everybody else I think it is an extremely important policy document and this House will have a major input into it. We have all received several presentations from interested parties relating to the report. A debate in this House may well require two or three days and that will be accommodated.

Order of Business agreed to.