Order of Business.

Thursday, 3 December 1998

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 157 No. 11

First Page Previous Page Page of 6 Next Page Last Page

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy The Order of Business is items 1 and 2. Second Stage of item 1 will be taken today, with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 15 minutes, those of all other Senators not to exceed ten minutes, and Members may share time. Item 2 is statements on literacy and primary education, on which the contributions of spokespersons are not to exceed 15 minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed ten minutes.

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning Zoom on Maurice Manning The Order of Business is agreed. I draw the Leader's attention to the recently published report on the Presidency by the All Party Committee on the Constitution. We should debate this in the House; I realise we are approaching the end of the session so I ask the Leader to make time available in the next session. He might follow the precedent of an earlier occasion and invite the Chairman of the all party committee, Deputy Brian Lenihan, to respond to the points made — it was useful when his predecessor, Deputy Jim O'Keeffe, came here on an earlier occasion.

We are approaching the last two weeks of the session, the time of year when business appears from nowhere and enormous pressure is applied to have all Stages of Bills taken before Christmas. The Leader will have the full co-operation of this side of the House on important Bills but I ask him to steel his nerve against taking Bills which are not urgent and have been around for a long time but which he is told must be passed in three days. The Bill on the Bretton Woods Agreement, for example, has been in a Department for four years — it is an insult to the Houses of Parliament to say we should pass it in a couple of days. We are being asked to rubber stamp legislation without giving it proper attention. When a plethora of Bills lands on the Leader's desk, as they are now doing, we will co-operate when they are urgent and essential but the House should not rush them through without proper scrutiny.

[778]Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole Zoom on Joe John O'Toole I agree the Order of Business. Could the Leader indicate a time for item 2? The Minister for Education and Science is busy this morning so I presume it will not begin before 2 p.m.

I have previously requested that we debate the reports of committees. That should be structured into the operation of this House — on a certain number of days in each session reports from joint committees of the Houses should be discussed. The danger is that much of their work is not being noticed by Members who are not on the particular committee. The work of the committee dealing with ethics in public office will require a detailed discussion in the next session so that Members will have a clear understanding of what is happening, what is likely to happen, and how it might impact on them. This afternoon's debate on literacy will allow us to discuss the report of the Joint Committee on Education and Science. There should be more debates like that and we should work them into the business in the next session.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Pat Gallagher Zoom on Pat Gallagher We agree the Order of Business. Could the Leader clarify this afternoon's debate? The Order Paper provides for “Statements on Literacy and Primary Education”. While literacy is also related to adult education we should have a separate debate on the Green Paper on adult education, published last week by the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea. The Minister has opened the matter for discussion and consultation and the House should present its views to the Minister on that broadly based Green Paper, focused not only on literacy but other aspects of adult and further education.

In respect of item 18, motion 30, it was a mistake that we did not debate last week the motion on overseas development aid. It would have strengthened the views expressed to the Government on the need to provide extra money in the budget for overseas development. It was disgraceful that the position of the Minister of State and of both Houses was not taken into account by the Minister for Finance. It leaves the Minister of State in an unfortunate position with which she must deal.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly That matter is not relevant to the Order of Business.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Pat Gallagher Zoom on Pat Gallagher I ask that a motion on the matter be placed on the Order Paper as soon as possible.

Will the Leader ask the Minister for the Environment and Local Government when the long promised fundamental reform of planning legislation will be brought before the House?

Ms Cox: Information on Margaret Cox Zoom on Margaret Cox I suggest an amendment to the Order of Business to allow statements on the treatment of Senators yesterday. The House adjourned to allow Senators to be present in the Dáil for the budget debate. The Department of Finance [779] insulted this House by its treatment of Senators in refusing to give us copies of the Minister's speech although they were requested on the Order of Business.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly That is a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and not the Order of Business.

Ms Cox: Information on Margaret Cox Zoom on Margaret Cox The House was treated very badly yesterday in the Dáil Chamber by the Minister for Finance. This put Senators in an invidious position.

Mrs. A. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle Zoom on Avril Doyle I support the point made by Senator Cox. I received a copy of the speech because I requested it as this side's spokesperson on Finance. However, I support the Senator's point; perhaps the Committee on Procedure and Privileges could consider the matter to ensure it does not happen again.

Mr. Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke RTÉ had copies.

Mrs. A. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle Zoom on Avril Doyle That is correct.

