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 Header Item Report of Sub-Committee on Dáil Reform: Motion (Continued)
 Header Item Adjournment Debate Matters
 Header Item Report of Sub-Committee on Dáil Reform: Motion (Resumed)

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 909 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett] Although this is an improvement, I agree with earlier comments on the question of the Opposition still not being able to put forward proposals that involve a charge on the State as being problematic. Notwithstanding the constitutional limitations there, we need to push that envelop as far as we can so that there is that opportunity to put forward suggestions on tax and revenue raising and other matters that could be a charge on the State. There was nothing more frustrating for me in the past five years than when proposals of that sort were ruled out of order.

The pre-legislative stage is positive and can potentially offer the opportunity for the public to engage more in the process of putting together policy and legislation and for us to be conduits for the public to engage in that process.

The abstention proposal is positive for reasons that have already been outlined. It creates the possibility at least for everything not to be adversarial where there is not a necessity for that. Regularly, there are Bills where one might agree with some elements of them while disagreeing with others. I sometimes think the Government has done that deliberately in order to make it difficult for the Opposition to say it opposes one aspect but not another and try to put members of the Opposition in a difficult position of having to be in favour or against, even though they have mixed views on the legislation. Hopefully, that can change.

I raise a couple of questions about some aspects of the reforms that I generally welcome. The issue of Leaders' Questions highlighted by Deputy Ó Snodaigh is potentially problematic. On one level, proportionality is important but it is a problem if we have groups having multiple Leaders' Questions on the same day as a result of proportionality. We have never had that. It does not make a great deal of sense, particularly when it will be the case that as a result others, either in the smaller groups or in the technical groups that are likely to be formed, may not get a chance even in the entire week to make a comment on issues of important topical interest. We need to look at that. Fairness requires that groups, such as Fianna Fáil, which is bigger proportionally, should have a bigger share of these but reflecting the diversity of the Dáil also requires a little rebalancing of that to ensure all voices at least get some chance in any given week to contribute to those leaders' debates.

I would also make a point about Taoiseach's Questions, which has not been touched on at all. Taoiseach's Questions has to change. It is crazy. Often these are not questions and they go on for too long and the answers are nothing but exercises in winding down the clock. There can be answers of up to 15 and 16 minutes for questions. That is bonkers. To be honest, it takes completely from the value of Taoiseach's Questions, which could be a valuable exercise, for it to merely be an exercise in rambling and - what is that expression for just talking to-----

Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy: Information on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Zoom on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Filibustering.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Filibustering. There should be time limits put on-----

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe A lot of that happens on Deputy Boyd Barrett's side of the House.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett It does but Taoiseach's Questions was an exercise in serious filibustering on the Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe's, side as well. Let us do something about that.

All of this democratic reform can be undermined by what is going on in Europe at present and the control that the banks and the financial institutions, which the ECB is acting as a conduit for, wield can circumscribe and undermine our ability to function in any sort of democratic way. This was summed up by Trichet's incredible threat, which people really need to think about, to the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, at the beginning of the previous Dáil where he stated that if there was any attempt to burn bondholders, he would let off a financial bomb in Dublin. Let us think about the use of that language. It is not hyperbole to describe that as economic terrorism, that a bomb would go off if one democratically decides to do something the people have asked for, want and have an entitlement to and if that is what the popular will is. We have to seriously address the question of an unelected economic power or unelected financial institutions dictating to democratically elected parliaments.

Acting Chairman (Deputy John Lahart): Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart I thank messenger Boyd Barrett.

Debate adjourned.

Adjournment Debate Matters

Acting Chairman (Deputy John Lahart): Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 23(3) and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy David Cullinane - the need for the Minister for Health to outline why University Hospital Waterford spent more than €20 million on agency staff from 2011-15, if he recognises that this is a consequence of underfunding of our acute hospital network and to outline what plans he has to increase staff capacity in our public hospitals; (2) Deputy Joe Carey - the need to protect employment at the Roche Ireland plant in Clarecastle, County Clare; (3) Deputy Anne Rabbitte - the urgent need for the HSE to expedite the appointment of a paediatrics diabetic specialist at University Hospital Galway; (4) Deputy Declan Breathnach - the need for the passport office to inform the public of the requirement for new applicants to provide a public services card; (5) Deputy Thomas P. Broughan - the urgent need for the Minister for Health to provide full local day services for young school leavers on the autistic spectrum in Dublin Bay North and Fingal; (6) Deputy Brian Stanley - the need for a new school to accommodate St. Francis special school on the Borris Road in Portlaoise in County Laois; (7) Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy - matters relating to the Health Service Executive in the midlands; (8) Deputies Mattie McGrath and Seamus Healy - the closure of Suir Pharma Ireland Limited in Clonmel in County Tipperary and the need to save the 120 jobs or to secure a replacement industry; (9) Deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace - the humanitarian refugee crisis in Europe and the need for Ireland to lead the way in providing assistance, particularly for unaccompanied minors; and (10) Deputy Pat Casey - to ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport about the adoption of the transport strategy for the greater Dublin area 2016-35.

The matters raised by Deputies Declan Breathnach, Pat Casey, Mattie McGrath and Seamus Healy and Joe Carey have been selected for discussion.

Report of Sub-Committee on Dáil Reform: Motion (Resumed)

The following motion was moved by Deputy Regina Doherty on Thursday, 19 May 2016:

That Dáil Éireann shall consider the Report of the sub-Committee on Dáil Reform entitled, Draft Final Report of the sub-Committee on Dáil Reform, copies of which were laid before Dáil Éireann on 18th May 2016

                                         -(Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Regina Doherty)

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan I appreciate the chance to make a few brief remarks about the draft final report of the Sub-Committee on Dáil Reform. I warmly thank the Ceann Comhairle for the work he has done along with all the members of the committee, and, indeed, the Oireachtas Commission staff, in bringing forward the report. In particular, I also thank Deputy Pringle, who represented many Independents on that committee. The Ceann Comhairle has held one-to-one meetings with many Deputies, including myself, in relation to the body of reforms that are coming forward.

  In general terms, I welcome the general thrust of the report before us. The proposed business committee is a welcome advance. In the past, opposition, and, indeed, Government backbenchers would find out at a few hours' or at a day's notice what the business of the House was to be. However, when a business committee is established, we will know a couple of weeks in advance and will be able to have an input into that, which is very valuable.

  A key element of the report relates to the monitoring of legislation. Bills which come to mind include the sale of alcohol Bill, dating back over perhaps a decade and a half, the noise Bill, dating back over a decade and a half, and the foreshore Bill. These all have been on the clár at different times in my time in this House but they have not been implemented. The idea of monitoring and implementing desirable legislation for the people is important.

  Late in the previous Dáil or early in this Dáil, I asked the Oireachtas Library and Information Service to prepare a report on an Estimates committee for Dáil Éireann. Our colleagues in the Library produced a fine report which focused on the failure in this regard. It carried on from the OECD 2015 report which showed up the grave deficiencies of this House in monitoring financial legislation and measures. It showed, of course, that we follow the United Kingdom post hoc system in budgets, that we measure expenditure through the Committee of Public Accounts, which has done fine work over the years, but we have never had an ex ante system whereby a committee would look at possible spending, in this case, for 2017.

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