Mr. D. Cregan: Information on Denis Cregan Zoom on Denis Cregan All the journalists had them.

Mrs. A. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle Zoom on Avril Doyle I repeat my request to the Leader to organise a discussion rather than statements on BNFL's proposal for the extension of reprocessing facilities at Sellafield. This issue needs to be discussed properly in the House with the Minister of State, Deputy Jacob.

As I requested last Thursday, I ask the Leader to organise the laying before the Houses of the draft report and the final report and summary on rail safety in view of the fact that the consultants' independent report was amended by officials under the direction of the Minister. I ask the Leader to ensure that both reports are laid before the House for the benefit of Members.

Mr. Moylan: Information on Pat Moylan Zoom on Pat Moylan I support Senator Cox's request for statements. I ask the Leader to ensure the system is changed to allow Members of Seanad Éireann to receive a copy of the Minister's speech as it is being read to Deputies in the other House. It appeared that the media and all others in the Dáil had the speech yesterday, but Senators could not get copies. I ask the Leader to ensure the system is changed so that Senators are afforded the same treatment.

Mr. Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I support the views expressed by Senator O'Toole regarding the reports of committees. Much worthwhile work is done by the committees but unless one is a member of a committee, one has no idea what is taking place in others. Senator O'Toole's suggestion is very useful.

I concur with the views expressed by Senator Cox. I requested a copy of the Minister's speech yesterday but I was refused. I respect that Senator Doyle received a copy as a spokesperson, [780] but everybody in the other Chamber, with the exception of Senators, had copies of the speech. This is not good enough.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill Zoom on Máirín Quill Yesterday there was a comprehensive debate on water pollution. Will the Leader arrange a debate as early as possible in the next session on litter pollution? The Government has the wit, wisdom and guts to take the taxation system, which was riddled with anomalies and threadbare from constant stitching and darning over the years, and turn it upside down in one budget. It defeats me that the same Government cannot tackle the issue of litter, which is disgusting and appalling with the same level of energy and intention. I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on the issue. When I look up during Christmas I will see jingle bells, but when I look down I will see cans and rubbish everywhere. I find this difficult to contend with as a citizen of the Republic. There is a litter pollution law on the Statute Book. This is good legislation but it is not being enforced.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I support the point made by Senator Cox and others. It is very significant that this matter was raised conscientiously by a member of a Government party. This shows that it is not a partisan issue but a matter about which we all feel very strongly. I have attended many budget debates and in the past it was always the practice to hand out copies of the Minister's speech to Members of the Upper House. Yesterday officials of the House were reading the speech in front of us. Members of the press and the diplomatic staff all had copies, but Senators did not. Will the Leader ascertain who made that decision? That person should be given the benefit of the views of the House.

It is unacceptable for a person, regardless of whether they are a political being or an official of either House, to decide that this material should be made available only to spokespersons. This negates the existence of Members who are Independent. Members on the backbenches are expected to contribute on all issues and the budget is a very important and significant matter. I spoke during the debate on the budget which was initiated by the Independents last night. It was the first occasion on which the House had such an immediate contribution on the budget. All the Independent Senators spoke but it cannot be said that we have an official spokesperson. The position yesterday was insulting to this House. It may have been an oversight or a technicality. Given the season perhaps we should not make too much of a meal of it, but we should ensure that it never happens again.

Mr. Chambers: Information on Frank Chambers Zoom on Frank Chambers I wish to bring to the notice of the House that carol singing will take place on 10 December. I ask Members of the House to facilitate this and to participate. It is in aid of the Children's Hospital, Temple Street.

[781]An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly I hope it will not take place on the Order of Business.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis Zoom on John Dardis God rest ye merry gentlemen.

Mrs. A. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle Zoom on Avril Doyle And ladies.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis Zoom on John Dardis The non-circulation of the budget speech to Members is an important issue. It showed a lack of respect to Members of the House that the speech was not available to us. I was in a similar position to Senator Doyle. In addition, I was due to deal with the matter on live television at 6 p.m. I had to wage a considerable battle to get a copy of the speech. When I left Leinster House during the Minister's speech, I met a journalist on the plinth who was carrying a copy under his arm.

There are good reasons that speeches should not be circulated in advance, particularly the budget speech. Everybody knows why that is the case. I do not suggest copies should be placed in Members' cubbyholes beforehand, but if one attends the Minister's address to the Dáil, one should be given a copy of the speech. This should be the beginning and end of the matter.

Mr. Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke I support the case made by Senator Cox. I was listening to the radio before 5 p.m. yesterday and Mr. Myles Dungan said that he had a copy of the Minister's speech but he could not run ahead of him. Many people had copies and it is a shame that Senators did not.

Will the Leader ask the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, to come to the House and withdraw the comments she made about Senator O'Dowd last week?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly I would prefer if the Senator did not reopen that discussion.

Mrs. A. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle Zoom on Avril Doyle It has not been resolved.

Mr. Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke The case has not been resolved. In fairness to Senator O'Dowd, there is an onus on the Minister to come to the Seanad and withdraw her significant remarks about a Member of the House. There is an onus on her to rectify the matter.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly I will not allow the matter to be reopened.

Mr. Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke I ask the Leader to ask the Minister to come to the House as a matter of courtesy to ensure this matter is clarified.

Mr. Kett: Information on Tony Kett Zoom on Tony Kett In the context of the debate on physical disability which has been requested, I congratulate the Minister for Health and Children on the announcement yesterday of £4 million for aids, appliances and wheelchair accessible transport. I hope it will be the first of many such announcements.

[782]Mr. O'Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Will the Leader bring the serious levels of overcrowding on trains coming into and leaving Dublin to the attention of the Minister for Public Enterprise? Hundreds of people are forced to stand between carriages, giving rise to concern for public safety. Many of the trains leaving the city are full at the first station and become more dangerous and overcrowded as they travel down the line. Urgent and immediate action must be taken to protect the public.

Mr. Bonner: Information on Enda Bonner Zoom on Enda Bonner Will the Leader organise a debate on the abolition of duty free? The Taoiseach stated yesterday that the best we could hope for was a postponement of the introduction date. We should have a full debate on this important issue.

I thank the Leader for presenting me with his own copy of the Budget Statement at a late stage yesterday afternoon. I was expected to come into the House at 6 p.m. for a debate on it. I do not see how one could be expected to contribute in a meaningful way to such a debate having had little time to prepare for it.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly That point has been well made; I am sure it will be taken up with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Mr. Callanan: Information on Peter Callanan Zoom on Peter Callanan While the criticism in regard to the unavailability of the Minister's speech is justified, I would ask the Leader to commend the Minister on a very caring budget.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy Senator Manning requested a debate on the report on the Presidency and suggested that the chairman of the All Party Committee on the Constitution, Deputy Brian Lenihan, be present. I will leave time aside for that early in the next session. I thank Senator Manning and other Opposition Members for their continued co-operation. We have a heavy workload of legislation over the coming two weeks. I also share Senator Manning's concern about the Bill on the Bretton Woods Agreement.

In response to Senator O'Toole, item 2 will not be taken before 2 p.m. and I will attempt to ensure that the same number of reports continue to be discussed in this House in the future as have been in the past. I assure Senator Gallagher we will have further debate and discussion on the Green Paper on adult education.

Senators Cox, Doyle, Moylan, Coghlan, Norris, Dardis, Callanan and Bonner referred to the unavailability of the Minister's Budget Statement yesterday. This was regrettable and will be taken on board by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. I assure the House the matter will be looked into urgently. When I asked an usher for a copy of the statement, I was provided with one. It is not acceptable that members of the public and the media had a copy of the statement in advance of Oireachtas Members, especially when this House was due to debate the matter at 6 p.m. yesterday. I congratulate all Senators who contributed [783] to the very worthwhile debate yesterday evening which served to enhance this House.

Senator Avril Doyle called for a discussion on reprocessing at Sellafield and I will facilitate that. I am also mindful that we must take statements on 1798 over the next two weeks; Senators from the south-east, in particular, should prepare themselves for that.

Senator Quill requested an urgent debate on litter pollution and I will facilitate that. We all received a press release from Senator Chambers this morning and I am in agreement with it. Senator Kett welcomed the provision of £4 million for disability services in the budget. The Bill on the National Disability Authority will be initiated in this House next week and I look forward to a worthwhile debate on it. I will pass Senator O'Dowd's comments on train overcrowding on to the Minister and I will leave time aside for a debate on duty free early in the next session.

Order of Business agreed to.


Last Updated: 11/05/2015 13:48:31 First Page Previous Page Page of 6 Next Page Last Page